Arthur Rubenstein Performs Chopin

Frederic Chopin Etching. Public Domain
Frederic Chopin Etching. Public Domain

As we reflect on Arthur Rubenstein performs Chopin and particularly in his Piano Concerto in F minor, we consider child prodigy, composer, and musical genius Frederic Chopin. He is often described as the poet of the piano for expressing his sparkling artistic spirit through his impassioned creations. His short life and perhaps unfulfilled artistic aspirations fit 19th-century notions of sometimes tragic Romanticism.

Distant, Unknown Heart

The composer’s tones rapturously, gently, and fervently remind us of what Beethoven described as “the distant, unknown heart to which you have given all.” It is thus foreseeable to discover Chopin’s admiration of gifted singers of his day as afflatus to his musical art.

Countess Delfina Potocka by Paul Delaroche (portret) published in the article Arthur Rubenstein Performs Chopin on OpeningNight.Online. Public Domain

Countess Delfina Potocka by Paul Delaroche (portret). Public Domain

Inspiration

Chopin composed his second piano concerto when 19 years old. He described the Larghetto’s inspiration to his friend Titus Wojciechowski in 1829: “While my thoughts were with her I composed the Adagio of my concerto,” also noting that he worshipped her “faithfully and sincerely” while characterizing her as “of whom I dream every night.” He acclaimed Constantia Gladkowska‘s singing, noting her “pure intonation and genuine warmth of feeling.”

Optreden Arthur Rubinstein in Concertgebouw, Bestanddeelnr 913-5229 published in Arthur Rubenstein Performs Chopin in OpeningNight.Online. Public Domain

Optreden Arthur Rubinstein in Concertgebouw, Bestanddeelnr 913-5229. Public Domain

Sublime Poetic Theme

The Larghetto of this three-movement work is performed masterfully in this recording by an august Arthur Rubinstein. He delicately unfolds its sublime poetic theme, expressing Chopin’s thoughts in a vibrant, exquisite musical embroidery. Rubinstein’s poignant, ethereal musings of the composer’s intent emanate from an intellect imbued with the refined sense from advancing years and life-long commitment to artistic verity.

Universal Truths

We bask in Chopin’s imaginative power, sighing as the mind and soul are comforted. Moreover, we are newly mindful of precious peace, beauty, and universal truths. 

Countess Delphina Potocka

Ultimately, the work was dedicated to another subject of Chopin’s admiration, wealthy sophisticate, and chanteuse Countess Delphina Potocka. Upon hearing of Chopin’s fatal illness at just age 39, she traveled from Nice to Paris to his bedside, where the dying man urged her to sing. When she appeared, he said, “Now I know why God has delayed so long in calling me to Him. He wanted me to have the pleasure of seeing you once more.”

Portrait of Alessandro Stradella , Italian composer and singer, Painting by Gaetano D'Agostino Public Domain. Posted in Arthur Rubenstein Performs Chopin in OpeningNight.Online

Portrait of Alessandro Stradella , Italian composer and singer, Painting by Gaetano D’Agostino Public Domain

Pieta, Signore

It is thought that she sang Alessandro Stradella‘s Pieta, Signore, which you can enjoy performed here by the marvelous Angela Gheorghiu.

Expiation

Here’s a sampling of the text: 

Have mercy, Lord, on me in my remorse.
If my prayer rises to you, do not chastise me.
Do not chastise me in your severity.
Always mercifully turn your eyes on top of me.

Stradella’s consecration ultimately offered expiation to a penitent Chopin as his mortal spirit faded. 

Readers may also enjoy Art for the Sake of ArtThe Largo from Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth, and Shakespeare at the Harvard Club.

Arthur Rubenstein Performs Chopin

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