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About The Book

A modern take on a classical icon: this “luminous book” (Susan Orlean, New York Times bestselling author of The Library Book) tells the story of when, where, and how Chopin composed his most famous work, uncovering many surprises along the way and showing how his innovative music still animates and thrives in our culture centuries later.

In this widely-praised book, Annik LaFarge presents a very different Frédéric Chopin from the melancholy, sickly, Romantic figure that has predominated for so long. The artist she discovered is, instead, a purely independent—and endlessly relevant—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, pandemic, and exile.

One of America’s foremost pianists, Jeremy Denk, wrote in The New York Times: “It is almost impossible for me to imagine a world in which [Chopin’s “Funeral March”] is both fresh and tragic, where its death is real. LaFarge’s charming and loving new book attempts to recover this world…This book took me into many unexpected corners…For a book about death, it’s bursting with life and lively research.”

In this “entertaining dual music history and memoir” (Publishers Weekly), a “seamless blend of the musical and literary verve” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) LaFarge “brilliantly traces the footsteps of Chopin’s life” (Scott Yoo, host of PBS Now Hear This) during the three years, 1837–1840, when he composed the now-iconic Funeral March, using its composition story to illuminate the key themes of Chopin’s life.

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, music teachers, theater directors, and of course dozens of pianists. She has given us, says pianist, author, and New York Times columnist Michael Kimmelman, “a tour-de-force and journey of the soul.”

It is an engrossing, “impeccably researched” (Library Journal) 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.

An acclaimed companion website, WhyChopin, presents links to each piece of music mentioned in the book, organized by chapter, along with photos, resources, and more.

About The Author

Ann Godoff

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.

About The Reader

Why We Love It

“LaFarge conjures Chopin on the page, and sets her portrayal apart in the process. She describes the Chopin that we know from previous books: snobbish, selfish, short-tempered, melancholy. But I love how she shows where this characterization misses the mark. The Chopin she introduces here is quite different: independent, innovative, generous, loving. Her portrayal is based on a vast amount of material, from primary sources like letters and journals, works of literature and works of music, and even YouTube clips, to secondary material like works of biography and history. And she distills her research so skillfully, so artfully. LaFarge has paved the way for us: follow the path she (seemingly effortlessly) carves, to discover Chopin, his work and his life, and to understand why he still matters today.” —Emily G., Editor, on Chasing Chopin

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (August 11, 2020)
  • Runtime: 6 hours and 58 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797110097

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Raves and Reviews

"This captivating array of personal and historical details of the great composer's life could not have been performed by anyone but Nancy Peterson. Reading a narrative that unfolds like a smoothly written mystery or travelogue, Peterson capture's Annik LaFarge's gentle reverence for every aspect of Chopin's life. Her lyrical pacing and phrasing, beautiful in themselves, contribute to the listening joy and make clear her own reverence for Chopin and what he gave to the world. The audiobook is exquisitely researched and offers many surprises, an example being the author's view that Chopin's passion for teaching and revolutionizing music make him a stronger, more determined figure than other sources paint him to be. This is a treasure for anyone in love with Chopin's music."

– Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award, AudioFile Magazine

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More books from this reader: Nancy Peterson