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Frederick Chopin as a Man and Musician, Volume 1 by Frederick Niecks

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The Prince bestowed upon him the inappreciable gift of a good
education, no part of which remained neglected. His elevated
mind enabling him to understand the exigencies of an artist's
career, he, from the time of his protege's entering the
college to the entire completion of his studies, paid the
pension through the agency of a friend, M. Antoine
Korzuchowski, [FOOTNOTE: Liszt should have called this
gentleman Adam Kozuchowski.] who always maintained cordial
relations and a constant friendship with Chopin.

Liszt's informant was no doubt Chopin's Paris friend Albert
Grzymala, [FOOTNOTE: M. Karasowski calls this Grzymala
erroneously Francis. More information about this gentleman will
be given in a subsequent chapter.] who seems to have had no
connection with the Chopin family in Poland. Karasowski thinks
that the only foundation of the story is a letter and present
from Prince Radziwill--acknowledgments of the dedication to him
of the Trio, Op. 8--which Adam Kozuchowski brought to Chopin in
1833. [FOOTNOTE: M. Karasowski, Fryderyk Chopin, vol. i., p. 65.]

Frederick was much liked by his school-fellows, which, as his
manners and disposition were of a nature thoroughly appreciated
by boys, is not at all to be wondered at. One of the most
striking features in the character of young Chopin was his
sprightliness, a sparkling effervescence that manifested itself
by all sorts of fun and mischief. He was never weary of playing
pranks on his sisters, his comrades, and even on older people,
and indulged to the utmost his fondness for caricaturing by
pictorial and personal imitations. In the course of a lecture the
worthy rector of the Lyceum discovered the scapegrace making free
with the face and figure of no less a person than his own
rectorial self. Nevertheless the irreverent pupil got off easily,
for the master, with as much magnanimity as wisdom, abstained
from punishing the culprit, and, in a subscript which he added to
the caricature, even praised the execution of it. A German
Protestant pastor at Warsaw, who made always sad havoc of the
Polish language, in which he had every Sunday to preach one of
his sermons, was the prototype of one of the imitations with
which Frederick frequently amused his friends. Our hero's talent
for changing the expression of his face, of which George Sand,
Liszt, Balzac, Hiller, Moscheles, and other personal
acquaintances, speak with admiration, seems already at this time
to have been extraordinary. Of the theatricals which the young
folks were wont to get up at the paternal house, especially on
the name-days of their parents and friends, Frederick was the
soul and mainstay. With a good delivery he combined a presence of
mind that enabled him to be always ready with an improvisation
when another player forgot his part. A clever Polish actor,
Albert Piasecki, who was stage-manager on these occasions, gave
it as his opinion that the lad was born to be a great actor. In
after years two distinguished members of the profession in
France, M. Bocage and Mdme. Dorval, expressed similar opinions.
For their father's name-day in 1824, Frederick and his sister
Emilia wrote conjointly a one-act comedy in verse, entitled THE
MISTAKE; OR, THE PRETENDED ROGUE, which was acted by a juvenile
company. According to Karasowski, the play showed that the
authors had a not inconsiderable command of language, but in
other respects could not be called a very brilliant achievement.
Seeing that fine comedies are not often written at the ages of
fifteen and eleven, nobody will be in the least surprised at the

These domestic amusements naturally lead us to inquire who were
the visitors that frequented the house. Among them there was Dr.
Samuel Bogumil Linde, rector of the Lyceum and first librarian of
the National Library, a distinguished philologist, who, assisted
by the best Slavonic scholars, wrote a valuable and voluminous
"Dictionary of the Polish Language," and published many other
works on the Slavonic languages. After this oldest of Nicholas
Chopin's friends I shall mention Waclaw Alexander Maciejowski,
who, like Linde, received his university education in Germany,
taught then for a short time at the Lyceum, and became in 1819 a
professor at the University of Warsaw. His contributions to
various branches of Slavonic history (law, literature, &c.) are
very numerous. However, one of the most widely known of those who
were occasionally seen at Chopin's home was Casimir Brodzinski,
the poet, critic, and champion of romanticism, a prominent figure
in Polish literary history, who lived in Warsaw from about 1815
to 1822, in which year he went as professor of literature to the
University of Cracow. Nicholas Chopin's pupil, Count Frederick
Skarbek, must not be forgotten; he had now become a man of note,
being professor of political economy at the university, and
author of several books that treat of that science. Besides
Elsner and Zywny, who have already been noticed at some length, a
third musician has to be numbered among friends of the Chopin
family--namely, Joseph Javurek, the esteemed composer and
professor at the Conservatorium; further, I must yet make mention
of Anton Barcinski, professor at the Polytechnic School, teacher
at Nicholas Chopin's institution, and by-and-by his son-in-law;
Dr. Jarocki, the zoologist; Julius Kolberg, the engineer; and
Brodowski, the painter. These and others, although to us only
names, or little more, are nevertheless not without their
significance. We may liken them to the supernumeraries on the
stage, who, dumb as they are, help to set off and show the
position of the principal figure or figures.

The love of literature which we have noticed in the young
Chopins, more particularly in the sisters, implanted by an
excellent education and fostered by the taste, habits, and
encouragement of their father, cannot but have been greatly
influenced and strengthened by the characters and conversation of
such visitors. Arid let it not be overlooked that this was the
time of Poland's intellectual renascence--a time when the
influence of man over man is greater than at other times, he
being, as it were, charged with a kind of vivifying electricity.
The misfortunes that had passed over Poland had purified and
fortified the nation--breathed into it a new and healthier life.
The change which the country underwent from the middle of the
eighteenth to the earlier part of the nineteenth century was
indeed immense. Then Poland, to use Carlyle's drastic
phraseology, had ripened into a condition of "beautifully
phosphorescent rot-heap"; now, with an improved agriculture,
reviving commerce, and rising industry, it was more prosperous
than it had been for centuries. As regards intellectual matters,
the comparison with the past was even more favourable to the
present. The government that took the helm in 1815 followed the
direction taken by its predecessors, and schools and universities
flourished; but a most hopeful sign was this, that whilst the
epoch of Stanislas Augustus was, as Mickiewicz remarked (in Les
Slaves), little Slavonic and not even national, now the national
spirit pervaded the whole intellectual atmosphere, and incited
workers in all branches of science and art to unprecedented
efforts. To confine ourselves to one department, we find that the
study of the history and literature of Poland had received a
vigorous impulse, folk-songs were zealously collected, and a new
school of poetry, romanticism, rose victoriously over the fading
splendour of an effete classicism. The literature of the time of
Stanislas was a court and salon literature, and under the
influence of France and ancient Rome. The literature that began
to bud about 1815, and whose germs are to be sought for in the
preceding revolutionary time, was more of a people's literature,
and under the influence of Germany, England, and Russia. The one
was a hot-house plant, the other a garden flower, or even a wild
flower. The classics swore by the precepts of Horace and Boileau,
and held that among the works of Shakespeare there was not one
veritable tragedy. The romanticists, on the other hand, showed by
their criticisms and works that their sympathies were with
Schiller, Goethe, Burger, Byron, Shukovski, &c. Wilna was the
chief centre from which this movement issued, and Brodziriski one
of the foremost defenders of the new principles and the precursor
of Mickiewicz, the appearance of whose ballads, romances,
"Dziady" and "Grazyna" (1822), decided the war in favour of
romanticism. The names of Anton Malczewski, Bogdan Zaleski,
Severyn Goszczynski, and others, ought to be cited along with
that of the more illustrious Mickiewicz, but I will not weary the
reader either with a long disquisition or with a dry enumeration.
I have said above that Polish poetry had become more of a
people's poetry. This, however, must not be understood in the
sense of democratic poetry.

The Polish poets [says C. Courriere, to whose "Histoire de la
litterature chez les Slaves" I am much indebted] ransacked with
avidity the past of their country, which appeared to them so much
the more brilliant because it presented a unique spectacle in the
history of nations. Instead of breaking with the historic
traditions they respected them, and gave them a new lustre, a new
life, by representing them under a more beautiful, more animated,
and more striking form. In short, if Polish romanticism was an
evolution of poetry in the national sense, it did not depart from
the tendencies of its elder sister, for it saw in the past only
the nobility; it was and remained, except in a few instances,

Now let us keep in mind that this contest of classicism and
romanticism, this turning away from a dead formalism to living
ideals, was taking place at that period of Frederick Chopin's
life when the human mind is most open to new impressions, and
most disposed to entertain bold and noble ideas. And, further,
let us not undervalue the circumstance that he must have come in
close contact with one of the chief actors in this unbloody

Frederick spent his first school holidays at Szafarnia, in
Mazovia, the property of the Dziewanowski family. In a letter
written on August 19, 1824, he gives his friend and school-fellow
William Kolberg, some account of his doings there--of his strolls
and runs in the garden, his walks and drives to the forest, and
above all of his horsemanship. He tells his dear Willie that he
manages to keep his seat, but would not like to be asked how.
Indeed, he confesses that, his equestrian accomplishments amount
to no more than to letting the horse go slowly where it lists,
and sitting on it, like a monkey, with fear. If he had not yet
met with an accident, it was because the horse had so far not
felt any inclination to throw him off. In connection with his
drives--in britzka and in coach--he does not forget to mention
that he is always honoured with a back-seat. Still, life at
Szafarnia was not unmixed happiness, although our hero bore the
ills with admirable stoicism:--

Very often [he writes] the flies sit on my prominent nose--
this, however, is of no consequence, it is the habit of these
little animals. The mosquitoes bite me--this too, however, is
of no consequence, for they don't bite me in the nose.

The reader sees from this specimen of epistolary writing that
Frederick is still a boy, and if I had given the letter in
extenso, the boyishness would have been even more apparent, in
the loose and careless style as well as in the frolicsome matter.

His letters to his people at home took on this occasion the form
of a manuscript newspaper, called, in imitation of the "Kuryer
Warszawski" ("Warsaw Courier"), "Kuryer Szafarski" ("Szafarnia
Courier"), which the editor, in imitation of the then obtaining
press regulation, did not send off until it had been seen and
approved of by the censor, Miss Dziewanowska. One of the numbers
of the paper contains among other news the report of a musical
gathering of "some persons and demi-persons" at which, on July
15, 1824, Mr. Pichon (anagram of Chopin) played a Concerto of
Kalkbrenner's and a little song, the latter being received by the
youthful audience with more applause than the former.

Two anecdotes that relate to this stay at Szafarnia further
exemplify what has already been said of Frederick's love of fun
and mischief. Having on one of his visits to the village of
Oberow met some Jews who had come to buy grain, he invited them
to his room, and there entertained them with music, playing to
them "Majufes."

[FOOTNOTE: Karasowski describes "Majufes" as a kind of Jewish
wedding march. Ph. Lobenstein says that it means "the beautiful,
the pleasing one." With this word opened a Hebrew song which
dates from the time of the sojourn of the Jews in Spain, and
which the orthodox Polish Jews sing on Saturdays after dinner,
and whose often-heard melody the Poles imitate as a parody of
Jewish singing.]

His guests were delighted--they began to dance, told him that he
played like a born Jew, and urged him to come to the next Jewish
wedding and play to them there. The other anecdote would be a
very ugly story were it not for the redeeming conclusion. Again
we meet with one of the numerous, but by no means well-loved,
class of Polish citizens. Frederick, having heard that a certain
Jew had bought grain from Mr. Romecki, the proprietor of Oberow,
sent this gentleman a letter purporting to be written by the
grain-dealer in question, in which he informed him that after
reconsidering the matter he would rather not take the grain. The
imitation of the jargon in use among the Polish Jews was so good,
and the spelling and writing so bad, that Mr. Romecki was taken
in. Indeed, he flew at once into such a passion that he sent for
the Jew with the intention of administering to him a sound
thrashing. Only Frederick's timely confession saved the poor
fellow from his undeserved punishment. But enough of Szafarnia,
where the young scapegrace paid so long a holiday visit (from his
letter to William Kolberg we learn that he would not see his
friend for four weeks more), and where, judging from what has
already been told, and also from a remark in the same letter, he
must have "enjoyed himself pretty well." And now we will return
to Warsaw, to Nicholas Chopin's boarding-school.

