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Chopin…was a publicity-shunning introvert who played only his own music and performed mainly in the salons of Paris and England on increasingly rare occasions. He made his living teaching piano to well-heeled students of indifferent ability. He wrote no autobiography, died too soon to make records, and left behind no symphonies, string quartets, operas, or ballets for a later generation of writers to parse at leisure and at length. By all rights, then, Chopin should have gone the way of the many other 19th-century pianist-composers whose renown did not outlive them. Instead, his music is as familiar today as it was at the time of his death in 1849. It is ubiquitous—but is it truly great?
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Vladimir Horowitz plays Chopin’s G Minor Ballade at Carnegie Hall in 1968. This performance is part of a solo recital by Horowitz that was originally telecast in prime time on CBS: