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

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torments me--a gloomy presentiment, unrest, bad dreams,
sleeplessness, yearning, indifference to everything, to the
desire to live and the desire to die. It seems to me often as
if my mind were benumbed, I feel a heavenly repose in my
heart, in my thoughts I see images from which I cannot tear
myself away, and this tortures me beyond all measure. In
short, it is a combination of feelings that are difficult to
describe...Pardon me, dear Titus, for telling you of all
this; but now I have said enough...I will dress now and go,
or rather drive, to the dinner which our countrymen give to-
day to Ramorino and Langermann...Your letter contained much
that was news to me; you have written me four pages and
thirty-seven lines--in all my life you have never been so
liberal to me, and I stood in need of something of the kind,
I stood indeed very much in need of it.

What you write about my artistic career is very true, and I
myself am convinced of it.

I drive in my own equipage, only the coachman is hired.

I shall close, because otherwise I should be too late for the
post, for I am everything in one person, master and servant.
Take pity on me and write as often as possible!--Yours unto


In the postscript of this letter Chopin's light fancy gets the
better of his heavy heart; in it all is fun and gaiety. First he
tells his friend of a pretty neighbour whose husband is out all
day and who often invites him to visit and comfort her. But the
blandishments of the fair one were of no avail; he had no taste
for adventures, and, moreover, was afraid to be caught and beaten
by the said husband. A second love-story is told at greater
length. The dramatis personae are Chopin, John Peter Pixis, and
Francilla Pixis, a beautiful girl of sixteen, a German orphan
whom the pianist-composer, then a man of about forty-three, had
adopted, and who afterwards became known as a much-admired
singer. Chopin made their acquaintance in Stuttgart, and remarks
that Pixis said that he intended to marry her. On his return to
Paris Pixis invited Chopin to visit him; the latter, who had by
this time forgotten pretty Francilla, was in no hurry to call.
What follows must be given in Chopin's own words:--

Eight days after the second invitation I went to his house,
and accidentally met his pet on the stairs. She invited me to
come in, assuring me it did not matter that Mr. Pixis was not
at home; meanwhile I was to sit down, he would return soon,
and so on. A strange embarrassment seized both of us. I made
my excuses--for I knew the old man was very jealous--and said
I would rather return another time. While we were talking
familiarly and innocently on the staircase, Pixis came up,
looking over his spectacles in order to see who was speaking
above to his bella. He may not have recognised us at once,
quickened his steps, stopped before us, and said to her
harshly: "Qu'est-ce que vous faites ici?" and gave her a
severe lecture for receiving young men in his absence, and so
on. I addressed Pixis smilingly, and said to her that it was
somewhat imprudent to leave the room in so thin a silk dress.
At last the old man became calm--he took me by the arm and
led me into the drawing-room. He was in such a state of
excitement that he did not know what seat to offer me; for he
was afraid that, if he had offended me, I would make better
use of his absence another time. When I left he accompanied
me down stairs, and seeing me smile (for I could not help
doing so when I found I was thought capable of such a thing),
he went to the concierge and asked how long it was since I
had come. The concierge must have calmed his fears, for since
that time Pixis does not know how to praise my talent
sufficiently to all his acquaintances. What do you think of
this? I, a dangerous seducteur!

The letters which Chopin wrote to his parents from Paris passed,
after his mother's death, into the hands of his sister, who
preserved them till September 19, 1863. On that day the house in
which she lived in Warsaw--a shot having been fired and some
bombs thrown from an upper story of it when General Berg and his
escort were passing--was sacked by Russian soldiers, who burned
or otherwise destroyed all they could lay hands on, among the
rest Chopin's letters, his portrait by Ary Scheffer, the
Buchholtz piano on which he had made his first studies, and other
relics. We have now also exhausted, at least very nearly
exhausted, Chopin's extant correspondence with his most intimate
Polish friends, Matuszynski and Woyciechowski, only two
unimportant letters written in 1849 and addressed to the latter
remaining yet to be mentioned. That the confidential
correspondence begins to fail us at this period (the last letter
is of December 25, 1831) is particularly inopportune; a series of
letters like those he wrote from Vienna would have furnished us
with the materials for a thoroughly trustworthy history of his
settlement in Paris, over which now hangs a mythical haze.
Karasowski, who saw the lost letters, says they were tinged with

Besides the thought of his unhappy country, a thought constantly
kept alive by the Polish refugees with whom Paris was swarming,
Chopin had another more prosaic but not less potent cause of
disquietude and sadness. His pecuniary circumstances were by no
means brilliant. Economy cannot fill a slender purse, still less
can a badly-attended concert do so, and Chopin was loath to be a
burden on his parents who, although in easy circumstances, were
not wealthy, and whose income must have been considerably
lessened by some of the consequences of the insurrection, such as
the closing of schools, general scarcity of money, and so forth.
Nor was Paris in 1831, when people were so busy with politics, El
Dorado for musicians. Of the latter, Mendelssohn wrote at the
time that they did not, like other people, wrangle about
politics, but lamented over them. "One has lost his place,
another his title, and a third his money, and they say this all
proceeds from the 'juste milieu.'" As Chopin saw no prospect of
success in Paris he began to think, like others of his
countrymen, of going to America. His parents, however, were
against this project, and advised him either to stay where he was
and wait for better things, or to return to Warsaw. Although he
might fear annoyances from the Russian government on account of
his not renewing his passport before the expiration of the time
for which it was granted, he chose the latter alternative.
Destiny, however, had decided the matter otherwise.[FOOTNOTE:
Karasowski says that Liszt, Hiller, and Sowinski dissuaded him
from leaving Paris. Liszt and Hiller both told me, and so did
also Franchomme, that they knew nothing of Chopin having had any
such intention; and Sowinski does not mention the circumstance in
his Musiciens polonais.]
One day, or, as some will have it, on the very day when he was
preparing for his departure, Chopin met in the street Prince
Valentine Radziwill, and, in the course of the conversation which
the latter opened, informed him of his intention of leaving
Paris. The Prince, thinking, no doubt, of the responsibility he
would incur by doing so, did not attempt to dissuade him, but
engaged the artist to go with him in the evening to Rothschild's.
Chopin, who of course was asked by the hostess to play something,
charmed by his wonderful performance, and no doubt also by his
refined manners, the brilliant company assembled there to such a
degree that he carried off not only a plentiful harvest of praise
and compliments, but also some offers of pupils. Supposing the
story to be true, we could easily believe that this soiree was
the turning-point in Chopin's career, but nevertheless might
hesitate to assert that it changed his position "as if by
enchantment." I said "supposing the story to be true," because,
although it has been reported that Chopin was fond of alluding to
this incident, his best friends seem to know nothing of it: Liszt
does not mention it, Hiller and Franchomme told me they never
heard of it, and notwithstanding Karasowski's contrary statement
there is nothing to be found about it in Sowinski's Musiciens
polonais. Still, the story may have a substratum of truth, to
arrive at which it has only to be shorn of its poetical
accessories and exaggerations, of which, however, there is little
in my version.

But to whatever extent, or whether to any extent at all, this or
any similar soiree may have served Chopin as a favourable
introduction to a wider circle of admirers and patrons, and as a
stepping-stone to success, his indebtedness to his countrymen,
who from the very first befriended and encouraged him, ought not
to be forgotten or passed over in silence for the sake of giving
point to a pretty anecdote. The great majority of the Polish
refugees then living in Paris would of course rather require than
be able to afford help and furtherance, but there was also a not
inconsiderable minority of persons of noble birth and great
wealth whose patronage and influence could not but be of immense
advantage to a struggling artist. According to Liszt, Chopin was
on intimate terms with the inmates of the Hotel Lambert, where
old Prince Adam Czartoryski and his wife and daughter gathered
around them "les debris de la Pologne que la derniere guerre
avait jetes au loin." Of the family of Count Plater and other
compatriots with whom the composer had friendly intercourse we
shall speak farther on. Chopin's friends were not remiss in
exerting themselves to procure him pupils and good fees at the
same time. They told all inquirers that he gave no lesson for
less than twenty francs, although he had expressed his
willingness to be at first satisfied with more modest terms.
Chopin had neither to wait in vain nor to wait long, for in about
a year's time he could boast of a goodly number of pupils.

The reader must have noticed with surprise the absence of any
mention of the "Ideal" from Chopin's letters to his friend Titus
Woyciechowski, to whom the love-sick artist was wont to write so
voluminously on this theme. How is this strange silence to be
accounted for? Surely this passionate lover could not have
forgotten her beneath whose feet he wished his ashes to be spread
after his death? But perhaps in the end of 1831 he had already
learnt what was going to happen in the following year. The sad
fact has to be told: inconstant Constantia Gladkowska married a
merchant of the name of Joseph Grabowski, at Warsaw, in 1832;
this at least is the information given in Sowinski's biographical
dictionary Les musiciens polonais et slaves.[FOOTNOTE: According
to Count Wodzinski she married a country gentleman, and
subsequently became blind.] As the circumstances of the case and
the motives of the parties are unknown to me, and as a biographer
ought not to take the same liberties as a novelist, I shall
neither expatiate on the fickleness and mercenariness of woman,
nor attempt to describe the feelings of our unfortunate hero
robbed of his ideal, but leave the reader to make his own
reflections and draw his own moral.

On August 2, 1832, Chopin wrote a letter to Hiller, who had gone
in the spring of the year to Germany. What the young Pole thought
of this German brother-artist may be gathered from some remarks
of his in the letter to Titus Woyciechowski dated December 16,

The concert of the good Hiller, who is a pupil of Hummel and
a youth of great talent, came off very successfully the day
before yesterday. A symphony of his was received with much
applause. He has taken Beethoven for his model, and his work
is full of poesy and inspiration.

