10

I'm listening to a radio show with many interesting guests on themes that somehow connect to current politics. But this apparently prominent historian claims that during the conference in Potsdam 1945, president Truman deliberately played Chopin on the piano because he knew that Churchill hated Chopin (me too) and that Stalin loved it. Come on! Did that really happen?

3:50 into this radio episode

18

According to one of his letters to his wife Bess, Truman noticed that Stalin liked Chopin's music very much, especially the version played by the American pianist at Potsdam. And Chopin was also one of Truman's favorite composers (alongside German composers that Stalin would not have liked).

And Truman wanted "both of them in it" (the war with Japan). Britain was already involved, so Stalin, who had signed a five-year non aggression pact with Japan, was the one that needed convincing.

Truman was a competent, though not professional level pianist, so it would make sense that he would play "his" Chopin to cater to Stalin. He had no reason to annoy Churchill, except for the fact that Churchill was (possibly) "annoyed."

13

This does seem to be confirmed via several sources. The book Harry S. Truman: His Life and Times By Brian Burnes mentions Truman's music on page 14, where after Eugene List had played, it says

"Then Truman himself took a turn at the keyboard"

Other sources discussing this include:

So there appears to be no shortage of reports of Truman's piano use at the conference.

As to Churchill's discomfort, it is also discussed in sources such as Presidential Diversions: Presidents at Play... By Paul F. Boller, where it quotes Churchill, the next day during the lengthy classical performance put on by Stalin's musicians, as saying

"I'm bored to tears. I do not like the music"

So Churchill's discomfort seems to be confirmed as well. The only thing I have not been able to confirm is Truman actually playing Chopin; it seems this was left to List in the sources I have found.

  • 1
    So between these two answers, Truman played Chopin and then THE NEXT DAY Churchilll was bored by Stalin's version of Chopin. Truman must have been much the pianist. – JackArbiter Sep 28 '17 at 2:47
  • Paderewski's first name was Ignacy (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignacy_Jan_Paderewski). And as a trivia - he not only was a composer, but also a prime minister of Poland (not at that time though). – Grzegorz Oledzki Sep 28 '17 at 13:39
  • @Grzegorz Oledzki Thank you, added the link and full name into the answer. – justCal Sep 28 '17 at 13:47
  • Is it confirmed that Trueman knew Churchill hated Chopin at the time he was playing? – Dan Neely Sep 28 '17 at 14:15
  • @Dan Neely Not that I could see. It seemed more along the lines of Tom's answer, the intent to make Stalin happy, with the unintentional side effect of boring Churchill. – justCal Sep 28 '17 at 14:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.