Saturday, October 16, 2021

Chopin's Haiku for the Anniversary of his Passing, Vol. 12, No. 5

Here's a newly discovered Chopin's portrait, painted by someone called Alfred, presumably during the composer's lifetime, i.e. from life.  "The peeling portrait of the Polish piano composer dates back to the 19th century, according to Nicolaus Copernicus University professor Dariusz Markowski, who examined and restored the painting last year. He says it has significant historic and emotional value," reported Euro News in October 2021.  

The expert of historical restoration dated the painting, based on the materials and pigments, to first half of the 19th century, that is during Chopin's lifetime. The owners placed the restored painting in an ornate gilded frame and hid it in a bank safe, fearing robbery. 

Sharing this image and its metamorphosis seems a fitting tribute to Chopin at a time when another edition of the International Chopin Piano Competition is under way in Warsaw, Poland. This is the 18th edition of a competition first held in 1927 that helped identify and promote some of the greatest pianists of the past two centuries. 

Top 3 prize winners since 1927, organized to show: Edition (Year): 1st Prize, 2nd Prize, 3rd Prize.

I (1927): 1) Lev Oborin,  Soviet Union; 2) Stanisław Szpinalski, Poland, 3) Róża Etkin, Poland

II (1932): 1) Alexander Uninsky, Soviet Union; 2) Imre Ungár, Hungary, 3) Bolesław Kon, Poland

III (1937): 1) Yakov Zak, Soviet Union, 2) Rosa Tamarkina, Soviet Union, 3) Witold Małcużyński, Poland

IV (1949): 1) Bella Davidovich, Soviet Union, 2) Barbara Hesse-Bukowska, Poland; 3) Waldemar Maciszewski, Poland and Halina Czerny-Stefańska, Poland (tie)

V (1955): 1) Adam Harasiewicz, Poland; 2) Vladimir Ashkenazy, Soviet Union; 3) Fou Ts'ong,  China

VI (1960): 1) Maurizio Pollini,  Italy; 2) Irina Zaritskaya, Soviet Union; 3) Tania Achot-Haroutounian, Iran

VII (1965): 1) Martha Argerich, Argentina; 2) Arthur Moreira Lima, Brazil; 3) Marta Sosińska,  Poland

VIII (1970): 1) Garrick Ohlsson, United States; 2) Mitsuko Uchida, Japan; 3) Piotr Paleczny,  Poland

IX (1975): 1) Krystian Zimerman, Poland; 2) Dina Joffe, Soviet Union; 3) Tatyana Fedkina,  Soviet Union

X (1980): 1) Dang Thai Son, Vietnam; 2) Tatyana Shebanova, Soviet Union; 3) Arutyun Papazyan, Soviet Union

XI (1985): Stanislav Bunin, Soviet Union; 2) Marc Laforet, France; 3) Krzysztof Jabłoński,  Poland

XII (1990): 1) Not awarded, 2) Kevin Kenner, United States; 3) Yukio Yokoyama, Japan

XIII (1995):  1) Not awarded; 2) Philippe Giusiano, France; 3) Gabriela Montero, United States and Alexei Sultanov, Uzbekistan (tie)

XIV (2000): 1) Yundi Li, China; 2) Ingrid Fliter, Argentina; 3) Alexander Kobrin, Russia

XV (2005): 1) Rafał Blechacz, Poland, 2) Not awarded, 3) Dong-Hyek Lim, South Korea and Dong-Min Lim, South Korea (tie)

XVI (2010): 1) Yulianna Avdeeva, Russia;  2) Lukas Geniušas, Russia; Lithuania; 3) Daniil Trifonov, Russia and Ingolf Wunder, Austria (tie)

XVII (2015): 1) Seong-Jin Cho, South Korea, 2) Charles Richard-Hamelin, Canada; 3) Kate Liu, United States.

The competitions are spaced out every five years, to leave sufficient time for the development of new talents. The 18th Competition is a year late due to pandemic-related shutdowns.  Looking at the distribution of countries of origin, it is easy to notice that Russians have been quite talented over the years: six first prize winners and 12 other awardees were from the Soviet Union or Russia. Poland had three first prize winners and ten other awardees. Italy, Argentina, U.S., Vietnam, China and South Korea - each had one winner of the first prize.  