Since then the two had become more intimate, seeing each other
almost every day, Chopin, as Osborne relates, being always in
good spirits when Hiller was with him. The bearer of the said
letter was Mr. Johns, to whom the five Mazurkas, Op. 7, are
dedicated, and whom Chopin introduced to Hiller as "a
distinguished amateur of New Orleans." After warmly recommending
this gentleman, he excuses himself for not having acknowledged
the receipt of his friend's letter, which procured him the
pleasure of Paul Mendelssohn's acquaintance, and then proceeds:--

Your trios, my dear friend, have been finished for a long
time, and, true to my character of a glutton, I have gulped
down your manuscripts into my repertoire. Your concerto will
be performed this month by Adam's pupils at the examination
of the Conservatoire. Mdlle. Lyon plays it very well. La
Tentation, an opera-ballet by Halevy and Gide, has not
tempted any one of good taste, because it has just as little
interest as your German Diet harmony with the spirit of the
age. Maurice, who has returned from London, whither he had
gone for the mise en scene of Robert (which has not had a
very great success), has assured us that Moscheles and Field
will come to Paris for the winter. This is all the news I
have to give you. Osborne has been in London for the last two
months. Pixis is at Boulogne. Kalkbrenner is at Meudon,
Rossini at Bordeaux. All who know you await you with open
arms. Liszt will add a few words below. Farewell, dear

Yours most truly,


Paris, 2/8/32




IN the season 1832-1833 Chopin took his place as one of the
acknowledged pianistic luminaries of the French capital, and
began his activity as a professor par excellence of the
aristocracy. "His distinguished manners, his exquisite
politeness, his studied and somewhat affected refinement in all
things, made Chopin the model professor of the fashionable
nobility." Thus Chopin is described by a contemporary. Now he
shall describe himself. An undated letter addressed to his friend
Dominic Dziewanowski, which, judging from an allusion to the
death of the Princess Vaudemont, [FOOTNOTE: In a necrology
contained in the Moniteur of January 6, 1833, she is praised for
the justesse de son esprit, and described as naive et vraie comme
une femme du peuple, genereuse comme une grande dame. There we
find it also recorded that she saved M. de Vitrolles pendant les
Cent-jours, et M. de Lavalette sous la Restoration.] must have
been written about the second week of January, 1833, gives much
interesting information concerning the writer's tastes and
manners, the degree of success he had obtained, and the kind of
life he was leading. After some jocular remarks on his long
silence--remarks in which he alludes to recollections of
Szafarnia and the sincerity of their friendship, and which he
concludes with the statement that he is so much in demand on all
sides as to betorn to pieces--Chopin proceeds thus:--

I move in the highest society--among ambassadors, princes,
and ministers; and I don't know how I got there, for I did
not thrust myself forward at all. But for me this is at
present an absolute necessity, for thence comes, as it were,
good taste. You are at once credited with more talent if you
are heard at a soiree of the English or Austrian
Ambassador's. Your playing is finer if the Princess Vaudemont
patronises you. "Patronises" I cannot properly say, for the
good old woman died a week ago. She was a lady who reminded
me of the late Kasztelanowa Polaniecka, received at her house
the whole Court, was very charitable, and gave refuge to many
aristocrats in the days of terror of the first revolution.
She was the first who presented herself after the days of
July at the Court of Louis Philippe, although she belonged to
the Montmorency family (the elder branch), whose last
descendant she was. She had always a number of black and
white pet dogs, canaries, and parrots about her; and
possessed also a very droll little monkey, which was
permitted even to...bite countesses and princesses.

Among the Paris artists I enjoy general esteem and
friendship, although I have been here only a year. A proof of
this is that men of great reputation dedicate their
compositions to me, and do so even before I have paid them
the same compliment--for instance, Pixis his last Variations
for orchestra. He is now even composing variations on a theme
of mine. Kalkbrenner improvises frequently on my mazurkas.
Pupils of the Conservatoire, nay, even private pupils of
Moscheles, Herz, and Kalkbrenner (consequently clever
artists), still take lessons from me, and regard me as the
equal of Field. Really, if I were somewhat more silly than I
am, I might imagine myself already a finished artist;
nevertheless, I feel daily how much I have still to learn,
and become the more conscious of it through my intercourse
with the first artists here, and my perception of what every
one, even of them, is lacking in. But I am quite ashamed of
myself for what I have written just now, having praised
myself like a child. I would erase it, but I have no time to
write another letter. Moreover, you will remember my
character as it formerly was; indeed, I have remained quite
the same, only with this one difference, that I have now
whiskers on one side--unfortunately they won't grow at all on
the other side. To-day I have to give five lessons; you will
imagine that I must soon have made a fortune, but the
cabriolet and the white gloves eat the earnings almost up,
and without these things people would deny my bon ton. I love
the Carlists, hate the Philippists, and am myself a
revolutionist; therefore I don't care for money, but only for
friendship, for the preservation of which I earnestly entreat

This letter, and still more the letters which I shall presently
transcribe, afford irrefragable evidence of the baselessness of
the often-heard statement that Chopin's intercourse was in the
first years of his settlement in Paris confined to the Polish
salons. The simple unexaggerated truth is that Chopin had always
a predilection for, and felt more at home among, his compatriots.

In the winter 1832-1833 Chopin was heard frequently in public. At
a concert of Killer's (December 15, 1832) he performed with Liszt
and the concert-giver a movement of Bach's Concerto for three
pianos, the three artists rendering the piece "avec une
intelligence de son caractere et une delicatesse parfaite." Soon
after Chopin and Liszt played between the acts of a dramatic
performance got up for the benefit of Miss Smithson, the English
actress and bankrupt manager, Berlioz's flame, heroine of his
"Episode de la vie d'un artiste," and before long his wife. On
April 3, 1833, Chopin assisted at a concert given by the brothers
Herz, taking part along with them and Liszt in a quartet for
eight hands on two pianos. M. Marmontel, in his silhouette of the
pianist and critic Amedee de Mereaux, mentions that in 1832 this
artist twice played with Chopin a duo of his own on "Le Pre aux
Clercs," but leaves us in uncertainty as to whether they
performed it at public concerts or private parties. M. Franchomme
told me that he remembered something about a concert given by
Chopin in 1833 at the house of one of his aristocratic friends,
perhaps at Madame la Marechale de Lannes's! In summing up, as it
were, Chopin's activity as a virtuoso, I may make use of the
words of the Paris correspondent of the "Allgemeine musikalische
Zeitung," who reports in April, 1833, that "Chopin and Osborne,
as well as the other celebrated masters, delight the public
frequently." In short, Chopin was becoming more and more of a
favourite, not, however, of the democracy of large concert-halls,
but of the aristocracy of select salons.

The following letter addressed to Hiller, written by Chopin and
Liszt, and signed by them and Franchomme, brings together
Chopin's most intimate artist friends, and spreads out before us
a vivid picture of their good fellowship and the society in which
they moved. I have put the portions written by Liszt within
brackets [within parentheses in this e-text]. Thus the reader
will see what belongs to each of the two writers, and how they
took the pen out of each other's hand in the middle of a phrase
and even of a word. With regard to this letter I have further to
remark that Hiller, who was again in Germany, had lately lost his

{This is at least the twentieth time that we have made
arrangements to meet, sometimes at my house, sometimes here,
[Footnote: At Chopin's lodgings mentioned farther on.] with
the intention of writing to you, and some visit, or other
unexpected hindrance, has always prevented us from doing
so!...I don't know whether Chopin will be able to make any
excuses to you; as regards myself it seems to me that we have
been so excessively rude and impertinent that excuses are no
longer either admissible or possible.

We have sympathised deeply with you in your sorrow, and
longed to be with you in order to alleviate as much as
possible the pangs of your heart.}

He has expressed himself so well that I have nothing to add
in excuse of my negligence or idleness, influenza or
distraction, or, or, or--you know I explain myself better in
person; and when I escort you home to your mother's house
this autumn, late at night along the boulevards, I shall try
to obtain your pardon. I write to you without knowing what my
pen is scribbling, because Liszt is at this moment playing my
studies and transports me out of my proper senses. I should
like to rob him of his way of rendering my own studies. As to
your friends who are in Paris, I have seen the Leo family and
their set [Footnote: Chopin's words are et qui s'en suit.' He
refers, no doubt, to the Valentin family, relations of the
Leos, who lived in the same house with them.] frequently this
winter and spring. There have been some soirees at the houses
of certain ambassadresses, and there was not one in which
mention was not made of some one who is at Frankfort. Madame
Eichthal sends you a thousand compliments. The whole Plater
family were much grieved at your departure, and asked me to
express to you their sympathy. (Madame d'Appony has quite a
grudge against me for not having taken you to her house
before your departure; she hopes that when you return you
will remember the promise you made me. I may say as much from
a certain lady who is not an ambassadress. [Footnote: This
certain lady was the Countess d'Agoult.]

Do you know Chopin's wonderful studies?) They are admirable--
and yet they will only last till the moment yours appear (a
little bit of authorial modesty!!!). A little bit of rudeness
on the part of the tutor--for, to explain the matter better
to you, he corrects my orthographical mistakes (after the
fashion of M. Marlet.

You will come back to us in the month of September, will you
not? Try to let us know the day as we have resolved to give
you a serenade (or charivari). The most distinguished artists
of the capital--M. Franchomme (present), Madame Petzold, and
the Abbe Bardin, the coryphees of the Rue d'Amboise (and my
neighbours), Maurice Schlesinger, uncles, aunts, nephews,
nieces, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, &c., &c.) en plan du
troisieme, &c. [Footnote: I give the last words in the
original French, because I am not sure of their meaning.
Hiller, to whom I applied for an explanation, was unable to
help me. Perhaps Chopin uses here the word plan in the
pictorial sense (premier plan, foreground; second plan,
middle distance).]

The responsible editors,


A Propos, I met Heine yesterday, who asked me to grussen you
herzlich und herzlich. [Footnote: To greet you heartily and
heartily.] A propos again, pardon me for all the "you's"--I
beg you to forgive me them. If you have a moment to spare let
us have news of you, which is very precious to us.

Paris: Rue de la Chaussee d'Antin, No. 5.

At present I occupy Franck's lodgings--he has set out for
London and Berlin; I feel quite at home in the rooms which
were so often our place of meeting. Berlioz embraces you. As
to pere Baillot, he is in Switzerland, at Geneva, and so you
will understand why I cannot send you Bach's Concerto.

June 20, 1833.

Some of the names that appear in this letter will give occasion
for comment. Chopin, as Hiller informed me, went frequently to
the ambassadors Appony and Von Kilmannsegge, and still more
frequently to his compatriots, the Platers. At the house of the
latter much good music was performed, for the countess, the Pani
Kasztelanowa (the wife of the castellan), to whom Liszt devotes
an eloquent encomium, "knew how to welcome so as to encourage all
the talents that then promised to take their upward flight and
form une lumineuse pleiade," being

in turn fairy, nurse, godmother, guardian angel, delicate
benefactress, knowing all that threatens, divining all that
saves, she was to each of us an amiable protectress, equally
beloved and respected, who enlightened, warmed, and elevated
his [Chopin's] inspiration, and left a blank in his life when
she was no more.

It was she who said one day to Chopin: "Si j'etais jeune et
jolie, mon petit Chopin, je te prendrais pour mari, Hiller pour
ami, et Liszt pour amant." And it was at her house that the
interesting contention of Chopin with Liszt and Hiller took
place. The Hungarian and the German having denied the assertion
of the Pole that only he who was born and bred in Poland, only he
who had breathed the perfume of her fields and woods, could fully
comprehend with heart and mind Polish national music, the three
agreed to play in turn, by way of experiment, the mazurka "Poland
is not lost yet." Liszt began, Hiller followed, and Chopin came
last and carried off the palm, his rivals admitting that they had
not seized the true spirit of the music as he had done. Another
anecdote, told me by Hiller, shows how intimate the Polish artist
was with this family of compatriots, the Platers, and what
strange whims he sometimes gave way to. One day Chopin came into
the salon acting the part of Pierrot, and, after jumping and
dancing about for an hour, left without having spoken a single

Abbe Bardin was a great musical amateur, at whose weekly
afternoon gatherings the best artists might be seen and heard,
Mendelssohn among the rest when he was in Paris in 1832-1833. In
one of the many obituary notices of Chopin which appeared in
French and other papers, and which are in no wise distinguished
by their trustworthiness, I found the remark that the Abbe Bardin
and M.M. Tilmant freres were the first to recognise Chopin's
genius. The notice in question is to be found in the Chronique
Musicale of November 3, 1849.

In Franck, whose lodgings Chopin had taken, the reader will
recognise the "clever [geistreiche], musical Dr. Hermann Franck,"
the friend of many musical and other celebrities, the same with
whom Mendelssohn used to play at chess during his stay in Paris.
From Hiller I learned that Franck was very musical, and that his
attainments in the natural sciences were considerable; but that
being well-to-do he was without a profession. In the fifth decade
of this century he edited for a year Brockhaus's Deutsche
allgemeine Zeitung.

