By Dr. Ming Wang
On a beautiful sunny Florida afternoon, a white Rolls Royce was rolling along, on a highway, in it, the driver, Mr. Jack (I don’t remember his name, a great gentleman, he graduated from Harvard also) was in the driver seat, and Diana, June, Misha, and me. The wind was blowing, and we were all excited. Coming from a delicious lunch at waterfront, we were looking forward to hearing this wonderfully talented Chinese pianist, Tao Lin.
We arrived at the Steinway Piano Gallery. The owner greeted us at the door. Wahoo, pianos, pianos, were everywhere. White, black, and other colors. I looked at the intricate design of the internal structure of a piano; they had one piano all opened so you could see in amazing detail the wooden bars, the tiny weight, the long wooden arm, and the small leather insulator…
We walked into a private rehearsal hall, about dozen or so piano lovers had already seated. When the concert was about to start, a slender gentleman of about 30 walked onto stage, in an unassuming manner, sat down at the piano chair. The audience (about 30) became quite. The pianist hands were slowly raised, and under it, we were brought back to 18th century, Poland (Chopin’s Ballad #1)………….
It began, like a dream…….. Chopin’s dream…… the idyllic farmland, the beautiful green, the tall church against the background of a blue sky and white cloud… the beautiful country of Poland…… the world was so soothing, so quite, so idealistic, and so dreamy…..
It flows… the water, the spring water, high above it, the mountain, it flows…. down the stream…. Chopin had such a unique approach to music, so poetic, and so pure. He was a frail young man, extremely sensitive and charming, so pale, he could create the most delicate melody of unspoken beauty, conquer the most dazzling of virtuosity on the keyboard, but yet, he was so unfit for the dusty world, with its imperfection and cruelty, that he could barely take care of himself physically that he would need her, a beautiful lady who actually nursed him back to health when he was extremely ill. They broke apart because of Chopin’s sister’s unkind intervention, and he never saw her again, except once, at a party, when he and she had a chance meet, she gazed away and walked out, trying very hard not to turn back to return to him. They both had the desire to reconcile, but they did not have the courage to do so, to face the world………….
To face the world, a world with so little beauty, with Amies, rifles, invading Poland, from Russia……….. the sky became dark, the water frozen, the church collapsed, and grass turned yellow………. the nation crumbled and fell apart, her people cried, yelled, raised their fists, and they were crushed, stumped upon, the freedom and the beauty, of the country, shattered, the character, the character of a nation, was threatened, her culture, her beautiful art and her music, was trashed and spilled upon….
Amidst the agonizing turmoil, the fight, the screams, the frustration, a world which as if had come to an end, was the hand of one of the greatest pianists of all time, creating and striking down a roll of notes that were from the deepest corner of his heart, with the most devastating frame of mind, with the most longing for freedom, for the lost beauty, with the most unimaginable stark contrast of music qualify when compared with the beginning of the piece which was so idyllic and with such an exquisite beauty and tenderness, now to the roll of angered and anguished notes at the end of the piece, an ending that had forever been regarded as the most ferocious, distraught, and tumultuous line of piano notes that was ever created, by a human being…….
On the way back, we were riding in our car and still talking about the music. I could not erase in my mind the image of a lean Chinese artist, playing a piece of music of extraordinary beauty there was created by another artist, centuries ago, and the composer’s heart connected to the performers, his Poland under the suppressive dictatorship of Russian rulers, to his struggle and millions like him in China, in the devastating culture revolution; their souls, connected; their music inspiration, resonated; their longing, their aspiration, shared, human aspiration….
I thought of an idea of mine, that I had for a long time: what if I created a movie, in which great artists such as Chopin came alive, and sat in a concert hall like the one that we were in today, listening to a 21st century Chinese pianist, playing his compositions, to see the expansion of human mind, the heritable virtue of human aspiration, the music, under the modern pianist’s hand, has not only vividly recreated the composer’s world, but also exceeded the boundary of imagination that Chopin had in his original design of his music. It created a new meaning, new dimension. Perhaps, that, is the essence of human race, of our living, of our not having to be afraid of death: Though we live once through this earth, only once, but the greatest things in our mind and what we create can last and grow, forever, from the mind of a great musician such as Chopin, to the finger tips of a talented 21st century pianist………. seeing all that, the coming alive of his world, but more importantly the expansion of his original ideas and dreams, to a bigger scope and carrying more and deeper meanings, Chopin was moved to tears, sitting in the great concert hall, he could no longer hold his tear, it ran down his face, landed on his lap…. he finally saw that his music had not only had not died, but it lived on and continued to inspire, and further, it grew, it had only become much more meaningful, more beautiful, not only to himself, his dear Poland, but also, to the modern world, to modern musicians and people, to the whole human race………..