The names of finalists in Chopin Competition XVIII have just been announced by the jury presided over by Professor Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń, 12 participants representing 10 countries qualified to the final stage.

The finalists are:

  1. Ms Leonora Armellini, Italy
  2. Mr J J Jun Li Bui, Canada
  3. Mr Alexander Gadjiev , Italy/Slovenia
  4. Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain
  5. Ms Eva Gevorgyan, Russia/Armenia
  6. Ms Aimi Kobayashi, Japan
  7. Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland
  8. Mr Hyuk Lee, South Korea
  9. Mr Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, Canada
  10. Mr Kamil Pacholec, Poland
  11. Mr Hao Rao, China
  12. Mr Kyohei Sorita, Japan

In the final round, each finalist will play one of the two Chopin piano concertos, whereas earlier they played a variety of works, competing not  just for the main prizes, but also for special awards for the best interpretation of a mazurka, or a polonaise. By October 23, 2021, the winner will be crowned and will start reaping the rewards of years of hard work, mastering keyboard techniques  and the spirit of Chopin's music. 

This presence of Chopin's music reminded me of gathering Chopin-inspired poetry. The  discovery of this strange portrait discussed above inspired the following.

         through cracked paint

        Chopin's piercing gaze 

         touches my soul 

                    ~  Maja Trochimczyk 

For many generations of Poles Chopin's music bears the associations with "zal" - regret, nostalgia, sweet sorrow.  This emotional tone reappeared in the haiku of my American friends. 

Debbie Kolodji sent me her haiku and wrote: "Years ago, a decade ago, you published an anthology of Chopin poems.  At the time, I tried to write one but nothing ever came together for me so I never submitted anything. Oddly, the other day I wrote a Chopin haiku and I thought of you, and thought you might enjoy reading it."

     Chopin étude

     your fingers feel

     my sadness

                     ~ Debbie P Kolodji

I found this lovely haiku to be a good excuse to ask some friends for sending in their Chopin haiku. Susan Rogers did not disappoint and wrote, while thinking of Chopin's death in October, and the dreadful weather of this month in Poland, the following:

      October lament

      listening to the dying wind 

      I hear Chopin 's breath

                     ~ Susan Rogers

Ambika Talwar loves Chopin's Nocturnes, as I do. She sent in a link to music and two haiku:

        sunrise sunset merge

        one melodious interchange –

        crowns of trees make love

                     ~ Ambika Talwar

      twilight sun melds

      dreams dance with stars on treetops

      my heart's melody

                   ~ Ambika Talwar

This recording of all Chopin's Nocturnes by Brigitte Engerer is doubly relaxing as it is recorded on a piano tuned to the natural key with A=432Hz, and not 440Hz,the higher, tense and chaos-inducing energy brought into the world of music in the early 20th century either by Rockefeller-inspired groups, or the Nazis. The 432 frequency resonates with harmony that can be seen on resonance plates of cymatics. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Chopin's Nocturnes in Poetry: Stillness, Nostalgia and Moonlight (Vol. 12, No. 4)

After a day trip to see the ocean, I drove back home in the metallic daze of the full moon.  I remembered the Nocturnes, and the many poets that wrote about the moon and Chopin's Nocturnes.  I listened to my double CD by Elizabeth Leonskaya. Lovely, except for harshness of notes in some "sublime" flights of fancy.  

The Chopin with Cherries anthology I edited in 2010 has a whole section on this topic.  Here is a sample of poems about Chopin's Nocturnes. My own poem, just written yesterday, is at the end of the set.  While reaching out to understand and convey the marvel of Chopin's music and his brief life, each poet hears in Chopin's music the melody of their own soul. 

Listen to Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 played by Artur Rubinstein:

Mazovian Willows
Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 9

Linda Nemec Foster


                        What has happened to my heart? I can

               hardly remember how they sing at home.

                                                     ~ Chopin

Did the strain of a mazurka

split you in two? Don’t

tell me lightning, wind,

harsh betrayal of nature –

anything that has logic. 

As much logic as a Polish

composer with a French name

who wrote scores of music

for a single instrument;

who was in love with a strong

woman who adopted a man’s 

name because she liked

simplicity. No logic there,

old tree, stark willow.

