Don’t be deceived by the title of a you tube produced documentary that was perhaps devised to draw a wider audience of viewers.
Chopin and the Women Behind his Music explores in depth, the composer’s tie to the opera, and how the vocal model permeates his compositions, whether they be in fast or slow tempo.
The women who fed a tapestry of singable themes floating in and of out Mazurkas, Preludes, Etudes, Ballades, etc. were in fact great operatic divas of the 19th Century who had strong ties of friendship to Chopin. One of these, Jenny Lind, sang to him on his death bed.
The film is launched in London, as James Rhodes, a serious pianist and devotee of the composer, sets out to retrace Chopin’s life from Poland to France, with side journeys to Majorca, and other European venues.
Along the way, Rhodes finds himself in Warsaw, in an ornate apartment space where Chopin at age 17 composed the F minor Concerto.
Here, overlooking the university, the composer had gazed at students coming and going, affixing his eyes on beautiful women, and ingesting the city’s rich cultural life.
What makes the film most compelling are interspersed interviews with renowned musicologists who enrich the historical landscape beside vocal and instrumental forays. As such, the film is more than a top layer cultural escapade.
A gifted Polish soprano, “Natalia,” who accompanies Rhodes to various locales, sings as if she were the great diva, Madame Delphine Potocka, rendering great vocal masterpieces in the native language. At other times she sings in French and Italian.
In fact, Paulinte Viardot, a Romantic era vocalist with a golden voice, had set Chopin’s Mazurka Op. 6, No. 1 to “Plainte d’Amour,” that is instantly memorialized.
In a solo instrumental example, Emanuel Ax explores the singable dimension of the composer’s music in his analysis of Chopin’s 4th Ballade in F minor adding still another rich illustration to the presentation.
3:30 in the track
In summary, this wondrous historical/musical/emotional blend of ingredients offers a living, breathing tribute to the composer that should not be missed.
As an added dessert, here’s an inspiring performance of Chopin’s Impromptu No. 3, Op. 51, that is expressively “sung,” permeated with liquid phrasing.