Bringing Chopin back to life

SARAH WATT
Last updated 05:00 18/05/2014
Chopin
FREDERIC CHOPIN: the subject of Phil Grabsky’s latest In Search Of documentary.

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REVIEW: Those who have seen Phil Grabsky's first three films in this series (where he was searching for Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven) will already have made up their minds to see his exploration of Chopin.

The hugely successful documentaries are simple in their construction, combining scholarly talking-heads interviews with musicologists and musicians from around the world with footage of performances of the composer's key works.

However, the film is not just a fascinating lecture on the life of (in this case) Frederic Chopin, the French-fathered, Polish-born pianist, but also an incredible education into the construction of his compositions as experts break down the influences and musicianship of Chopin's works.

The film's key strength is that you don't need to be musical yourself to understand the detail - an appreciation is all you need.

As is to be expected in such a study, the foibles of Chopin's personal life are also unearthed, from the prodigious upbringing that saw him (like Mozart) playing in palaces and fashionable homes at the age of 8, to his long affair with the scandalous female writer, George Sand, later in life.

We hear his "voice" through narrated letters, and gasp in awe to discover the naturally talented young man who became renowned as "the most pianistic of all composers" never had a piano lesson in his life.

With a healthy dose of soundtrack (naturally) and interesting details shared by some curiously quirky individuals, as well as an impressive turn from an ageing Daniel Barenboim, Grabsky's four-year journey into Chopin's past brings a well-loved composer back to life.

In Search of Chopin (E) 110 mins 

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