You probably gave Frédéric

his inspiration: one

note at a time drowning out

the sky, changing your life

from a single vision

to a double one. A split

trunk resembling a pair

of hands in prayer, bruised

fingers of the émigré. Your

country not even listed

on the map. Perhaps it wasn’t

a mazurka that cut your 

heart in two: one side

listing to the West, the other

firmly planted in Mazovia,

despite itself. 

Perhaps it was a simple

nocturne, the last fading

light before night comes

and eyes close. Music

of good-bye, farewell;

the knowledge of never

going home again. Music

of exile that almost forgets

the language of the earth.

Nocturne: Chopin in Vienna

Elisabeth Murawski

Drawn to the cathedral’s 

darkest corner, its mournful 

harmony of stone, young Chopin 

stands beside a Gothic pillar, 

tombs behind him and beneath.

I’m only lacking one above. Soon 

the nave will blaze with lights 

for midnight Mass, the first 

worshipers drift in. Their joy 

will only fuel his melancholy.

Turning up the collar of his cloak, 

he steals from the cathedral

for music at the palace. To be 

distracted. To stop hearing

in his head sierota, the Polish word 

for orphan. Afterwards, he paces 

in his room without a view.

I’ve never felt so clearly 

my loneliness. What to do? 

Stay here in Vienna? Paris 

tempts him. Warsaw’s home. Broods 

in his dressing gown. Yesterday 

he stumbled on the funeral

of a stranger, coffin bobbing 

through a crowd of mourners. 

He tried not to stare

at their faces slack with grief. 

The gleam of the highly polished 

wood courted his eyes 

like an impossible lover.

Listen: Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1 in B-flat, played by Artur Rubinstein:


William Pillin


Gautier wrote: “His soul weeps and hovers.”

I prefer Nietzsche’s “in him joy is ascendant.”

It is easy to spit clichés at him:

effeminate, tearful, sylph-like . . .


“Sick-room poet” hissed envious Field,

ignoring the tough musical sinews,

the brooding rebellious rages

and the political passions.


True, his wit was exquisite and birdlike

but he knew how to summon the Furies

and spoke for his ravaged nation

in accents as daring as any.


He was elegant and consumptive.

He was successful in the world

and rejoiced over his triumphs.

He loved pretty women — and was loved by them.




White and wasting he dotted

with splashes of blood his lunar pages,

carrying death like a singing bird

in his chest, his tissue held together


by dreams and bacilli.  “I used to find him,”

wrote George Sand, “late at night at his piano,

pale, with haggard eyes, his hair almost standing,

and it was some minutes before he knew me.”

In Majorca, the doctors 
shuddered at his blood-flecked mouth,
burned his belongings, compelled him
to take refuge in a former monastery. 

“My stone cell is shaped like a coffin.

You can roar — but always in silence.”

When it stormed he wrote the ‘raindrop’ prelude

and from the thunder he fashioned an étude.




“I work a lot,” he wrote to his sister,

“I cross out all the time, I cough without measure.”

With death’s hand on his slender shoulder

he created ballades, études, nocturnes.


                                    Who wrested

so much from torment?  Fading swiftly

he continued to color his silences,

a condemned man refusing a blindfold.


If he sometimes wept — it was from love, not weakness.

He felt all his life the wing of death’s angel

brushing in their sleep the embracing lovers.

Can one truly sing without this terrible knowledge?




Of the many men who were haunted

by the night, its gardens and fountains,

who fathomed it as truly as this Ariel of preludes?

The piano shakes like a leaf in the darkness.


The night breathes and triumphs.

Stars and sea-winds

drift through the open window.  

The ineffable nocturnes

float away like farewell whispers.

Listen: Chopin's Nocturne op. 27 no. 2 by Artur Rubinstein.

The Scarlet Hour

Kerri Buckley

                        —Chopin plays. 

In red, beaded dress I

wander beaches of garnet sands

Beneath a golden sunset-drizzled 

sky of painted scarlet watercolor streaks.

