Chopin’s Ocean

In 1949, my grandmother, mother, and aunt were on a ship traveling across the Atlantic, displaced by WWII, and far from their native Estonia. My grandmother used to tell me how she was summoned to the ship's officers’ quarters, the captain having learned that she was a concert pianist. As the unbolted piano bench slid back and forth, and the boat rocked and heaved, my grandmother poured her pains into the piano, playing Chopin’s third Etude, known to her as “Chopin’s sorrow.” She was lucky, traveling aboard a stout ship in a time when the US was actively welcoming displaced persons. But these days, as I hear about migrants desperately floating across the Mediterranean in an attempt to get to Europe, it is easy to imagine my grandmother, or someone like her, not making it; I imagine a storm sinking the ship and the sounds of her piano spreading out across the ocean. And I imagine far away, a mother and daughter standing by the seashore, hearing just a faint glimmer of Chopin drifting in the waves.

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ACO Performances

25th Underwood New Music Readings (2016)

June 13, 2016 8:00 am
Miller Theater at Columbia University

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