In the following letter which Chopin wrote to Franchomme--the
latter thinks in the autumn of 1833--we meet with some new names.
Dr. Hoffmann was a good friend of the composer's, and was
frequently found at his rooms smoking. I take him to have been
the well-known litterateur Charles Alexander Hoffmann, [Footnote:
This is the usual German, French, and English spelling. The
correct Polish spelling is Hofman. The forms Hoffman and Hofmann
occur likewise.] the husband of Clementina Tanska, a Polish
refugee who came to Paris in 1832 and continued to reside there
till 1848. Maurice is of course Schlesinger the publisher. Of
Smitkowski I know only that he was one of Chopin's Polish
friends, whose list is pretty long and comprised among others
Prince Casimir Lubomirski, Grzymala, Fontana, and Orda.

[Footnote: Of Grzymala and Fontana more will be heard in the
sequel. Prince Casimir Lubomirski was a passionate lover of
music, and published various compositions. Liszt writes that
Orda, "who seemed to command a future," was killed at the age of
twenty in Algiers. Karasowski gives the same information,
omitting, however, the age. My inquiries about Orda among French
musicians and Poles have had no result. Although the data do not
tally with those of Liszt and Karasowski, one is tempted to
identify Chopin's friend with the Napoleon Orda mentioned in
Sowinski's Musiciens polonais et slaves--"A pianist-composer who
had made himself known since the events of 1831. One owes to him
the publication of a Polish Album devoted to the composers of
this nation, published at Paris in 1838. M. Orda is the author of
several elegantly-written pianoforte works." In a memoir prefixed
to an edition of Chopin's mazurkas and waltzes (Boosey & Co.),
J.W. Davison mentions a M. Orda (the "M." stands, I suppose, for
Monsieur) and Charles Filtsch as pupils of Chopin.]

It was well for Chopin that he was so abundantly provided with
friends, for, as Hiller told me, he could not do without company.
But here is Chopin's letter to Franchomme:--

Begun on Saturday, the 14th, and finished on Wednesday, the

DEAR FRIEND,--It would be useless to excuse myself for my
silence. If my thoughts could but go without paper to the
post-office! However, you know me too well not to know that
I, unfortunately, never do what I ought to do. I got here
very comfortably (except for a little disagreeable episode,
caused by an excessively odoriferous gentleman who went as
far as Chartres--he surprised me in the night-time). I have
found more occupation in Paris than I left behind me, which
will, without doubt, hinder me from visiting you at Coteau.
Coteau! oh Coteau! Say, my child, to the whole family at
Coteau that I shall never forget my stay in Touraine--that so
much kindness has made me for ever grateful. People think I
am stouter and look very well, and I feel wonderfully well,
thanks to the ladies that sat beside me at dinner, who
bestowed truly maternal attentions upon me. When I think of
all this the whole appears to me such an agreeable dream that
I should like to sleep again. And the peasant-girls of
Pormic! [FOOTNOTE: A village near the place where Chopin had
been staying.] and the flour! or rather your graceful nose
which you were obliged to plunge into it.

[FOOTNOTE: The remark about the "flour" and Franchomme's "nez
en forme gracieuse" is an allusion to some childish game in
which Chopin, thanks to his aquiline nose, got the better of
his friend, who as regards this feature was less liberally

A very interesting visit has interrupted my letter, which was
begun three days ago, and which I have not been able to
finish till to-day.

Hiller embraces you, Maurice, and everybody. I have delivered
your note to his brother, whom I did not find at home.

Paer, whom I saw a few days ago, spoke to me of your return.
Come back to us stout and in good health like me. Again a
thousand messages to the estimable Forest family. I have
neither words nor powers to express all I feel for them.
Excuse me. Shake hands with me--I pat you on the shoulder--I
hug you--I embrace you. My friend--au revoir.

Hoffmann, the stout Hoffmann, and the slim Smitkowski also,
embrace you.

[FOOTNOTE: The orthography of the French original is very
careless. Thus one finds frequent omissions and misplacements
of accents and numerous misspellings, such as trouvais
instead of trouve, engresse instead of engraisse, plonge
instead of plonger. Of course, these mistakes have to be
ascribed to negligence not to ignorance. I must mention yet
another point which the English translation does not bring
out--namely, that in addressing Franchomme Chopin makes use
of the familiar form of the second person singular.]

The last-quoted letter adds a few more touches to the portraiture
of Chopin which has been in progress in the preceding pages. The
insinuating affectionateness and winning playfulness had hitherto
not been brought out so distinctly. There was then, and there
remained to the end of his life, something of a woman and of a
boy in this man. The sentimental element is almost wholly absent
from Chopin's letters to his non-Polish friends. Even to
Franchomme, the most intimate among these, he shows not only less
of his inmost feelings and thoughts than to Titus Woyciechowski
and John Matuszyriski, the friends of his youth, but also less
than to others of his countrymen whose acquaintance he made later
in life, and of whom Grzymala may be instanced. Ready to give
everything, says Liszt, Chopin did not give himself--

his most intimate acquaintances did not penetrate into the
sacred recess where, apart from the rest of his life, dwelt
the secret spring of his soul: a recess so well concealed
that one hardly suspected its existence.

Indeed, you could as little get hold of Chopin as, to use L.
Enault's expression, of the scaly back of a siren. Only after
reading his letters to the few confidants to whom he freely gave
his whole self do we know how little of himself he gave to the
generality of his friends, whom he pays off with affectionateness
and playfulness, and who, perhaps, never suspected, or only
suspected, what lay beneath that smooth surface. This kind of
reserve is a feature of the Slavonic character, which in Chopin's
individuality was unusually developed.

The Slavonians [says Enault pithily] lend themselves, they do
not give themselves; and, as if Chopin had wished to make his
country-men pardon him the French origin of his family, he
showed himself more Polish than Poland.

Liszt makes some very interesting remarks on this point, and as
they throw much light on the character of the race, and on that
of the individual with whom we are especially concerned in this
book, I shall quote them:--

With the Slavonians, the loyalty and frankness, the
familiarity and captivating desinvoltura of their manners, do
not in the least imply trust and effusiveness. Their feelings
reveal and conceal themselves like the coils of a serpent
convoluted upon itself; it is only by a very attentive
examination that one discovers the connection of the rings.
It would be naive to take their complimentary politeness,
their pretended modesty literally. The forms of this
politeness and this modesty belong to their manners, which
bear distinct traces of their ancient relations with the
East. Without being in the least infected by Mussulmanic
taciturnity, the Slavonians have learned from it a defiant
reserve on all subjects which touch the intimate chords of
the heart. One may be almost certain that, in speaking of
themselves, they maintain with regard to their interlocutor
some reticence which assures them over him an advantage of
intelligence or of feeling, leaving him in ignorance of some
circumstance or some secret motive by which they would be the
most admired or the least esteemed; they delight in hiding
themselves behind a cunning interrogatory smile of
imperceptible mockery. Having on every occasion a taste for
the pleasure of mystification, from the most witty and droll
to the most bitter and lugubrious kinds, one would say that
they see in this mocking deceit a form of disdain for the
superiority which they inwardly adjudge to themselves, but
which they veil with the care and cunning of the oppressed.

And now we will turn our attention once more to musical matters.
In the letter to Hiller (August 2, 1832) Chopin mentioned the
coming of Field and Moscheles, to which, no doubt, he looked
forward with curiosity. They were the only eminent pianists whom
he had not yet heard. Moscheles, however, seems not to have gone
this winter to Paris; at any rate, his personal acquaintance with
the Polish artist did not begin till 1839. Chopin, whose playing
had so often reminded people of Field's, and who had again and
again been called a pupil of his, would naturally take a
particular interest in this pianist. Moreover, he esteemed him
very highly as a composer. Mikuli tells us that Field's A flat
Concerto and nocturnes were among those compositions which he
delighted in playing (spielte mit Vorliebe). Kalkbrenner is
reported [FOOTNOTE: In the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of
April 3, 1833.] to have characterised Field's performances as
quite novel and incredible; and Fetis, who speaks of them in the
highest terms, relates that on hearing the pianist play a
concerto of his own composition, the public manifested an
indescribable enthusiasm, a real delirium. Not all accounts,
however, are equally favourable.

[FOOTNOTE: In the Revue musicale of December 29, 1832. The
criticism is worth reproducing:--"Quiconque n'a point entendu ce
grand pianiste ne peut se faire d'idee du mecanisme admirable de
ses doigts, mecanisme tel que les plus grandes difficultes
semblent etre des choses fort simples, et que sa main n'a point
l'air de se mouvoir. Il n'est d'ailleurs pas mains etonnant dans
l'art d'attaquer la note et de varier a l'infini les diverses
nuances de force, de douceur et d'accent. Un enthousiasme
impossible a decrire, un veritable delire s'est manifeste dans le
public a l'audition de ce concerto plein de charme rendu avec une
perfection de fini, de precision, de nettete et d'expression
qu'il serait impossible de surpasser et que bien peu de pianistes
pourraient egaler." Of a MS. concerto played by Field at his
second concert, given on February 3, 1833, Fetis says that it is
"diffus, peu riche en motifs heureux, peu digne, en un mot, de la
renommee de son auteur," but "la delicieuse execution de M. Field
nous a tres-heureusement servi de compensation"]

Indeed, the contradictory criticisms to be met with in books and
newspapers leave on the reader the impression that Field
disappointed the expectations raised by his fame. The fact that
the second concert he gave was less well attended than the first
cannot but confirm this impression. He was probably no longer
what he had been; and the reigning pianoforte style and musical
taste were certainly no longer what they had been. "His elegant
playing and beautiful manner of singing on the piano made people
admire his talent," wrote Fetis at a later period (in his
"Biographie universelle des Musiciens"), "although his execution
had not the power of the pianists of the modern school." It is
not at all surprising that the general public and the younger
generation of artists, more especially the romanticists, were not
unanimously moved to unbounded enthusiasm by "the clear limpid
flow" and "almost somnolent tranquillity" of Field's playing,
"the placid tenderness, graceful candour, and charming
ingenuousness of his melodious reveries." This characterisation
of Field's style is taken from Liszt's preface to the nocturnes.
Moscheles, with whom Field dined in London shortly before the
latter's visit to Paris, gives in his diary a by no means
flattering account of him. Of the man, the diarist says that he
is good-natured but not educated and rather droll, and that there
cannot be a more glaring contrast than that between Field's
nocturnes and Field's manners, which were often cynical. Of the
artist, Moscheles remarks that while his touch was admirable and
his legato entrancing, his playing lacked spirit and accent,
light and shadow, and depth of feeling. M. Marmontel was not far
wrong when, before having heard Field, he regarded him as the
forerunner of Chopin, as a Chopin without his passion, sombre
reveries, heart-throes, and morbidity. The opinions which the two
artists had of each other and the degree of their mutual sympathy
and antipathy may be easily guessed. We are, however, not put to
the trouble of guessing all. Whoever has read anything about
Chopin knows of course Field's criticism of him--namely, that he
was "un talent de chambre de malade," which, by the by, reminds
one of a remark of Auber's, who said that Chopin was dying all
his life (il se meurt tonte sa vie). It is a pity that we have
not, as a pendant to Field's criticism on Chopin, one of Chopin
on Field. But whatever impression Chopin may have received from
the artist, he cannot but have been repelled by the man. And yet
the older artist's natural disposition was congenial to that of
the younger one, only intemperate habits had vitiated it. Spohr
saw Field in 1802-1803, and describes him as a pale, overgrown
youth, whose dreamy, melancholy playing made people forget his
awkward bearing and badly-fitting clothes. One who knew Field at
the time of his first successes portrays him as a young man with
blonde hair, blue eyes, fair complexion, and pleasing features,
expressive of the mood of the moment--of child-like
ingenuousness, modest good-nature, gentle roguishness, and
artistic aspiration. M. Marmontel, who made his acquaintance in
1832, represents him as a worn-out, vulgar-looking man of fifty,
whose outward appearance contrasted painfully with his artistic
performances, and whose heavy, thick-set form in conjunction with
the delicacy and dreaminess of his musical thoughts and execution
called to mind Rossini's saying of a celebrated singer, "Elle a
l'air d'un elephant qui aurait avale un rossignol." One can
easily imagine the surprise and disillusion of the four pupils of
Zimmermann--MM. Marmontel, Prudent, A. Petit, and Chollet--who,
provided with a letter of introduction by their master, called on
Field soon after his arrival in Paris and beheld the great

in a room filled with tobacco smoke, sitting in an easy
chair, an enormous pipe in his mouth, surrounded by large and
small bottles of all sorts [entoure de chopes et bouteilles
de toutes provenances]. His rather large head, his highly-
coloured cheeks, his heavy features gave a Falstaff-like
appearance to his physiognomy.