To take away any bad impression that may be left by the last
anecdote, I shall tell another of a more pleasing character,
which, indeed, has had the honour of being made the subject of a
picture. It was often told, says Karasowski, by Casimir
Wodzinski, a boarder of Nicholas Chopin's. One day when the
latter was out, Barcinski, the assistant master, could not manage
the noisy boys. Seeing this, Frederick, who just then happened to
come into the room, said to them that he would improvise a pretty
story if they would sit down and be quiet. This quickly restored
silence. He thereupon had the lights extinguished, took his seat
at the piano, and began as follows:--

Robbers set out to plunder a house. They come nearer and
nearer. Then they halt, and put up the ladders they have
brought with them. But just when they are about to enter
through the windows, they hear a noise within. This gives
them a fright. They run away to the woods. There, amidst the
stillness and darkness of the night, they lie down and
before long fall fast asleep.

When Frederick had got to this part of the story he began to play
softer and softer, and ever softer, till his auditors, like the
robbers, were fast asleep. Noticing this he stole out of the
room, called in the other inmates of the house, who came carrying
lights with them, and then with a tremendous, crashing chord
disturbed the sweet slumbers of the evil-doers.

Here we have an instance of "la richesse de son improvisation,"
by which, as Fontana tells us, Chopin, from his earliest youth,
astonished all who had the good fortune to hear him. Those who
think that there is no salvation outside the pale of absolute
music, will no doubt be horror-stricken at the heretical tendency
manifested on this occasion by an otherwise so promising
musician. Nay, even the less orthodox, those who do not
altogether deny the admissibility of programme-music if it
conforms to certain conditions and keeps within certain limits,
will shake their heads sadly. The duty of an enthusiastic
biographer, it would seem, is unmistakable; he ought to justify,
or, at least, excuse his hero--if nothing else availed, plead his
youth and inexperience. My leaving the poor suspected heretic in
the lurch under these circumstances will draw upon me the
reproach of remissness; but, as I have what I consider more
important business on hand, I must not be deterred from
proceeding to it by the fear of censure.

The year 1825 was, in many respects, a memorable one in the life
of Chopin. On May 27 and June 10 Joseph Javurek, whom I mentioned
a few pages back among the friends of the Chopin family, gave two
concerts for charitable purposes in the large hall of the
Conservatorium. At one of these Frederick appeared again in
public. A Warsaw correspondent of the "Leipzig Allgemeine
musikalische Zeitung" says in the course of one of his letters:--

The Academist Chopin performed the first Allegro of
Moscheles' Pianoforte Concerto in F [G ?] minor, and an
improvisation on the aeolopantaleon. This instrument,
invented by the cabinet-maker Dlugosz, of this town, combines
the aeolomelodicon [FOOTNOTE: An instrument of the organ
species, invented by Professor Hoffmann, and constructed by
the mechanician Brunner, of Warsaw.] with the piano-
forte....Young Chopin distinguished himself in his
improvisation by wealth of musical ideas, and under his hands
this instrument, of which he is a thorough master, made a
great impression.

Unfortunately we learn nothing of Chopin's rendering of the
movement from Moscheles' Concerto. Still, this meagre notice,
written by a contemporary--an ear-witness, who wrote down his
impressions soon after the performance--is very precious, indeed
more precious than the most complete and elaborate criticism
written fifty years after the occurrence would be. I cannot help
thinking that Karasowski somewhat exaggerates when he says that
Chopin's pianoforte playing transported the audience into a state
of enthusiasm, and that no concert had a brilliant success unless
he took part in it. The biographer seems either to trust too much
to the fancy-coloured recollections of his informants, or to
allow himself to be carried away by his zeal for the exaltation
of his hero. At any rate, the tenor of the above-quoted notice,
laudatory as it is, and the absence of Chopin's name from other
Warsaw letters, do not remove the doubts which such eulogistic
superlatives raise in the mind of an unbiassed inquirer. But that
Chopin, as a pianist and as a musician generally, had attained a
proficiency far beyond his years becomes evident if we examine
his compositions of that time, to which I shall presently advert.
And that he had risen into notoriety and saw his talents
appreciated cannot be doubted for a moment after what has been
said. Were further proof needed, we should find it in the fact
that he was selected to display the excellences of the
aeolomelodicon when the Emperor Alexander I, during his sojourn
in Warsaw in 1825, [FOOTNOTE: The Emperor Alexander opened the
Diet at Warsaw on May 13, 1825, and closed it on June 13.]
expressed the wish to hear this instrument. Chopin's performance
is said to have pleased the august auditor, who, at all events,
rewarded the young musician with a diamond ring.

A greater event than either the concert or the performance before
the Emperor, in fact, THE event of the year 1825, was the
publication of Chopin's Opus 1. Only he who has experienced the
delicious sensation of seeing himself for the first time in print
can realise what our young author felt on this occasion. Before
we examine this work, we will give a passing glance at some less
important early compositions of the maestro which were published

There is first of all a Polonaise in G sharp minor, said to be of
the year 1822, [FOOTNOTE: See No. 15 of the Posthumous Works in
the Breitkopf and Hartel edition.] but which, on account of the
savoir-faire and invention exhibited in it, I hold to be of a
considerably later time. Chopin's individuality, it is true, is
here still in a rudimentary state, chiefly manifested in the
light-winged figuration; the thoughts and the expression,
however, are natural and even graceful, bearing thus the divine
impress. The echoes of Weber should be noted. Of two mazurkas, in
G and B flat major, of the year 1825, the first is, especially in
its last part, rather commonplace; the second is more
interesting, because more suggestive of better things, which the
first is only to an inconsiderable extent. In No. 2 we meet
already with harmonic piquancies which charmed musicians and
lovers of music so much in the later mazurkas. Critics and
students will not overlook the octaves between, treble and bass
in the second bar of part two in No. 1. A. Polonaise in B flat
minor, superscribed "Farewell to William Kolberg," of the year
1826, has not less naturalness and grace than the Polonaise of
1822, but in addition to these qualities, it has also at least
one thought (part 1) which contains something of the sweet ring
of Chopinian melancholy. The trio of the Polonaise is headed by
the words: "Au revoir! after an aria from 'Gazza ladra'." Two
foot-notes accompany this composition in the Breitkopf and Hartel
edition (No. 16 of the Posthumous Works). The first says that the
Polonaise was composed "at Chopin's departure from [should be
'for'] Reinerz"; and the second, in connection with the trio,
that "some days before Chopin's departure the two friends had
been present at a performance of Rossini's opera." There is one
other early posthumously-published work of Chopin's, whose
status, however, differs from the above-mentioned ones in this,
that the composer seems to have intended to publish it. The
composition in question is the Variations sur un air national

Szulc says that Oskar Kolberg related that he had still in his
possession these Variations on the theme of Der Schweizerbub,
which Chopin composed between his twelfth and seventeenth years
at the house of General Sowinski's wife in the course of "a few
quarter-hours." The Variations sur un air national allemand were
published after the composer's death along with his Sonata, Op.
4, by Haslinger, of Vienna, in 1851. They are, no doubt, the
identical composition of which Chopin in a letter from Vienna
(December 1, 1830) writes: "Haslinger received me very kindly,
but nevertheless would publish neither the Sonata nor the Second
Variations." The First Variations were those on La ci darem, Op.
2, the first of his compositions that was published in Germany.
Without inquiring too curiously into the exact time of its
production and into the exact meaning of "a few quarter-hours,"
also leaving it an open question whether the composer did or did
not revise his first conception of the Variations before sending
them to Vienna, I shall regard this unnumbered work--which, by
the way, in the Breitkopf and Hartel edition is dated 1824--on
account of its greater simplicity and inferior interest, as an
earlier composition than the Premier Rondeau (C minor), Op. 1,
dedicated to Mdme. de Linde (the wife of his father's friend and
colleague, the rector Dr. Linde), a lady with whom Frederick
often played duets. What strikes one at once in both of them is
the almost total absence of awkwardness and the presence of a
rarely-disturbed ease. They have a natural air which is alike
free from affected profundity and insipid childishness. And the
hand that wrote them betrays so little inexperience in the
treatment of the instrument that they can hold their ground
without difficulty and honourably among the better class of light
drawing-room pieces. Of course, there are weak points: the
introduction to the Variations with those interminable sequences
of dominant and tonic chords accompanying a stereotyped run, and
the want of cohesiveness in the Rondo, the different subjects of
which are too loosely strung together, may be instanced. But,
although these two compositions leave behind them a pleasurable
impression, they can lay only a small claim to originality.
Still, there are slight indications of it in the tempo di valse,
the concluding portion of the Variations, and more distinct ones
in the Rondo, in which it is possible to discover the embryos of
forms--chromatic and serpentining progressions, &c.--which
subequently develop most exuberantly. But if on the one hand we
must admit that the composer's individuality is as yet weak, on
the other hand we cannot accuse him of being the imitator of any
one master--such a dominant influence is not perceptible.

[FOOTNOTE: Schumann, who in 1831 became acquainted with Chopin's
Op. 2, and conceived an enthusiastic admiration for the composer,
must have made inquiries after his Op. 1, and succeeded in
getting it. For on January 1832, he wrote to Frederick Wieck:
"Chopin's first work (I believe firmly that it is his tenth) is
in my hands: a lady would say that it was very pretty, very
piquant, almost Moschelesque. But I believe you will make Clara
[Wieck's daughter, afterwards Mdme. Schumann] study it; for there
is plenty of Geist in it and few difficulties. But I humbly
venture to assert that there are between this composition and Op.
2 two years and twenty works"]

All this, however, is changed in another composition, the Rondeau
a la Mazur, Op. 5, dedicated to the Comtesse Alexandrine de
Moriolles (a daughter of the Comte de Moriolles mentioned in
Chapter II), which, like the Rondo, Op. 1, was first published in
Warsaw, and made its appearance in Germany some years later. I do
not know the exact time of its composition, but I presume it was
a year or two after that of the previously mentioned works.
Schumann, who reviewed it in 1836, thought it had perhaps been
written in the eighteenth year of the composer, but he found in
it, some confused passages excepted, no indications of the
author's youth. In this Rondeau a la Mazur the individuality of
Chopin and with it his nationality begin to reveal themselves
unmistakably. Who could fail to recognise him in the peculiar
sweet and persuasive flows of sound, and the serpent-like winding
of the melodic outline, the wide-spread chords, the chromatic
progressions, the dissolving of the harmonies and the linking of
their constituent parts! And, as I have said elsewhere in
speaking of this work: "The harmonies are often novel, and the
matter is more homogeneous and better welded into oneness."

Chopin's pianoforte lessons, as has already been stated, came to
an end when he was twelve years old, and thenceforth he was left
to his own resources.

The school of that time [remarks Fontana] could no longer
suffice him, he aimed higher, and felt himself impelled
towards an ideal which, at first vague, before long grew into
greater distinctness. It was then that, in trying his
strength, he acquired that touch and style, so different from
those of his predecessors, and that he succeeded in creating
at last that execution which since then has been the
admiration of the artistic world.

