Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

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

Part 3 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Saxon Court; Chopin's variations on La ci darem la mano and
Krakowiak, rondeau de concert (both for pianoforte and
orchestra), for the latter of which the composer substituted an
improvisation; and a short ballet. Chopin, in a letter to his
people dated August 12, 1829, describes the proceedings thus:--

Yesterday--i.e., Tuesday, at 7 p.m., I made my debut in the
Imperial Opera-house before the public of Vienna. These
evening concerts in the theatre are called here "musical
academies." As I claimed no honorarium, Count Gallenberg
hastened on my appearance.

In a letter to Titus Woyciechowski, dated September 12, 1829, he

The sight of the Viennese public did not at all excite me,
and I sat down, pale as I was, at a wonderful instrument of
Graff's, at the time perhaps the best in Vienna. Beside me I
had a painted young man, who turned the leaves for me in the
Variations, and who prided himself on having rendered the
same service to Moscheles, Hummel, and Herz. Believe me when
I say that I played in a desperate mood; nevertheless, the
Variations produced so much effect that I was called back
several times. Mdlle. Veltheim sang very beautifully. Of my
improvisation I know only that it was followed by stormy
applause and many recalls.

To the cause of the paleness and the desperate mood I shall
advert anon. Chopin was satisfied, nay, delighted with his
success; he had a friendly greeting of "Bravo!" on entering, and
this "pleasant word" the audience repeated after each Variation
so impetuously that he could not hear the tuttis of the
orchestra. At the end of the piece he was called back twice. The
improvisation on a theme from La Dame blanche and the Polish tune
Chmiel, which he substituted for the Krakowiak, although it did
not satisfy himself, pleased, or as Chopin has it, "electrified"
the audience. Count Gallenberg commended his compositions, and
Count Dietrichstein, who was much with the Emperor, came to him
on the stage, conversed with him a long time in French,
complimented him on his performance, and asked him to prolong his
stay in Vienna. The only adverse criticism which his friends, who
had posted themselves in different parts of the theatre, heard,
was that of a lady who remarked, "Pity the lad has not a better
tournure." However, the affair did not pass off altogether
without unpleasant incidents:--

The members of the orchestra [Chopin writes to his friend
Titus Woyciechowski] showed me sour faces at the rehearsal;
what vexed them most was that I wished to make my debut with
a new composition. I began with the Variations which are
dedicated to you; they were to be followed by the Rondo
Krakowiak. We got through the Variations well, the Rondo, on
the other hand, went so badly that we had to begin twice from
the beginning; the cause of this was said to be the bad
writing. I ought to have placed the figures above and not
below the rests (that being the way to which the Viennese
musicians are accustomed). Enough, these gentlemen made such
faces that I already felt inclined to send word in the
evening that I was ill. Demar, the manager, noticed the bad
disposition of the members of the orchestra, who also don't
like Wurfel. The latter wished to conduct himself, but the
orchestra refused (I don't know for what reason) to play
under his direction. Mr. Demar advised me to improvise, at
which proposal the orchestra looked surprised. I was so
irritated by what had happened that in my desperation I
agreed to it; and who knows if my bad humour and strange mood
were not the causes of the great success which my playing

Although Chopin passes off lightly the grumbling and grimacing of
the members of the orchestra respecting the bad writing of his
music, they seem to have had more serious reasons for complaint
than he alleges in the above quotation. Indeed, he relates
himself that after the occurrence his countryman Nidecki, who was
very friendly to him and rejoiced at his success, looked over the
orchestral parts of the Rondo and corrected them. The correction
of MSS. was at no time of his life a strong point of Chopin's.
That the orchestra was not hostile to him appears from another
allusion of his to this affair:--

The orchestra cursed my badly-written music, and was not at
all favourably inclined towards me until I began the
improvisation; but then it joined in the applause of the
public. From this I saw that it had a good opinion of me.
Whether the other artists had so too I did not know as yet;
but why should they be against me? They must see that I do
not play for the sake of material advantages.

After such a success nothing was more natural than that Chopin
should allow himself to be easily persuaded to play again--il n'y
a que le premier pas qui coute--but he said he would not play a
third time. Accordingly, on August 18, he appeared once more on
the stage of the Karnthnerthor Theatre. Also this time he
received no payment, but played to oblige Count Gallenberg, who,
indeed, was in anything but flourishing circumstances. On this
occasion Chopin succeeded in producing the Krakowiak, and
repeated, by desire of the ladies, the Variations. Two other
items of the programme were Lindpaintner's Overture to Der
Bergkonig and a polonaise of Mayseder's played by the violinist
Joseph Khayl, a very young pupil of Jansa's.

The rendering of the Rondo especially [Chopin writes] gave me
pleasure, because Gyrowetz, Lachner, and other masters, nay,
even the orchestra, were so charmed--excuse the expression--
that they called me back twice.

In another letter he is more loquacious on the subject:--

If the public received me kindly on my first appearance, it
was yesterday still more hearty. When I appeared on the stage
I was greeted with a twice-repeated, long-sustained "Bravo!"
The public had gathered in greater numbers than at the first
concert. The financier of the theatre, Baron--I do not
remember his name--thanked me for the recette and said that
if the attendance was great, it was not on account of the
ballet, which had already been often performed. With my Rondo
I have won the good opinion of all professional musicians--
from Capellmeister Lachner to the pianoforte-tuner, all
praise my composition.

The press showed itself not less favourable than the public. The
fullest account of our artist's playing and compositions, and the
impression they produced on this occasion, I found on looking
over the pages of the Wiener Theaterzeitung. Chopin refers to it
prospectively in a letter to his parents, written on August 19.
He had called on Bauerle, the editor of the paper, and had been
told that a critique of the concert would soon appear. To satisfy
his own curiosity and to show his people that he had said no more
than what was the truth in speaking of his success, he became a
subscriber to the Wiener Theaterzeitung, and had it sent to
Warsaw. The criticism is somewhat long, but as this first step
into the great world of art was an event of superlative
importance to Chopin, and is one of more than ordinary interest
to us, I do not hesitate to transcribe it in full so far as it
relates to our artist. Well, what we read in the Wiener
Theaterzeitung of August 20, 1829, is this:--

[Chopin] surprised people, because they discovered in him not
only a fine, but a really very eminent talent; on account of
the originality of his playing and compositions one might
almost attribute to him already some genius, at least, in so
far as unconventional forms and pronounced individuality are
concerned. His playing, like his compositions--of which we
heard on this occasion only variations--has a certain
character of modesty which seems to indicate that to shine is
not the aim of this young man, although his execution
conquered difficulties the overcoming of which even here, in
the home of pianoforte virtuosos, could not fail to cause
astonishment; nay, with almost ironical naivete he takes it
into his head to entertain a large audience with music as
music. And lo, he succeeded in this. The unprejudiced public
rewarded him with lavish applause. His touch, although neat
and sure, has little of that brilliance by which our
virtuosos announce themselves as such in the first bars; he
emphasised but little, like one conversing in a company of
clever people, not with that rhetorical aplomb which is
considered by virtuosos as indispensable. He plays very
quietly, without the daring elan which generally at once
distinguishes the artist from the amateur. Nevertheless, our
fine-feeling and acute-judging public recognised at once in
this youth, who is a stranger and as yet unknown to fame, a
true artist; and this evening afforded the unprejudiced
observer the pleasing spectacle of a public which, considered
as a moral person, showed itself a true connoisseur and a
virtuoso in the comprehension and appreciation of an artistic
performance which, in no wise grandiose, was nevertheless

There were defects noticeable in the young man's playing,
among which are perhaps especially to be mentioned the non-
observance of the indication by accent of the commencement of
musical phrases. Nevertheless, he was recognised as an artist
of whom the best may be expected as soon as he has heard
more....As in his playing he was like a beautiful young tree
that stands free and full of fragrant blossoms and ripening
fruits, so he manifested as much estimable individuality in
his compositions, where new figures, new passages, new forms
unfolded themselves in the introduction, in the first,
second, and fourth Variations, and in the concluding
metamorphosis of Mozart's theme into a polacca.

Such is the ingenuousness of the young virtuoso that he
undertook to come forward at the close of the concert with a
free fantasia before a public in whose eyes few improvisers,
with the exception of Beethoven and Hummel, have as yet found
favour. If the young man by a manifold change of his themes
aimed especially at amusement, the calm flow of his thoughts
and their firm connection and chaste development were
nevertheless a sufficient proof of his capability as regards
this rare gift. Mr. Chopin gave to-day so much pleasure to a
small audience that one cannot help wishing he may at another
performance play before a larger one....

Although the critic of the Wiener Theaterzeitung is more succinct
in his report (September 1, 1829) of the second concert, he is
not less complimentary. Chopin as a composer as well as an
executant justified on this occasion the opinion previously
expressed about him.

He is a young man who goes his own way, and knows how to
please in this way, although his style of playing and writing
differs greatly from that of other virtuosos; and, indeed
chiefly in this, that the desire to make good music
predominates noticeably in his case over the desire to
please. Also to-day Mr. Chopin gave general satisfaction.

These expressions of praise are so enthusiastic that a suspicion
might possibly arise as to their trustworthiness. But this is not
the only laudatory account to be found in the Vienna papers. Der
Sammler, for instance, remarked: "In Mr. Chopin we made the
acquaintance of one of the most excellent pianists, full of
delicacy and deepest feeling." The Wiener Zeitschrift fur Kunst,
Literatur, Theater und Mode, too, had appreciative notices of the

He executes the greatest difficulties with accuracy and
precision, and renders all passages with neatness. The
tribute of applause which the public paid to this clever
artist was very great; the concert-piece with orchestra (the
Variations) especially pleased.

This was written after the first concert, and printed on August
22, 1829. From the criticism on the second concert, which
appeared in the same paper a week later (August 29), I cull the
following sentences:--

Chopin performed a new Rondo for pianoforte and orchestra of
his own composition. This piece is written throughout in the
chromatic style, rarely rises to geniality, but has passages
which are distinguished by depth and thoughtful working-out.
On the whole, however, he seems to be somewhat lacking in
variety. The master showed in it his dexterity as a pianist
to perfection, and conquered the greatest difficulties with
felicity. A longer stay in Vienna might be to the advantage
of his touch as well as of his ensemble playing with the
orchestra. He received much applause, and was repeatedly
called back....At the close Mr. Chopin played to-day the
Variations on a theme of Mozart's, which he had already
performed with so much bravura and felicity at his first
concert. The pleasing and yet substantial variety of this
composition as well as the fine, successful playing obtained
also to-day loud applause for the pianist. Connoisseurs and
amateurs manifested joyously and loudly their recognition of
his clever playing. This young man...shows in his
compositions a serious striving to interweave by interesting
combinations the orchestra with the pianoforte.

In conclusion, let me quote one other journal, this time a purely
musical one--namely, the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (No. 46,
November 18, 1829). The notice, probably written by that
debauched genius F.A. Kanne, runs thus:--

Mr. Chopin, a pianist from Warsaw, according to report a
pupil of Wurfel's [which report was of course baseless], came
before us a master of the first rank. The exquisite delicacy
of his touch, his indescribable mechanical dexterity, his
finished shading and portamento, which reflect the deepest
feeling; the lucidity of his interpretation, and his
compositions, which bear the stamp of great genius--
variazioni di bravura, rondo, free fantasia--reveal a
virtuoso most liberally endowed by nature, who, without
previous blasts of trumpets, appears on the horizon like one
of the most brilliant meteors.

