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Chopin: The Man and His Music (Dover Books on Music) Paperback – June 1, 1966


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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Music (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; New impression edition (June 1, 1966)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 048621687X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486216874
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,375,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Huneker was an American music critic and writer, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1857. James studied piano in Europe and became interested in Chopin when he audited a piano class taught by one of Chopin's students by the name of Georges Mathias. He moved to New York City in 1885 and remained there for the rest of his life. During that time, he studied with Rafael Joseffy, a student of Franz Liszt. Rafael and James became good friends while Rafael mentored James. James wrote many, many books, with this one being only his second. It was published in 1900. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

This is absolutely essential reading for the Chopin lover.
Gordon R Cameron
Huneker was an aspiring concert pianist (as well as a brilliant writer), and his analysis of Chopin's music and poetry are simply amazing.
Miguel Lee (leemm@uci.edu)
Many of the facts are incorrect, as the editor supplies the corrected facts in the footnotes on nearly every page of the text.
M. Dynarski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By "b0120" on September 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book (originally published in 1900) is split in two sections. In the first 100 pages, the life of Chopin is discussed by Huneker in a very colorful and poetic style, although unfortunately very few biographical facts are revealed. When I finished this section I felt I had hardly learned anything new about Chopin.

The next 150 pages deal with Chopin's music, in which Huneker comments briefly on every one of Chopin's compositions (with the exception of several pieces unknown to Huneker), categorized by type (Ballades, Preludes, etc.). This section, like the first, is amusing but not very helpful. The author never really goes into great depth about any single piece. Instead he simply says a word or two on mood or style, often quoting authorities such as Kullak and Niecks, and compares several major editions of the work. I would recommend this to someone very interested in editorial details... anyone else could probably do without most of this section.

People familiar with Chopin should find Huneker's writing somewhat enlightening, though far from substantial. Those looking for an introduction to Chopin may find the first section very helpful, if they can tolerate the author's verbosity.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By M. Dynarski on February 18, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book does not present much information about Chopin the man, and stumbles around endlessly about Chopin's music. The prose is laughably dated. Who can not help laughing at sentences like "Chopin distrusted Jews, but that's the way Poles are." The French, English, Germans, and Hungarians: Huneker comes up with some interesting stereotypes for them too. Many of the facts are incorrect, as the editor supplies the corrected facts in the footnotes on nearly every page of the text. And the music discussions have the spirit of "What a powerful melody! However, I believe the third note of the 14th measure of Etude 12 op. 10 should be an F sharp, though it's written differently in some scores." What a snore. I suggest looking elsewhere for real information about Chopin and his music. This book offers no insights though some occasional unintended laughs.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gordon R Cameron on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Who can count themselves learned in Chopin who has not read Huneker's wonderful, purple-prosy, unabashedly romantic examination of the Polish Master's music? If the musicology is a tad dated, the enthusiasm, the sheer love of music present on every page, are more evident than ever. This is absolutely essential reading for the Chopin lover.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Miguel Lee (leemm@uci.edu) on October 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
Huneker was an aspiring concert pianist (as well as a brilliant writer), and his analysis of Chopin's music and poetry are simply amazing. Like Chopin, Huneker expresses from the heart and hears the music at a whole new level. His interpretation is raw and as full in energy as the music itself (especially for etude op.25 no.11 and the ballade no.1).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Cashen on February 6, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The biography is very disappointing, the musical descriptions are poetic but don't get into much detail. If you want a general feel for Chopin's music but don't want intricate musical detail, the descriptions of the pieces may suit your need. That's the only reason I didn't give this book the lowest possible rating.

For biographical info, "Chopin in Paris" by Tad Szulc is much more informative and accurate. Huneker's biography, besides being relatively short, takes off on gossipy tangents that often jump around in time making it hard to get a good feeling for Chopin's progression thru life.

My problem with the musical descriptions (the book is divided into 76 pages of biography and 141 pages of music "analysis", divided into sections on preludes, mazurkas, etc.) is again the gossipy nature. For example, the chapter on the preludes is 13 pages long. The first four pages are strictly about who claimed when and where they were written.

I recently played Prelude No. 4 in E Minor at Peabody in Baltimore. Prior to the recital, I was deluged with coaching at college master-class play-ins, etc. The discussions centered on things like why the downbeat beginning each measure is played weaker than usual, contributing to the feeling of hopelessness in the piece.

Huneker's descriptions are: "The melody seems literally to wail..", "This tiny prelude contains wonderful music", "The whole is like some canvas by Rembrant.."

In the relatively few times Huneker does go into musical detail there may be some insight, but just as frequently a few bars of music are shown accompanied by an explanation like, "Volcanic mutterings these!" -when the music shown is a pianissimo (played very softly) passage!

For anyone looking for insights on actually playing the pieces, Walker's "The Chopin Companion.." which can be found "used" at Amazon, is a much better choice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Susan C. on April 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I became bogged down at times. It was a bit bookish so I skipped parts of it. Although it contains a lot of information, I would have preferred more interesting reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on September 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Strangely, no one seems to have writen a definitive biography of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), despite the fact that he was one of the most important composers of the 19th century Romantic era. (Tad Szulc's book, Chopin In Paris: The Life And Times Of The Romantic Composer, is perhaps the best existing biography, in addition to Jim Samson's Chopin (Master Musicians Series) and Jeremy Siepmann's Chopin: The Reluctant Romantic; Chopin's friend Franz Liszt also wrote a "SORT OF" biography of him Life of Chopin (Forgotten Books).) Consequently, I would suggest that this book by American music newspaper writer and critic James Gibbon Huneker should not be expected to be more than it is.

Huneker offers many interesting observations on Chopin's life and personality: "For the dissipations of the 'average sensual man,' he had an abiding contempt." "Chopin loved the night and its soft mysteries..." Chopin "did not care much for German music except Bach and Mozart. Beethoven ... was not sympathetic. Schubert he found rough, Weber, in his piano music, too operatic and Schumann he dismissed without a word." With regard to Chopin's famous development of the rubato style of playing, Huneker writes, "The Chopin rubato is rhythm liberated from its scholastic bonds, but it does not mean anarchy, disorder.
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