Notwithstanding his tipsiness, he received the young gentlemen
kindly, and played to them two studies by Cramer and Clementi
"with rare perfection, admirable finish, marvellous agility, and
exquisiteness of touch." Many anecdotes might be told of Field's
indolence and nonchalance; for instance, how he often fell asleep
while giving his lessons, and on one occasion was asked whether
he thought he was paid twenty roubles for allowing himself to be
played to sleep; or, how, when his walking-stick had slipped out
of his hand, he waited till some one came and picked it up; or,
how, on finding his dress-boots rather tight, he put on slippers,
and thus appeared in one of the first salons of Paris and was led
by the mistress of the house, the Duchess Decazes, to the piano--
but I have said enough of the artist who is so often named in
connection with Chopin.

From placid Field to volcanic Berlioz is an enormous distance,
which, however, we will clear at one leap, and do it too without
hesitation or difficulty. For is not leaping the mind's natural
mode of locomotion, and walking an artificially-acquired and rare
accomplishment? Proceeding step by step we move only with more or
less awkwardness, but aided by ever so slight an association of
ideas we bound with the greatest ease from any point to any other
point of infinitude. Berlioz returned to Paris in the latter part
of 1832, and on the ninth of December of that year gave a concert
at which he produced among other works his "Episode de la vie
d'un artiste" (Part I.--"Symphonic fantastique," for the second
time; Part II--"Lelio, ou le retour a la vie," for the first
time), the subject of which is the history of his love for Miss
Smithson. Chopin, no doubt, made Berlioz's acquaintance through
Liszt, whose friendship with the great French symphonic composer
dated from before the latter's departure for Italy. The
characters of Chopin and Berlioz differed too much for a deep
sympathy to exist between them; their connection was indeed
hardly more than a pleasant social companionship. Liszt tells us
that the constant intercourse with Berlioz, Hiller, and other
celebrities who were in the habit of saying smart things,
developed Chopin's natural talent for incisive remarks, ironical
answers, and ambiguous speeches. Berlioz. I think, had more
affection for Chopin than the latter for Berlioz.

But it is much more the artistic than the social attitude taken
up by Chopin towards Berlioz and romanticism which interests us.
Has Liszt correctly represented it? Let us see. It may be
accepted as in the main true that the nocturnes of Field,
[Footnote: In connection with this, however, Mikuli's remark has
to be remembered.] the sonatas of Dussek, and the "noisy
virtuosities and decorative expressivities" of Kalkbrenner were
either insufficient for or antipathetic to Chopin; and it is
plainly evident that he was one of those who most perseveringly
endeavoured to free themselves from the servile formulas of the
conventional style and repudiated the charlatanisms that only
replace old abuses by new ones. On the other hand, it cannot be
said that he joined unreservedly those who, seeing the fire of
talent devour imperceptibly the old worm-eaten scaffolding,
attached themselves to the school of which Berlioz was the most
gifted, valiant, and daring representative, nor that, as long as
the campaign of romanticism lasted, he remained invariable in his
predilections and repugnances. The promptings of his genius
taught Chopin that the practice of any one author or set of
authors, whatever their excellence might be, ought not to be an
obligatory rule for their successors. But while his individual
requirements led him to disregard use and wont, his individual
taste set up a very exclusive standard of his own. He adopted the
maxims of the romanticists, but disapproved of almost all the
works of art in which they were embodied. Or rather, he adopted
their negative teaching, and like them broke and threw off the
trammels of dead formulas; but at the same time he rejected their
positive teaching, and walked apart from them. Chopin's
repugnance was not confined only to the frantic side and the
delirious excesses of romanticism as Liszt thinks. He presents to
us the strange spectacle of a thoroughly romantic and
emphatically unclassical composer who has no sympathy either with
Berlioz and Liszt, or with Schumann and other leaders of
romanticism, and the object of whose constant and ardent love and
admiration was Mozart, the purest type of classicism. But the
romantic, which Jean Paul Richter defined as "the beautiful
without limitation, or the beautiful infinite" [das Schone ohne
Begrenzung, oder das schone Unendliche], affords more scope for
wide divergence, and allows greater freedom in the display of
individual and national differences, than the classical.

Chopin's and Berlioz's relative positions may be compared to
those of V. Hugo and Alfred de Musset, both of whom were
undeniably romanticists, and yet as unlike as two authors can be.
For a time Chopin was carried away by Liszt's and Killer's
enthusiasm for Berlioz, but he soon retired from his
championship, as Musset from the Cenacle. Franchomme thought this
took place in 1833, but perhaps he antedated this change of
opinion. At any rate, Chopin told him that he had expected better
things from Berlioz, and declared that the latter's music
justified any man in breaking off all friendship with him. Some
years afterwards, when conversing with his pupil Gutmann about
Berlioz, Chopin took up a pen, bent back the point of it, and
then let it rebound, saying: "This is the way Berlioz composes--
he sputters the ink over the pages of ruled paper, and the result
is as chance wills it." Chopin did not like the works of Victor
Hugo, because he felt them to be too coarse and violent. And this
may also have been his opinion of Berlioz's works. No doubt he
spurned Voltaire's maxim, "Le gout n'est autre chose pour la
poesie que ce qu'il est pour les ajustements des femmes," and
embraced V. Hugo's countermaxim, "Le gout c'est la raison du
genie"; but his delicate, beauty-loving nature could feel nothing
but disgust at what has been called the rehabilitation of the
ugly, at such creations, for instance, as Le Roi s'amuse and
Lucrece Borgia, of which, according to their author's own
declaration, this is the essence:--

Take the most hideous, repulsive, and complete physical
deformity; place it where it stands out most prominently, in
the lowest, most subterraneous and despised story of the
social edifice; illuminate this miserable creature on all
sides by the sinister light of contrasts; and then give it a
soul, and place in that soul the purest feeling which is
bestowed on man, the paternal feeling. What will be the
result? This sublime feeling, intensified according to
certain conditions, will transform under your eyes the
degraded creature; the little being will become great; the
deformed being will become beautiful.--Take the most hideous,
repulsive, and complete moral deformity; place it where it
stands out most prominently, in the heart of a woman, with
all the conditions of physical beauty and royal grandeur
which give prominence to crime; and now mix with all this
moral deformity a pure feeling, the purest which woman can
feel, the maternal feeling; place a mother in your monster
and the monster will interest you, and the monster will make
you weep, and this creature which caused fear will cause
pity, and this deformed soul will become almost beautiful in
your eyes. Thus we have in Le Roi s'amuse paternity
sanctifying physical deformity; and in Lucrece Borgia
maternity purifying moral deformity. [FOOTNOTE: from Victor
Hugo's preface to "Lucrece Borgia."]

In fact, Chopin assimilated nothing or infinitely little of the
ideas that were surging around him. His ambition was, as he
confided to his friend Hiller, to become to his countrymen as a
musician what Uhland was to the Germans as a poet. Nevertheless,
the intellectual activity of the French capital and its
tendencies had a considerable influence on Chopin. They
strengthened the spirit of independence in him, and were potent
impulses that helped to unfold his individuality in all its width
and depth. The intensification of thought and feeling, and the
greater fulness and compactness of his pianoforte style in his
Parisian compositions, cannot escape the attentive observer. The
artist who contributed the largest quotum of force to this
impulse was probably Liszt, whose fiery passions, indomitable
energy, soaring enthusiasm, universal tastes, and capacity of
assimilation, mark him out as the very opposite of Chopin. But,
although the latter was undoubtedly stimulated by Liszt's style
of playing the piano and of writing for this instrument, it is
not so certain as Miss L. Ramann, Liszt's biographer, thinks,
that this master's influence can be discovered in many passages
of Chopin's music which are distinguished by a fiery and
passionate expression, and resemble rather a strong, swelling
torrent than a gently-gliding rivulet. She instances Nos. 9 and
12 of "Douze Etudes," Op. 10; Nos. 11 and 12 of "Douze Etudes,"
Op. 25; No. 24 of "Vingt-quatre Preludes," Op. 28; "Premier
Scherzo," Op. 20; "Polonaise" in A flat major, Op. 53; and the
close of the "Nocturne" in A flat major, Op. 32. All these
compositions, we are told, exhibit Liszt's style and mode of
feeling. Now, the works composed by Chopin before he came to
Paris and got acquainted with Liszt comprise not only a sonata, a
trio, two concertos, variations, polonaises, waltzes, mazurkas,
one or more nocturnes, &c., but also--and this is for the
question under consideration of great importance--most of, if not
all, the studies of Op. 10, [FOOTNOTE: Sowinski says that Chopin
brought with him to Paris the MS. of the first book of his
studies.] and some of Op. 25; and these works prove decisively
the inconclusiveness of the lady's argument. The twelfth study of
Op. 10 (composed in September, 1831) invalidates all she says
about fire, passion, and rushing torrents. In fact, no cogent
reason can be given why the works mentioned by her should not be
the outcome of unaided development.[FOONOTE: That is to say,
development not aided in the way indicated by Miss Ramann.
Development can never be absolutely unaided; it always
presupposes conditions--external or internal, physical or
psychical, moral or intellectual--which induce and promote it.
What is here said may be compared with the remarks about style
and individuality on p. 214.] The first Scherzo alone might make
us pause and ask whether the new features that present themselves
in it ought not to be fathered on Liszt. But seeing that Chopin
evolved so much, why should he not also have evolved this?
Moreover, we must keep in mind that Liszt had, up to 1831,
composed almost nothing of what in after years was considered
either by him or others of much moment, and that his pianoforte
style had first to pass through the state of fermentation into
which Paganini's, playing had precipitated it (in the spring of
1831) before it was formed; on the other hand, Chopin arrived in
Paris with his portfolios full of masterpieces, and in possession
of a style of his own, as a player of his instrument as well as a
writer for it. That both learned from each other cannot be
doubted; but the exact gain of each is less easily determinable.
Nevertheless, I think I may venture to assert that whatever be
the extent of Chopin's indebtedness to Liszt, the latter's
indebtedness to the former is greater. The tracing of an
influence in the works of a man of genius, who, of course,
neither slavishly imitates nor flagrantly appropriates, is one of
the most difficult tasks. If Miss Ramann had first noted the
works produced by the two composers in question before their
acquaintance began, and had carefully examined Chopin's early
productions with a view to ascertain his capability of growth,
she would have come to another conclusion, or, at least, have
spoken less confidently. [FOOTNOTE: Schumann, who in 1839
attempted to give a history of Liszt's development (in the "Neue
Zeitschrift fur Musik"), remarked that when Liszt, on the one
hand, was brooding over the most gloomy fancies, and indifferent,
nay, even blase, and, on the other hand, laughing and madly
daring, indulged in the most extravagant virtuoso tricks, "the
sight of Chopin, it seems, first brought him again to his