Holding red shoes and 

Cabernet, pulling swirls of skirt to my knees


Bare feet crushing ruby grapes into rich 

blood of the vine — it becomes my blood

If you were here I’d explore the

softness of your mouth, ravage its

Sweetness like a gypsy pirate alone 

with her captive, your absence a sharp

Thorn piercing your tender mouth where 

keening rivers run crimson

Restless seas scanned for sails on the horizon,

stretch of rubato in the Nocturnes arcs 

Above the crashing surf and rushing spray.

Gulls grieve with me, overhead cries spiraling.

We wait, the foamy sea and I, for your return

Eternal Nocturne

Russell Salamon

For Frédéric Chopin


He sees the eternal nocturne. 

All day he has been feeling 

the cool of it in willow trees 

on the road past golden 

wheat fields. Now at the piano 

light scuttles under his fingers. 


He wants tones that leak life—

harvested wheat, fresh bread, 

to the woman who said no. And 

black butterflies whose shadowy 

rhythms weep for a form that finds 

fragments of perfect being—night 

music where lost lovers find light.

Listen to all Chopin's Nocturnes without ads, played by Francois Chaplin
1. 0:00 Op. 9, No. 1 in B flat minor. Larghetto
2. 6:23 Op. 9, No. 2 in E flat major. Andante
3. 10:38 Op. 9, No. 3 in B major. Allegretto
4. 17:16 Op. 15, No. 1 in F major. Andante cantabile
5. 21:48 Op. 15, No. 2 in F sharp major. Larghetto
6. 25:08 Op. 15, No. 3 in G minor. Lento
7. 29:54 Op. 27, No. 1 in C sharp minor. Larghetto
8. 35:07 Op. 27, No. 2 in D flat major. Lento sostenuto
9. 41:15 Op. 32, No. 1 in B major. Andante sostenuto
10. 46:12 Op. 32, No. 2 in A flat major. Lento
11. 52:03 Op. 37, No. 1 in G minor. Lento
12. 57:47 Op. 37, No. 2 in G major. Andante
13. 1:03:15 Op. 48, No. 1 in C minor. Lento
14. 1:09:28 Op. 48, No. 2 in F sharp minor. Andantino
15. 1:16:00 Op. 55, No. 1 in F minor. Andante
16. 1:20:42 Op. 55, No. 2 in E flat major. Lento sostenuto
17. 1:25:40 Op. 62, No. 1 in B major. Andante
18. 1:33:17 Op. 62, No. 2 in E major. Lento
19. 1:39:16 Op. 72, No. 1 in E minor. Andante
20. 1:43:55 Op. posth in C sharp minor. Lento con gran espressione
21. 1:48:04 Op. posth in C minor. Andante sostenuto

The 23rd of July

is the day of clearing karma

untying knots on the thread of fate,

breaking enchantments, reversing curses.

Look at the moon, blood-red and broken

above the hilltop, huge like ancient pain

passed on through generations.

It follows you, as you drive home 

after resting in the silver mist of the ocean,

its waves - turquoise and jade - always

moving, yet always the same - 

Look, the moon hides behind the black ridge

of despair, only a soft spot remains, shimmering 

on alien indigo sky. The road turns, you fly along 

80 miles per hour, singing a Chopin's Nocturne    -    

its lustrous cascade of notes split apart 

by a sudden apparition   -   a majestic, white 

platinum orb, suspended in darkness. 

You remember that rust-red, once-in-the-lifetime 

moon of prophecy, the fox moon that foretold 

disaster as it led you back from Paso Robles, Solvang, 

Santa Rosa, on the way into disillusionment and regret. 

It was hard to understand. Harder to believe

in the existence of such twisted, demonic 

selfishness masquerading as affection. Pitiful. 

Yet the healing was real. 

The lesson's learned.

The karma's cleared.

It is done. 

The moon now floats high above the valley

in its bright halo, distant and indifferent. 

You've discovered the virtue of detachment.

You've seen how desires of the heart 

led you astray. Your life - an illumination.

Like a moonbeam, glowing on cobalt waters 

of the Pacific, your path ahead is straight - clear 

-  dazzling  -  brilliant  - 

A Starchild, born to shine, you are blessed

by the moon's radiance on this magical 

summer evening of July 23rd. You are home. 

The New Age has just begun. 

(c) 2021 by Maja Trochimczyk 

And listen again, Chopin's Nocturne Op. 62 No. 1 in B major, played by Janusz Olejniczak