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Chopin and the Eternal Feminine

24 August 2023

09:30 - 10:15 hrs (GMT+7)

Even during his lifetime, Chopin and his music were rarely characterized in “manly” terms. He was, as Liszt later put it, “a divine aristocrat—a feminine archangel with prismatic wings!” This perhaps counter-intuitive evaluation affected both the reception of his piano works, and their performance-practice. And of course, the fact that most of his pupils had been women further reinforced the delicate image. However, the relatively recent publication of the copious letters of Chopin’s student Friederike Müller (1816-95), dedicatee of the Concert Allegro op. 46, offers us a much more vivid picture of the composer, his aesthetics, teaching methods, and Parisian milieu than hitherto available. Not only are these letters exceptionally detailed, but they are also immediate: set down directly after the events recounted, and very different from the many hazy reminiscences written decades later. And they contain several surprises, not least in respect of Chopin as an artist of the “eternal feminine”, that might influence our contemporary approach to his piano music.


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