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Chopin: A New Biography

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  322 ratings  ·  30 reviews
The definitive biography of Chopin, by one of the finest of contemporary European historians. Two centuries have passed since Chopin's birth, yet his legacy is all around us today. The quiet revolution he wrought influenced the development of Western music profoundly, and he is still probably the most widely studied and revered composer. For many, he is the object of a ...more
Unknown Binding, 374 pages
Published January 1st 1980 by Doubleday (first published September 13th 1979)
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Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: BBC listeners

Adam Zamoyski's biography of the brief but eventful life of the great Romantic composer Frederic Chopin, from Polish child prodigy to Paris dandy, his turbulent relationship with George Sand and his early death, penniless in Paris.

Chopin's prodigious talent as a pianist is recognised early on. But despite being lauded as the great nationalist hope in his native Poland, where his polonaises and mazurkas are inspired by the harmonies of Polish folk songs, the teenage Chopin soon becomes stifled
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Chrissie
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
anna ✨
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
“At noon, the grim servants of death appeared at the entrance to the temple bearing the coffin of the great artist. (…) A shiver of death ran through the congregation, (…) As for me, I fancied I could see the sun grow pale and the gilding of the domes take on an evil greenish tint…”

It has only been several months that I have taken an interest in classical music. I was raised on rock music – I had never heard anything by Chopin. That has changed completely – ever since I heard the Prélude no. 4,
Douglas Larson
Apr 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Well I have mixed feelings about it. Author Zamoyski has researched his subject well and he portrays Chopin and those around him clearly. At various points in the biography Zamoyski relates common public opinion from Chopin's contemporaries as well as opinions of Chopin's biographers and states his own well researched opinion, at times in disagreement with the commonly held belief.

So I appreciated the author's clear prose style, thoroughly researched as it was but at the same time I found it
Sep 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1983, biography
[These notes were made in 1983:]. A most interesting book. It's written in good scholarly prose - clear, to the point, and readable without being flamboyant. Only the occasional slip in idiom betrays that the author was perhaps not always thinking exclusively in English. The research looks fairly thorough, and appears to have been derived from a great many contemporary documents, including substantial collections of letters. Zamoyski does not try to hide the fact that he has a thesis - that ...more
Randall Wallace
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1. Chopin, more than any other great composer was left alone enough to create his own style of writing for piano – which is why Liszt said Chopin was never able to achieve perfection with any form he had not invented himself (like the Polonaises, Ballades, and Mazurkas). 2. Chopin’s secret performance skill was a steady left hand with a tempo rubato right hand “the right would just hint at the anticipation of the phrase or else reluctance to begin it.” 3. “Fingers should fall, not strike. And ...more
Jul 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought it an excellent biography. I could not put it down and went through it in one reading. It is unsentimental, and leaves one with a feeling of having had the opportunity to 'understand' Chopin a little.

This biography made me rush to my collection of Chopin CDs.
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biografie
Een goed en toegankelijk geschreven biografie van Chopin. De auteur houdt zich aan de feiten, en waar bepaalde beweringen of anekdotes over Chopin twijfelachtig of ongefundeerd zijn, benoemt hij dit of verwijst ze naar het rijk der fabelen. Zo leer je als lezer de mens Chopin kennen alsook het wonderbaarlijke genie dat hij moet zijn geweest, getuige de reacties die hij opriep als hij plaatsnam achter de piano. Ook maakt Zamoyski duidelijk dat Chopin een vernieuwer was in de muziek. Voor ...more
I liked the real letters text included. Overall interesting reading, however, it's visible that the text is composed by a polish writer and some phrases and sentences are of typical polish structure which were only translated to english so this made the book slightly hard to read.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, uni, art
Loved it! It took me some time to finish the book due to school assignments, but I still got fascinated by Chopin's life and the amazing prose of Zamoyski.
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very good, thoroughly researched biography of Chopin. The life of Chopin is beautifully portrayed against the historical events of his time, with a lot of insights by the Polish historian Zamoyski. A wonderful book for musicians and lovers of the music by Chopin.

The book makes you understand better, and marvel once more upon the miracle how the completely new and stunningly expressive musical language of Chopin came into being.