The first stages of the development of his peculiar style may be
traced in the compositions we have just now discussed. In the
variations and first Rondo which Chopin wrote at or before the
age of fifteen, the treatment of the instrument not only proves
that he was already as much in his element on the pianoforte as a
fish in the water, but also shows that an as yet vaguely-
perceived ideal began to beckon him onward. Karasowski, informed
by witnesses of the boy's studies in pianoforte playing, relates
that Frederick, being struck with the fine effect of a chord in
extended harmony, and unable, on account of the smallness of his
hands, to strike the notes simultaneously, set about thinking how
this physical obstacle could be overcome. The result of his
cogitations was the invention of a contrivance which he put
between his fingers and kept there even during the night, by this
means endeavouring to increase the extensibility and flexibility
of his hands. Who, in reading of this incident in Chopin's life,
is not reminded of Schumann and his attempt to strengthen his
fingers, an attempt that ended so fatally for his prospects as a
virtuoso! And the question, an idle one I admit, suggests itself:
Had Chopin been less fortunate than he was, and lost, like
Schumann, the command of one of his hands before he had formed
his pianoforte style, would he, as a composer, have risen to a
higher position than we know him to have attained, or would he
have achieved less than he actually did? From the place and
wording of Karasowski's account it would appear that this
experiment of Chopin's took place at or near the age of ten. Of
course it does not matter much whether we know or do not know the
year or day of the adoption of the practice, what is really
interesting is the fact itself. I may, however, remark that
Chopin's love of wide-spread chords and skips, if marked at all,
is not strongly marked in the Variations on the German air and
the first Rondo. Let the curious examine with regard to this
matter the Tempo di Valse of the former work, and bars 38-43 of
the Piu lento of the latter. In the Rondeau a la Mazur, the next
work in chronological order, this peculiarity begins to show
itself distinctly, and it continues to grow in the works that
follow. It is not my intention to weaiy the reader with
microscopical criticism, but I thought the first manifestations
of Chopin's individuality ought not to be passed over in silence.
As to his style, it will be more fully discussed in a subsequent
chapter, where also the seeds from which it sprang will be
pointed out.



THE art which had attracted the child took every day a stronger
hold of the youth. Frederick was not always in that sportive
humour in which we have seen him repeatedly. At times he would
wander about silent and solitary, wrapped in his musical
meditations. He would sit up late, busy with his beloved music,
and often, after lying down, rise from his bed in the middle of
the night in order, to strike a few chords or try a short phrase-
-to the horror of the servants, whose first thought was of
ghosts, the second that their dear young master was not quite
right in his mind. Indeed, what with his school-work and his
musical studies, our young friend exerted himself more than was
good for him. When, therefore, in the holidays of 1826 his
youngest sister, Emilia, was ordered by the physicians to go to
Reinerz, a watering-place in Prussian Silesia, the parents
thought it advisable that the too diligent Frederick should
accompany her, and drink whey for the benefit of his health. The
travelling party consisted of the mother, two sisters, and
himself. A letter which he wrote on August 28, 1826, to his
friend William Kolberg, furnishes some information about his
doings there. It contains, as letters from watering-places
usually do, criticisms of the society and accounts of
promenadings, excursions, regular meals, and early hours in going
to bed and in rising. As the greater part of the contents can be
of no interest to us, I shall confine myself to picking up what
seems to me worth preserving. He had been drinking whey and the
waters for a fortnight and found he was getting somewhat stouter
and at the same time lazy. People said he began to look better.
He enjoyed the sight of the valleys from the hills which surround
Reinerz, but the climbing fatigued him, and he had sometimes to
drag himself down on all-fours. One mountain, the rocky
Heuscheuer, he and other delicate persons were forbidden to
ascend, as the doctor was afraid that the sharp air at the top
would do his patients harm. Of course, Frederick tried to make
fun of everything and everyone--for instance, of the wretched
wind-band, which consisted of about a dozen "caricatures," among
whom a lean bassoon-player with a snuffy hook-nose was the most
notable. To the manners of the country, which in some respects
seem to have displeased him, he got gradually accustomed.

At first I was astonished that in Silesia the women work
generally more than the men, but as I am doing nothing myself
just now I have no difficulty in falling in with this

During his stay at Reinerz he gave also a concert on behalf of
two orphans who had come with their sick mother to this watering-
place, and at her death were left so poor as to be unable even to
pay the funeral expenses and to return home with the servant who
took care of them.

From Reinerz Frederick went to Strzyzewo, the property of Madame
Wiesiolowska, his godmother, and sister of his godfather, Count
Frederick Skarbek. While he was spending here the rest of his
holidays, he took advantage of an invitation he had received from
Prince Radziwill (governor of the grand duchy of Posen, and,
through his wife, a daughter of Prince Ferdinand, related to the
royal family of Prussia) to visit him at his country-seat
Antonin, which was not very far from Strzyzewo. The Prince, who
had many relations in Poland, and paid frequent visits to that
country, must on these occasions have heard of and met with the
musical prodigy that was the pet of the aristocracy. Moreover, it
is on record that he was present at the concert at Warsaw in 1825
at which Frederick played. We have already considered and
disposed of the question whether the Prince, as has been averred
by Liszt, paid for young Chopin's education. As a dilettante
Prince Radziwill occupied a no less exalted position in art and
science than as a citizen and functionary in the body politic. To
confine ourselves to music, he was not only a good singer and
violoncellist, but also a composer; and in composition he did not
confine himself to songs, duets, part-songs, and the like, but
undertook the ambitious and arduous task of writing music to the
first part of Goethe's Faust. By desire of the Court the Berlin
Singakademie used to bring this work to a hearing once every
year, and they gave a performance of it even as late as 1879. An
enthusiastic critic once pronounced it to be among modern works
one of those that evince most genius. The vox populi seems to
have repealed this judgment, or rather never to have taken
cognisance of the case, for outside Berlin the work has not often
been heard. Dr. Langhans wrote to me after the Berlin performance
in 1879:--

I heard yesterday Radziwill's Faust for the first time, and,
I may add, with much satisfaction; for the old-fashioned
things to be found in it (for instance, the utilisation of
Mozart's C minor Quartet fugue as overture, the strictly
polyphonous treatment of the choruses, &c.) are abundantly
compensated for by numerous traits of genius, and by the
thorough knowledge and the earnest intention with which the
work is conceived and executed. He dares incredible things in
the way of combining speech and song. That this combination
is an inartistic one, on that point we are no doubt at one,
but what he has effected by this means is nevertheless in the
highest degree remarkable....

By-and-by Chopin will pay the Prince a longer visit, and then we
shall learn what he thought of Faust, and how he enjoyed himself
at this nobleman's house.

Chopin's studies at the Lyceum terminated in the year 1827.
Through his final examination, however, he did not pass so
brilliantly as through his previous ones; this time he carried
off no prize. The cause of this falling-off is not far to seek;
indeed, has already been hinted at. Frederick's inclination and
his successes as a pianist and composer, and the persuasions of
Elsner and other musical friends, could not but lessen and at
last altogether dispel any doubts and misgivings the parents may
at first have harboured. And whilst in consequence of this change
of attitude they became less exacting with their son in the
matter of school-work, the latter, feeling the slackening of the
reins, would more and more follow his natural bent. The final
examination was to him, no doubt, a kind of manumission which
freed him from the last remnant of an oppressive bondage.
Henceforth, then, Chopin could, unhindered by disagreeable tasks
or other obstacles, devote his whole time and strength to the
cultivation of his chosen art. First, however, he spent now, as
in the preceding year, some weeks with his friends in Strzyzewo,
and afterwards travelled to Danzig, where he visited
Superintendent von Linde, a brother of the rector of the Warsaw

Chopin was fond of listening to the singing and fiddling of the
country people; and everyone acquainted with the national music
of Poland as well as with the composer's works knows that he is
indebted to it for some of the most piquant rhythmic, melodic,
and even harmonic peculiarities of his style. These longer stays
in the country would offer him better opportunities for the
enjoyment and study of this land of music than the short
excursions which he occasionally made with his father into the
neighbourhood of Warsaw. His wonder always was who could have
composed the quaint and beautiful strains of those mazurkas,
polonaises, and krakowiaks, and who had taught these simple men
and women to play and sing so truly in tune. The conditions then
existing in Poland were very favourable to the study of folk-lore
of any kind. Art-music had not yet corrupted folk-music; indeed,
it could hardly be said that civilisation had affected the lower
strata of society at all. Notwithstanding the emancipation of the
peasants in 1807, and the confirmation of this law in 1815--a law
which seems to have remained for a long time and in a great
measure a dead letter--the writer of an anonymous book, published
at Boston in 1834, found that the freedom of the wretched serfs
in Russian Poland was much the same as that of their cattle, they
being brought up with as little of human cultivation; nay, that
the Polish peasant, poor in every part of the country, was of all
the living creatures he had met with in this world or seen
described in books, the most wretched. From another publication
we learn that the improvements in public instruction, however
much it may have benefited the upper classes, did not affect the
lowest ones: the parish schools were insufficient, and the
village schools not numerous enough. But the peasants, although
steeped in superstition and ignorance, and too much addicted to
brandy-drinking with its consequences--quarrelsomeness and
revengefulness--had not altogether lost the happier features of
their original character--hospitality, patriotism, good-
naturedness, and, above all, cheerfulness and love of song and
dance. It has been said that a simple Slavonic peasant can be
enticed by his national songs from one end of the world to the
other. The delight which the Slavonic nations take in dancing
seems to be equally great. No other nation, it has been asserted,
can compare with them in ardent devotion to this amusement.
Moreover, it is noteworthy that song and dance were in Poland--as
they were of course originally everywhere--intimately united.
Heine gives a pretty description of the character of the Polish

It cannot be denied [he writes] that the Polish peasant has
often more head and heart than the German peasant in some
districts. Not infrequently did I find in the meanest Pole
that original wit (not Gemuthswitz, humour) which on every
occasion bubbles forth with wonderful iridescence, and that
dreamy sentimental trait, that brilliant flashing of an
Ossianic feeling for nature whose sudden outbreaks on
passionate occasions are as involuntary as the rising of the
blood into the face.

The student of human nature and its reflex in art will not call
these remarks a digression; at least, not one deserving of

We may suppose that Chopin, after his return to Warsaw and during
the following winter, and the spring and summer of 1828,
continued his studies with undiminished and, had this been
possible, with redoubled ardour. Some of his compositions that
came into existence at this time were published after his death
by his friend Julius Fontana, who was a daily visitor at his
parents' house. We have a Polonaise (D minor) and a Nocturne (E
minor) of 1827, and another Polonaise (B flat) and the Rondo for
two pianos of 1828. The Sonata, Op. 4, and La ci darem la mano,
varie for pianoforte, with orchestral accompaniments, belong also
to this time. The Trio (Op. 8), although not finished till 1829,
was begun and considerably advanced in 1828. Several of the above
compositions are referred to in a letter written by him on
September 9, 1828, to one of his most intimate friends, Titus
Woyciechowski. The Rondo in C had originally a different form and
was recast by him for two pianos at Strzyzewo, where he passed
the whole summer of 1828. He tried it with Ernemann, a musician
living in Warsaw, at the warehouse of the pianoforte-manufacturer
Buchholtz, and was pretty well pleased with his work.

We intend to play it some day at the Ressource. As to my new
compositions, I have nothing to show except the as yet
unfinished Trio (G minor), which I began after your
departure. The first Allegro I have already tried with
accompaniment. It appears to me that this trio will have the
same fate as my sonata and the variations. Both works are now
in Vienna; the first I have, as a pupil of Elsner's,
dedicated to him, and on the second I have placed (perhaps
too boldly) your name. I followed in this the impulse of my
heart and you will not take it unkindly.

The opportunities which Warsaw offered being considered
insufficient for the completion of his artistic education, ways
and means were discussed as to how his wants could be best
provided for. The upshot of the discussions was the project of
excursions to Berlin and Vienna. As, however, this plan was not
realised till the autumn of 1828, and no noteworthy incidents or
interesting particulars concerning the intervening period of his
life have become known, I shall utilise this break in the
narrative by trying my hand at a slight sketch of that terra
incognita, the history of music in Poland, more particularly the
history of the musical life in Warsaw, shortly before and in
Chopin's time. I am induced to undertake this task by the
consideration that a knowledge of the means of culture within the
reach of Chopin during his residence in the Polish capital is
indispensable if we wish to form a clear and complete idea of the
artist's development, and that such a knowledge will at the same
time help us to understand better the contents of some of the
subsequent portions of this work. Before, however, I begin a new
chapter and with it the above-mentioned sketch, I should like to
advert to a few other matters.

