August 14, 2020

Annik LaFarge

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series and the Frederick Historic Piano Collection welcome acclaimed writer, photographer, and lecturer ANNIK LAFARGE—author of On the High Line: Exploring America's Most Original Urban Park—for a discussion of her latest book, Chasing Chopin: A Musical Journey Across Three Centuries, Four Countries, and a Half-Dozen Revolutions. She will be joined in conversation by celebrated novelist MARISA SILVER. During the conversation, Annik will share a short video featuring internationally acclaimed pianist Eric Clark performing at the First International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments in Warsaw.

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the Fryderyk Chopin Institute for permission to show this excerpt. The video and audio are the property of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute. All rights reserved.

Details

The Frédéric Chopin Annik LaFarge presents here is not the melancholy, sickly, romantic figure so often portrayed. The artist she discovered is, instead, a purely independent spirit: an innovator who created a new musical language, an autodidact who became a spiritually generous, trailblazing teacher, a stalwart patriot during a time of revolution and exile.

In Chasing Chopin she follows in his footsteps during the three years, 1837–1840, when he composed his iconic “Funeral March”—dum dum da dum—using its composition story to illuminate the key themes of his life: a deep attachment to his Polish homeland; his complex relationship with writer George Sand; their harrowing but consequential sojourn on Majorca; the rapidly developing technology of the piano, which enabled his unique tone and voice; social and political revolution in 1830s Paris; friendship with other artists, from the famous Eugène Delacroix to the lesser known, yet notorious in his time, Marquis de Custine. Each of these threads—musical, political, social, personal—is woven through the “Funeral March” in Chopin’s Opus 35 sonata, a melody so famous it’s known around the world even to people who know nothing about classical music. But it is not, as LaFarge discovered, the piece of music we think we know.

As part of her research into Chopin’s world, then and now, LaFarge visited piano makers, monuments, churches, and archives; she talked to scholars, jazz musicians, video game makers, software developers, music teachers, theater directors, and of course dozens of pianists.

The result is extraordinary: an engrossing, page-turning work of musical discovery and an artful portrayal of a man whose work and life continue to inspire artists and cultural innovators in astonishing ways.

About Author(s)

Annik LaFarge is a writer, photographer, lecturer, and author of the much-praised On the High Line: Exploring America’s Most Original Urban Park, winner of the IPPY award for Travel Guidebook. She has been writing about the High Line and urban landscapes since 2009 on the blog Livin The High Line. Her most recent book is Chasing Chopin: A Musical Journey Across 3 Centuries, 4 Countries, and a Half Dozen Revolutions. She lives in New York City.

Marisa Silver’s new novel, The Mysteries, will be published in 2021. She is also the author of six previous works of fiction, including the novels Mary Coin, a New York Times bestseller, and, most recently, Little Nothing, a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker as well as other publications, and has been included in The Best American Short StoriesThe O. Henry Prize Stories. Silver has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. She teaches at the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.