Still, the sweets of success were not altogether without some
admixture of bitterness, as we may perceive from the following
remarks of Chopin's:--

I know that I have pleased the ladies and the musicians.
Gyrowetz, who sat beside Celinski, made a terrible noise, and
shouted "Bravo." Only the out-and-out Germans seem not to
have been quite satisfied.

And this, after having a few days before attributed the applause
to the Germans, who "could appreciate improvisations." Tantae
animis coelestibus irae? But what was the reason of this
indignation? Simply this: a gentleman, who after the second
concert came into the coffee-room of the hotel where Chopin was
staying, on being asked by some of the guests how he liked the
performance, answered laconically, "the ballet was very pretty";
and, although they put some further questions, he would say no
more, having no doubt noticed a certain person. And hinc illae
lacrimae. Our sensitive friend was indeed so much ruffled at this
that he left the room in a pet and went to bed, so as not to
hinder, as he explains, the outpouring of the gentleman's
feelings. The principal stricture passed on the virtuoso was that
he played too softly, or, rather, too delicately. Chopin himself
says that on that point all were unanimous. But the touchy
artist, in true artist fashion-- or shall we be quite just and
say "in true human fashion"? adds:--

They are accustomed to the drumming of the native pianoforte
virtuosos. I fear that the newspapers will reproach me with
the same thing, especially as the daughter of an editor is
said to drum frightfully. However, it does not matter; as
this cannot be helped, I would rather that people say I play
too delicately than too roughly.

When Count Moritz Lichnowski, to whom Chopin was introduced by
Wurfel, learned after the first concert that the young virtuoso
was going to play again, he offered to lend him his own piano for
the occasion, for he thought Chopin's feebleness of tone was
owing to the instrument he had used. But Chopin knew perfectly
the real state of the matter: "This is my manner of playing,
which pleases the ladies so very much." Chopin was already then,
and remained all his life, nay, even became more and more, the
ladies' pianist par excellence. By which, however, I do not mean
that he did not please the men, but only that no other pianist
was equally successful in touching the most tender and intimate
chords of the female heart. Indeed, a high degree of refinement
in thought and feeling combined with a poetic disposition are
indispensable requisites for an adequate appreciation of Chopin's
compositions and style of playing. His remark, therefore, that he
had captivated the learned and the poetic natures, was no doubt
strictly correct with regard to his success in Vienna; but at the
same time it may be accepted as a significant foreshadowing of
his whole artistic career. Enough has now been said of these
performances, and, indeed, too much, were it not that to
ascertain the stage of development reached by an original master,
and the effect which his efforts produced on his artistically-
cultivated contemporaries, are objects not undeserving a few
pages of discussion.

During the twenty days which Chopin spent in Vienna he displayed
great activity. He was always busy, and had not a moment to
spare. His own public performances did not make him neglect those
of others. He heard the violinist Mayseder twice, and went to
representations of Boieldieu's "La Dame blanche," Rossini's
"Cenerentola," Meyerbeer's "Crociato in Egitto," and other
operas. He also visited the picture gallery and the museum of
antiquities, delivered letters of introduction, made
acquaintances, dined and drank tea with counts and countesses,
&c. Wherever Chopin goes we are sure to see him soon in
aristocratic and in Polish society.

Everybody says that I have pleased the nobility here
exceedingly The Schwarzenbergs, Wrbnas, &c., were quite
enraptured by the delicacy and elegance of my playing. As a
further proof I may mention the visit which Count
Dietrichstein paid me on the stage.

Chopin called repeatedly on the "worthy old gentleman" Count
Hussarzewski and his "worthy lady," with whom he dined once, and
who wished him to stay for dinner when he made his farewell call.
With the Countess Lichnowska and her daughter he took tea two
days after the first concert. They were inexpressibly delighted
to hear that he was going to give a second, asked him to visit
them on his way through Vienna to Paris, and promised him a
letter of introduction to a sister of the Count's. This Count
Lichnowski was Count Moritz Lichnowski, the friend of Beethoven,
to whom the great master dedicated the Variations, Op. 35, and
the Sonata, Op. 90, in which are depicted the woes and joys of
the Count's love for the singer Mdlle. Strammer, who afterwards
became his wife, and, in fact, was the Countess Lichnowska with
whom Chopin became acquainted.

[Footnote: Count Moritz Lichnowski must not be confounded with
his elder brother Prince Carl Lichnowski, the pupil and friend of
Mozart, and the friend and patron of Beethoven, to whom the
latter dedicated his Op. 1, and who died in 1814.]

Among the letters of introduction which Chopin brought with him
there was also one for Schuppanzigh, whose name is in musical
history indissolubly connected with those of Beethoven and
Lichnowski. The eminent quartet leader, although his quartet
evenings were over, held out to Chopin hopes of getting up
another during his visitor's stay in Vienna--he would do so, he
said, if possible. To no one, however, either professional or
amateur, was Chopin so much indebted for guidance and furtherance
as to his old obliging friend Wurfel, who introduced him not only
to Count Gallenberg, Count Lichnowski, and Capellmeister
Seyfried, but to every one of his acquaintances who either was a
man of influence or took an interest in musical matters.
Musicians whose personal acquaintance Chopin said he was glad to
make were: Gyrowetz, the author of the concerto with which little
Frederick made his debut in Warsaw at the age of nine, an
estimable artist, as already stated, who had the sad misfortune
to outlive his popularity; Capellmeister Seyfried, a prolific but
qualitatively poor composer, best known to our generation as the
editor of Albrechtsberger's theoretical works and Beethoven's
studies; Conradin Kreutzer, who had already distinguished himself
as a virtuoso on the clarinet and pianoforte, and as a conductor
and composer, but had not yet produced his "Nachtlager"; Franz
Lachner, the friend of Franz Schubert, then a young active
conductor and rising composer, now one of the most honoured
veterans of his art. With Schuppanzigh's pupil Mayseder, the
prince of the Viennese violinists of that day, and indeed one of
the neatest, most graceful, and elegant, although somewhat cold,
players of his instrument, Chopin had a long conversation. The
only critical comments to be found in Chopin's letters on the
musicians he came in contact with in the Austrian capital refer
to Czerny, with whom he got well acquainted and often played
duets for two pianos. Of him the young Polish musician said, "He
is a good man, but nothing more." And after having bidden him
farewell, he says, "Czerny was warmer than all his compositions."
However, it must not be supposed that Chopin's musical
acquaintances were confined to the male sex; among them there was
at least one belonging to the better and fairer half of humanity-
-a pianist-composer, a maiden still in her teens, and clever and
pretty to boot, who reciprocated the interest he took in her.
According to our friend's rather conceited statement I ought to
have said--but it would have been very ungallant to do so--he
reciprocated the interest she took in him. The reader has no
doubt already guessed that I am speaking of Leopoldine Blahetka.

On the whole, Chopin passed his time in Vienna both pleasantly
and profitably, as is well shown by his exclamation on the last
day of his stay: "It goes crescendo with my popularity here, and
this gives me much pleasure." The preceding day Schuppanzigh had
said to him that as he left so soon he ought not to be long in
coming back. And when Chopin replied that he would like to return
to perfect himself, the by-standers told him he need not come for
that purpose as he had no longer anything to learn. Although the
young musician remarks that these were compliments, he cannot
help confessing that he likes to hear them; and of course one who
likes to hear them does not wholly disbelieve them, but considers
them something more than a mere flatus vocis. "Nobody here,"
Chopin writes exultingly, "will regard me as a pupil." Indeed,
such was the reception he met with that it took him by surprise.
"People wonder at me," he remarked soon after his arrival in
Vienna, "and I wonder at them for wondering at me." It was
incomprehensible to him that the artists and amateurs of the
famous musical city should consider it a loss if he departed
without giving a concert. The unexpected compliments and applause
that everywhere fell upon his ear, together with the many events,
experiences, and thoughts that came crowding upon him, would have
caused giddiness in any young artist; Chopin they made drunk with
excitement and pleasure. The day after the second concert he
writes home: "I really intended to have written about something
else, but I can't get yesterday out of my head." His head was
indeed brimful, or rather full to overflowing, of whirling
memories and expectations which he poured into the news--budgets
destined for his parents, regardless of logical sequence, just as
they came uppermost. The clear, succinct accounts of his visit
which he gives to his friend Titus after his return to Warsaw
contrast curiously with the confused interminable letters of
shreds and patches he writes from Vienna. These latter, however,
have a value of their own; they present one with a striking
picture of the state of his mind at that time. The reader may
consider this part of the biography as an annotated digest of
Chopin's letters, of those addressed to his parents as well as of
those to his friend Woyciechowski.

At last came the 19th of August, the day of our travelling-
party's departure. Chopin passed the whole forenoon in making
valedictory visits, and when in the afternoon he had done packing
and writing, he called once more on Haslinger--who promised to
publish the Variations in about five weeks--and then went to the
cafe opposite the theatre, where he was to meet Gyrowetz,
Lachner, Kreutzer, and others. The rest shall be told in Chopin's
own words:--

After a touching parting--it was really a touching parting
when Miss Blahetka gave me as a souvenir her compositions
bearing her own signature, and her father sent his
compliments to you [Chopin's father] and dear mother,
congratulating you on having such a son; when young Stein
[one of the well-known family of pianoforte-manufacturers and
musicians] wept, and Schuppanzigh, Gyrowetz, in one word, all
the other artists, were much moved--well then, after this
touching parting and having promised to return soon, I
stepped into the stage-coach.

This was at nine o'clock in the evening, and Chopin and his
fellow-travellers, accompanied for half-an-hour by Nidecki and
some other Poles, leaving behind Vienna and Vienna friends,
proceeded on their way to Bohemia.

Prague was reached by our travellers on August 21. The
interesting old town did not display its beauties in vain, for
Chopin writes admiringly of the fine views from the castle hill,
of the castle itself, of "the majestic cathedral with a silver
statue of St. John, the beautiful chapel of St. Wenceslas, inlaid
with amethysts and other precious stones," and promises to give a
fuller and more detailed description of what he has seen by word
of mouth. His friend Maciejowski had a letter of introduction to
Waclaw Hanka, the celebrated philologist and librarian of the
National Museum, to whom Chopin introduced himself as the godson
of Count Skarbek. On visiting the museum they were asked, like
all on whom the librarian bestowed his special attention, to
write their names in the visitors' book. Maciejowski wrote also
four mazurka strophes eulogising Hanka's scientific achievements,
and Chopin set them to music. The latter brought with him from
Vienna six letters of introduction--one from Blahetka and five
from Wurfel--which were respectively addressed to Pixis, to the
manager of the theatre, and to other musical big-wigs. The
distinguished violin-virtuoso, professor at the Conservatorium,
and conductor at the theatre, Frederick Pixis (1786--1842),
received Chopin very kindly, gave up some lessons that he might
keep him longer and talk with him, and invited him to come again
in the afternoon, when he would meet August Alexander Klengel, of
Dresden, whose card Chopin had noticed on the table. For this
esteemed pianist and famous contrapuntist he had also a letter of
introduction, and he was glad to meet him in Prague, as he
otherwise would have missed seeing him, Klengel being on his way
to Vienna and Italy. They made each other's acquaintance on the
stairs leading to Pixis' apartments.