The reader may perhaps already have asked the question--What was
Chopin like in his outward appearance? As I have seen a
daguerreotype from a picture painted when he was seventeen, I can
give some sort of answer to this question. Chopin's face was
clearly and finely cut, especially the nose with its wide
nostrils; the forehead was high, the eyebrows delicate, the lips
thin, and the lower one somewhat protruding. For those who know
A. Bovy's medallion I may add that the early portrait is very
like it; only, in the latter, the line formed by the lower
jawbone that runs from the chin towards the ear is more rounded,
and the whole has a more youthful appearance. As to the
expression, it is not only meditative but even melancholy. This
last point leads me naturally to another question. The delicate
build of Chopin's body, his early death preceded by many years of
ill-health, and the character of his music, have led people into
the belief that from childhood he was always sickly in body, and
for the most part also melancholy in disposition. But as the
poverty and melancholy, so also disappears on closer
investigation the sickliness of the child and youth. To jump,
however, from this to the other extreme, and assert that he
enjoyed vigorous health, would be as great a mistake. Karasowski,
in his eagerness to controvert Liszt, although not going quite
this length, nevertheless overshoots the mark. Besides it is a
misrepresentation of Liszt not to say that the passage excerpted
from his book, and condemned as not being in accordance with the
facts of the case, is a quotation from G. Sand's novel Lucrezia
Floriani (of which more will be said by-and-by), in which the
authoress is supposed, although this was denied by her, to have
portrayed Chopin. Liszt is a poet, not a chronicler; he must be
read as such, and not be taken au pied de la lettre. However,
even Karasowski, in whom one notices a perhaps unconscious
anxiety to keep out of sight anything which might throw doubt on
the health and strength of his hero, is obliged to admit that
Chopin was "delicate," although he hastens to add, "but
nevertheless healthy and pretty strong." It seems to me that
Karasowski makes too much of the statement of a friend of
Chopin's--namely, that the latter was, up to manhood, only once
ill, and then with nothing worse than a cold. Indeed, in
Karasowski's narrative there are not wanting indications that the
health of Chopin cannot have been very vigorous; nor his strength
have amounted to much; for in one place we read that the youth
was no friend of long excursions on foot, and preferred to lie
down and dream under beautiful trees; in another place, that his
parents sent him to Reinerz and some years afterwards to Vienna,
because they thought his studies had affected his health, and
that rest and change of air and scene would restore his strength.
Further, we are told that his mother and sisters never tired of
recommending him to wrap up carefully in cold and wet weather,
and that, like a good son and brother, he followed their advice.
Lastly, he objected to smoking. Some of the items of this
evidence are very trivial, but taken collectively they have
considerable force. Of greater significance are the following
additional items. Chopin's sister Emilia was carried off at the
age of fourteen by pulmonary disease, and his father, as a
physician informed me, died of a heart and chest complaint.
Stephen Heller, who saw Chopin in 1830 in Warsaw, told me that
the latter was then in delicate health, thin and with sunken
cheeks, and that the people of Warsaw said that he could not live
long, but would, like so many geniuses, die young. The real state
of the matter seems to me to have been this. Although Chopin in
his youth was at no time troubled with any serious illness, he
enjoyed but fragile health, and if his frame did not alreadv
contain the seeds of the disease to which he later fell a prey,
it was a favourable soil for their reception. How easily was an
organisation so delicately framed over-excited and disarranged!
Indeed, being vivacious, active, and hard-working, as he was, he
lived on his capital. The fire of youth overcame much, not,
however, without a dangerous waste of strength, the lamentable
results of which we shall see before we have gone much farther.
This statement of the case we find, I think, confirmed by
Chopin's correspondence--the letter written at Reinerz is in this
respect noteworthy.



THE golden age of Polish music, which coincides with that of
Polish literature, is the sixteenth century, the century of the
Sigismonds. The most remarkable musician of that time, and
probably the greatest that Poland produced previous to the
present century, was Nicolas Gomolka, who studied music in Italy,
perhaps under Palestrina, in whose style he wrote. Born in or
about the beginning of the second half of the sixteenth century,
he died on March 5, 1609. During the reigns of the kings of the
house of Saxony (1697-1763) instrumental music is said to have
made much progress. Be this as it may, there was no lack of
opportunities to study good examples. Augustus the Strong (I. of
Saxony and II of Poland) established a special Polish band,
called, in contradistinction to the Grosse Kammermusik (Great
Chamber-band) in Dresden, Kleine Kammermusik (Little Chamber-
band), whose business it was to be in attendance when his majesty
went to Poland. These visits took place usually once a year, and
lasted from, August to December, but sometimes were more
frequent, and shorter or longer, just as occasion might call for.
Among the members of the Polish band--which consisted of a leader
(Premier), four violins, one oboe, two French horns, three
bassoons, and one double bass--we meet with such well-known men as
Johann Joachim Quanz and Franz Benda. Their conductor was Alberto
Ristori, who at the same time held the post of composer to the
Italian actors, a company that, besides plays, performed also
little operas, serenades, intermezzi, &c. The usual retinue of
the King on his visits to Poland included also a part of the
French ballet and comedy. These travels of the artistic forces
must have been rich in tragic, comic, and tragi-comic incidents,
and would furnish splendid material for the pen of a novelist.
But such a journey from the Saxon capital to Warsaw, which took
about eight days, and cost on an average from 3,000 to 3,500
thalers (450 to 525 pounds), was a mere nothing compared with the
migration of a Parisian operatic company in May, 1700. The ninety-
three members of which it was composed set out in carriages and
drove by Strasburg to Ulm, there they embarked and sailed to
Cracow, whence the journey was continued on rafts. [FOOTNOTE: M.
Furstenau, Zur Geschichte der Music und des Theaters am Hofe zu
Dresden.] So much for artistic tours at the beginning of the
eighteenth century. Frederick Augustus (II of Saxony and III of
Poland, 1733-1763) dissolved the Polish band, and organised a
similar body which was destined solely for Poland, and was to be
resident there. It consisted in 1753 of an organist, two singers,
twenty instrumentalists (almost all Germans), and a band-servant,
their salary amounting to 5,383 thalers, 10 groschen (a little
more than 805 pounds). Notwithstanding this new arrangement, the
great Dresden band sometimes accompanied the King to Poland, and
when it did not, some of its members at least had to be in
attendance for the performance of the solos at the chamber
concerts and in the operas. Also such singers, male and female,
as were required for the operas proposed for representation had
to take to the road. Hasse and his wife Faustina came several
times to Poland. That the constellation of the Dresden musical
establishment, in its vocal as well as instrumental department,
was one of the most brilliant imaginable is sufficiently proved
by a glance at the names which we meet with in 1719: Lotti,
Heinichen, Veracini, Volumier, Senesino, Tesi, Santa Stella
Lotti, Durastanti, &c. Rousseau, writing in 1754, calls the
Dresden orchestra the first in Europe. And Burney says in 1772
that the instrumental performers had been some time previously of
the first class. No wonder, then, if the visits of such artists
improved the instrumental music of Poland.

From Sowinski's Les Musiciens Polonais we learn that on great
occasions the King's band was reinforced by those of Prince
Czartoryski and Count Wielhorski, thus forming a body of 100
executants. This shows that outside the King's band good
musicians were to be found in Poland. Indeed, to keep in their
service private bands of native and foreign singers and players
was an ancient custom among the Polish magnates; it obtained for
a long time, and had not yet died out at the beginning of this
century. From this circumstance, however, we must not too rashly
conclude that these wealthy noblemen were all animated by
artistic enthusiasm. Ostentatiousness had, I am afraid, more to
do with it than love of art for art's sake. Music was simply one
of the indispensable departments of their establishments, in the
splendour and vastness of which they tried to outdo each other
and vie with sovereign rulers. The promiscuous enumeration of
musicians, cooks, footmen, &c., in the lady's description of a
nobleman's court which I referred to in the proem, is in this
respect very characteristic. Towards the middle of the last
century Prince Sanguszko, who lived at Dubno, in Volhynia, had in
his service no less than two bands, to which was sometimes joined
a third belonging to Prince Lubomirski. But, it will be asked,
what music did they play? An author of Memoirs of the reign of
Augustus III tells us that, according to the Polish fashion, they
had during meal-times to play national airs, polonaises,
mazurkas, &c., arranged for wind-instruments, with or without
violins. For special occasions the Prince got a new kind of
music, then much in favour--viz., a band of mountaineers playing
on flutes and drums. And while the guests were sitting at the
banquet, horns, trumpets, and fifes sounded fanfares. Besides the
ordinary and extraordinary bands, this exalted personage had
among his musical retainers a drummer who performed solos on his
instrument. One is glad to learn that when the Prince was alone
or had little company, he took delight in listening to trios for
two violins and bass, it being then the fashion to play such
ensemble pieces. Count Ilinski, the father of the composer John
Stanislas Ilinski, engaged for his private theatre two companies,
one from Germany and one from Italy. The persons employed in the
musical department of his household numbered 124. The principal
band, conducted by Dobrzyrnski pere, a good violinist and
conductor, consisted of four violins, one viola, one violoncello,
one double bass, one flute, one oboe, one clarinet, and one
bassoon. Villagers were trained by these players to assist them.
Then there was yet another band, one of wind instruments, under
the direction of Karelli, a pupil of the Russian composer
Bartnianski [Footnote: The Russian Palestrina, whose name is
oftener met with in the forms of Bortnianski and Bortniansky].
The chorus was composed of twenty four voices, picked from the
young people on Count Ilinski's estates. However questionable the
taste of many of these noble art patrons may have been, there
were not wanting some who cultivated music with a purer spirit.
Some of the best bands were those of the Princes D. Radziwill,
Adam Czartoryski, F. Sulkowski, Michael Lubomirski, Counts
Ilinski, Oginski, and Wielhorski. Our inquiry into the
cultivation of music at the courts of the Polish magnates has
carried us beyond the point we had reached in our historical
survey. Let us now retrace our steps.

The progress of music above spoken of was arrested by the anarchy
and the civil and other wars that began to rage in Poland with
such fury in the middle of the last century. King Stanislas
Poniatowski (1764-1795) is credited with having exercised great
influence on the music of Poland; at any rate, he patronised the
arts and sciences right royally. The Italian opera at Warsaw
cannot have been of mean standing, seeing that artists such as
the composers Paisiello and Cimarosa, and the great violinist,
composer, and conductor Pugnani, with his pupil Viotti (the
latter playing second violin in the orchestra), were members of
the company. And the King's band of foreign and native players
has been called one of the best in Europe. Still, all this was
but the hothouse bloom of exotics. To bring about a natural
harvest of home produce something else was wanted than royal
patronage, and this something sprang from the series of disasters
that befell the nation in the latter half of the last century,
and by shaking it to its very heart's core stirred up its nobler
self. As in literature, so in music, the national element came
now more and more into action and prominence.

Up to 1778 there had been heard in Poland only Italian and French
operas; in this year, for the first time, a Polish opera was put
on the stage. It is true the beginning was very modest. The early
attempts contained few ensemble pieces, no choruses, and no
complex finales. But a new art does not rise from the mind of a
nation as Minerva is said to have risen from the head of Jupiter.
Nay, even the fact that the first three composers of Polish
operas (Kamienski, Weynert, and Kajetani) were not Poles, but
foreigners endeavouring to write in the Polish style, does not
destroy the significance of the movement. The following
statistics will, no doubt, take the reader by surprise:--From the
foundation of the national Polish opera in 1778 till April 20,
1859, 5,917 performances of 285 different operas with Polish
words took place in Poland. Of these 92 were national Polish
operas, the remaining 193 by Italian, French, and German
composers; 1,075 representations being given of the former, 4,842
of the latter. The libretti of 41 of the 92 Polish operas were
originals, the other 51 were translations. And, lastly, the
majority of the 16 musicians who composed the 92 Polish operas
were not native Poles, but Czechs, Hungarians, and Germans
[FOOTNOTE: Ladislas von Trocki, Die Entwickelung der Oper in
Polen. (Leipzig, 1867.)]