It was not till 1833 that Chopin became known to the musical
world as a composer. For up to that time the "Variations," Op. 2,
published in 1830, was the only work in circulation; the
compositions previously published in Warsaw--the "Rondo," Op. 1,
and the "Rondeau a la Mazur," Op. 5--may be left out of account,
as they did not pass beyond the frontier of Poland till several
years afterwards, when they were published elsewhere. After the
publication, in December, 1832, of Op. 6, "Quatre Mazurkas,"
dedicated to Mdlle. la Comtesse Pauline Plater, and Op. 7, "Cinq
Mazurkas," dedicated to Mr. Johns, Chopin's compositions made
their appearance in quick succession. In the year 1833 were
published: in January, Op. 9, "Trois Nocturnes," dedicated to
Mdme. Camille Pleyel; in March, Op. 8, "Premier Trio," dedicated
to M. le Prince Antoine Radziwill; in July, Op. 10, "Douze
Grandes Etudes," dedicated to Mr. Fr. Liszt; and Op. 11, "Grand
Concerto" (in E minor), dedicated to Mr. Fr. Kalkbrenner; and in
November, Op. 12, "Variations brillantes" (in B flat major),
dedicated to Mdlle. Emma Horsford. In 1834 were published: in
January, Op. 15, "Trois Nocturnes," dedicated to Mr. Ferd.
Hiller; in March, Op. 16, "Rondeau" (in E flat major), dedicated
to Mdlle. Caroline Hartmann; in April, Op. 13, "Grande Fantaisie
sur des airs polonais," dedicated to Mr. J. P. Pixis; and in May,
Op. 17, "Quatre Mazurkas," dedicated to Mdme. Lina Freppa; in
June, Op. 14, "Krakowiak, grand Rondeau de Concert," dedicated to
Mdme. la Princesse Adam Czartoryska; and Op. 18, "Grande Valse
brillante," dedicated to Mdlle. Laura Horsford; and in October,
Op. 19, "Bolero" (in C major), dedicated to Mdme. la Comtesse E.
de Flahault. [FOOTNOTE: The dates given are those when the
pieces, as far as I could ascertain, were first heard of as
published. For further information see "List of Works" at the end
of the second volume, where my sources of information are
mentioned, and the divergences of the different original
editions, as regards time of publication, are indicated.]

The "Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung" notices several of Chopin's
compositions with great praise in the course of 1833; in the year
after the notices became more frequent. But the critic who
follows Chopin's publications with the greatest attention and
discusses them most fully is Rellstab, the editor of the Iris.
Unfortunately, he is not at all favourably inclined towards the
composer. He occasionally doles out a little praise, but usually
shows himself a spendthrift in censure and abuse. His most
frequent complaints are that Chopin strives too much after
originality, and that his music is unnecessarily difficult for
the hands. A few specimens of Rellstab's criticism may not be out
of place here. Of the "Mazurkas," Op. 7, he says:--

In the dances before us the author satisfies the passion [of
writing affectedly and unnaturally] to a loathsome excess. He
is indefatigable, and I might say inexhaustible [sic], in his
search for ear-splitting discords, forced transitions, harsh
modulations, ugly distortions of melody and rhythm.
Everything it is possible to think of is raked up to produce
the effect of odd originality, but especially strange keys,
the most unnatural positions of chords, the most perverse
combinations with regard to fingering.

After some more discussion of the same nature, he concludes thus:-

If Mr. Chopin had shown this composition to a master, the
latter would, it is to be hoped, have torn it and thrown it
at his feet, which we hereby do symbolically.

In his review of the "Trois Nocturnes," Op. 9, occurs the
following pretty passage:--

Where Field smiles, Chopin makes a grinning grimace: where
Field sighs, Chopin groans; where Field shrugs his shoulders,
Chopin twists his whole body; where Field puts some seasoning
into the food, Chopin empties a handful of Cayenne
pepper...In short, if one holds Field's charming romances
before a distorting concave mirror, so that every delicate
expression becomes coarse, one gets Chopin's work...We
implore Mr. Chopin to return to nature.

I shall quote one more sentence; it is from a notice of the
"Douze Etudes," Op. 10:--

Those who have distorted fingers may put them right by
practising these studies; but those who have not, should not
play them, at least, not without having a surgeon at hand.

[FOOTNOTE: In the number of the Iris in which this criticism
appeared (No. 5 of Vol. V., 1834 Rellstab inserts the
following letter, which he says he received from Leipzig:--

"P. P.

"You are really a very bad man, and not worthy that God's
earth either knows (sic) or bears you. The King of Prussia
should have imprisoned you in a fortress; in that case he
would have removed from the world a rebel, a disturber of the
peace, and an infamous enemy of humanity, who probably will
yet be choked in his own blood. I have noticed a great number
of enemies, not only in Berlin, but in all towns which I
visited last summer on my artistic tour, especially very many
here in Leipzig, where I inform you of this, in order--that
you may in future change your disposition, and not act so
uncharitably towards others. Another bad, bad trick, and you
are done for! Do you understand me, you little man, you
loveless and partial dog of a critic, you musical snarler
[Schnurrbart], you Berlin wit-cracker [Witzenmacher], &c.

"Your most obedient Servant,


To this Rellstab adds: "Whether Mr. Chopin has written this
letter himself, I do not know, and will not assert it, but
print the document that he may recognise or repudiate it."
The letter was not repudiated, but I do not think that it was
written by Chopin. Had he written a letter, he surely would
have written a less childish one, although the German might
not have been much better than that of the above. But my
chief reasons for doubting its genuineness are that Chopin
made no artistic tour in Germany after 1831, and is not known
to have visited Leipzig either in 1833 or 1834.]

However, we should not be too hard upon Rellstab, seeing that one
of the greatest pianists and best musicians of the time made in
the same year (in 1833, and not in 1831, as we read in
Karasowski's book) an entry in his diary, which expresses an
opinion not very unlike his. Moscheles writes thus:--

I like to employ some free hours in the evening in making
myself acquainted with Chopin's studies and his other
compositions, and find much charm in the originality and
national colouring of their motivi; but my fingers always
stumble over certain hard, inartistic, and to me
incomprehensible modulations, and the whole is often too
sweetish for my taste, and appears too little worthy of a man
and a trained musician.

And again--

I am a sincere admirer of Chopin's originality; he has
furnished pianists with matter of the greatest novelty and
attractiveness. But personally I dislike the artificial,
often forced modulations; my fingers stumble and fall over
such passages; however much I may practise them, I cannot
execute them without tripping.

The first criticism on Chopin's publications which I met with in
the French musical papers is one on the "Variations," Op. 12. It
appeared in the "Revue musicale" of January 26, 1834. After this
his new works are pretty regularly noticed, and always
favourably. From what has been said it will be evident that
Karasowski made a mistake when he wrote that Chopin's
compositions began to find a wide circulation as early as the
year 1832.

Much sympathy has been undeservedly bestowed on the composer by
many, because they were under the impression that he had had to
contend with more than the usual difficulties. Now just the
reverse was the case. Most of his critics were well-disposed
towards him, and his fame spread fast. In 1834 (August 13) a
writer in the "Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung" remarks that
Chopin had the good fortune to draw upon himself sooner than
others the attention not only of the pianists, although of these
particularly, but also of a number of the musicians generally.
And in 1836 even Rellstab, Chopin's most adverse critic, says:
"We entertain the hope of hearing a public performance of the
Concerto [the second, Op. 21] in the course of the winter, for
now it is a point of honour for every pianist to play Chopin."
The composer, however, cannot be said to have enjoyed popularity;
his works were relished only by the few, not by the many.
Chopin's position as a pianist and composer at the point we have
reached in the history of his life (1833-1834) is well described
by a writer in the "Revue musicale" of May 15, 1834:--

Chopin [he says] has opened up for himself a new route, and
from the first moment of his appearance on the scene he has
taken so high a stand, both by his pianoforte-playing and by
his compositions for this instrument, that he is to the
multitude an inexplicable phenomenon which it looks on in
passing with astonishment, and which stupid egoism regards
with a smile of pity, while the small number of connoisseurs,
led by a sure judgment, rather by an instinct of progress
than by a reasoned sentiment of enjoyment, follow this artist
in his efforts and in his creations, if not closely, at least
at a distance, admiring him, learning from him, and trying to
imitate him. For this reason Chopin has not found a critic,
although his works are already known everywhere. They have
either excited equivocal smiles and have been disparaged, or
have provoked astonishment and an overflow of unlimited
praise; but nobody has as yet come forward to say in what
their peculiar character and merit consists, by what they are
distinguished from so many other compositions, what assigns
to them a superior rank, &c.

No important events are to be recorded of the season 1833-1834,
but that Chopin was making his way is shown by a passage from a
letter which Orlowski wrote to one of his friends in Poland:--

Chopin [he says] is well and strong; he turns the heads of
all the Frenchwomen, and makes the men jealous of him. He is
now the fashion, and the elegant world will soon wear gloves
a la Chopin, Only the yearning after his country consumes

In the spring of 1834 Chopin took a trip to Aix-la-Chapelle,
where at Whitsuntide the Lower Rhenish Music Festival was held.
Handel's "Deborah," Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, and part of
Beethoven's Ninth were on the programme, and the baton was in the
hand of Ferdinand Ries. Hiller, who had written additional
accompaniments to the oratorio and translated the English words
into German, had received an invitation from the committee, and
easily persuaded Chopin to accompany him. But this plan very
nearly came to naught. While they were making preparations for
the journey, news reached them that the festival was postponed;
and when a few days later they heard that it would take place
after all, poor Chopin was no longer able to go, having in the
meantime spent the money put aside for travelling expenses,
probably given it away to one of his needy countrymen, to whom,
as Hiller says, his purse was always open. But what was to be
done now? Hiller did not like to depart without his friend, and
urged him to consider if he could not contrive in one way or
another to procure the requisite pecuniary outfit. At last Chopin
said he thought he could manage it, took the manuscript of the
Waltz in E flat (Op. 18), went with it to Pleyel, and returned
with 500 francs. [FOOTNOTE: I repeat Hiller's account without
vouching for its literal correctness, confining myself to the
statement that the work was in print on the 1st of June,1834, and
published by Schlesinger, of Paris, not by Pleyel.] Thus the
barrier was removed, and the friends set out for Aix-la-Chapelle.
There Hiller was quartered in the house of the burgomaster, and
Chopin got a room close by. They went without much delay to the
rehearsal of "Deborah," where they met Mendelssohn, who describes
their meeting in a letter addressed to his mother (Dusseldorf,
May 23, 1834):--

On the first tier sat a man with a moustache reading the
score, and as he was coming downstairs after the rehearsal,
and I was going up, we met in the side-scenes, and Ferdinand
Hiller stumbled right into my arms, almost crushing me in his
joyful embrace. He had come from Paris to hear the oratorio,
and Chopin had left his pupils in the lurch and come with
him, and thus we met again. Now I had my full share of
pleasure in the musical festival, for we three now remained
together, got a box in the theatre (where the performances
are given) to ourselves, and as a matter of course betook
ourselves next morning to a piano, where I enjoyed myself
greatly. They have both still further developed their
execution, and Chopin is now one of the very first pianoforte-
players; he produces as novel effects as Paganini does on the
violin, and performs wonders which one would never have
imagined possible. Hiller, too, is an excellent player,
powerful and coquettish enough. Both are a little infected by
the Parisian mania for despondency and straining after
emotional vehemence [Verzweif-lungssucht und
Leidenschaftssucherei], and often lose sight of time and
repose and the really musical too much. I, on the other hand,
do so perhaps too little. Thus we made up for each other's
deficiencies, and all three, I think, learned something,
while I felt rather like a schoolmaster, and they like
mirliflores or incroyables.

