Ada and I went to see Chopin at the Pasadena Playhouse a couple of weeks ago . He died a long time ago , Chopin , but he talked about that , too. He said that he died of heart failure and not of the consumption that plagued him . Consumption is what we call tuberculosis . He suffered from melancholia , too . He said he thought we would call his affliction bi-polar .
He was a good piano player , that guy Chopin . He gave lessons . In fact , on the night that Ada and I went , we were his students . There was an auditorium full of students . Ordinarily , he said , he would expect us to have brought along an instrument , but this lesson would be introductory and he would be the only one to play . And he talked and he played for two hours . Then he answered questions .
At one point during the lesson Ada leaned over to whisper to me that ” He’s not really playing . The piano keys are not moving .” I tried to watch the keys carefully to see if they moved . If he wasn’t playing , then the timing of the recording , starting and stopping , would have been too perfect , too incredible . Several minutes later , however , Ada changed her mind . ” No , he’s playing ,” she whispered .
In a way , we had snuck in to the lesson . ” Do you want to go see Chopin ? ” Ada asked one evening . Not really , I thought . A one-man play ? Not really . Ada was on the internet . ” Tickets are free .” Free ? ” To the Polish community . ” There was a pause . ” It must not be much good if they’re giving away tickets , ” she suggested .
” Probably not much good , ” I agreed .
” So shall we go and find out ? ”
Ada told me that she’d never known that Chopin was such a fun guy . She had learned , in Poland , that this Polish guy was an important genius , but somber and sick . But he showed his sense of humor during the Pasadena lesson , a deep sarcastic disregard for his Russian contemporaries , his down-to-earth humanity , and some of his passions in life [apparently , for example , he loved Sand ] .
” Witam !” Chopin had said when he stepped onto the stage and introduced himself . A Polish welcome . I wondered how many of the several other students there in the auditorium who responded ” Witam !” had snuck into the lesson too .