A step hardly less important than the foundation of a national
opera was the formation, in 1805, of a Musical Society, which had
for its object the improvement as well as the amusement of its
members. The idea, which originated in the head of one of the
Prussian officials then in Warsaw, finding approval, and the
pecuniary supplies flowing in abundantly, the Oginski Palace was
rented and fitted up, two masters were engaged for the teaching
of solo and choral singing, and a number of successful concerts
were given. The chief promoters seem to have been Count Krasinski
and the two Prussian officials Mosqua and E. Th. A. Hoffmann. In
the last named the reader will recognise the famous author of
fantastic tales and of no less fantastic musical criticisms, the
conductor and composer of operas and other works, &c. According
to his biographer, J. E. Hitzig, Hoffmann did not take much
interest in the proceedings of the Musical Ressource (that was
the name of the society) till it bought the Mniszech Palace, a
large building, which, having been damaged by fire, had to
undergo extensive repairs. Then, indeed, he set to work with a
will, planned the arrangement and fitting-up of the rooms,
designed and partly painted the decorations--not without freely
indulging his disposition for caricature--and when all was ready,
on August 3, 1806 (the King of Prussia's birthday), conducted the
first concert in the splendid new hall. The activity of the
society was great, and must have been beneficial; for we read
that they had every Sunday performances of quartets and other
kinds of chamber music, that ladies frequently came forward with
pianoforte sonatas, and that when the celebrated violinist Moser,
of Berlin, visited Warsaw, he made them acquainted with the
finest quartets of Mozart and Haydn. Still, I should not have
dwelt so long on the doings of the Musical Ressource were it not
that it was the germ of, or at least gave the impulse to, even
more influential associations and institutions that were
subsequently founded with a view to the wider diffusion and
better cultivation of the musical art in Poland. After the battle
of Jena the French were not long in making their appearance in
Warsaw, whereby an end was put to Prussia's rule there, and her
officials were sent about, or rather sent out of, their business.
Thus the Musical Ressource lost many of its members, Hoffmann and
Mosqua among others. Still, it survived, and was reconstructed
with more national elements. In Frederick Augustus of Saxony's
reign it is said to have been transformed into a school of

The year 1815 brought into existence two musical institutions
that deserve to be noticed--society for the cultivation of church
music, which met at the College of the Pianists, and had at its
head Count Zabiello as president and Elsner as conductor; and an
association, organised by the last-named musician, and presided
over by the Princess Sophia Zamoyska, which aimed at the
advancement of the musical art in Poland, and provided for the
education of music teachers for schools, organists for churches,
and singers for the stage. Although I try to do my best with the
unsatisfactory and often contradictory newspaper reports and
dictionary articles from which I have to draw my data, I cannot
vouch for the literal correctness of my notes. In making use of
Sowinski's work I am constantly reminded of Voltaire's definition
of dictionaries: "Immenses archives de mensonges et d'un peu de
verite." Happy he who need not consult them! In 1816 Elsner was
entrusted by the minister Staszyc with the direction of a school
of dramatic singing and recitation; and in 1821, to crown all
previous efforts, a conservatorium was opened, the programme of
which might almost have satisfied a Berlioz. The department of
instrumental music not only comprised sections for the usual
keyed, stringed, and wind instruments, but also one for
instruments of percussion. Solo and choral singing were to be
taught with special regard to dramatic expression. Besides these
and the theoretical branches of music, the curriculum included
dancing, Polish literature, French, and Italian. After reading
the programme it is superfluous to be informed that the
institution was chiefly intended for the training of dramatic
artists. Elsner, who was appointed director, selected the
teaching staff, with one exception, however, that of the first
singing-master, for which post the Government engaged the
composer Carlo Evasio Soliva, a pupil of Asioli and Frederici.

The musical taste and culture prevailing in Poland about 1819 is
pretty accurately described by a German resident at Cracow. So
far as music was concerned Poland had hitherto been ignored by
the rest of Europe, and indeed could lay no claim to universal
notice in this respect. But the improved culture and greater
insight which some had acquired in foreign lands were good seeds
that began to bear fruit. As yet, however, the greater part of
the public took little or no interest in the better class of
music, and was easily pleased and satisfied with polonaises,
mazurkas, and other trivial things. In fact, the music in Cracow,
notwithstanding the many professional musicians and amateurs
living there, was decidedly bad, and not comparable to the music
in many a small German town. In Warsaw, where the resources were
more plentiful, the state of music was of course also more
prosperous. Still, as late as 1815 we meet with the complaint
that what was chiefly aimed at in concerts was the display of
virtuosity, and that grand, serious works were neglected, and
complete symphonies rarely performed. To remedy this evil,
therefore, 150 amateurs combined and organised in 1818 a concert
institution. Their concerts took place once a week, and at every
meeting a new and entire symphony, an overture, a concerto, an
aria, and a finale, were performed. The names of Beethoven,
Haydn, Mozart, Cherubini, Spohr, Mehul, Romberg, &c., were to be
found on their programmes. Strange to say, there were no less
than seven conductors: Lessel, Lentz, Wurfel, Haase, Javurek,
Stolpe, and Peschke, all good musicians. The orchestra consisted
in part of amateurs, who were most numerous among the violins,
tenors, and violoncellos. The solo department seems to have been
well stocked. To confine ourselves to one instrument, they could
pride themselves on having four excellent lady pianists, one of
whom distinguished herself particularly by the wonderful
dexterity with which she played the most difficult compositions
of Beethoven, Field, Ries, and Dussek. Another good sign of the
improving taste was a series of twenty-four matinees given on
Sundays from twelve to two during the winter of 1818-1819 by Carl
Arnold, and much patronised by the highest nobility. The concert-
giver, a clever pianist and composer, who enjoyed in his day a
good reputation in Germany, Russia, and Poland, produced at every
matinee a new pianoforte concerto by one of the best composers--
sometimes one of his own--and was assisted by the quartet party
of Bielawski, a good violinist, leader in the orchestra, and
professor at the Conservatorium. Although Arnold's stay was not
of long duration, his departure did not leave the town without
good pianists. Indeed, it is a mistake to suppose that Warsaw was
badly off with regard to musicians. This will be evident to the
reader as soon as I have named some of those living there in the
time of Chopin. Wenzel W. Wurfel, one of the professors at the
Conservatorium, who stayed in Warsaw from 1815 to 1824, and
afterwards went to Vienna, where he became conductor at the
Karnthnerthor Theater, was an esteemed pianist and composer, and
frequently gave concerts, at one of which he played Field's
Concerto in C.

[FOOTNOTE: Wenzel Wilhelm Wurfel, in most dictionaries called
Wilhelm Wurfel (exceptions are: E. Bernsdorf's "Neues Universal-
Lexikon der Tonkunst", and Dr. Hugo Riemann's "Opern-Handbuch").
A Warsaw correspondent of a German musical paper called him
Waclaw Wurfel. In Whistling's "Handbuch der musikalischen
Literatur" his Christian names are only indicated by initials--W.

If we scan the list of professors at the Conservatorium we find
other musicians whose reputation was not confined to the narrow
limits of Warsaw or even Poland. There was, for instance, the
pianist and composer Franz Lessel, the favourite pupil of Haydn;
and, further, that interesting character Heinrich Gerhard Lentz,
who, born and educated at Cologne, went in 1784 to Paris, played
with success his first concerto at the Concert Spirituel,
published some of his compositions and taught in the best
families, arrived in London in 1791, lived in friendly
intercourse with Clementi and Haydn, and had compositions of his
performed at Solomon's concerts, returned to Germany in 1795,
stayed with Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia till Dussek
supplanted him, and so, wandering about, reached Warsaw, where he
gave lessons, founded a pianoforte manufactory, became professor
of the organ at the Conservatorium, married twice, and died in
1839. The only other professor at the Conservatorium about whom I
shall say a few words is C. E. Soliva, whose name and masters I
have already mentioned. Of his works the opera "La testa di
bronzo" is the best known. I should have said "was," for nobody
now knows anything of his. That loud, shallow talker Count
Stendhal, or, to give him his real name, Marie Henry Beyle, heard
it at Milan in 1816, when it was first produced. He had at first
some difficulty in deciding whether Soliva showed himself in that
opera a plagiarist of Mozart or a genius. Finally he came to the
conclusion that--

there is in it a warmth, a dramatic life, and a strength in
all its effects, which are decidedly not in the style of
Mozart. But Soliva, who is a young man and full of the
warmest admiration for Mozart, has imbibed certain tints of
his colouring.
The rest is too outrageously ridiculous to be quoted. Whatever
Beyle's purely literary merits and his achievements in fiction
may be, I quite agree with Berlioz, who remarks, a propos of this
gentleman's Vie de Rossini, that he writes "les plus irritantes
stupidites sur la musique, dont il croyait avoir le secret." To
which cutting dictum may be added a no less cutting one of M.
Lavoix fils, who, although calling Beyle an "ecrivain d'esprit,"
applies to him the appellation of "fanfaron d'ignorance en
musique." I would go a step farther than either of these writers.
Beyle is an ignorant braggart, not only in music, but in art
generally, and such esprit as his art criticisms exhibit would be
even more common than it unfortunately now is, if he were oftener
equalled in conceit and arrogance. The pillorying of a humbug is
so laudable an object that the reader will excuse the digression,
which, moreover, may show what miserable instruments a poor
biographer has sometimes to make use of. Another informant,
unknown to fame, but apparently more trustworthy, furnishes us
with an account of Soliva in Warsaw. The writer in question
disapproves of the Italian master's drill-method in teaching
singing, and says that as a composer his power of invention was
inferior to his power of construction; and, further, that he was
acquainted with the scores of the best musicians of all times,
and an expert in accompanying on the pianoforte. As Elsner,
Zywny, and the pianist and composer Javurek have already been
introduced to the reader, I shall advert only to one other of the
older Warsaw musicians--namely, Charles Kurpinski, the most
talented and influential native composer then living in Poland.
To him and Elsner is chiefly due the progress which Polish music
made in the first thirty years of this century. Kurpinski came to
Warsaw in 1810, was appointed second conductor at the National
Opera-house, afterwards rose to the position of first conductor,
was nominated maitre de chapelle de la cour de Varsovie, was made
a Knight of the St. Stanislas Order, &c. He is said to have
learnt composition by diligently studying Mozart's scores, and in
1811 began to supply the theatre with dramatic works. Besides
masses, symphonies, &c., he composed twenty-four operas, and
published also some theoretical works and a sketch of the history
of the Polish opera. Kurpinski was by nature endowed with fine
musical qualities, uniting sensibility and energy with easy
productivity. Chopin did homage to his distinguished countryman
in introducing into his Grande Fantaisie sur des airs polonais,
Op. 13, a theme of Kurpinski's. Two younger men, both born in
1800, must yet be mentioned to compete the picture. One of them,
Moritz Ernemann, a pupil of Mendelssohn's pianoforte-master, L.
Berger, played with success in Poland and Germany, and has been
described by contemporaries as a finished and expressive, but not
brilliant, pianist. His pleasing compositions are of an
instructive and mildly-entertaining character. The other of the
two was Joseph Christoph Kessler, a musician of very different
mettle. After studying philosophy in Vienna, and composing at the
house of Count Potocki in Lemberg his celebrated Etudes, Op. 20
(published at Vienna, reprinted at Paris, recommended by
Kalkbrenner in his Methode, quoted by Fetis and Moscheles in
their Methode des Methodes, and played in part by Liszt at his
concerts), he tried in 1829 his luck in Warsaw. Schumann thought
(in 1835) that Kessler had the stuff in him to do something
great, and always looked forward with expectation to what he
would yet accomplish. Kessler's studies might be dry, but he was
assuredly a "Mann von Geist und sogar poetischem Geist." He
dedicated his twenty-four Preludes, Op. 31, to Chopin, and Chopin
his twenty-four Preludes, Op. 28, to him--that is to say, the
German edition.