After the festival the three musicians travelled together to
Dusseldorf, where since the preceding October Mendelssohn was
settled as musical director. They passed the morning of the day
which Chopin and Hiller spent in the town at Mendelssohn's piano,
and in the afternoon took a walk, at the end of which they had
coffee and a game at skittles. In this walk they were accompanied
by F. W. Schadow, the director of the Academy of Art and founder
of the Dusseldorf School, and some of his pupils, among whom may
have been one or more of its brightest stars--Lessing, Bendemann,
Hildebrandt, Sohn, and Alfred Rethel. Hiller, who furnishes us
with some particulars of what Mendelssohn calls "a very agreeable
day passed in playing and discussing music," says that Schadow
and his pupils appeared to him like a prophet surrounded by his
disciples. But the dignified manner and eloquent discourse of the
prophet, the humble silence of the devoutly-listening disciples,
seem to have prevented Chopin from feeling quite at ease.

Chopin [writes Hiller], who was not known to any of them, and
extremely reserved, kept close to me during the walk,
observing everything and making remarks to me in a low, low
tone. For the later part of the evening we were invited to
the Schadows', who were never wanting in hospitality. We
found there some of the most eminent young painters. The
conversation soon became very animated, and all would have
been right if poor Chopin had not sat there so reserved--not
to say unnoticed. However, Mendelssohn and I knew that he
would have his revenge, and were secretly rejoicing at the
thought. At last the piano was opened; I began, Mendelssohn
followed; then we asked Chopin to play, and rather doubtful
looks were cast at him and us. But he had hardly played a few
bars when all present, especially Schadow, looked at him with
altogether different eyes. Nothing like it had ever been
heard. They were all in the greatest delight, and begged for
more and more. Count Almaviva had dropped his disguise, and
all were speechless.

The following day Chopin and Hiller set out per steamer for
Coblenz, and Mendelssohn, although Schadow had asked him what was
to become of "St. Paul," at which he was working, accompanied
them as far as Cologne. There, after a visit to the Apostles'
church, they parted at the Rhine bridge, and, as Mendelssohn
wrote to his mother, "the pleasant episode was over."




The coming to Paris and settlement there of his friend
Matuszynski must have been very gratifying to Chopin, who felt so
much the want of one with whom he could sigh. Matuszynski, who,
since we heard last of him, had served as surgeon-major in the
Polish insurrectionary army, and taken his doctor's degree at
Tubingen in 1834, proceeded in the same year to Paris, where he
was appointed professor at the Ecole de Medecine. The latter
circumstance testifies to his excellent professional qualities,
and Chopin's letters do not leave us in doubt concerning the
nature of his qualities as a friend. Indeed, what George Sand
says of his great influence over Chopin only confirms what these
letters lead one to think. In 1834 Matuszynski wrote in a letter
addressed to his brother-in-law:--

The first thing I did in Paris was to call on Chopin. I
cannot tell you how great our mutual happiness was on meeting
again after a separation of five years. He has grown strong
and tall; I hardly recognised him. Chopin is now the first
pianist here; he gives a great many lessons, but none under
twenty francs. He has composed much, and his works are in
great request. I live with him: Rue Chaussee d'Antin, No. 5.
This street is indeed rather far from the Ecole de Medecine
and the hospitals; but I have weighty reasons for staying
with him--he is my all! We spend the evenings at the theatre
or pay visits; if we do not do one or the other, we enjoy
ourselves quietly at home.

Less interesting than this letter of Matuszynski's, with its
glimpses of Chopin's condition and habits, are the reminiscences
of a Mr. W., now or till lately a music-teacher at Posen, who
visited Paris in 1834, and was introduced to Chopin by Dr. A.
Hofman. [FOONOTE: See p. 257.] But, although less interesting,
they are by no means without significance, for instance, with
regard to the chronology of the composer's works. Being asked to
play something, Mr. W. chose Kalkbrenner's variations on one of
Chopin's mazurkas (the one in B major, Op. 7, No. 1). Chopin
generously repaid the treat which Kalkbrenner's variations and
his countryman's execution may have afforded him, by playing the
studies which he afterwards published as Op. 25.

Elsner, like all Chopin's friends, was pleased with the young
artist's success. The news he heard of his dear Frederick filled
his heart with joy, nevertheless he was not altogether satisfied.
"Excuse my sincerity," he writes, on September 14, 1834, "but
what you have done hitherto I do not yet consider enough."
Elsner's wish was that Chopin should compose an opera, if
possible one with a Polish historical subject; and this he
wished, not so much for the increase of Chopin's fame as for the
advantage of the art. Knowing his pupil's talents and
acquirements he was sure that what a critic pointed out in
Chopin's mazurkas would be fully displayed and obtain a lasting
value only in an opera. The unnamed critic referred to must be
the writer in the "Gazette musicale," who on June 29, 1834, in
speaking of the "Quatre Mazurkas," Op. 17, says--

Chopin has gained a quite special reputation by the clever
spirituelle and profoundly artistic manner in which he knows
how to treat the national music of Poland, a genre of music
which was to us as yet little known...here again he appears
poetical, tender, fantastic, always graceful, and always
charming, even in the moments when he abandons himself to the
most passionate inspiration.

Karasowski says that Elsner's letter made Chopin seriously think
of writing an opera, and that he even addressed himself to his
friend Stanislas Kozmian with the request to furnish him with a
libretto, the subject of which was to be taken from Polish
history. I do not question this statement. But if it is true,
Chopin soon abandoned the idea. In fact, he thoroughly made up
his mind, and instead of endeavouring to become a Shakespeare he
contented himself with being an Uhland. The following
conversations will show that Chopin acquired the rarest and most
precious kind of knowledge, that is, self-knowledge. His
countryman, the painter Kwiatkowski, calling one day on Chopin
found him and Mickiewicz in the midst of a very excited
discussion. The poet urged the composer to undertake a great
work, and not to fritter away his power on trifles; the composer,
on the other hand, maintained that he was not in possession of
the qualities requisite for what he was advised to undertake. G.
Mathias, who studied under Chopin from 1839 to 1844, remembers a
conversation between his master and M. le Comte de Perthuis, one
of Louis Philippe's aides-de-camp. The Count said--

"Chopin, how is it that you, who have such admirable ideas,
do not compose an opera?" [Chopin, avec vos idees admirables,
pourquoi ne nous faites-vous pas un opera?] "Ah, Count, let
me compose nothing but music for the pianoforte; I am not
learned enough to compose operas!" [Ah, Monsieur le Comte,
laissez-moi ne faire que de la musique de piano; pour faire
des operas je ne suis pas assez savant.]

Chopin, in fact, knew himself better than his friends and teacher
knew him, and it was well for him and it is well for us that he
did, for thereby he saved himself much heart-burning and
disappointment, and us the loss of a rich inheritance of charming
and inimitable pianoforte music. He was emphatically a
Kleinmeister--i.e. a master of works of small size and minute
execution. His attempts in the sonata-form were failures,
although failures worth more--some of them at least--than many a
clever artist's most brilliant successes. Had he attempted the
dramatic form the result would in all probability have been still
less happy; for this form demands not only a vigorous
constructive power, but in addition to it a firm grasp of all the
vocal and instrumental resources--qualities, in short, in which
Chopin was undeniably deficient, owing not so much to inadequate
training as to the nature of his organisation. Moreover, he was
too much given to express his own emotions, too narrow in his
sympathies, in short, too individual a composer, to successfully
express the emotions of others, to objectively conceive and set
forth the characters of men and women unlike himself. Still, the
master's confidence in his pupil, though unfounded in this
particular, is beautiful to contemplate; and so also is his
affection for him, which even the pedantic style of his letters
cannot altogether hide. Nor is it possible to admire in a less
degree the reciprocation of these sentiments by the great
master's greater pupil:--

What a pity it is [are the concluding words of Elsner's
letter of September 14, 1834] that we can no longer see each
other and exchange our opinions! I have got so much to tell
you. I should like also to thank you for the present, which
is doubly precious to me. I wish I were a bird, so that I
might visit you in your Olympian dwelling, which the
Parisians take for a swallow's nest. Farewell, love me, as I
do you, for I shall always remain your sincere friend and

In no musical season was Chopin heard so often in public as in
that of 1834-35; but it was not only his busiest, it was also his
last season as a virtuoso. After it his public appearances ceased
for several years altogether, and the number of concerts at which
he was subsequently heard does not much exceed half-a-dozen. The
reader will be best enabled to understand the causes that led to
this result if I mention those of Chopin's public performances in
this season which have come under my notice. On December 7, 1834,
at the third and last of a series of concerts given by Berlioz at
the Conservatoire, Chopin played an "Andante" for the piano with
orchestral accompaniments of his own composition, which, placed
as it was among the overtures to "Les Francs-Juges" and "King
Lear," the "Harold" Symphony, and other works of Berlioz, no
doubt sounded at the concert as strange as it looks on the
programme. The "Andante" played by Chopin was of course the
middle movement of one of his concertos. [Footnote: Probably the
"Larghetto" from the F minor Concerto. See Liszt's remark on p.

On December 25 of the same year, Dr. Francois Stoepel gave a
matinee musicale at Pleyel's rooms, for which he had secured a
number of very distinguished artists. But the reader will ask--
"Who is Dr. Stoepel?" An author of several theoretical works,
instruction books, and musical compositions, who came to Paris in
1829 and founded a school on Logier's system, as he had done in
Berlin and other towns, but was as unsuccessful in the French
capital as elsewhere. Disappointed and consumptive he died in
1836 at the age of forty-two; his income, although the proceeds
of teaching were supplemented by the remuneration for
contributions to the "Gazette musicale," having from first to
last been scanty. Among the artists who took part in this matinee
musicale were Chopin, Liszt, the violinist Ernst, and the singers
Mdlle. Heinefetter, Madame Degli-Antoni, and M. Richelmi. The
programme comprised also an improvisation on the orgue expressif
(harmonium) by Madame de la Hye, a grand-niece of J.J.
Rousseau's. Liszt and Chopin opened the matinee with a
performance of Moscheles' "Grand duo a quatre mains," of which
the reporter of the "Gazette musicale" writes as follows:--

We consider it superfluous to say that this piece, one of the
masterworks of the composer, was executed with a rare
perfection of talent by the two greatest pianoforte-virtuosos
of our epoch. Brilliancy of execution combined with perfect
delicacy, sustained elevation, and the contrast of the most
spirited vivacity and calmest serenity, of the most graceful
lightness and gravest seriousness--the clever blending of all
the nuances can only be expected from two artists of the same
eminence and equally endowed with deep artistic feeling. The
most enthusiastic applause showed MM. Liszt and Chopin better
than we can do by our words how much they charmed the
audience, which they electrified a second time by a Duo for
two pianos composed by Liszt.

