Chopin's life is almost like reading out of some fantastic romantic novel, if full of excesses and petulance, there is no denying that he was a composer of unmatched brilliance. Siepmann's account is quite delightful to listen to and I have to disagree with Rob Cowan's recent assessment of this series as lacking the necessary depth.
The pieces of music are well chosen and blend perfectly with corresponding narrative. The voice of Chopin is also superbly portrayed by Anton Lesser, that doyen of readers who is definitely one of the finest actors around, and who does this Naxos series so proud in many ways.
The life unfolds like some tragic doom laden fantasy, the early beginnings in Poland, disaster at home when Chopin fled to France, the rise of his genius, the liaison with Georges Sand and the end of the affair. I was particularly taken in by the Corsica episode in which the realms of romanticism are breached with such nonplussed intensity, the music takes on an almost heroic nature here. Siepmann is well attuned to Chopin's moanings and groanings, these are obviously meat and drink for Lesser who portrays all with unmatched leering.
To sum up, this is an account that will be in place as one of the definitive biographies of Chopin, whose life is so colourful and interesting that you cannot but imagine that it is all a dream.
Copyright © 2001 by Gerald Fenech.