I heard him play his fugues for two hours; I did not play, as
they did not ask me to do so. Klengel's rendering pleased me,
but I must confess I had expected something better (but I beg
of you not to mention this remark of mine to others).

Elsewhere he writes:--

Of all the artists whose acquaintance I have made, Klengel
pleased me most. He played me his fugues (one may say that
they are a continuation of those of Bach. There are forty-
eight of them, and the same number of canons). What a
difference between him and Czerny!

Klengel's opus magnum, the "Canons et Fugues dans tons les tons
majeurs et mineurs pour le piano, en deux parties," did not
appear till 1854, two years after his death, although it had been
completed some decades previously. He carried it about with him
on all his travels, unceasingly improving and perfecting it, and
may be said to have worked at it for the space of half his life.
The two artists who met at Pixis' house got on well together,
unlike as they were in their characters and aims. Chopin called
on Klengel before the latter's departure from Prague, and spent
two hours with him in conversation, neither of them being for a
moment at a loss for material to talk about. Klengel gave Chopin
a letter of introduction to Morlacchi, the address of which ran:
Al ornatissimo Signore Cavaliere Morlacchi, primo maestro della
capella Reale, and in which he asked this gentleman to make the
bearer acquainted with the musical life of Dresden. How
favourably Klengel had impressed his younger brother in art may
be gathered from the above-quoted and the following remarks: "He
was to me a very agreeable acquaintance, whom I esteem more
highly than Czerny, but of this also don't speak, my beloved

[FOOTNOTE: Their disparity of character would have revealed
itself unpleasantly to both parties if the grand seigneur Chopin
had, like Moritz Hauptmann, been the travelling-companion of the
meanly parsimonious Klengel, who to save a few bajocchi left the
hotels with uncleaned boots, and calculated the worth of the few
things he cared for by scudi.--See Moritz Hauptmann's account of
his "canonic" travelling-companion's ways and procedures in the
letters to Franz Hauser, vol. i., p. 64, and passim.]

The reader will no doubt notice and admire the caution of our
young friend. Remembering that not even Paganini had escaped
being censured in Prague, Chopin felt no inclination to give a
concert, as he was advised to do. A letter in which he describes
his Prague experiences reveals to us one of his weaknesses--one,
however, which he has in common with many men of genius. A propos
of his bursting into a wrong bedroom he says: "I am absent-
minded, you know."

After three pleasant days at Prague the quatrefoil of friends
betook themselves again to the road, and wended their way to
Teplitz, where they arrived the same evening, and stopped two
nights and one day. Here they fell in with many Poles, by one of
whom, Louis Lempicki, Chopin was introduced to Prince Clary and
his family, in whose castle he spent an evening in very
aristocratic society. Among the guests were an Austrian prince,
an Austrian and a Saxon general, a captain of the English navy,
and several dandies whom Chopin suspected to be Austrian princes
or counts. After tea he was asked by the mother of the Princess
Clary, Countess Chotek, to play something. Chopin at once went to
the piano, and invited those present to give him a theme to
improvise upon.

Hereupon [he relates] I heard the ladies, who had taken seats
near a table, whisper to each other: "Un theme, un theme."
Three young princesses consulted together and at last turned
to Mr. Fritsche, the tutor of Prince Clary's only son, who,
with the approbation of all present, said to me: "The
principal theme of Rossini's 'Moses'." I improvised, and, it
appears, very successfully, for General Leiser [this was the
Saxon general] afterwards conversed with me for a long time,
and when he heard that I intended to go to Dresden he wrote
at once to Baron von Friesen as follows: "Monsieur Frederic
Chopin est recommande de la part du General Leiser a Monsieur
le Baron de Friesen, Maitre de Ceremonie de S.M. le Roi de
Saxe, pour lui etre utile pendant son sejour a Dresde et de
lui procurer la connaissance de plusieurs de nos artistes."
And he added, in German: "Herr Chopin is himself one of the
most excellent pianists whom I know."

In short, Chopin was made much of; had to play four times,
received an invitation to dine at the castle the following day,
&c., &c. That our friend, in spite of all these charming
prospects, leaving behind him three lovely princesses, and who
knows what other aristocratic amenities, rolled off the very next
morning at five o'clock in a vehicle hired at the low price of
two thalers--i.e., six shillings--must be called either a feat of
superhuman heroism or an instance of barbarous insensibility--let
the reader decide which. Chopin's visit to Teplitz was not part
of his original plan, but the state of his finances was so good
that he could allow himself some extravagances. Everything
delighted him at Teplitz, and, short as his stay was, he did the
sight-seeing thoroughly--we have his own word for it that he saw
everything worth seeing, among the rest Dux, the castle of the
Waldsteins, with relics of their ancestor Albrecht Waldstein, or

Leaving Teplitz on the morning of August 26, he arrived in the
evening of the same day in Dresden in good health and good
humour. About this visit to Dresden little is to be said. Chopin
had no intention of playing in public, and did nothing but look
about him, admiring nature in Saxon Switzerland, and art in the
"magnificent" gallery. He went to the theatre where Goethe's
Faust (the first part), adapted by Tieck, was for the first time
produced on the stage, Carl Devrient impersonating the principal
part. "An awful but grand imagination! In the entr'actes portions
from Spohr's opera "Faust" were performed. They celebrated today
Goethe's eightieth birthday." It must be admitted that the master-
work is dealt with rather laconically, but Chopin never indulges
in long aesthetical discussions. On the following Saturday
Meyerbeer's "Il Crociato" was to be performed by the Italian
Opera--for at that time there was still an Italian Opera in
Dresden. Chopin, however, did not stay long enough to hear it,
nor did he very much regret missing it, having heard the work
already in Vienna. Although Baron von Friesen received our friend
most politely, he seems to have been of no assistance to him.
Chopin fared better with his letter of introduction to
Capellmeister Morlacchi, who returned the visit paid him and made
himself serviceable. And now mark this touch of boyish vanity:
"Tomorrow morning I expect Morlacchi, and I shall go with him to
Miss Pechwell's. That is to say, I do not go to him, but he comes
to me. Yes, yes, yes!" Miss Pechwell was a pupil of Klengel's,
and the latter had asked Morlacchi to introduce Chopin to her.
She seems to have been not only a technically skilful, fine-
feeling, and thoughtful musician, but also in other respects a
highly-cultivated person. Klengel called her the best pianist in
Dresden. She died young, at the age of 35, having some time
previously changed her maiden name for that of Madame Pesadori.
We shall meet her again in the course of this biography.

Of the rest of Chopin's journey nothing is known except that it
led him to Breslau, but when he reached and left it, and what he
did there, are open questions, and not worth troubling about. So
much, however, is certain, that on September 12, 1829, he was
settled again in his native city, as is proved by a letter
bearing that date.



The only works of Chopin we have as yet discussed are--if we
leave out of account the compositions which the master neither
published himself nor wished to be published by anybody else--the
"Premier Rondeau," Op. 1, the "Rondeau a la Mazur," Op. 5, and
"Variations sur un air allemand" (see Chapter III). We must
retrace our steps as far back as 1827, and briefly survey the
composer's achievements up to the spring of 1829, when a new
element enters into his life and influences his artistic work. It
will be best to begin with a chronological enumeration of those
of Chopin's compositions of the time indicated that have come
down to us. In 1827 came into existence or were finished: a
Mazurka (Op. 68, No. 2), a Polonaise (Op. 71, No. 1), and a
Nocturne (Op. 72); in 1828, "La ci darem la mano, varie" for
piano and orchestra (Op. 2), a Polonaise (Op. 71, No. 2), a Rondo
for two pianos (Op. 73), a Sonata (Op. 4), a Fantasia on Polish
airs for piano and orchestra (Op. 13), a Krakowiak, "Grand
Rondeau de Concert," likewise for piano and orchestra (Op. 14),
and a Trio for piano, violin, and violoncello (Op. 8); in 1829, a
Polonaise (Op. 71, No. 3), a Waltz (Op. 69, No. 2), another Waltz
(in E major, without opus number), and a Funeral March (Op. 726).
I will not too confidently assert that every one of the last four
works was composed in the spring or early summer of 1829; but
whether they were or were not, they may be properly ranged with
those previously mentioned of 1827 and 1828. The works that bear
a higher opus number than 65 were published after the composer's
death by Fontana. The Waltz without opus number and the Sonata,
Op. 4, are likewise posthumous publications.

The works enumerated above may be divided into three groups, the
first of which comprises the Sonata, the Trio, and the Rondo for
two pianos.

The Sonata (in C minor) for piano, Op. 4, of which Chopin wrote
as early as September 9, 1828, that it had been for some time in
the hands of Haslinger at Vienna, was kept by this publisher in
manuscript till after the composer's death, being published only
in July, 1851. "As a pupil of his I dedicated it to Elsner," says
Chopin. It is indeed a pupil's work--an exercise, and not a very
successful one. The exigencies of the form overburdened the
composer and crushed all individuality out of him. Nowhere is
Chopin so little himself, we may even say so unlike himself. The
distribution of keys and the character of the themes show that
the importance of contrast in the construction of larger works
was still unsuspected by him. The two middle movements, a
Menuetto and a Larghetto--although in the latter the self-imposed
fetters of the 5-4 time prevent the composer from feeling quite
at his ease--are more attractive than the rest. In them are
discernible an approach to freedom and something like a breath of
life, whereas in the first and the last movement there is almost
nothing but painful labour and dull monotony. The most curious
thing, however, about this work is the lumbering passage-writing
of our graceful, light-winged Chopin.

Infinitely superior to the Sonata is the Trio for piano, violin,
and violoncello, Op. 8, dedicated to Prince Anton Radziwill,
which was published in March, 1833. It was begun early in 1828,
was "not yet finished" on September 9, and "not yet quite
finished" on December 27 of that year. Chopin tried the first
movement in the summer of 1828, and we may assume that, a few
details and improvements excepted, the whole was completed at the
beginning of 1829. A considerable time, however, elapsed before
the composer declared it ready for the press. On August 31, 1830,
he writes:--

I tried the Trio last Sunday and was satisfied with it,
perhaps because I had not heard it for a long time. I suppose
you will say, "What a happy man!" Something occurred to me on
hearing it--namely, that it would be better to employ a viola
instead of the violin, for with the violin the E string
dominates most, whilst in my Trio it is hardly ever used. The
viola would stand in a more proper relation to the
violoncello. Then the Trio will be ready for the press.

