I read yesterday that researchers at Vienna University’s Faculty of Psychology, after 15 years of examining the data, have determined that there is no provable connection between listening to Mozart and increased intelligence – the so-called ‘Mozart effect’. This does not surprise me. I would have been astonished if such a thing could be scientifically verified, not just because I’ve met many musicians who were not particularly bright, but because the whole issue of intelligence as something measurable is open to question. Indeed, many areas of psychology itself remain stubbornly beyond proof.
But not any more. Ivan Hewett describes how he belatedly woke up to the ‘tender poet’ of the piano.
The flood of Chopin performances and recordings launched by the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth shows no sign of abating. In the next few weeks Alexander Tharaud, Leon McCawley and Louis Lortie are all giving Chopin concerts, to name just three. As for the recording industry, it’s thrown caution to the wind. In recent weeks there have been new releases from Nikolai Lugansky, Stephen Hough, Nelson Freire, Yundi. The list is endless.
But Chopin hasn’t always swept away those before him. Even now many people feel a deep resistance to him and for years I did, too. When I was just starting to explore classical music I naturally gave Chopin a try and had an instant aversion to him. Those melting runs and arabesques made me feel physically sick, and I instantly translated this “yuck” sensation into a moral judgment.