May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A fascinating picture emerges from this wonderful biography. For any musician, to understand what was going on in his head, and in his life, this one is way too short.
Elena Semenchuk
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
My personal expectations were probably higher than the book could provide. As Chopin is number one on my piano playing routine and each time I discover more and more masterpieces, I was looking for a biography as beautiful as his music, with more details and poetry.
Though the author explains the facts in quite nice wording I still feel I lacked something after reading this book.
Or maybe I was expecting too much :)
Mieszko Pelc
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very detailed.
Aida Al-jawahri
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book! Chopin biographies are rare, and good ones are even rarer. I liked the way in which Zamoyski depicted Chopin's personality, both as a teacher and human being.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Easy to read, interesting depiction of Chopins life in the cultural hub of Paris.
I missed more in-depth information about his music and the different pieces he composed.
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book with a good glimpse into the life of Chopin, painstakingly researched by the author. The general reader is saved by not devoting too much detail on the his musical compositions, since this is more of a general biography. But for someone who like to have a biography that is more intertwined with his music might be a little disappointed. Nevertheless, I still like this book which allow me to see into Chopin's life and with respect to the social-political scene at that time. Towards the end ...more
Czarny Pies
Jul 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers looking for a biography not a musicological work.
Recommended to Czarny by: I am a Zamoyski fan.
Shelves: european-history
I am giving this book three stars instead of four simply because I am unfamiliar with the biographical and musicological literature on Chopin. Zamoyski is very sure-footed when it comes to describing the social, political and cultural contexts of the two countries where Chopin passed most of his life. Similarly his comments on George Sand and the other public personalities that he was associated with throughout his life all have a ring a credibility.

As far as Zamoyski's assessments of Chopin's
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Entertaining biography on Chopin. Easy read. Read kindle edition.
Ben Garrison
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book that explains the man behind the music as well as his times, friends and fellow musicians. It was good to know that Chopin was greatly appreciated during his time. The poetic descriptions of his music and how he played it were delightful. A very sickly man (many now think he had cystic fibrosis) who suffered greatly produced some of the best music heard by man.

A reviewer after hearing one of Chopin's concerts wrote:

Le Ménestrel called him 'the sylph of the piano, the ineffable
K.P.B. Stevens
Aug 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: gave-up-on
A beautifully written book, and one that, at least early on, pays as much attention to Chopin's art as his person. But the book bogs down in its final third. Chopin is always sick and moving from place to place and playing the piano very quietly. I'm becoming convinced that most of human life lacks a narrative arc. At least Chopin's narrative arc seems to have ended by the time he and George Sand split up. He had also written most of his compositions by that point, and I wish the book had ended ...more
Doug Newdick
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
I'm not a fan of biography, generally, but I really enjoyed this book. I am a big fan of Zamoyski, but here he seems to be a little bit too engaged in his subject. The prose got a bit too prolix and over-involved with Chopin at times, and boy does Zamoyski not like Georges Sand! Zamoyski does do a good job of placing Chopin in the cultural context that he operated in, and tt was very interesting to read about Chopin's relation ship to his native Poland, something you don't hear much about. Read ...more
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've been playing the piano for 8 years, and I got this book as a gift from a friend of mine who knows how fond I am of Chopin. I loved how accurate the writer is and how greatly he shows Chopin's nature. Bravo!
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a readable overview of a fascinating man. The story with Georges Sand and how he wrote his music has a definite influence on how i liste to his music. I knew and loved his nocturnes, now I discovered hsi mazurka's.
Max Gibson
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
An intense biography of Poland's greatest composer; Frederyk Chopin. Beautifully written, easy to read, a great guide to the life of Chopin. Once finished it was sad, and a bit depressing. A person such as Chopin who at times was not the easiest of people should not have had to suffer what he did.
Paul Servini
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book a lot for the insights it gave into one of the greatest, European composers. His music enchants; unfortunately life brought him a lot of pain; some of it brought on by bad choices.
Dylan Treger
Mar 15, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is tedious to read and provides over excess details of Chopin's life, but it also provides the most complete description, analysis, and documentation of the composer's life. Worked great for my research paper.
Manuel Sánchez
I read this in 2011
rated it liked it
Jan 01, 2019
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A historian and a member of the ancient Zamoyski family of Polish nobility. Born in New York City and raised in England. He is Chairman of the Board of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation. On June 16, 2001, in London, England, he married the artist Emma Sergeant.