The composer did not make the intended alteration, and in this he
was well advised. For his remarks betray little insight; what
preciousness they possess they owe for the most part to the
scarcity of similar discussions of craftsmanship in his letters.
From the above dates we see that the composer bestowed much time,
care, and thought upon the work. Indeed, there can be no doubt
that as regards conventional handling of the sonata-form Chopin
has in no instance been more successful. Were we to look upon
this work as an exercise, we should have to pronounce it a most
excellent one. But the ideal content, which is always estimable
and often truly beautiful as well as original, raises it high
above the status of an exercise. The fundamental fault of the
Trio lies in this, that the composer tried to fill a given form
with ideas, and to some extent failed to do so--the working-out
sections especially testify to the correctness of this opinion.
That the notion of regarding form as a vessel--a notion oftener
acted upon than openly professed--is a mischievous one will
hardly be denied, and if it were denied, we could not here
discuss so wide a question as that of "What is form?" The
comparatively ineffective treatment of the violin and violoncello
also lays the composer open to censure. Notwithstanding its
weaknesses the work was received with favour by the critics, the
most pronounced conservatives not excepted. That the latter gave
more praise to it than to Chopin's previously-published
compositions is a significant fact, and may be easily accounted
for by the less vigorous originality and less exclusive
individuality of the Trio, which, although superior in these
respects to the Sonata, Op. 4, does not equal the composer's
works written in simpler forms. Even the most hostile of Chopin's
critics, Rellstab, the editor of the Berlin musical journal Iris,
admits--after censuring the composer's excessive striving after
originality, and the unnecessarily difficult pianoforte passages
with their progressions of intervals alike repellent to hand and
ear--that this is "on the whole a praiseworthy work, which, in
spite of some excursions into deviating bye-paths, strikes out in
a better direction than the usual productions of the modern
composers" (1833, No. 21). The editor of the Leipzig "Allgemeine
musikalische Zeitung," a journal which Schumann characterises as
"a sleepy place," is as eulogistic as the most rabid Chopin
admirer could wish. Having spoken of the "talented young man" as
being on the one hand under the influence of Field, and on the
other under that of Beethoven, he remarks:--

In the Trio everything is new: the school, which is the neo-
romantic; the art of pianoforte-playing, the individuality,
the originality, or rather the genius--which, in the
expression of a passion, unites, mingles, and alternates so
strangely with that amiable tenderness [Innigkeit] that the
shifting image of the passion hardly leaves the draughtsman
time to seize it firmly and securely, as he would fain do;
even the position of the phrases is unusual. All this,
however, would be ambiguous praise did not the spirit, which
is both old and new, breathe through the new form and give it
a soul.

I place these criticisms before the reader as historical
documents, not as final decisions and examples of judicial
wisdom. In fact, I accept neither the strictures of the one nor
the sublimifications of the other, although the confident self-
assertion of the former and the mystic vagueness of the latter
ought, according to use and wont, to carry the weight of
authority with them. Schumann, the Chopin champion par
excellence, saw clearer, and, writing three years later (1836),
said that the Trio belonged to Chopin's earlier period when the
composer still allowed the virtuoso some privileges. Although I
cannot go so far as this too admiring and too indulgent critic,
and describe the work as being "as noble as possible, more full
of enthusiasm than the work of any other poet [so schwarmerisch
wie noch kein Dichter gesungen], original in its smallest
details, and, as a whole, every note music and life," I think
that it has enough of nobility, enthusiasm, originality, music,
and life, to deserve more attention than it has hitherto

Few classifications can at one and the same time lay claim to the
highest possible degree of convenience--the raison d'etre of
classifications--and strict accuracy. The third item of my first
group, for instance, might more properly be said to stand
somewhere between this and the second group, partaking somewhat
of the nature of both. The Rondo, Op. 73, was not originally
written for two pianos. Chopin wrote on September 9, 1828, that
he had thus rearranged it during a stay at Strzyzewo in the
summer of that year. At that time he was pretty well pleased with
the piece, and a month afterwards talked of playing it with his
friend Fontana at the Ressource. Subsequently he must have
changed his opinion, for the Rondo did not become known to the
world at large till it was published posthumously. Granting
certain prettinesses, an unusual dash and vigour, and some points
of interest in the working-out, there remains the fact that the
stunted melodies signify little and the too luxuriant passage-
work signifies less, neither the former nor the latter possessing
much of the charm that distinguishes them in the composer's later
works. The original in this piece is confined to the passage-
work, and has not yet got out of the rudimentary stage. Hence,
although the Rondo may not be unworthy of finding occasionally a
place in a programme of a social gathering with musical
accompaniments and even of a non-classical concert, it will
disappoint those who come to it with their expectations raised by
Chopin's chefs-d'oeuvre, where all is poetry and exquisiteness of

The second group contains Chopin's concert-pieces, all of which
have orchestral accompaniments. They are: (1) "La ci darem la
mano, varie pour le piano," Op. 2; (2) "Grande Fantaisie sur des
airs polonais," Op. 13; (3) "Krakowiak, Grande Rondeau de
Concert," Op. 14. Of these three the first, which is dedicated to
Titus Woyciechowski, has become the most famous, not, however, on
account of its greater intrinsic value, but partly because the
orchestral accompaniments can be most easily dispensed with, and
more especially because Schumann has immortalised it by--what
shall I call it ?--a poetic prose rhapsody. As previously stated,
the work had already in September, 1828, been for some time at
Vienna in the hands of Haslinger; it was probably commenced as
far back as 1827, but it did not appear in print till 1830.
[FOOTNOTE: It appeared in a serial publication entitled Odeon,
which was described on the title-page as: Ausgewahlte grosse
Concertstucke fur verschiedene Instrumente (Selected Grand
Concert-Pieces for different instruments).] On April 10 of that
year Chopin writes that he expects it impatiently. The appearance
of these Variations, the first work of Chopin published outside
his own country, created a sensation. Of the impression which he
produced with it on the Viennese in 1829 enough has been said in
the preceding chapter. The Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung
received no less than three reviews of it, two of them--that of
Schumann and one by "an old musician"--were accepted and inserted
in the same number of the paper (1831, Vol. xxxiii., No. 49); the
third, by Friedrich Wieck, which was rejected, found its way in
the following year into the musical journal Caecilia. Schumann's
enthusiastic effusion was a prophecy rather than a criticism. But
although we may fail to distinguish in Chopin's composition the
flirting of the grandee Don Juan with the peasant-girl Zerlina,
the curses of the duped lover Masetto, and the jeers and laughter
of the knavish attendant Leporello, which Schumann thought he
recognised, we all obey most readily and reverently his
injunction, "Hats off, gentlemen: a genius!" In these words lies,
indeed, the merit of Schumann's review as a criticism. Wieck felt
and expressed nearly the same, only he felt it less passionately
and expressed it in the customary critical style. The "old
musician," on the other hand, is pedantically censorious, and the
redoubtable Rellstab (in the Iris) mercilessly condemnatory.
Still, these two conservative critics, blinded as they were by
the force of habit to the excellences of the rising star, saw
what their progressive brethren overlooked in the ardour of their
admiration--namely, the super-abundance of ornament and
figuration. There is a grain of truth in the rather strong
statement of Rellstab that the composer "runs down the theme with
roulades, and throttles and hangs it with chains of shakes."
What, however, Rellstab and the "old musician"--for he, too,
exclaims, "nothing but bravura and figuration!"--did not see, but
what must be patent to every candid and unprejudiced observer,
are the originality, piquancy, and grace of these fioriture,
roulades, &c., which, indeed, are unlike anything that was ever
heard or seen before Chopin's time. I say "seen," for the
configurations in the notation of this piece are so different
from those of the works of any other composer that even an
unmusical person could distinguish them from all the rest; and
there is none of the timid groping, the awkward stumbling of the
tyro. On the contrary, the composer presents himself with an ease
and boldness which cannot but command admiration. The reader will
remember what the Viennese critic said about Chopin's "aim"; that
it was not to dazzle by the superficial means of the virtuoso,
but to impress by the more legitimate ones of the genuine
musician. This is true if we compare the Chopin of that day with
his fellow-virtuosos Kalkbrenner, Herz, &c.; but if we compare
him with his later self, or with Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn,
Schumann, &c., the case is different. Indeed, there can be no
doubt but that in this and the other pieces of this group,
Chopin's aim was that of the virtuoso, only his nature was too
rich, too noble, to sink into the inanity of an insipid,
conventional brilliancy. Moreover, whilst maintaining that in the
works specified language outruns in youthful exuberance thought
and emotion, I hasten to add that there are premonitory signs--
for instance, in the Op. 2 under discussion, more especially in
the introduction, the fifth variation, and the Finale--of what as
yet lies latent in the master's undeveloped creative power.

The Grande Fantaisie sur des airs polonais (A major) for the
pianoforte and orchestra, Op. 13, dedicated to J. P. Pixis, and
published in April, 1834, and the Krakowiak, Grand Rondeau de
Concert (F major) for the pianoforte and orchestra, Op. 14,
dedicated to the Princesse Adam Czartoryska, and published in
June, 1834, are the most overtly Polish works of Chopin. Of the
composition of the former, which, according to Karasowski, was
sketched in 1828, the composer's letters give no information; but
they contain some remarks concerning the latter. We learn that
the score of the Krakowiak was finished by December 27, 1828, and
find the introduction described as having "as funny an appearance
as himself in his pilot-cloth overcoat." In the Fantasia the
composer introduces and variates a Polish popular song (Juz
miesiac zaszedl), and an air by the Polish composer Kurpinski,
and concludes with a Kujawiak, a dance of the mazurka species, in
3-4 time, which derives its name from the district called
Kujawia. In connection with this composition I must not omit to
mention that the first variation on the Polish popular song
contains the germ of the charming Berceuse (Op. 57). The Rondo,
Op. 14, has the character of a Krakowiak, a dance in 2-4 time
which originated in Cracovia. In no other compositions of the
master do the national elements show themselves in the same
degree of crudity; indeed, after this he never incorporates
national airs and imitates so closely national dances. Chopin
remains a true Pole to the end of his days, and his love of and
attachment to everything Polish increase with the time of absence
from his native country. But as the composer grows in maturity,
he subjects the raw material to a more and more thorough process
of refinement and development before he considers it fit for
artistic purposes; the popular dances are spiritualised, the
national characteristics and their corresponding musical idioms
are subtilised and individualised. I do not agree with those
critics who think it is owing to the strongly-marked, exclusive
Polish national character that these two works have gained so
little sympathy in the musical world; there are artistic reasons
that account for the neglect, which is indeed so great that I do
not remember having heard or read of any virtuoso performing
either of these pieces in public till a few years ago, when
Chopin's talented countrywoman Mdlle. Janotha ventured on a
revival of the Fantasia, without, however, receiving, in spite of
her finished rendering, much encouragement. The works, as wholes,
are not altogether satisfactory in the matter of form, and appear
somewhat patchy. This is especially the case in the Fantasia,
where the connection of parts is anything but masterly. Then the
arabesk-element predominates again quite unduly. Rellstab
discusses the Fantasia with his usual obtuseness, but points out
correctly that Chopin gives only here and there a few bars of
melody, and never a longer melodic strain. The best parts of the
works, those that contain the greatest amount of music, are
certainly the exceedingly spirited Kujawiak and Krakowiak. The
unrestrained merriment that reigns in the latter justifies, or,
if it does not justify, disposes us to forgive much. Indeed, the
Rondo may be said to overflow with joyousness; now the notes run
at random hither and thither, now tumble about head over heels,
now surge in bold arpeggios, now skip from octave to octave, now
trip along in chromatics, now vent their gamesomeness in the most
extravagant capers.

The orchestral accompaniments, which in the Variations, Op. 2,
are of very little account, show in every one of the three works
of this group an inaptitude in writing for any other instrument
than the piano that is quite surprising considering the great
musical endowments of Chopin in other respects. I shall not dwell
on this subject now, as we shall have to consider it when we come
to the composer's concertos.

