By David Walters
If you’ve ever wanted to spend the evening in a Paris salon with Fryderyk Chopin, it’s your lucky day.
If you’re a classical music enthusiast, boy have I got a show for you.
If you’re interested in an autobiographical presentation that will leave you more knowledgable, more appreciative of musicality, and having a better understanding of the artistic growth and development of one of the world’s greatest composers, please click here.
The audience is ushered into a mid-1800’s Parisian salon with a full grand piano taking up most of the stage. Fryderyk Chopin (Hershey Felder) enters and apologizes for being a few minutes late and greets us as his students that have just arrived for their lesson. Revolution has just happened in Poland and Chopin tells us about his childhood there and its deep impressions that marked him throughout his life, having begun to play the piano at two-years-old.
Chopin’s technique was on the quieter, delicate side and does not lend itself as well to the the concert halls as other “piano bangers” do, thus his propensity for performing in private salons (social gatherings of the aristocracy, artistic, and literary elite) throughout his life. He apparently only played about 30 times in concert settings. He is known for ushering in a nationalism in composition that was picked up by other composers as he drew inspiration from folk tunes and dances of his native Poland. Although his father was French, he always identified more strongly with his Polish ancestory and his upbringing in Warsaw and its surroundings. Looking back on his life, one can see that there was a strong desire in his musical creations (though he was never able) to go home.
Pianest/actor Hershey Felder magically embodies Chopin, plain and simple. His intimate knowledge and personal piano technique of his subject is formidable. His comfortableness in that knowledge allows him to pause in the presentation and open himself to the audience during the show for them to ask any questions (as that’s how students learn); so if you’ve ever wanted to take a time machine and go back in time and ask Chopin anything, here’s your chance.
I truly appreciated the extent of the production and being able to consider the full breadth of Chopin’s artistry throughout his life and to be able to see and hear how it grew and matured. This is historical, musical storytelling that will leave you informed, more knowledgable, and completely entertained.
As both playwright and actor, besides Chopin, Mr. Felder has also put together presentations of other composers, Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy, Sergi Rachmaninoff, George Gershwin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Franz Listz, and Irving Berlin which he has performed around the world.
Monsieur Chopin written and performed by Hershey Felder. Directed by Joel Zwick.
Now playing at 59E59th
Running time 2 hours with no intermission.