By this time the reader must have found out that Warsaw was not
such a musical desert as he may at first have imagined. Perfect
renderings of great orchestral works, it is true, seem to have
been as yet unattainable, and the performances of operas failed
likewise to satisfy a pure and trained taste. Nay, in 1822 it was
even said that the opera was getting worse. But when the fruits
of the Conservatorium had had time to ripen and could be gathered
in, things would assume a more promising aspect. Church music,
which like other things had much deteriorated, received a share
of the attention which in this century was given to the art. The
best singing was in the Piarist and University churches. In the
former the bulk of the performers consisted of amateurs, who,
however, were assisted by members of the opera. They sang Haydn's
masses best and oftenest. In the other church the executants were
students and professors, Elsner being the conductor. Besides
these choirs there existed a number of musical associations in
connection with different churches in Warsaw. Indeed, it cannot
be doubted that great progress was made in the first thirty years
of this century, and had it not been for the unfortunate
insurrection of 1830, Poland would have succeeded in producing a
national art and taking up an honourable position among the great
musical powers of Europe, whereas now it can boast only of
individual artists of more or less skill and originality. The
musical events to which the death of the Emperor Alexander I.
gave occasion in 1826, show to some extent the musical
capabilities of Warsaw. On one day a Requiem by Kozlowski (a
Polish composer, then living in St. Petersburg; b. 1757, d.
1831), with interpolations of pieces by other composers, was
performed in the Cathedral by two hundred singers and players
under Soliva. On another day Mozart's Requiem, with additional
accompaniments by Kurpinski (piccolos, flutes, oboes, clarinets,
and horns to the Dies irae and Sanctus; harps to the Hostias and
Benedictus; and a military brass-band to the closing chorus!!!),
was given in the same place by two hundred and fifty executants
under the last-mentioned musician. And in the Lutheran church
took place a performance of Elsner's Requiem for male voices,
violoncellos, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, and drums.

Having made the reader acquainted with the musical sphere in
which Chopin moved, I shall take up the thread of the narrative
where I left it, and the reader may follow without fear of being
again detained by so long an interruption.


Fourteen days in Berlin (From September 14 to 28, 1828).--Return
by Posen (Prince Radziwill) and Zullichau (anecdotes) to Warsaw.--
Chopin's doings there in the following winter and spring.--his
home-life, companions, and preparations for a journey to Vienna.

Chopin, leaving his apprenticeship behind him, was now entering
on that period of his life which we may call his Wanderjahre
(years of travel). This change in his position and circumstances
demands a simultaneous change in the manner of the biographical
treatment. Hitherto we have been much occupied with the agencies
that made and moulded the man, henceforth we shall fix our main
attention on his experiences, actions, and utterances. The
materials at our disposal become now more abundant and more
trustworthy. Foremost in importance among them, up to Chopin's
arrival in Paris, are the letters he wrote at that time, the
publication of which we owe to Karasowski. As they are, however,
valuable only as chronicles of the writer's doings and feelings,
and not, like Mendelssohn's and Berlioz's, also as literary
productions, I shall, whilst fully availing myself of the
information they contain, confine my quotations from them to the
characteristic passages.

Chopin's long-projected and much-desired visit to Berlin came
about in this way. In 1828 Frederick William III of Prussia
requested the Berlin University to invite the most eminent
natural philosophers to take part in a congress to be held in
that city under the presidency of Alexander von Humboldt.
Nicholas Chopin's friend Dr. Jarocki, the zoologist and professor
at the Warsaw University, who had studied and obtained his degree
at Berlin, was one of those who were honoured with an invitation.
The favourable opportunity which thus presented itself to the
young musician of visiting in good company one of the centres of
civilisation--for the professor intended to comply with the
invitation, and was willing to take his friend's son under his
wing--was not allowed to slip by, on the contrary, was seized
eagerly. With what feelings, with what an infinitude of youthful
hopes and expectations, Chopin looked forward to this journey may
be gathered from some expressions in a letter of his (September
9, 1828) addressed to Titus Woyciechowski, where he describes
himself as being at the time of writing "like a madman," and
accounts for his madness by the announcement: "For I am going to-
day to Berlin." To appear in public as a pianist or composer was
not one of the objects he had in view. His dearest wishes were to
make the acquaintance of the musical celebrities of Berlin, and
to hear some really good music. From a promised performance of
Spontini's Ferdinand Cortez he anticipated great things.

Professor Jarocki and Chopin left Warsaw on the 9th of September,
1828, and after five days' posting arrived in Berlin, where they
put up at the Kronprinz. Among the conveniences of this hotel our
friend had the pleasant surprise of finding a good grand piano.
He played on it every day, and was rewarded for his pains not
only by the pleasure it gave him, but also by the admiration of
the landlord. Through his travelling companion's friend and
teacher, M. H. K. Lichtenstein, professor of zoology and director
of the Zoological Museum, who was a member of the Singakademie
and on good terms with Zelter, the conductor of that society, he
hoped to be made acquainted with the most distinguished musicians
of the Prussian capital, and looked to Prince Radziwill for an
introduction to the musical autocrat Spontini, with whom
Lichtenstein was not on a friendly footing. In these hopes,
however, Chopin was disappointed, and had to content himself with
looking at the stars from afar. Speaking of a performance of the
Singakademie at which he was present, he says:--

Spontini, Zelter, and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy were also
there; but I spoke to none of these gentlemen, as I did not
think it becoming to introduce myself.

It is not difficult to discover the circumstances that in this
respect caused matters to turn out so little in accordance with
the young man's wishes. Prince Radziwill was not in Berlin when
Chopin arrived, and, although he was expected, perhaps never
came, or came too late to be of any use. As to Lichtenstein, his
time was too much taken up by his duties as secretary to the
congress. Had this not been so, the professor could not only have
brought the young artist in contact with many of the musical
celebrities in Berlin, but also have told him much about his
intimate friend Carl Maria von Weber, who had died little more
than two years before. Lichtenstein's connection with Weber was
probably the cause of his disagreement with Spontini, alluded to
by Chopin. The latter relates in an off-hand way that he was
introduced to and exchanged a few words with the editor of the
Berliner Musikzeitung, without mentioning that this was Marx. The
great theorist had of course then still to make his reputation.

One cannot help wondering at the absence from Chopin's Berlin
letters of the name of Ludwig Berger, who, no doubt, like
Bernhard Klein, Rungenhagen, the brothers Ganz, and many another
composer and virtuoso in Berlin, was included in the collective
expression "distinguished musicians." But one would have thought
that the personality of the pupil of Clementi, the companion of
A. Klengel, the friend of Steibelt, Field, and Crotch, and the
teacher of Mendelssohn and Taubert, would have particularly
interested a young pianist. Berger's compositions cannot have
been unknown to Chopin, who, moreover, must have heard of him
from his Warsaw acquaintance Ernemann. However, be this as it
may, our friend was more fortunate as regards hearing good music,
which certainly was a more important business than interviewing
celebrities, often, alas, so refrigerating in its effect on
enthusiastic natures. Before his departure from Warsaw Chopin
wrote:--"It is much to hear a really good opera, were it only
once; it enables one to form an idea of what a perfect
performance is like." Although the most famous singers were on
leave of absence, he greatly enjoyed the performances of
Spontini's "Ferdinand Cortez", Cimarosa's "Die heimliche Eke" ("Il
Matrimonio segreto"), Onslow's "Der Hausirer" ("Le colporteur"),
and Winter's "Das unterbrochene Opferfest." Still, they gave rise
to some "buts," which he thought would be wholly silenced only in
Paris; nay, one of the two singers he liked best, Fraulein von
Schatzel (Signora Tibaldi was the other), reminded him by her
omissions of chromatic scales even of Warsaw. What, however,
affected him more than anything else was Handel's "Ode on St.
Cecilia's Day," which he heard at the Singakademie; it came
nearest, he said, to the ideal of sublime music which he
harboured in his soul. A propos of another musical event he

To-morrow the "Freischutz" will be performed; this is the
fulfilment of my most ardent wish. When I hear it I shall be
able to make a comparison between the singers here and our

The "Freischutz" made its first appearance on the Warsaw stage in
1826, and therefore was known to Chopin; whereas the other operas
were either unknown to him or were not considered decisive tests.

Music and things connected with music, such as music-shops and
pianoforte-manufactories, took up Chopin's attention almost
exclusively. He declines with thanks the offer of a ticket for
the meetings of the congress:--

I should gain little or nothing for my mind from these
discussions, because I am too little of a savant; and,
moreover, the professional gentlemen might perhaps look at
me, the layman, and think: "How comes Saul among the

Of the Royal Library, to which he went with Professor Jarocki, he
has no more to say than that "it is very large, but contains few
musical works"; and when he visits the Zoological Museum, he
thinks all the time what a bore it is, and how he would rather be
at Schlesinger's, the best music-shop in the town, and an
enterprising publishing house. That he neglects many things which
educated men generally prize, he feels himself, and expresses the
fear that his father will reproach him with one-sidedness. In his
excuse he says:--

I have come to Berlin for my musical education, and the
library of Schlesinger, consisting of the most interesting
works of the composers of all countries and times, must
interest me more than any other collections.

The words, he adds, add nothing to the strength of his argument.

It is a comfort to think that I, too, shall yet come to
Schlesinger's, and that it is always good for a young man to
see much, as from everything something may be learnt.

According to Karasowski, who reports, no doubt faithfully, what
he has heard, Chopin was so well versed in all the branches of
science, which he cultivated at the Lyceum, that all who knew him
were astonished at his attainments, and prognosticated for him a
brilliant future. I am afraid the only authorities for this
statement were the parents, the sisters, and other equally
indiscriminately-admiring connections, who often discover genius
where it is hidden from the cold, unfeeling world outside this
sympathetic circle. Not that I would blame an amiable weakness
without which love, friendship, in short, happiness were well-
nigh impossible. Only a biographer who wishes to represent a man
as he really was, and not as he appeared to be to one or more
individuals, has to be on his guard against it. Let us grant at
once that Chopin made a good figure at the Lyceum--indeed, a
quick-witted boy who found help and encouragement at home (the
secret of almost all successful education) could hardly do
otherwise. But from this to a master of all the arts, to an
admirable Crichton, is a great step. Where there is genius there
is inclination. Now, however well Chopin acquitted himself of his
school-tasks--and even therein you will remember a falling-off
was noticeable when outward pressure ceased--science and kindred
subjects were subsequently treated by him with indifference. The
thorough training which he received in general knowledge entirely
failed to implant in him the dispositions of a scholar or
thinker. His nature was perhaps a soil unfavourable to such
growths, and certainly already preoccupied by a vegetation the
luxuriance of which excluded, dwarfed, or crushed everything
else. The truth of these remarks is proved by Chopin's letters
and his friends' accounts of his tastes and conversation. In
connection with this I may quote a passage from a letter which
Chopin wrote immediately before starting on his Berlin trip.
Jedrzejewicz, a gentleman who by-and-by became Chopin's brother-
in-law, and was just then staying in Paris, made there the
acquaintance of the Polish musician Sowinski. The latter hearing
thus of his talented countryman in Warsaw, and being co-editor
with Fetis of the "Revue musicale" (so at least we read in the
letter in question, but it is more likely that Sowinski was
simply a contributor to the paper), applied to him for a
description of the state of music in Poland, and biographical
notes on the most celebrated executants and composers. Now let us
see what Chopin says in reference to this request.