The fundamental characteristics of Chopin's style--the loose-
textured, wide-meshed chords and arpeggios, the serpentine
movements, the bold leaps--are exaggerated in the works of this
group, and in their exaggeration become grotesque, and not
unfrequently ineffective. These works show us, indeed, the
composer's style in a state of fermentation; it has still to pass
through a clearing process, in which some of its elements will be
secreted and others undergo a greater or less change. We, who
judge Chopin by his best works, are apt to condemn too
precipitately the adverse critics of his early compositions. But
the consideration of the luxuriance and extravagance of the
passage-work which distinguish them from the master's maturer
creations ought to caution us and moderate our wrath. Nay more,
it may even lead us to acknowledge, however reluctantly, that
amidst the loud braying of Rellstab there occurred occasionally
utterances that were by no means devoid of articulation and
sense. Take, for instance, this--I do not remember just now a
propos of which composition, but it is very appropriate to those
we are now discussing:--"The whole striving of the composer must
be regarded as an aberration, based on decided talent, we admit,
but nevertheless an aberration." You see the most hostile of
Chopin's critics does not deny his talent; indeed, Rellstab
sometimes, especially subsequently, speaks quite patronisingly
about him. I shall take this opportunity to contradict the
current notion that Chopin had just cause to complain of
backwardness in the recognition of his genius, and even of
malicious attacks on his rising reputation. The truth of this is
already partly disproved by the foregoing, and it will be fully
so by the sequel.

The pieces which I have formed into a third group show us the
composer free from the fetters that ambition and other
preoccupations impose. Besides Chopin's peculiar handling we find
in them more of his peculiar sentiment. If the works of the first
group were interesting as illustrating the development of the
student, those of the second group that of the virtuoso, and
those of both that of the craftsman, the works of the third group
furnish us most valuable documents for the history of the man and
poet. The foremost in importance of the pieces comprised in this
group are no doubt the three polonaises, composed respectively in
the years 1827, 1828, and 1829. The bravura character is still
prominent, but, instead of ruling supreme, it becomes in every
successive work more and more subordinate to thought and emotion.
These polonaises, although thoroughly Chopinesque, nevertheless
differ very much from his later ones, those published by himself,
which are generally more compact and fuller of poetry. Moreover,
I imagine I can see in several passages the influence of Weber,
whose Polonaise in E flat minor, Polacca in E major, Sonata in A
flat major, and Invitation a la Valse (to mention a few apposite
instances), respectively published in 1810, 1819, 1816, and 1821,
may be supposed to have been known to Chopin. These
reminiscences, if such they are, do not detract much from the
originality of the compositions; indeed, that a youth of eighteen
should have attained such a strongly-developed individuality as
the D minor Polonaise exhibits, is truly wonderful.

The Nocturne of the year 1827 (Op. 72, No. 1, E minor) is
probably the poorest of the early compositions, but excites one's
curiosity as the first specimen of the kind by the incomparable
composer of nocturnes. Do not misunderstand me, however, and
imagine that I wish to exalt Chopin at the expense of another
great musician. Field has the glory not only of having originated
the genre, but also of having produced examples that have as yet
lost nothing, or very little, of their vitality. His nocturnes
are, indeed, a rich treasure, which, undeservedly neglected by
the present generation, cannot be superseded by those of his
illustrious, and now favoured successor. On the other hand,
although Field's priority and influence on Chopin must be
admitted, the unprejudiced cannot but perceive that the latter is
no imitator. Even where, as for instance in Op. 9, Nos. 1 and 2,
the mejody or the form of the accompaniment shows a distinct
reminiscence of Field, such is the case only for a few notes, and
the next moment Chopin is what nobody else could be. To watch a
great man's growth, to trace a master's noble achievements from
their humble beginnings, has a charm for most minds. I,
therefore, need not fear the reader's displeasure if I direct his
attention to some points, notable on this account--in this case
to the wide-meshed chords and light-winged flights of notes, and
the foreshadowing of the Coda of Op. 9.

Of 1827 we have also a Mazurka in A minor, Op. 68, No. 2. It is
simple and rustic, and at the same time graceful. The trio (poco
piu mosso), the more original portion of the Mazurka, reappears
in a slightly altered form in later mazurkas. It is these
foreshadowings of future beauties, that make these early works so
interesting. The above-mentioned three polonaises are full of
phrases, harmonic, progressions, &c., which are subsequently
reutilised in a. purer, more emphatic, more developed, more
epigrammatic, or otherwise more perfect form. We notice the same
in the waltzes which remain yet to be discussed here.

Whether these Waltzes (in B minor, Op. 69, No. 2; and in E major,
without opus number) were really written in the early part of
1829, or later on in the year, need not be too curiously inquired
into. As I have already remarked, they may certainly be classed
along with the above-discussed works. The first is the more
interesting of them. In both we meet with passages that point to
more perfect specimens of the kind--for instance, certain
rhythmical motives, melodic inflections, and harmonic
progressions, to the familiar Waltzes in E flat major (Op. 18)
and in A flat major (Op. 34, No. 1); and the D major portion of
the Waltz in B minor, to the C major part of the Waltz in A minor
(Op. 34, No. 2). This concludes our survey of the compositions of
Chopin's first period.

In the legacy of a less rich man, the Funeral March in C minor,
Op. 72b, composed (according to Fontana) in 1829, [FOOTNOTE: In
Breitkopf and Hartel's Gesammtausgabe of Chopin's works will be
found 1826 instead of 1829. This, however, is a misprint, not a
correction.]would be a notable item; in that of Chopin it counts
for little. Whatever the shortcomings of this composition are,
the quiet simplicity and sweet melancholy which pervade it must
touch the hearer. But the master stands in his own. light; the
famous Funeral March in B flat minor, from the Sonata in B flat
minor, Op. 35, composed about ten years later, eclipses the more
modest one in C minor. Beside the former, with its sublime force
and fervency of passion and imposing mastery of the resources of
the art, the latter sinks into weak insignificance, indeed,
appears a mere puerility. Let us note in the earlier work the
anticipation, (bar 12) of a motive of the chef-d'ceuvre (bar 7),
and reminiscences of the Funeral March from Beethoven's. Sonata
in A flat major, Op. 26.



IN the preceding chapter I alluded to a new element that entered
into the life of Chopin and influenced his artistic work. The
following words, addressed by the young composer on October 3,
1829, to his friend Titus Woyciechowski, will explain what kind
of element it was and when it began to make itself felt:--

Do not imagine that [when I speak of the advantages and
desirability of a stay in Vienua] I am thinking of Miss
Blahetka, of whom I have written to you; I have--perhaps to
my misfortune--already found my ideal, which I worship
faithfully and sincerely. Six months have elapsed, and I have
not yet exchanged a syllable with her of whom I dream every
night. Whilst my thoughts were with her I composed the Adagio
of my Concerto, and early this morning she inspired the Waltz
which I send along with this letter.

The influence of the tender passion on the development of heart
and mind cannot be rated too highly; it is in nine out of ten, if
not in ninety-nine out of a hundred cases that which transforms
the rhymer into a poet, the artificer into an artist. Chopin
confesses his indebtedness to Constantia, Schumann his to Clara.
But who could recount all the happy and hapless loves that have
made poets? Countless is the number of those recorded in
histories, biographies, and anecdotes; greater still the number
of those buried in literature and art, the graves whence they
rise again as flowers, matchless in beauty, unfading, and of
sweetest perfume. Love is indeed the sun that by its warmth
unfolds the multitudinous possibilities that lie hidden, often
unsuspected, in the depths of the human soul. It was, then,
according to Chopin, about April, 1829, that the mighty power
began to stir within him; and the correspondence of the following
two years shows us most strikingly how it takes hold of him with
an ever-increasing firmness of grasp, and shakes the whole fabric
of his delicate organisation with fearful violence. The object of
Chopin's passion, the being whom he worshipped and in whom he saw
the realisation of his ideal of womanhood, was Constantia
Gladkowska, a pupil at the Warsaw Conservatorium, of whom the
reader will learn more in the course of this and the next

What reveals perhaps more distinctly than anything else Chopin's
idiosyncrasy is his friendship for Titus Woyciechowski. At any
rate, it is no exaggeration to say that a knowledge of the nature
of Chopin's two passions, his love and his friendship--for this,
too, was a passion with him--gives into our hands a key that
unlocks all the secrets of his character, of his life, and of
their outcome--his artistic work. Nay more, with a full
comprehension of, and insight into, these passions we can foresee
the sufferings and disappointments which he is fated to endure.
Chopin's friendship was not a common one; it was truly and in the
highest degree romantic. To the sturdy Briton and gay Frenchman
it must be incomprehensible, and the German of four or five
generations ago would have understood it better than his
descendant of to-day is likely to do. If we look for examples of
such friendship in literature, we find the type nowhere so
perfect as in the works of Jean Paul Richter. Indeed, there are
many passages in the letters of the Polish composer that read
like extracts from the German author: they remind us of the
sentimental and other transcendentalisms of Siebenkas, Leibgeber,
Walt, Vult, and others. There was somethine in Chopin's warm,
tender, effusive friendship that may be best characterised by the
word "feminine." Moreover, it was so exacting, or rather so
covetous and jealous, that he had often occasion to chide, gently
of course, the less caressing and enthusiastic Titus. Let me give
some instances.
December 27th, 1828.--If I scribble to-day again so much
nonsense, I do so only in order to remind you that you are as
much locked in my heart as ever, and that I am the same Fred
I was. You do not like to be kissed; but to-day you must
permit me to do so.

The question of kissing is frequently brought up.

September 12th, 1829.--I embrace you heartily, and kiss you
on your lips if you will permit me.

October 20th, 1829.--I embrace you heartily--many a one
writes this at the end ol his letter, but most people do so
with little thought of what they are writing. But you may
believe me, my dearest friend, that I do so sincerely, as
truly as my name is Fred.

September 4th, 1830.--Time passes, I must wash myself...do
not kiss me now...but you would not kiss me in any case--even
if I anointed myself with Byzantine oils--unless I forced you
to do so by magnetic means.

Did we not know the writer and the person addressed, one might
imagine that the two next extracts were written by a lover to his
mistress or vice versa.

November 14th, 1829.--You, my dearest one, do not require my
portrait. Believe me I am always with you, and shall not
forget you till the end of my life.

May 15th, 1830.--You have no idea how much I love you! If I
only could prove it to you! What would I not give if I could
once again right heartily embrace you!

One day he expresses the wish that he and his friend should
travel together. But this was too commonplace a sentiment not to
be refined upon. Accordingly we read in a subsequent letter as

September 18th, 1830.--I should not like to travel with you,
for I look forward with the greatest delight to the moment
when we shall meet abroad and embrace each other; it will be
worth more than a thousand monotonous days passed with you on
the journey.
From another passage in one of these letters we get a good idea
of the influence Titus Woyciechowski exercised on his friend.

April 10, 1830.--Your advice is good. I have already refused
some invitations for the evening, as if I had had a
presentiment of it--for I think of you in almost everything I
undertake. I do not know whether it comes from my having
learned from you how to feel and perceive; but when I compose
anything I should much like to know whether it pleases you;
and I believe that my second Concerto (E minor) will have no
value for me until you have heard it and approved of it.

