Portrayals of Szopen and Nationalism in Independent Poland
After Poland was restored as a sovereign country in 1918, arguments drawn to prove the intensity of Chopin’s Polishness continued to include the fusion of the psychological makeup of one individual, i.e. Chopin himself, and that of a whole nation. Not surprisingly, the emphasis on the physicality of the connections of his music to the land somewhat diminished: Polish countryside, now within borders of an independent Poland, did not need to be worshiped and idealized. Simultaneously, sorrow ceased to remain a central feature after its main cause (i.e. grief over Poland’s deprivation of statehood) was removed by the creation of an independent country, Chopin’s purported psychological characteristics became more complex and less unified. Charles Phillips welcomed the creation of The New Poland with a pean to the virtues of “the Pole himself . . . a puzzling mixture of human contradictions” best exemplified by the personality of Chopin who was “truly and typically Polish,” with the coexistence of “the brilliance, the tragedy, the delicacy, the tęsknota” and the virtues of “a power of concentration, a capacity for tireless work, for infinite painstaking, for detail and sustained effort, unsurpassed in the history of any other artist.” Similarly to Phillips (and his predecessors, Przybyszewski and Paderewski), Stanisław Niewiadomski described Polish character traits as based on the “opposition of extremes,” swinging back and forth between tragedy and optimism. In a 1932 essay dedicated to the subject of “Chopin and Poland,” Niewiadomski regarded Chopin’s music as the sonorous embodiment of these national contradictions.
Chopin beyond the Polish Spirit and Race
This text is an abridged version of a chapter in Halina Goldberg, ed. The Age of Chopin (Indiana University Press, 2004).