This work of Liszt's was no doubt the Duo for two pianos on a
theme of Mendelssohn's which, according to Miss Ramann, was
composed in 1834 but never published, and is now lost.

The "Menestrel" of March 22, 1835, contains a report of a concert
at Pleyel's rooms, without, however, mentioning the concert-
giver, who was probably the proprietor himself:--

The last concert at Pleyel's rooms was very brilliant. Men of
fashion, litterateurs, and artists had given each other
rendez-vous there to hear our musical celebrities--MM. Herz,
Chopin, Osborne, Hiller, Reicha, Mesdames Camille Lambert and
Leroy, and M. Hamati [read Stamati], a young pianist who had
not yet made a public appearance in our salons. These artists
performed various pieces which won the approval of all.

And now mark the dying fall of this vague report: "Kalkbrenner's
Variations on the cavatina 'Di tanti palpiti' were especially

We come now to the so much talked-of concert at the Italian
Opera, which became so fateful in Chopin's career as a virtuoso.
It is generally spoken of as a concert given by Chopin, and
Karasowski says it took place in February, 1834. I have, however,
been unable to find any trace of a concert given by Chopin in
1834. On the other hand, Chopin played on April 5, 1835, at a
concert which in all particulars except that of date answers to
the description of the one mentioned by Karasowski. The "Journal
des Debats" of April 4, 1835, draws the public's attention to it
by the following short and curious article:--

The concert for the benefit of the indigent Poles [i.e.,
indigent Polish refugees] will take place to-morrow,
Saturday, at the Theatre-Italien, at eight o'clock in the
evening. Mdlle. Falcon and Nourrit, MM. Ernst, Dorus, Schopin
[sic], Litz [sic], and Pantaleoni, will do the honours of
this soiree, which will be brilliant. Among other things
there will be heard the overtures to "Oberon" and "Guillaume
Tell," the duet from the latter opera, sung by Mdlle. Falcon
and Nourrit, and romances by M. Schubert, sung by Nourrit and
accompanied by Litz, &c.

To this galaxy of artistic talent I have yet to add Habeneck, who
conducted the orchestra. Chopin played with the orchestra his E
minor Concerto and with Liszt a duet for two pianos by Hiller.

As you may suppose [says a writer of a notice in the "Gazette
musicale"] M. Chopin was not a stranger to the composition of
the programme of this soiree in behalf of his unhappy
countrymen. Accordingly the fete was brilliant.

In the same notice may also be read the following:--

Chopin's Concerto, so original, of so brilliant a style, so
full of ingenious details, so fresh in its melodies, obtained
a very great success. It is very difficult not to be
monotonous in a pianoforte concerto; and the amateurs could
not but thank Chopin for the pleasure he had procured them,
while the artists admired the talent which enabled him to do
so [i.e., to avoid monotony], and at the same time to
rejuvenate so antiquated a form.

The remark on the agedness of the concerto-form and the
difficulty of not being monotonous is naive and amusing enough to
be quoted for its own sake, but what concerns us here is the
correctness of the report. Although the expressions of praise
contained in it are by no means enthusiastic, nay, are not even
straightforward, they do not tally with what we learn from other
accounts. This discrepancy may be thus explained. Maurice
Schlesinger, the founder and publisher of the "Gazette musicale,"
was on friendly terms with Chopin and had already published some
of his compositions. What more natural, therefore, than that, if
the artist's feelings were hurt, he should take care that they
should not be further tortured by unpleasant remarks in his
paper. Indeed, in connection with all the Chopin notices and
criticisms in the "Gazette musicale" we must keep in mind the
relations between the publisher and composer, and the fact that
several of the writers in the paper were Chopin's intimate
friends, and many of them were of the clique, or party, to which
he also belonged. Sowinski, a countryman and acquaintance of
Chopin's, says of this concert that the theatre was crowded and
all went well, but that Chopin's expectations were disappointed,
the E minor Concerto not producing the desired effect. The
account in Larousse's "Grand Dictionnaire" is so graphic that it
makes one's flesh creep. After remarking that Chopin obtained
only a demi-success, the writer of the article proceeds thus:
"The bravos of his friends and a few connoisseurs alone disturbed
the cold and somewhat bewildered attitude of the majority of the
audience." According to Sowinski and others Chopin's repugnance
to play in public dates from this concert; but this repugnance
was not the outcome of one but of many experiences. The concert
at the Theatre-Italien may, however, have brought it to the
culminating point. Liszt told me that Chopin was most deeply hurt
by the cold reception he got at a concert at the Conservatoire,
where he played the Larghetto from the F minor Concerto. This
must have been at Berlioz's concert, which I mentioned on one of
the foregoing pages of this chapter.

Shortly after the concert at the Theatre-Italien, Chopin ventured
once more to face that terrible monster, the public. On Sunday,
April 26, 1835, he played at a benefit concert of Habeneck's,
which is notable as the only concert of the Societe des Concerts
du Conservatoire in which he took part. The programme was as
follows:--1. The "Pastoral Symphony," by Beethoven; 2. "The Erl-
King," by Schubert, sung by M. Ad. Nourrit; 3. Scherzo from the
"Choral Symphony," by Beethoven; 4. "Polonaise avec introduction"
[i.e., "Polonaise brillante precedee d'un Andante spianato"],
composed and played by M. Chopin; 5. Scena, by Beethoven, sung by
Mdlle. Falcon; 6. Finale from the C minor Symphony, by Beethoven.
The writer of the article Chopin in Larousse's "Grand
Dictionnaire" says that Chopin had no reason to repent of having
taken part in the concert, and others confirm this statement. In
Elwart's "Histoire des Concerts du Conservatoire" we read:--"Le
compositeur reveur, l'elegiaque pianiste, produisit a ce concert
un effet delicieux." To the author of the "Histoire dramatique en
France" and late curator of the Musee du Conservatoire I am
indebted for some precious communications. M. Gustave Chouquet,
who at the time we are speaking of was a youth and still at the
College, informed me in a charming letter that he was present at
this concert at which Chopin played, and also at the preceding
one (on Good Friday) at which Liszt played Weber's
"Concertstuck," and that he remembered very well "the fiery
playing of Liszt and the ineffable poetry of Chopin's style." In
another letter M. Chouquet gave a striking resume of the vivid
reminiscences of his first impressions:--

Liszt, in 1835 [he wrote], represented a merveilleux the
prototype of the virtuoso; while in my opinion Chopin
personified the poet. The first aimed at effect and posed as
the Paganini of the piano; Chopin, on the other hand, seemed
never to concern himself [se preuccuper] about the public,
and to listen only to the inner voices. He was unequal; but
when inspiration took hold of him [s'emparait de hit] he made
the keyboard sing in an ineffable manner. I owe him some
poetic hours which I shall never forget.

One of the facts safely deducible from the often doubtful and
contradictory testimonies relative to Chopin's public
performances is, that when he appeared before a large and mixed
audience he failed to call forth general enthusiasm. He who
wishes to carry the multitude away with him must have in him a
force akin to the broad sweep of a full river. Chopin, however,
was not a Demosthenes, Cicero, Mirabeau, or Pitt. Unless he
addressed himself to select conventicles of sympathetic minds,
the best of his subtle art remained uncomprehended. How well
Chopin knew this may be gathered from what he said to Liszt:--

I am not at all fit for giving concerts, the crowd
intimidates me, its breath suffocates me, I feel paralysed by
its curious look, and the unknown faces make me dumb. But you
are destined for it, for when you do not win your public, you
have the power to overwhelm it.

Opposition and indifference, which stimulate more vigorous
natures, affected Chopin as touch does the mimosa pudica, the
sensitive plant--they made him shrink and wither. Liszt observes
correctly that the concerts did not so much fatigue Chopin's
physical constitution as provoke his irritability as a poet;
that, in fact, his delicate constitution was less a reason than a
pretext for abstention, he wishing to avoid being again and again
made the subject of debate. But it is more difficult for one in
similar circumstances not to feel as Chopin did than for a
successful virtuoso like Liszt to say:--

If Chopin suffered on account of his not being able to take
part in those public and solemn jousts where popular
acclamation salutes the victor; if he felt depressed at
seeing himself excluded from them, it was because he did not
esteem highly enough what he had, to do gaily without what he
had not.

To be sure, the admiration of the best men of his time ought to
have consoled him for the indifference of the dull crowd. But do
we not all rather yearn for what we have not than enjoy what we
have? Nay, do we not even often bewail the unattainableness of
vain bubbles when it would be more seasonable to rejoice in the
solid possessions with which we are blessed? Chopin's discontent,
however, was caused by the unattainableness not of a vain bubble,
but of a precious crown. There are artists who pretend to despise
the great public, but their abuse of it when it withholds its
applause shows their real feeling. No artist can at heart be
fully satisfied with the approval of a small minority; Chopin, at
any rate, was not such a one. Nature, who had richly endowed him
with the qualities that make a virtuoso, had denied him one,
perhaps the meanest of all, certainly the least dispensable, the
want of which balked him of the fulfilment of the promise with
which the others had flattered him, of the most brilliant reward
of his striving. In the lists where men much below his worth won
laurels and gold in abundance he failed to obtain a fair share of
the popular acclamation. This was one of the disappointments
which, like malignant cancers, cruelly tortured and slowly
consumed his life.