I quoted the above passage to show how Chopin felt that this
friendship had been a kind of education to him, and how he valued
his friend's opinion of his compositions--he is always anxious to
make Titus acquainted with anything new he may have composed. But
in this passage there is another very characteristic touch, and
it may easily be overlooked, or at least may not receive the
attention which it deserves--I allude to what Chopin says of
having had "a presentiment." In superstitiousness he is a true
child of his country, and all the enlightenment of France did not
succeed in weaning him from his belief in dreams, presentiments,
good and evil days, lucky and unlucky numbers, &c. This is
another romantic feature in the character of the composer; a
dangerous one in the pursuit of science, but advantageous rather
than otherwise in the pursuit of art. Later on I shall have to
return to this subject and relate some anecdotes, here I shall
confine myself to quoting a short passage from one of his early

April 17, 1830.--If you are in Warsaw during the sitting of
the Diet, you will come to my concert--I have something like
a presentiment, and when I also dream it, I shall firmly
believe it.

And now, after these introductory explanations, we will begin the
chapter in right earnest by taking up the thread of the story
where we left it. On his return to Warsaw Chopin was kept in a
state of mental excitement by the criticisms on his Vienna
performances that appeared in German papers. He does not weary of
telling his friend about them, transcribing portions of them, and
complaining of Polish papers which had misrepresented the drift
and mistranslated the words of them. I do not wonder at the
incorrectness of the Polish reports, for some of these criticisms
are written in as uncouth, confused, and vague German as I ever
had the misfortune to turn into English. One cannot help
thinking, in reading what Chopin says with regard to these
matters, that he showed far too much concern about the utterances
of the press, and far too much sensitiveness under the infliction
of even the slightest strictures. That, however, the young
composer was soon engaged on new works may be gathered from the
passage (Oct. 3, 1829), quoted at the commencement of this
chapter, in which he speaks of the Adagio of a concerto, and a
waltz, written whilst his thoughts were with his ideal. These
compositions were the second movement of the F minor Concerto and
the Waltz, Op. 70, No. 3. But more of this when we come to
discuss the works which Chopin produced in the years 1829 and

One of the most important of the items which made up our friend's
musical life at this time was the weekly musical meetings at the
house of Kessler, the pianist-composer characterised in Chapter
X. There all the best artists of Warsaw assembled, and the
executants had to play prima vista whatever was placed before
them. Of works performed at two of these Friday evening meetings,
we find mentioned Spohr's Octet, described by Chopin as "a
wonderful work"; Ries's Concerto in C sharp minor (played with
quartet accompaniment), Hummel's Trio in E major, Prince Louis
Ferdinand of Prussia's Quartet, and Beethoven's last Trio, which,
Chopin says, he could not but admire for its magnificence and
grandeur. To Brzezina's music-shop he paid a visit every day,
without finding there, however, anything new, except a Concerto
by Pixis, which made no great impression upon him. That Chopin
was little satisfied with his situation may be gathered from the
following remarks of his:--

You cannot imagine how sad Warsaw is to me; if I did not feel
happy in my home circle I should not like to live here. Oh,
how bitter it is to have no one with whom one can share joy
and sorrow; oh, how dreadful to feel one's heart oppressed
and to be unable to express one's complaints to any human
soul! You know full well what I mean. How often do I tell my
piano all that I should like to impart to you!

Of course the reader, who is in the secret, knows as well as
Titus knew, to whom the letter was addressed, that Chopin alludes
to his love. Let us mark the words in the concluding sentence
about the conversations with his piano. Chopin was continually
occupied with plans for going abroad. In October, 1829, he writes
that, wherever fate may lead him, he is determined not to spend
the winter in Warsaw. Nevertheless, more than a year passed away
before he said farewell to his native city. He himself wished to
go to Vienna, his father seems to have been in favour of Berlin.
Prince Radziwill and his wife had kindly invited him to come to
the Prussian capital, and offered him apartments in their palais.
But Chopin was unable to see what advantages he could derive from
a stay in Berlin. Moreover, unlike his father, he believed that
this invitation was no more than "de belles paroles." By the way,
these remarks of Chopin's furnish a strong proof that the Prince
was not his patron and benefactor, as Liszt and others have
maintained. While speaking of his fixed intention to go
somewhere, and of the Prince's invitation, Chopin suddenly
exclaims with truly Chopinesque indecision and capriciousness:--

But what is the good of it all? Seeing that I have begun so
many new works, perhaps the wisest thing I can do is to stay

Leaving this question undecided, he undertook in October, 1829, a
journey to Posen, starting on the 20th of that month. An
invitation from Prince Radziwill was the inducement that led him
to quit the paternal roof so soon after his return to it. His
intention was to remain only a fortnight from home, and to visit
his friends, the Wiesiolowskis, on the way to Antonin. Chopin
enjoyed himself greatly at the latter place. The wife of the
Prince, a courteous and kindly lady, who did not gauge a man's
merits by his descent, found the way to the heart of the composer
by wishing to hear every day and to possess as soon as possible
his Polonaise in F minor (Op. 71, No. 3). The young Princesses,
her daughters, had charms besides those of their beauty. One of
them played the piano with genuine musical feeling.

I have written [reports Chopin to his friend Titus on
November 14, 1829] during my visit at Prince Radziwill's an
Alla Polacca with violoncello. It is nothing more than a
brilliant salon piece, such as pleases ladies. I would like
Princess Wanda to practise it, so that it might be said that
I had taught her. She is only seventeen years old and
beautiful; it would be delightful to have the privilege of
placing her pretty fingers on the keys. But, joking apart,
her soul is endowed with true musical feeling, and one does
not need to tell her whether she is to play crescendo, piano,
or pianissimo.

According to Liszt, Chopin fondly remembered his visits to
Antonin, and told many an anecdote in connection with them.

The Princess Elisa, one of the daughters of Prince Radziwill,
who died in the first bloom of her life, left him [Chopin]
the sweet image of an angel exiled for a short period here

A passage in the letter of Chopin from which I last quoted throws
also a little light on his relation to her.

You wished one of my portraits; if I could only have pilfered
one of Princess Elisa's, I should certainly have sent it; for
she has two portraits of me in her album, and I am told that
these drawings are very good likenesses.

The musical Prince would naturally be attracted by, and take an
interest in, the rising genius. What the latter's opinion of his
noble friend as a composer was, he tells Titus Woyciechowski at
some length. I may here say, once for all, that all the letters
from which extracts are given in this chapter are addressed to
this latter.

You know how the Prince loves music; he showed me his "Faust"
and I found in it some things tnat are really beautiful,
indeed, in part even grandly conceived. In confidence, I
should not at all have credited the Namiestnik [governor,
lord-lieutenant] with such music! Among other things I was
struck by a scene in which Mephistopheles allures Margaret to
the window by his singing and guitar-playing, while at the
same time a chorale is heard from the neighbouring church.
This is sure to produce a great effect at a performance. I
mention this only that you may form an idea of his musical
conceptions. He is a great admirer of Gluck. Theatrical music
has, in his opinion, significance only in so far as it
illustrates the situation and emotion; the overture,
therefore, has no close, and leads at once into the
introduction. The orchestra is placed behind the stage and is
always invisible, in order that the attention of the audience
may not be diverted by external, such as the movements of the
conductor and executants.

Chopin enjoyed himself so much at Antonin that if he had
consulted only his pleasure he would have stayed till turned out
by his host. But, although he was asked to prolong his visit, he
left this "Paradise" and the "two Eves" after a sojourn of eight
days. It was his occupations, more especially the F minor
Concerto, "impatiently waiting for its Finale," that induced him
to practise this self-denial. When Chopin had again taken
possession of his study, he no doubt made it his first business,
or at least one of the first, to compose the wanting movement,
the Rondo, of his Concerto; as, however, there is an interval of
more than four months in his extant letters, we hear no more
about it till he plays it in public. Before his visit to Antonin
(October 20, 1829) he writes to his friend that he has composed
"a study in his own manner," and after the visit he mentions
having composed "some studies."

Chopin seems to have occasionally played at the Ressource. The
reader will remember the composer's intention of playing there
with Fontana his Rondo for two pianos. On November 14, 1829,
Chopin informs his friend Titus that on the preceding Saturday
Kessler performed Hummel's E major Concerto at the Ressource, and
that on the following Saturday he himself would perhaps play
there, and in the case of his doing so choose for his piece his
Variations, Op. 2. Thus composing, playing, and all the time
suffering from a certain loneliness--"You cannot imagine how
everywhere in Warsaw I now find something wanting! I have nobody
with whom I can speak, were it only two words, nobody whom I can
really trust"--the day came when he gave his first concert in his
native city. This great event took place on March 17, 1830, and
the programme contained the following pieces:--


1. Overture to the Opera "Leszek Bialy," by Elsner.

2. Allegro from the Concerto in F minor, composed and played
by F. Chopin.

3. Divertissement for the French horn, composed and played by

4. Adagio and Rondo from the Concerto in F minor, composed
and played by Chopin.


1. Overture to the Opera "Cecylja Piaseczynska," by

2. Variations by Paer, sung by Madame Meier.

3. Pot-pourri on national airs, composed and played by

Three days before the concert, which took place in the theatre,
neither box nor reserved seat was to be had. But Chopin complains
that on the whole it did not make the impression he expected.
Only the Adagio and Rondo of his Concerto had a decided success.
But let us see the concert-giver's own account of the

The first Allegro of the F minor Concerto (not intelligible
to all) received indeed the reward of a "Bravo," but I
believe this was given because the public wished to show that
it understands and knows how to appreciate serious music.
There are people enough in all countries who like to assume
the air of connoisseurs! The Adagio and Rondo produced a very
great effect. After these the applause and the "Bravos" came
really from the heart; but the Pot-pourri on Polish airs
missed its object entirely. There was indeed some applause,
but evidently only to show the player that the audience had
not been bored.

We now hear again the old complaint that Chopin's playing was too
delicate. The opinion of the pit was that he had not played loud
enough, whilst those who sat in the gallery or stood in the
orchestra seem to have been better satisfied. In one paper, where
he got high praise, he was advised to put forth more energy and
power in the future; but Chopin thought he knew where this power
was to be found, and for the next concert got a Vienna instrument
instead of his own Warsaw one. Elsner, too, attributed the
indistinctness of the bass passages and the weakness of tone
generally to the instrument. The approval of some of the
musicians compensated Chopin to some extent for the want of
appreciation and intelligence shown by the public at large
"Kurpinski thought he discovered that evening new beauties in my
Concerto, and Ernemann was fully satisfied with it." Edouard
Wolff told me that they had no idea in Warsaw of the real
greatness of Chopin. Indeed, how could they? He was too original
to be at once fully understood. There are people who imagine that
the difficulties of Chopin's music arise from its Polish national
characteristics, and that to the Poles themselves it is as easy
as their mother-tongue; this, however, is a mistake. In fact,
other countries had to teach Poland what is due to Chopin. That
the aristocracy of Paris, Polish and native, did not comprehend
the whole Chopin, although it may have appreciated and admired
his sweetness, elegance, and exquisiteness, has been remarked by
Liszt, an eye and ear-witness and an excellent judge. But his
testimony is not needed to convince one of the fact. A subtle
poet, be he ever so national, has thoughts and corresponding
language beyond the ken of the vulgar, who are to be found in all
ranks, high and low. Chopin, imbued as he was with the national
spirit, did nevertheless not manifest it in a popularly
intelligible form, for in passing through his mind it underwent a
process of idealisation and individualisation. It has been
repeatedly said that the national predominates over the universal
in Chopin's music; it is a still less disputable truth that the
individual predominates therein over the national. There are
artist-natures whose tendency is to expand and to absorb; others
again whose tendency is to contract and to exclude. Chopin is one
of the most typical instances of the latter; hence, no wonder
that he was not at once fully understood by his countrymen. The
great success which Chopin's subsequent concerts in Warsaw
obtained does not invalidate E. Wolff's statement, which indeed
is confirmed by the composer's own remarks on the taste of the
public and its reception of his compositions. Moreover, we shall
see that those pieces pleased most in which, as in the Fantasia
and Krakowiak, the national raw material was merely more or less
artistically dressed up, but not yet digested and assimilated; if
the Fantasia left the audience cold at the first concert, this
was no doubt owing to the inadequacy of the performance.

