James Gibbon Huneker (1857–1921) was a distinguished American newspaper critic, an essayist, and a prolific author. His writing style is remarkable — unrestrained, informal, full of brilliant insight — and this style plus Huneker's wide knowledge of art and literature as well as music has kept his literacy work alive. Chopin: The Man and His Music reflects the intimate, thorough knowledge of Chopin's music that Huneker acquired while studying to be a concert pianist and his unusually keen insight into the character of the great Polish composer whose music he adored.
The book is divided into two parts. The first treats Chopin's life — his youth in Poland, his emigration to Paris, the famous George Sand episode, his sickness and death — and comments on Chopin as a teacher and as a pianist and performer. The second part discusses the entire body of Chopin's music, piece by piece. Huneker notes his own overall impression of the individual compositions as well as the impressions of Schumann, George Sand, Chopin's biographer Frederick Niecks, many of the great pianists, and others. He directly compares differing editions of Chopin's Études, Preludes, Nocturnes, Mazurkas, Polonaises, Sonatas, and other works edited by von Bülow, Kullak, Riemann, Mikuli, and Godowsky in their detailed treatment of fingering, phrasing, pedaling, tempo indication, and so forth.
Huneker's entire work is reprinted here unchanged, thoroughly edited in running footnotes by Herbert Weinstock to correct the exuberant Huneker's inaccuracies and to add information that modern musical scholarship has unearthed. Weinstock has also provided an engrossing introductory essay on Huneker, and has amplified the bibliography to include modern books and articles on Chopin.
A classic in musical biography and commentary, this work is unsurpassed for sympathetic understanding and insight into Chopin's life and music. It will interest equally music students, pianists, and music lovers.
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