All these are things with which I have no intention to
meddle. I shall write to him from Berlin that this affair is
not in my line, and that, moreover, I cannot yet form a
judgment such as would be worthy of a Parisian journal, which
must contain only mature and competent opinions, &c.

How much of this is self-knowledge, modesty, or disinclination, I
leave the reader to decide, who, no doubt, will smile at the
young man's innocence in imagining that Parisian, or, indeed, any
journals distinguish themselves generally by maturity and
competence of judgment.

At the time of the Berlin visit Chopin was a lively, well-
educated, and well-mannered youth, who walked through life
pleased and amused with its motley garb, but as yet unconscious
of the deeper truths, and the immensities of joy and sadness, of
love and hate, that lie beneath. Although the extreme
youthfulness, nay boyishness, of the letters written by him at
that time, and for some time after, makes him appear younger than
he really was, the criticisms and witticisms on what is going on
around which they contain, show incontestably that he had more
than the usual share of clear and quick-sightedness. His power of
observation, however, was directed rather to dress, manners, and
the peculiarities and eccentricities of outward appearance
generally, than to the essentials which are not always indicated
and are often hidden by them. As to his wit, it had a decided
tendency towards satire and caricature. He notices the pleasing
orderliness and cleanliness of the otherwise not well-favoured
surroundings of Berlin as he approaches, considers the city
itself too much extended for the number of its inhabitants, of
whom it could hold twice as many, is favourably impressed by the
fine large palace, the spacious well-built streets, the
picturesque bridges, and congratulates himself that he and his
fellow-traveller did not take lodgings in the broad but rather
too quiet Franzosische Strasse. Yes, our friend is fond of life
and society. Whether he thought man the proper study of mankind
or not, as Pope held, he certainly found it the most attractive.
The passengers in the stage-coach were to him so many personages
of a comedy. There was an advocate who tried to shine with his
dull jokes, an agriculturist to whom travelling had given a
certain varnish of civilisation, and a German Sappho who poured
forth a stream of pretentious and at the same time ludicrous
complaints. The play unwittingly performed by these unpaid actors
was enjoyed by our friend with all the zest the feeling of
superiority can give. What a tragi-comical arrangement it is that
in this world of ours everybody is laughing at everybody else!
The scientists of the congress afforded Chopin an almost
unlimited scope for the exercise of his wit. Among them he found
so many curious and various specimens that he was induced not
only to draw but also to classify them. Having already previously
sent home some sketches, he concludes one of his letters with the
words "the number of caricatures is increasing." Indeed, there
seems to have been only one among these learned gentlemen who
impressed him with a feeling of respect and admiration--namely,
Alexander von Humboldt. As Chopin's remarks on him are the best
part of his three Berlin letters, I shall quote them in full. On
seeing Von Humboldt at Lichtenstein's he writes:--

He is not above middle height, and his countenance cannot be
called beautiful; but the somewhat protruding, broad, and
well-moulded forehead, and the deep inquiring eye, announce
the all-embracing mind which animates this humane as well as
much-travelled savant. Humboldt spoke French, and as well as
his mother-tongue.

One of the chief events of Chopin's visit to Berlin was,
according to his own account, his second dinner with the natural
philosophers, which took place the day before the close of the
congress, and was very lively and entertaining:--

Many appropriate songs were sung in which every one joined with
more or less energy. Zelter conducted; he had standing before him
on a red pedestal as a sign of his exalted musical dignity a
large gilt goblet, which seemed to give him much pleasure. On
this day the food was much better than usual. People say the
natural philosophers had at their meetings been specially
occupied with the amelioration of roasts, sauces, soups, and the

"The Berliners are such an impertinent race," says Goethe, "that
to keep one's self above water one must have Haare auf den
Zahnen, and at times be rude." Such a judgment prepares one for
much, but not for what Chopin dares to say:--

Marylski [one of his Warsaw friends] has not the faintest
shadow of taste if he asserts that the ladies of Berlin dress
prettily. They deck themselves out, it is true; but it is a
pity for the fine stuffs which are cut up for such puppets!

What blasphemy!

After a fortnight's stay in the Prussian capital Professor
Jarocki and Chopin turned homeward on September 28, 1828. They
did not, however, go straight to Warsaw, but broke their journey
at Posen, where they remained two days "in gratiam of an
invitation from Archbishop Wolicki." A great part of the time he
was at Posen he spent at the house of Prince Radziwill,
improvising and playing sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven, and Hummel,
either alone or with Capellmeister Klingohr. On October 6 the
travellers arrived in Warsaw, which Chopin was so impatient to
reach that the professor was prevailed upon to take post-horses
from Lowicz. Before I have done with this trip to Berlin I must
relate an incident which occurred at a stage between Frankfort on
the Oder and Posen.

On arriving at Zullichau our travellers were informed by the
postmaster that they would have to wait an hour for horses. This
announcement opened up an anything but pleasing prospect. The
professor and his companion did the best that could be done in
these distressing circumstances--namely, took a stroll through
the small town, although the latter had no amenities to boast of,
and the fact of a battle having been fought there between the
Russians and Prussians in 1759 would hardly fire their
enthusiasm. Matters, however, became desperate when on their
return there was still neither sign nor sound of horses. Dr.
Jarocki comforted himself with meat and drink, but Chopin began
to look uneasily about him for something to while away the
weariness of waiting. His search was not in vain, for in an
adjoining room he discovered an old piano of unpromising
appearance, which, on being opened and tried, not only turned out
to be better than it looked, but even in tune. Of course our
artist did not bethink himself long, but sat down at once, and
launched out into an improvisation on a Polish air. One of his
fellow-passengers, a German, and an inveterate smoker, attracted
by the music, stepped in, and was soon so wrapped up in it that
he forgot even his pipe. The other passengers, the postmaster,
his buxom wife, and their pretty daughters, came dropping in, one
after the other. But when this peaceful conventicle had for some
time been listening silently, devoutly, and admiringly, lo, they
were startled by a stentorian voice bawling into the room the
words:--"Gentlemen, the horses are put in." The postmaster, who
was indignant at this untimely interruption, begged the musician
to continue. But Chopin said that they had already waited too
long, it was time to depart. Upon this there was a general
commotion; the mistress of the house solicited and cajoled, the
young ladies bashfully entreated with their eyes, and all pressed
around the artist and supported the request, the postmaster even
offering extra horses if Chopin would go on with his playing. Who
could resist? Chopin sat down again, and resumed his fantasia.
When he had ended, a servant brought in wine, the postmaster
proposed as a toast "the favourite of Polyhymnia," and one of the
audience, an old musician, gave voice to his feelings by telling
the hero that, "if Mozart had heard you, he would have shaken
hands with you and exclaimed 'Bravo!' An insignificant man like
me dare not do that." After Chopin had played a mazurka as a wind-
up, the tall postmaster took him in his arms, carried him to the
coach--the pockets of which the ladies had already filled with
wine and eatables--and, bidding him farewell, said that as long
as he lived he would think with enthusiasm of Frederick Chopin.

We can have no difficulty in believing the statement that in
after-life our artist recalled with pleasure this incident at the
post-house of Zullichau, and that his success among these
unsophisticated people was dearer to him than many a more
brilliant one in the great world of art and fashion. But, it may
be asked, did all this happen in exactly the same way in which it
is told here? Gentle reader, let us not inquire too curiously
into this matter. Of course you have heard of myth-making and
legend-making. Well, anecdote-making is a process of a similar
nature, a process of accumulation and development. The only
difference between the process in the first two cases and that in
the third is, that the former is carried on by races, the latter
by individuals. A seed-corn of fact falls on the generous soil of
the poetic imagination, and forthwith it begins to expand, to
sprout, and to grow into flower, shrub, or tree. But there are
well and ill-shapen plants, and monstrosities too. The above
anecdote is a specimen of the first kind. As a specimen of the
last kind may be instanced an undated anecdote told by Sikorski
and others. It is likewise illustrative of Chopin's power and
love of improvisation. The seed-corn of fact in the case seems to
be that one Sunday, when playing during divine service in the
Wizytek Church, Chopin, taking for his subjects some motives of
the part of the Mass that had just been performed, got so
absorbed in his improvisation that he entirely forgot all his
surroundings, and turned a deaf ear to the priest at the altar,
who had already for the second time chanted 'Per omnia saecula
saeculurum.' This is a characteristic as well as a pretty artist-
story, which, however, is marred, I think, by the additions of a
choir that gathers round the organist and without exception
forgets like him time and place, and of a mother superior who
sends the sacristan to remind those music-enthusiasts in the
organ-gallery of the impatiently waiting priest and acolyte, &c.
Men willingly allow themselves to be deceived, but care has to be
taken that their credulity be not overtaxed. For if the intention
is perceived, it fails in its object; as the German poet says:--
"So fuehrt man Absicht und man ist verstimmt."

On the 6th of October, as has already been said, Chopin returned
to Warsaw. Judging from a letter written by him at the end of the
year (December 27, 1828) to his friend Titus Woyciechowski, he
was busy composing and going to parties. The "Rondeau a la
Krakowiak," Op. 14, was now finished, and the Trio, Op. 8, was
nearly so. A day on which he had not been musically productive
seems to have been regarded by him as a lost day. The opening
phrase of the following quotation reminds one of the famous
exclamation of the Emperor Titus:--

During the last week I have composed nothing worthy either of
God or of man. I run from Ananias to Caiaphas; to-night I
shall be at Madame Wizegerod's, from there I shall drive to a
musical soiree at Miss Kicka's. You know how pleasant it is
to be forced to improvise when one is tired! I have not often
such happy thoughts as come sometimes under my fingers when I
am with you. And then the miserable instruments!

In the same letter he relates that his parents are preparing a
small room for him:--

A staircase leads from the entrance directly into it; there I
shall have an old writing-desk, and this nook will be my

This remark calls up a passage in a letter written two years
later from Vienna to his friend John Matuszynski:--

When your former colleagues, for instance, Rostkowski,
Schuch, Freyer, Kyjewski, Hube, &c., are holding merry
converse in my room, then think that I am laughing and
enjoying myself with you.

A charming little genre picture of Chopin's home-life is to be
found in one of his letters from Vienna (December 1, 1830) Having
received news from Warsaw, he writes:--

The joy was general, for Titus also had letters from home. I
thank Celinski lor the enclosed note; it brought vividly back
to me the time when I was still amongst you: it seemed to me
as if I were sitting at the piano and Celinski standing
opposite me looking at Mr. Zywny, who just then treated
Linowski to a pinch of snuff. Only Matuszynski was wanting to
make the group complete.

Several names in the above extract remind me that I ought to say
a few words about the young men with whom Chopin at that time
associated. Many of them were no doubt companions in the noblest
sense of the word. Of this class may have been Celinski, Hube,
Eustachius Marylski, and Francis Maciejowski (a nephew of the
previously-mentioned Professor Waclaw Maciejowski), who are more
or less frequently mentioned in Chopin's correspondence, but
concerning whom I have no information to give. I am as badly
informed about Dziewanowski, whom a letter quoted by Karasowski
shows to have been a friend of Chopin's. Of two other friends,
Stanislas Kozmian and William Kolberg, we know at least that the
one was a few years ago still living at Posen and occupied the
post of President of the Society of the Friends of Science, and
that the other, to whom the earliest letters of Chopin that have
come down to us are addressed, became, not to mention lesser
offices and titles, a Councillor of State, and died on June
4,1877. Whatever the influence of the friends I have thus far
named may have been on the man Chopin, one cannot but feel
inclined to think that Stephen Witwicki and Dominic Magnuszewski,
especially the former, must have had a greater influence on the
artist. At any rate, these two poets, who made their mark in
Polish literature, brought the musician in closest contact with
the strivings of the literary romanticism of those days. In later
years Chopin set several of Witwicki's songs to music. Both
Magnuszewski and Witwicki lived afterwards, like Chopin, in
Paris, where they continued to associate with him. Of the musical
acquaintances we have to notice first and foremost Julius
Fontana, who himself said that he was a daily visitor at Chopin's
house. The latter writes in the above-mentioned letter (December
27, 1828) to Titus Woyciechowski:--

The Rondo for two pianos, this orphan child, has found a step-
father in Fontana (you may perhaps have seen him at our
house, he attends the university); he studied it for more
than a month, but then he did learn it, and not long ago we
tried how it would sound at Buchholtz's.