No sooner was the first concert over than, with his head still
full of it, Chopin set about making preparations for a second,
which took place within a week after the first. The programme was
as follows:--


1. Symphony by Nowakowski.

2. Allegro from the Concerto in F minor, composed and played by

3. Air Varie by De Beriot, played by Bielawski.

4. Adagio and Rondo from the Concerto in F minor, composed and
played by Chopin.


1. Rondo Krakowiak, composed and played by Chopin.

2. Aria from "Elena e Malvina" by Soliva, sung by Madame Meier.

3. Improvisation on national airs.

This time the audience, which Chopin describes as having been
more numerous than at any other concert, was satisfied. There was
no end to the applause, and when he came forward to bow his
acknowledgments there were calls of "Give another concert!" The
Krakowiak produced an immense effect, and was followed by four
volleys of applause. His improvisation on the Polish national air
"W miescie dziwne obyczaje" pleased only the people in the dress-
circle, although he did not improvise in the way he had intended
to do, which would not have been suitable for the audience that
was present. From this and another remark, that few of the haute
volee had as yet heard him, it appears that the aristocracy, for
the most part living on their estates, was not largely
represented at the concert. Thinking as he did of the public, he
was surprised that the Adagio had found such general favour, and
that he heard everywhere the most flattering remarks. He was also
told that "every note sounded like a bell," and that he had
"played much better on the second than on the first instrument."
But although Elsner held that Chopin could only be judged after
the second concert, and Kurpinski and others expressed their
regret that he did not play on the Viennese instrument at the
first one, he confesses that he would have preferred playing on
his own piano. The success of the concerts may be measured by the
following facts: A travelling virtuoso and former pupil of the
Paris Conservatoire, Dunst by name, offered in his enthusiasm to
treat Chopin with champagne; the day after the second concert a
bouquet with a poem was sent to him; his fellow-student Orlowski
wrote mazurkas and waltzes on the principal theme of the
Concerto, and published them in spite of the horrified composer's
request that he should not do so; Brzezina, the musicseller,
asked him for his portrait, but, frightened at the prospect of
seeing his counterfeit used as a wrapper for butter and cheese,
Chopin declined to give it to him; the editor of the "Courier"
inserted in his paper a sonnet addressed to Chopin. Pecuniarily
the concerts were likewise a success, although the concert-giver
was of a different opinion. But then he seems to have had quite
prima donna notions about receipts, for he writes very coolly:
"From the two concerts I had, after deduction of all expenses,
not as much as 5,000 florins (about 125 pounds)." Indeed, he
treats this part of the business very cavalierly, and declares
that money was no object with him. On the utterances of the
papers, which, of course, had their say, Chopin makes some
sensible and modest comments.

After my concerts there appeared many criticisms; if in them
(especially in the "Kuryer Polski") abundant praise was
awarded to me, it was nevertheless not too extravagant. The
"Official Journal" has also devoted some columns to my
praise; one of its numbers contained, among other things,
such stupidities--well meant, no doubt--that I was quite
desperate till I had read the answer in the "Gazeta Polska,"
which justly takes away what the other papers had in their
exaggeration attributed to me. In this article it is said
that the Poles will one day be as proud of me as the Germans
are of Mozart, which is palpable nonsense. But that is not
all, the critic says further: "That if I had fallen into the
hands of a pedant or a Rossinist (what a stupid expression!)
I could not have become what I am." Now, although I am as yet
nothing, he is right in so far that my performance would be
still less than it actually is if I had not studied under

Gratifying as the praise of the press no doubt was to Chopin, it
became a matter of small account when he thought of his friend's
approving sympathy. "One look from you after the concert would
have been worth more to me than all the laudations of the critics
here." The concerts, however, brought with them annoyances as
well as pleasures. While one paper pointed out Chopin's strongly-
marked originality, another advised him to hear Rossini, but not
to imitate him. Dobrzynski, who expected that his Symphony would
be placed on one of the programmes, was angry with Chopin for not
doing so; a lady acquaintance took it amiss that a box had not
been reserved for her, and so on. What troubled our friend most
of all, and put him quite out of spirits, was the publication of
the sonnet and of the mazurkas; he was afraid that his enemies
would not let this opportunity pass, and attack and ridicule him.
"I will no longer read what people may now write about me," he
bursts out in a fit of lachrymose querulousness. Although pressed
from many sides to give a third concert, Chopin decided to
postpone it till shortly before his departure, which, however,
was farther off than he imagined. Nevertheless, he had already
made up his mind what to play--namely, the new Concerto (some
parts of which had yet to be composed) and, by desire, the
Fantasia and the Variations.




After the turmoil and agitation of the concerts, Chopin resumed
the even tenor of his Warsaw life, that is to say, played,
composed, and went to parties. Of the latter we get some glimpses
in his letters, and they raise in us the suspicion that the
salons of Warsaw were not overzealous in the cultivation of the
classics. First we have a grand musical soiree at the house of
General Filipeus, [F-
ootnote: Or Philippeus] the intendant of the
Court of the Grand Duke Constantine. There the Swan of Pesaro was
evidently in the ascendant, at any rate, a duet from "Semiramide"
and a buffo duet from "Il Turco in Italia" (in this Soliva took a
part and Chopin accompanied) were the only items of the musical
menu thought worth mentioning by the reporter. A soiree at
Lewicki's offers matter of more interest. Chopin, who had drawn
up the programme, played Hummel's "La Sentinelle" and his Op. 3,
the Polonaise for piano and violoncello composed at Antonin with
a subsequently-added introduction; and Prince Galitzin was one of
the executants of a quartet of Rode's. Occasionally, however,
better works were performed. Some months later, for instance, at
the celebration of a gentleman's name-day, Spohr's Quintet for
piano, flute, clarinet, horn, and bassoon was played. Chopin's
criticism on this work is as usual short:--

Wonderfully beautiful, but not quite suitable for the piano.
Everything Spohr has written for the piano is very difficult,
indeed, sometimes it is impossible to find any fingering for
his passages.

On Easter-day, the great feasting day of the Poles, Chopin was
invited to breakfast by the poet Minasowicz. On this occasion he
expected to meet Kurpinski; and as in the articles which had
appeared in the papers a propos of his concerts the latter and
Elsner had been pitted against each other, he wondered what would
be the demeanour of his elder fellow-countryman and fellow-
composer towards him. Remembering Chopin's repeated injunctions
to his parents not to mention to others his remarks on musicians,
we may be sure that in this as in every other case Chopin
proceeded warily. Here is another striking example of this
characteristic and highly-developed cautiousness. After hearing
the young pianist Leskiewicz play at a concert he writes:--

It seems to me that he will become a better player than
Krogulski; but I have not yet dared to express this opinion,
although I have been often asked to do so.

In the first half of April, 1830, Chopin was so intent on
finishing the compositions he had begun that, greatly as he
wished to pay his friend Titus Woyciechowski a visit at his
country-seat Poturzyn, he determined to stick to his work. The
Diet, which had not been convoked for five years, was to meet on
the 28th of May. That there would be a great concourse of lords
and lordlings and their families and retinues followed as a
matter of course. Here, then, was an excellent opportunity for
giving a concert. Chopin, who remembered that the haute voice had
not yet heard him, did not overlook it. But be it that the
Concerto was not finished in time, or that the circumstances
proved less favourable than he had expected, he did not carry out
his plan. Perhaps the virtuosos poured in too plentifully. In
those days the age of artistic vagrancy had not yet come to an
end, and virtuosity concerts were still flourishing most
vigorously. Blahetka of Vienna, too, had a notion of coming with
his daughter to Warsaw and giving some concerts there during the
sitting of the Diet. He wrote to Chopin to this effect, and asked
his advice. The latter told him that many musicians and amateurs
had indeed often expressed a desire to hear Miss Blahetka, but
that the expenses of a concert and the many distinguished artists
who had arrived or were about to arrive made the enterprise
rather hazardous.

Now [says Chopin, the cautious, to his friend] he [Blahetka]
cannot say that I have not sufficiently informed him of the
state of things here! It is not unlikely that he will come. I
should be glad to see them, and would do what I could to
procure a full house for his daughter. I should most
willingly play with her on two pianos, for you cannot imagine
how kindly an interest this German [Mr. Blahetka] took in me
at Vienna.

Among the artists who came to Warsaw were: the youthful
Worlitzer, who, although only sixteen years of age, was already
pianist to the King of Prussia; the clever pianist Mdlle. de
Belleville, who afterwards became Madame Oury; the great
violinist Lipinski, the Polish Paganini; and the celebrated
Henrietta Sontag, one of the brightest stars of the time.
Chopin's intercourse with these artists and his remarks on them
are worth noting: they throw light on his character as a musician
and man as well as on theirs. He relates that Worlitzer, a youth
of Jewish extraction, and consequently by nature very talented,
had called on him and played to him several things famously,
especially Moscheles' "Marche d'Alexandre variée."
Notwithstanding the admitted excellence of Worlitzer's playing,
Chopin adds--not, however, without a "this remains between us
two"--that he as yet lacks much to deserve the title of Kammer-
Virtuos. Chopin thought more highly of Mdlle. de Belleville, who,
he says, "plays the piano beautifully; very airily, very
elegantly, and ten times better than Worlitzer." What, we may be
sure, in no wise diminished his good opinion of the lady was that
she had performed his Variations in Vienna, and could play one of
them by heart. To picture the object of Chopin's artistic
admiration a little more clearly, let me recall to the reader's
memory Schumann's characterisation of Mdlle. de Belleville and
Clara Wieck.

They should not be compared. They are different mistresses of
different schools. The playing of the Belleville is
technically the finer of the two; Clara's is more
impassioned. The tone of the Belleville caresses, but does
not penetrate beyond the ear; that of Clara reaches the
heart. The one is a poetess; the other is poetry itself.

