NOCTURNE: A Life of Chopin by Ruth Jordan

NOCTURNE: A Life of Chopin

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The third biography of the Polish-French composer in little more than a year is the least satisfying: Jordan, admitting the lack of any musical expertise, starts out at a disadvantage to both George R. Marek (p. 992) and Bernard Gavoty (1977). Forced then to concentrate on the private life, Jordan tries to make the most of it--by giving more attention than most biographers to obsessively devoted Jane Stirling, Chopin's last entanglement; by using her sympathetic intimacy with George Sand (1976) to examine the Sand-Chopin liaison in dramatic detail (emphasizing Sand's domestic nature, Jordan portrays her as an almost entirely positive influence); and by accepting the authenticity of the ""vehemently disputed,"" fervent and bawdy love letters to Delphina Potocka, using them, without proper cautionary asides, as the basis for interpreting entire chains of behavior. If Jordan's attack were vivid enough, this might be controversial but sweeping stuff, like Gavoty's fevered book; unfortunately, her prose is at best uninspired, often slipping into sorry clichÉs (""Frederick took to school like a duck to water""). Except for the Potocka gaffe, Nocturne is nonetheless respectable, professional work, with a few distinctive touches--like the portrait of Jane Stirling and some comments on Chopin's anti-Semitism. But with Marek for genial balance and Gavoty for grand passion, Jordan's rather tame romanticism is the wrong, or unnecessary, note in the triad.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Taplinger