Alexander Rembielinski, described as a brilliant pianist and a
composer in the style of Fesca, who returned from Paris to Warsaw
and died young, is said to have been a friend of Chopin's. Better
musicians than Fontana, although less generally known in the
western part of Europe, are Joseph Nowakowski and Thomas Nidecki.
Chopin, by some years their junior, had intercourse with them
during his residence in Poland as well as afterwards abroad. It
does not appear that Chopin had what can rightly be called
intimate friends among the young Polish musicians. If we may
believe the writer of an article in Sowinski's Dictionary, there
was one exception. He tells us that the talented Ignaz Felix
Dobrzynski was a fellow-pupil of Chopin's, taking like him
private lessons from Elsner. Dobrzynski came to Warsaw in 1825,
and took altogether thirty lessons.

Working together under the same master, having the same
manner of seeing and feeling, Frederick Chopin and I.F.
Dobrzynski became united in a close friendship. The same
aims, the same artistic tendency to seek the UNKNOWN,
characterised their efforts. They communicated to each other
their ideas and impressions, followed different routes to
arrive at the same goal.

This unison of kindred minds is so beautiful that one cannot but
wish it to have been a fact. Still, I must not hide the
circumstance that neither Liszt nor Karasowski mentions
Dobrzynski as one of Chopin's friends, and the even more
significant circumstance that he is only mentioned twice and en
passant in Chopin's letters. All this, however, does not
necessarily nullify the lexicographer's statements, and until
contradictory evidence is forthcoming we may hold fast by so
pleasing and ennobling a creed.

The most intimate of Chopin's early friends, indeed, of all his
friends--perhaps the only ones that can be called his bosom
friends--have still to be named, Titus Woyciechowski and John
Matuszynski. It was to them that Chopin wrote his most
interesting and self-revealing letters. We shall meet them and
hear of them often in the course of this narrative, for their
friendship with the musician was severed only by death. It will
therefore suffice to say here that Titus Woyciechowski, who had
been Chopin's school-fellow, lived, at the period of the latter's
life we have now reached, on his family estates, and that John
Matuszynski was then studying medicine in Warsaw.

In his letter of December 27, 1828, Chopin makes some allusions
to the Warsaw theatres. The French company had played Rataplan,
and at the National Theatre they had performed a comedy of
Fredro's, Weber's Preciosa, and Auber's Macon. A musical event
whichmust have interested Chopin much more than the performances
of the two last-mentioned works took place in the first half of
the year 1829--namely, Hummel's appearance in Warsaw. He and
Field were, no doubt, those pianists who through the style of
their compositions most influenced Chopin. For Hummel's works
Chopin had indeed a life-long admiration and love. It is
therefore to be regretted that he left in his letters no record
of the impression which Hummel, one of the four most
distinguished representatives of pianoforte-playing of that time,
made upon him. It is hardly necessary to say that the other three
representatives--of different generations and schools let it be
understood--were Field, Kalkbrenner, and Moscheles. The only
thing we learn about this visit of Hummel's to Warsaw is that he
and the young Polish pianist made a good impression upon each
other. As far as the latter is concerned this is a mere surmise,
or rather an inference from indirect proofs, for, strange to say,
although Chopin mentions Hummel frequently in his letters, he
does not write a syllable that gives a clue to his sentiments
regarding him. The older master, on the other hand, shows by his
inquiries after his younger brother in art and the visits he pays
him that he had a real regard and affection for him.

It is also to be regretted that Chopin says in his letters
nothing of Paganini's appearance in Warsaw. The great Italian
violinist, who made so deep an impression on, and exercised so
great an influence over, Liszt, cannot have passed by without
producing some effect on Chopin. That the latter had a high
opinion of Paganini may be gathered from later utterances, but
what one would like is a description of his feelings and thoughts
when he first heard him. Paganini came to Warsaw in 1829, after
his visit to Berlin. In the Polish capital he was worshipped with
the same ardour as elsewhere, and also received the customary
tributes of applause, gold, and gifts. From Oreste Bruni's
Niccolo Paganini, celebre violinista Genovese, we learn that his
Warsaw worshippers presented him with a gold snuff-box, which
bore the following inscription:--Al Cav. Niccolo Paganini. Gli
ammiratori del suo talento. Varsovia 19 Luglio 1829.

Some months after this break in what he, no doubt, considered the
monotonous routine of Warsaw life, our friend made another
excursion, one of far greater importance in more than one respect
than that to Berlin. Vienna had long attracted him like a
powerful magnet, the obstacles to his going thither were now
removed, and he was to see that glorious art-city in which Gluck,
Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and many lesser but still
illustrious men had lived and worked.



IT was about the middle of July, 1829, that Chopin, accompanied
by his friends Celinski, Hube, and Francis Maciejowski, set out
on his journey to Vienna. They made a week's halt at the ancient
capital of the Polish Republic, the many-towered Cracow, which
rises picturesquely in a landscape of great loveliness. There
they explored the town and its neighbourhood, both of which are
rich in secular and ecclesiastical buildings, venerable by age
and historical associations, not a few of them remarkable also as
fine specimens of architecture. Although we have no detailed
account of Chopin's proceedings, we may be sure that our
patriotic friend did not neglect to look for and contemplate the
vestiges of his nation's past power and greatness: the noble
royal palace, degraded, alas, into barracks for the Austrian
soldiery; the grand, impressive cathedral, in which the tombs of
the kings present an epitome of Polish history; the town-hall, a
building of the 14th century; the turreted St. Florian's gate;
and the monumental hillock, erected on the mountain Bronislawa in
memory of Kosciuszko by the hands of his grateful countrymen, of
which a Frenchman said:--"Void une eloquence touts nouvelle: un
peuple qui ne peut s'exprimer par la parole ou par les livres, et
qui parle par des montagnes." On a Sunday afternoon, probably on
the 24th of July, the friends left Cracow, and in a rustic
vehicle drove briskly to Ojcow. They were going to put up not in
the place itself, but at a house much patronised by tourists,
lying some miles distant from it and the highway. This
circumstance led to something like a romantic incident, for as
the driver was unacquainted with the bye-roads, they got into a
small brook, "as clear and silvery bright as brooks in
fairytales," and having walls of rock on the right and left, they
were unable to extricate themselves "from this labyrinth."
Fortunately they met towards nine o'clock in the evening two
peasants who conducted them to their destination, the inn of Mr.
Indyk, in which also the Polish authoress Clementina Tanska, who
has described this district in one of her works, had lodged--a
fact duly reported by Chopin to his sister Isabella and friend
Titus. Arriving not only tired but also wet to above the knees,
his first business was to guard against taking a cold. He bought
a Cracow double-woven woollen night-cap, which he cut in two
pieces and wrapped round his feet. Then he sat down by the fire,
drank a glass of red wine, and, after talking for a little while
longer, betook himself to bed, and slept the sleep of the just.
Thus ended the adventure of that day, and, to all appearance,
without the dreaded consequences of a cold. The natural beauties
of the part of the country where Chopin now was have gained for
it the name of Polish Switzerland. The principal sights are the
Black Cave, in which during the bloody wars with the Turks and
Tartars the women and children used to hide themselves; the Royal
Cave, in which, about the year 1300, King Wladyslaw Lokietek
sought refuge when he was hardly pressed by the usurper Wenceslas
of Bohemia; and the beautifully-situated ruins of Ojcow Castle,
once embowered in thick forests. Having enjoyed to the full the
beauties of Polish Switzerland, Chopin continued his journey
merrily and in favourable weather through the picturesque
countries of Galicia, Upper Silesia, and Moravia, arriving in
Vienna on July 31.

Chopin's letters tell us very little of his sight-seeing in the
Austrian capital, but a great deal of matters that interest us
far more deeply. He brought, of course, a number of letters of
introduction with him. Among the first which he delivered was one
from Elsner to the publisher Hashnger, to whom Chopin had sent a
considerable time before some of his compositions, which,
however, still remained in manuscript. Haslinger treated Elsner's
pupil with an almost embarrassing politeness, and, without being
reminded of the MSS. in question, informed his visitor that one
of them, the variations on La ci darem la mano, would before long
appear in the Odeon series. "A great honour for me, is it not?"
writes the happy composer to his friend Titus. The amiable
publisher, however, thought that Chopin would do well to show the
people of Vienna what his difficult and by no means easily
comprehensible composition was like. But the composer was not
readily persuaded. The thought of playing in the city where
Mozart and Beethoven had been heard frightened him, and then he
had not touched a piano for a whole fortnight. Not even when
Count Gallenberg entered and Haslinger presented Chopin to him as
a coward who dare not play in public was the young virtuoso put
on his mettle. In fact, he even declined with thanks the theatre
which was placed at his disposal by Count Gallenberg, who was
then lessee of the Karnthnerthor Theatre, and in whom the reader
has no doubt recognised the once celebrated composer of ballets,
or at least the husband of Beethoven's passionately-loved
Countess Giulia Guicciardi. Haslinger and Gallenberg were not the
only persons who urged him to give the Viennese an opportunity to
hear him. Dining at the house of Count Hussarzewski, a worthy old
gentleman who admired his young countryman's playing very much,
Chopin was advised by everybody present--and the guests belonged
to the best society of Vienna--to give a concert. The journalist
Blahetka, best known as the father of his daughter, was not
sparing in words of encouragement; and Capellmeister Wurfel, who
had been kind to Chopin in Warsaw, told him plainly that it would
be a disgrace to himself, his parents, and his teachers not to
make a public appearance, which, he added, was, moreover, a
politic move for this reason, that no one who has composed
anything new and wishes to make a noise in the world can do so
unless he performs his works himself. In fact, everybody with
whom he got acquainted was of the same opinion, and assured him
that the newspapers would say nothing but what was flattering. At
last Chopin allowed himself to be persuaded, Wurfel took upon him
the care of making the necessary arrangements, and already the
next morning the bills announced the coming event to the public
of Vienna. In a long postscript of a long and confused letter to
his people he writes: "I have made up my mind. Blahetka asserts
that I shall create a furore, 'being,' as he expressed it, 'an
artist of the first rank, and occupying an honourable place by
the side of Moscheles, Herz, and Kalkbrenner.'" To all appearance
our friend was not disposed to question the correctness of this
opinion; indeed, we shall see that although he had his moments of
doubting, he was perfectly conscious of his worth. No blame,
however, attaches to him on this account; self-respect and self-
confidence are not only irreprehensible but even indispensable--
that is, indispensable for the successful exercise of any
talent. That our friend had his little weaknesses shall not be
denied nor concealed. I am afraid he cannot escape the suspicion
of having possessed a considerable share of harmless vanity. "All
journalists," he writes to his parents and sisters, "open their
eyes wide at me, and the members of the orchestra greet me
deferentially because I walk with the director of the Italian
opera arm-in-arm." Two pianoforte-manufacturers--in one place
Chopin says three--offered to send him instruments, but he
declined, partly because he had not room enough, partly because
he did not think it worth while to begin to practise two days
before the concert. Both Stein and Graff were very obliging; as,
however, he preferred the latter's instruments, he chose one of
this maker's for the concert, and tried to prevent the other from
taking offence by speaking him fair.

Chopin made his first public appearance in Vienna at the
Karnthnerthor Theatre on August 11, 1829. The programme comprised
the following items: Beethoven's Overture to Prometheus; arias of
Rossini's and Vaccaj's, sung by Mdlle. Veltheim, singer to the

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