Chopin's warmest admiration and longest comments were, however,
reserved for Mdlle. Sontag. Having a little more than a year
before her visit to Warsaw secretly married Count Rossi, she made
at the time we are speaking of her last artistic tour before
retiring, at the zenith of her fame and power, into private life.
At least, she thought then it was her last tour; but pecuniary
losses and tempting offers induced her in 1849 to reappear in
public. In Warsaw she gave a first series of five or six concerts
in the course of a week, went then by invitation of the King of
Prussia to Fischbach, and from there returned to Warsaw. Her
concerts were remarkable for their brevity. She usually sang at
them four times, and between her performances the orchestra
played some pieces. She dispensed altogether with the assistance
of other virtuosos. But Chopin remarks that so great was the
impression she made as a vocalist and the interest she inspired
as an artist that one required some rest after her singing. Here
is what the composer writes to his friend about her (June 5,

...It is impossible for me to describe to you how great a
pleasure the acquaintance with this "God-sent one" (as some
enthusiasts justly call her) has given me. Prince Radziwitt
introduced me to her, for which I feel greatly obliged to
him. Unfortunately, I profited little by her eight days' stay
with us, and I saw how she was bored by dull visits from
senators, woyewods, castellans, ministers, generals, and
adjutants, who only sat and stared at her while they were
talking about quite indifferent things. She receives them all
very kindly, for she is so very good-natured that she cannot
be unamiable to anyone. Yesterday, when she was going to put
on her bonnet previously to going to the rehearsal, she was
obliged to lock the door of her room, because the servant in
the ante-room could not keep back the large number of
callers. I should not have one to her if she had not sent for
me, Radziwill having asked me to write out a song which he
has arranged for her. This is an Ukraine popular song
("Dumka") with variations. The theme and finale are
beautiful, but the middle section does not please me (and it
pleases Mdlle. Sontag even less than me). I have indeed made
some alterations, but it is still good for nothing. I am glad
she leaves after to-day's concert, because I shall pet rid of
this business, and when Radziwill comes at the close of the
Diet he may perhaps relinquish his variations.

Mdlle. Sontag is not beautiful, but in the highest degree
captivating; she enchants all with her voice, which indeed is
not very powerful, but magnificently cultivated. Her
diminuendo is the non plus ultra that can be heard; her
portamento wonderfully fine; her chromatic scales, especially
toward the upper part of her voice, unrivalled. She sang us
an aria by Mercadante, very, very beautifully; the variations
by Rode, especially the last roulades, more than excellently.
The variations on the Swiss theme pleased so much that, after
having several times bowed her acknowledgments for the
applause, she had to sing them da capo. The same thing
happened to her yesterday with the last of Rode's variations.
She has, moreover, performed the cavatina from "Il Barbiere",
as well as several arias from "La Gazza ladra" and from "Der
Freischutz". Well, you will hear for yourself what a
difference there is between her erformances and those we have
hitherto heard here. On one occasion was with her when Soliva
came with the Misses Gladkowska [the idea!] and Wolkaw, who
had to sing to her his duet which concludes with the words
"barbara sorte"--you may perhaps remember it. Miss Sontag
remarked to me, in confidence, that both voices were really
beautiful, but already somewhat worn, and that these ladies
must change their method of singing entirely if they did not
wish to run the risk of losing their voices within two years.
She said, in my presence, to Miss Wolkow that she possessed
much facility and taste, but had une voix trop aigue. She
invited both ladies in the most friendly manner to visit her
more frequently, promising to do all in her power to show and
teach them her own manner of singing. Is this not a quite
unusual politeness? Nay, I even believe it is coquetry so
great that it made upon me the impression of naturalness and
a certain naivete; for it is hardly to be believed that a
human being can be so natural unless it knows all the
resources of coquetry. In her neglige Miss Sontag is a
hundred times more beautiful and pleasing than in full
evening-dress. Nevertheless, those who have not seen her in
the morning are charmed with her appearance at the concert.
On her return she will give concerts up to the 22nd of the
month; then, as she herself told me, she intends to go to St.
Petersburg. Therefore, be quick, dear friend, and come at
once, so that you may not miss more than the five concerts
she has already given.

From the concluding sentence it would appear that Chopin had
talked himself out on the subject; this. however, is not the
case, for after imparting some other news he resumes thus:--

But I have not yet told you all about Miss Sontag. She has in
her rendering some entirely new broderies, with which she
produces great effect, but not in the same way as Paganini.
Perhaps the cause lies in this, that hers is a smaller genre.
She seems to exhale the perfume of a fresh bouquet of flowers
over the parterre, and, now caresses, now plays with her
voice; but she rarely moves to tears. Radziwill, on the other
hand, thinks that she sings and acts the last scene of
Desdemona in Othello in such a manner that nobody can refrain
from weeping. To-day I asked her if she would sing us
sometime this scene in costume (she is said to be an
excellent actress); she answered me that it was true that she
had often seen tears in the eyes of the audience, but that
acting excited her too much, and she had resolved to appear
as rarely as possible on the stage. You have but to come here
if you wish to rest from your rustic cares. Miss Sontag will
sing you something, and you will awake to life again and will
gather new strength for your labours.

Mdlle. Sontag was indeed a unique artist. In power and fulness of
voice, in impassioned expression, in dazzling virtuosity, and in
grandeur of style, she might be inferior to Malibran, Catalani,
and Pasta; but in clearness and sweetness of voice, in purity of
intonation, in airiness, neatness, and elegance of execution, and
in exquisiteness of taste, she was unsurpassed. Now, these were
qualities particularly congenial to Chopin; he admired them
enthusiastically in the eminent vocalist, and appreciated similar
qualities in the pleasing pianist Mdlle. de Belleville. Indeed,
we shall see in the sequel that unless an artist possessed these
qualities Chopin had but little sympathy to bestow upon him. He
was, however, not slow to discover in these distinguished lady
artists a shortcoming in a direction where he himself was
exceedingly strong--namely, in subtlety and intensity of feeling.
Chopin's opinion of Mdlle. Sontag coincides on the whole with
those of other contemporaries; nevertheless, his account
contributes some details which add a page to her biography, and a
few touches to her portraiture. It is to be regretted that the
arrival of Titus Woyciechowski in Warsaw put for a time an end to
Chopin's correspondence with him, otherwise we should, no doubt,
have got some more information about Mdlle. Sontag and other

While so many stars were shining, Chopin's light seems to have
been under an eclipse. Not only did he not give a concert, but he
was even passed over on the occasion of a soiree musicale at
court to which all the most distinguished artists then assembled
at Warsaw were invited--Mdlle. Sontag, Mdlle. de Belleville,
Worlitzer, Kurpinski, &c. "Many were astonished," writes Chopin,"
that I was not invited to play, but _I_ was not astonished." When
the sittings of the Diet and the entertainments that accompanied
them came to a close Chopin paid a visit to his friend Titus at
Poturzyn, and on his return thence proceeded with his parents to
Zelazowa Wola to stay for some time at the Count of Skarbek's.
After leaving Poturzyn the picture of his friend's quiet rural
life continually rose up in Chopin's mind. A passage in one of
his letters which refers to his sojourn there seems to me
characteristic of the writer, suggestive of moods consonant with
his nocturnes and many cantilene in his other works:--

I must confess that I look back to it with great pleasure; I
feel always a certain longing for your beautiful country-
seat. The weeping-willow is always present to my mind; that
arbaleta! oh, I remember it so fondly! Well, you have teased
me so much about it that I am punished thereby for all my

And has he forgotten his ideal? Oh, no! On the contrary, his
passion grows stronger every day. This is proved by his frequent
allusions to her whom he never names, and by those words of
restless yearning and heart-rending despair that cannot be read
without exciting a pitiful sympathy. As before long we shall get
better acquainted with the lady and hear more of her--she being
on the point of leaving the comparative privacy of the
Conservatorium for the boards that represent the world--it may be
as well to study the symptoms of our friend's interesting malady.

The first mention of the ideal we find in the letter dated
October 3, 1829, wherein he says that he has been dreaming of her
every night for the past six months, and nevertheless has not yet
spoken to her. In these circumstances he stood in need of one to
whom he might confide his joys and sorrows, and as no friend of
flesh and blood was at hand, he often addressed himself to the
piano. And now let us proceed with our investigation.

March 27, 1830.--At no time have I missed you so much as now.
I have nobody to whom I can open my heart.

April 17, 1830.--In my unbearable longing I feel better as
soon as I receive a letter from you. To-day this comfort was
more necessary than ever. I should like to chase away the
thoughts that poison my joyousness; but, in spite of all, it
is pleasant to play with them. I don't know myself what I
want; perhaps I shall be calmer after writing this letter.

Farther on in the same letter he says:--

How often do I take the night for the day, and the day for
the night! How often do I live in a dream and sleep during
the day, worse than if I slept, for I feel always the same;
and instead of finding refreshment in this stupor, as in
sleep, I vex and torment myself so that I cannot gain

It may be easily imagined with what interest one so far gone in
love watched the debut of Miss Gladkowska as Agnese in Paer's
opera of the same name. Of course he sends a full account of the
event to his friend. She looked better on the stage than in the
salon; left nothing to be desired in her tragic acting; managed
her voice excellently up to the high j sharp and g; shaded in a
wonderful manner, and charmed her slave when she sang an aria
with harp accompaniment. The success of the lady, however, was
not merely in her lover's imagination, it was real; for at the
close of the opera the audience overwhelmed her with never-ending
applause. Another pupil of the Conservatorium, Miss Wolkow, made
her debut about the same time, discussions of the comparative
merits of the two ladies, on the choice of the parts in which
they were going to appear next, on the intrigues which had been
set on foot for or against them, &c., were the order of the day.
Chopin discusses all these matters with great earnestness and at
considerable length; and, while not at all stingy in his praise
of Miss Wolkow, he takes good care that Miss Gladkowska does not
come off a loser:--

Ernemann is of our opinion [writes Chopin] that no singer can
easily be compared to Miss Gladkowska, especially as regards
just intonation and genuine warmth of feeling, which
manifests itself fully only on the stage, and carries away
the audience. Miss Wolkow made several times slight mistakes,
whereas Miss Gladkowska, although she has only been heard
twice in Agnese, did not allow the least doubtful note to
pass her lips.

The warmer applause given to Miss Wolkow did not disturb so
staunch a partisan; he put it to the account of Rossini's music
which she sang.

When Chopin comes to the end of his account of Miss Gladkowska's
first appearance on the stage, he abruptly asks the question:
"And what shall I do now?" and answers forthwith: "I will leave
next month; first, however, I must rehearse my Concerto, for the
Rondo is now finished." But this resolve is a mere flash of
energy, and before we have proceeded far we shall come on words
which contrast strangely with what we have read just now. Chopin
has been talking about his going abroad ever so long, more
especially since his return from Vienna, and will go on talking
about it for a long time yet. First he intends to leave Warsaw in
the winter of 1829-1830; next he makes up his mind to start in
the summer of 1830, the question being only whether he shall go
to Berlin or Vienna; then in May, 1830, Berlin is already given
up, but the time of his departure remains still to be fixed.
After this he is induced by the consideration that the Italian
Opera season at Vienna does not begin till September to stay at
home during the hot summer months. How he continues to put off
the evil day of parting from home and friends we shall see as we
go on. I called Chopin's vigorously-expressed resolve a flash of
energy. Here is what he wrote not much more than a week after (on
August 31, 1830):--

I am still here; indeed, I do not feel inclined to go abroad.
Next month, however, I shall certainly go. Of course, only to
follow my vocation and reason, which latter would be in a
sorry plight if it were not strong enough to master every
other thing in my head.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest