To the Editor:

I read Terry Teachout’s “Étude, Brute? The Case for Chopin with great fondness and appreciation (February). Back in my Juilliard days, I was proud to have been affectionately named “Mazurka Man” by faculty member and radio personality David Dubal. As a third-year Juilliard Student, I performed 17 of Chopin’s mazurkas at Carnegie Hall.

Chopin’s miniatures encompass as much depth and expression as others’ larger works, even within a loose structure and short timeframe. Leonard Bernstein’s most acclaimed Norton lecture from his series at Harvard was titled “The Delights and Danger of Ambiguity.” The lecture’s highlight was Bernstein’s rendering of Chopin’s Mazurka op 17 no 4., during which he illustrated the extent to which Chopin’s harmonies challenged even the modern ear. As Bernstein joyfully shared with the pupils, the opening motive of the Mazurka only repeats one time—at the very end of the work—reminding listeners that despite the “ambiguous” journey they just experienced, they shall return home, albeit not as the same person.

As the owner of a piano store, I have observed how Chopin is almost singularly responsible for the enduring success of the piano industry. Countless clients, when trying our pianos, play Chopin’s waltzes, nocturnes, and other miniatures.

Even the “Piano Man” himself, Billy Joel, quotes Chopin’s Op 28 No 15 (Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude) in the piano solo of his song “Souvenir.” Joel has often said that Chopin was his early gateway to life at the piano. He is not alone. So many of us who play piano every day have Chopin as our initial and core inspiration.

 

Ronen Segev
New York City

To the Editor:

Terry Teachout is correct in emphasizing the lyricism so prominent in Chopin’s work. Although Teachout rightly asserts that Chopin did not compose any ballets, the ballet “Les Sylphides” is a compendium of various Chopin piano pieces: waltzes, mazurkas, etc. In fact, when I was a student at the School of American Ballet, the class pianists played more Chopin than any other single composer. The blending of Chopin’s music with classical ballet is indeed a treat.

I was sorry to learn from the article that Chopin was “nastily anti-Semitic.”  Et tu, Brute?

Elizabeth Schultz
New York City