The first performance of Bellini's "I Puritani" at the Theatre-
Italien (January 24, 1835), which as well as that of Halevy's "La
Juive" at the Academic (February 23, 1835), and of Auber's "Le
cheval de bronze" at the Opera-Comique (March 23, 1835), was one
of the chief musico-dramatic events of the season 1834-1835,
reminds me that I ought to say a few words about the relation
which existed between the Italian and the Polish composer. Most
readers will have heard of Chopin's touching request to be buried
by the side of Bellini. Loath though I am to discredit so
charming a story, duty compels me to state that it is wholly
fictitious. Chopin's liking for Bellini and his music, how ever,
was true and real enough. Hiller relates that he rarely saw him
so deeply moved as at a performance of Norma, which they attended
together, and that in the finale of the second act, in which
Rubini seemed to sing tears, Chopin had tears in his eyes. A
liking for the Italian operatic music of the time, a liking which
was not confined to Bellini's works, but, as Franchomme, Wolff,
and others informed me, included also those of Rossini, appears
at first sight rather strange in a musician of Chopin's
complexion; the prevalent musical taste at Warsaw, and a kindred
trait in the national characters of the Poles and Italians,
however, account for it. With regard to Bellini, Chopin's
sympathy was strengthened by the congeniality of their individual
temperaments. Many besides Leon Escudier may have found in the
genius of Chopin points of resemblance with Bellini as well as
with Raphael--two artists who, it is needless to say, were
heaven-wide apart in the mastery of the craft of their arts,
and in the width, height, and depth of their conceptions. The
soft, rounded Italian contours and sweet sonorousness of some
of Chopin's cantilene cannot escape the notice of the observer.
Indeed, Chopin's Italicisms have often been pointed out. Let me
remind the reader here only of some remarks of Schumann's, made
apropos of the Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 35:--

It is known that Bellini and Chopin were friends, and that
they, who often made each other acquainted with their
compositions, may perhaps have had some artistic influence on
each other. But, as has been said, there is [on the part of
Chopin] only a slight leaning to the southern manner; as soon
as the cantilena is at an end the Sarmatian flashes out

To understand Chopin's sympathy we have but to picture to
ourselves Bellini's personality--the perfectly well-proportioned,
slender figure, the head with its high forehead and scanty blonde
hair, the well-formed nose, the honest, bright look, the
expressive mouth; and within this pleasing exterior, the amiable,
modest disposition, the heart that felt deeply, the mind that
thought acutely. M. Charles Maurice relates a characteristic
conversation in his "Histoire anecdotique du Theatre." Speaking
to Bellini about "La Sonnambula," he had remarked that there was
soul in his music. This expression pleased the composer
immensely. "Oui, n'est-ce pas? De l'ame!" he exclaimed in his
soft Italian manner of speaking, "C'est ce que je veux...De
L'ame! Oh! je suis sensible! Merci!...C'est que l'ame, c'est
toute la musique!" "And he pressed my hands," says Charles
Maurice, "as if I had discovered a new merit in his rare talent."
This specimen of Bellini's conversation is sufficient to show
that his linguistic accomplishments were very limited. Indeed, as
a good Sicilian he spoke Italian badly, and his French was
according to Heine worse than bad, it was frightful, apt to make
people's hair stand on end.

When one was in the same salon with him, his vicinity inspired
one with a certain anxiety mingled with the fascination of terror
which repelled and attracted at the same time. His puns were not
always of an amusing kind. Hiller also mentions Bellini's bad
grammar and pronunciation, but he adds that the contrast between
what he said and the way he said it gave to his gibberish a charm
which is often absent from the irreproachable language of trained
orators. It is impossible to conjecture what Bellini might have
become as a musician if, instead of dying before the completion
of his thirty-third year (September 24, 1835), he had lived up to
the age of fifty or sixty; thus much, however, is certain, that
there was still in him a vast amount of undeveloped capability.
Since his arrival in Paris he had watched attentively the new
musical phenomena that came there within his ken, and the
"Puritani" proves that he had not done so without profit. This
sweet singer from sensuous Italy was not insensible even to the
depth and grandeur of German music. After hearing Beethoven's
Pastoral Symphony, for instance, he said to Hiller, his eyes
glistening as if he had himself done a great deed: "E bel comme
la nature!" [Footnote: I give the words literally as they are
printed in Hiller's Kimmerleben. The mixture of Italian and
French was no doubt intended, but hardly the spelling.] In short,
Bellini was a true artist, and therefore a meet companion for a
true artist like Chopin, of whose music it can be said with
greater force than of that of most composers that "it is all
soul." Chopin, who of course met Bellini here and there in the
salons of the aristocracy, came also in closer contact with him
amidst less fashionable but more congenial surroundings. I shall
now let Hiller, the pleasant story-teller, speak, who, after
remarking that Bellini took a great interest in piano-forte
music, even though it was not played by a Chopin, proceeds

I can never forget some evenings which I spent with him
[Bellini] and Chopin and a few other guests at Madame
Freppa's. Madame Freppa, an accomplished and exceedingly
musical woman, born at Naples, but of French extraction, had,
in order to escape from painful family circumstances, settled
in Paris, where she taught singing in the most distinguished
circles. She had an exceedingly sonorous though not powerful
voice, and an excellent method, and by her rendering of
Italian folk-songs and other simple vocal compositions of the
older masters charmed even the spoiled frequenters of the
Italian Opera. We cordially esteemed her, and sometimes went
together to visit her at the extreme end of the Faubourg St.
Germain, where she lived with her mother on a troisieme au
dessus de l'entresol, high above all the noise and tumult of
the ever-bustling city. There music was discussed, sung, and
played, and then again discussed, played, and sung. Chopin
and Madame Freppa seated themselves by turns at the
pianoforte; I, too, did my best; Bellini made remarks, and
accompanied himself in one or other of his cantilene, rather
in illustration of what he had been saying than for the
purpose of giving a performance of them. He knew how to sing
better than any German composer whom I have met, and had a
voice less full of sound than of feeling. His pianoforte-
playing sufficed for the reproduction of his orchestra,
which, indeed, is not saying much. But he knew very well what
he wanted, and was far from being a kind of natural poet, as
some may imagine him to have been.

In the summer of 1835, towards the end of July, Chopin journeyed
to Carlsbad, whither his father had been sent by the Warsaw
physicians. The meeting of the parents and their now famous son
after a separation of nearly five years was no doubt a very
joyous one; but as no accounts have come down to us of Chopin's
doings and feelings during his sojourn in the Bohemian watering-
place, I shall make no attempt to fill up the gap by a gushing
description of what may have been, evolved out of the omniscience
of my inner consciousness, although this would be an
insignificant feat compared with those of a recent biographer
whose imaginativeness enabled her to describe the appearance of
the sky and the state of the weather in the night when her hero
became a free citizen of this planet, and to analyse minutely the
characters of private individuals whose lives were passed in
retirement, whom she had never seen, and who had left neither
works nor letters by which they might be judged.

From Carlsbad Chopin went to Dresden. His doings there were of
great importance to him, and are of great interest to us. In
fact, a new love-romance was in progress. But the story had
better be told consecutively, for which reason I postpone my
account of his stay in the Saxon capital till the next chapter.

Frederick Wieck, the father and teacher of Clara, who a few years
later became the wife of Robert Schumann, sent the following
budget of Leipzig news to Nauenburg, a teacher of music in Halle,
in the autumn of 1835:--

The first subscription concert will take place under the
direction of Mendelssohn on October 4, the second on October
4. To-morrow or the day after to-morrow Chopin will arrive
here from Dresden, but will probably not give a concert, for
he is very lazy. He could stay here for some time, if false
friends (especially a dog of a Pole) did not prevent him from
making himself acquainted with the musical side of Leipzig.
But Mendelssohn, who is a good friend of mine and Schumann's,
will oppose this. Chopin does not believe, judging from a
remark he made to a colleague in Dresden, that there is any
lady in Germany who can play his compositions--we will see
what Clara can do.

The Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, Schumann's paper, of September
29, 1835, contained the following announcement:--

Leipzig will soon be able to show a Kalisz [Footnote: An
allusion to the encampment of Russian and Prussian troops and
friendly meeting of princes which took place there in 1835.]
as regards musical crowned heads. Herr Mendelssohn has
already arrived. Herr Moscheles comes this week; and besides
him there will be Chopin, and later, Pixis and Franzilla.
[Footnote: Franzilla (or Francilla) Pixis, the adopted
daughter of Peter Pixis, whose acquaintance the reader made
in one of the preceding chapters (p. 245).]

The details of the account of Chopin's visit to Leipzig which I
am now going to give, were communicated to me by Ernst Ferdinand
Wenzel, the well-known professor of pianoforte-playing at the
Leipzig Conservatorium, who died in 1880.

In the middle of the year 1835 the words "Chopin is coming" were
passing from mouth to mouth, and caused much stir in the musical
circles of Leipzig. Shortly after this my informant saw
Mendelssohn in the street walking arm in arm with a young man,
and he knew at once that the Polish musician had arrived, for
this young man could be no other than Chopin. From the direction
in which the two friends were going, he guessed whither their
steps were tending. He, therefore, ran as fast as his legs would
carry him to his master Wieck, to tell him that Chopin would be
with him in another moment. The visit had been expected, and a
little party was assembled, every one of which was anxious to see
and hear the distinguished artist. Besides Wieck, his wife,
daughter, and sister-in-law, there were present Robert Schumann
and Wieck's pupils Wenzel, Louis Rakemann, and Ulex. But the
irascible pedagogue, who felt offended because Chopin had not
come first to him, who had made such efforts for the propagation
of his music, would not stay and welcome his visitor, but
withdrew sulkily into the inner apartments. Wieck had scarcely
left the room when Mendelssohn and Chopin entered. The former,
who had some engagement, said, "Here is Chopin!" and then left,
rightly thinking this laconic introduction sufficient. Thus the
three most distinguished composers of their time were at least
for a moment brought together in the narrow space of a room.
[Footnote: This dictum, like all superlatives and sweeping
assertions, will no doubt raise objectors; but, I think, it may
be maintained, and easily maintained with the saving clause
"apart from the stage."] Chopin was in figure not unlike
Mendelssohn, but the former was more lightly built and more
graceful in his movements. He spoke German fluently, although
with a foreign accent. The primary object of Chopin's visit was
to make the acquaintance of Clara Wieck, who had already acquired
a high reputation as a pianist. She played to him among other
things the then new and not yet published Sonata in F sharp minor
(Op. 11) by Schumann, which she had lately been studying. The
gentlemen dared not ask Chopin to play because of the piano, the
touch of which was heavy and which consequently would not suit
him. But the ladies were bolder, and did not cease entreating him
till he sat down and played his Nocturne in E flat (Op. 9, No.
2). After the lapse of forty-two years Wenzel was still in
raptures about the wonderful, fairy-like lightness and delicacy
of Chopin's touch and style. The conversation seems to have
turned on Schubert, one of Schumann's great favourites, for
Chopin, in illustration of something he said, played the
commencement of Schubert's Alexander March. Meanwhile Wieck was
sorely tried by his curiosity when Chopin was playing, and could
not resist the temptation of listening in the adjoining room, and
even peeping through the door that stood slightly ajar. When the
visit came to a close; Schumann conducted Chopin to the house of
his friend Henrietta Voigt, a pupil of Louis Berger's, and
Wenzel, who accompanied them to the door, heard Schumann say to
Chopin: "Let us go in here where we shall find a thorough,
intelligent pianist and a good piano." They then entered the
house, and Chopin played and also stayed for dinner. No sooner
had he left, than the lady, who up to that time had been
exceedingly orthodox in her musical opinions and tastes, sent to
Kistner's music-shop, and got all the compositions by Chopin
which were in stock.

The letter of Mendelssohn which I shall quote presently and an
entry in Henrietta Voigt's diary of the year 1836, which will be
quoted in the next chapter, throw some doubt on the latter part
of Herr Wenzel's reminiscences. Indeed, on being further
questioned on the subject, he modified his original information
to this, that he showed Chopin, unaccompanied by Schumann, the
way to the lady's house, and left him at the door. As to the
general credibility of the above account, I may say that I have
added nothing to my informant's communications, and that in my
intercourse with him I found him to be a man of acute observation
and tenacious memory. What, however, I do not know, is the extent
to which the mythopoeic faculty was developed in him.

[Footnote: Richard Pohl gave incidentally a characterisation of
this exceedingly interesting personality in the Signale of
September, 1886, No. 48. Having been personally acquainted with
Wenzel and many of his friends and pupils, I can vouch for its
truthfulness. He was "one of the best and most amiable men I have
known," writes R. Pohl, "full of enthusiasm for all that is
beautiful, obliging, unselfish, thoroughly kind, and at the same
time so clever, so cultured, and so many-sided as--excuse me,
gentlemen--I have rarely found a pianoforte-teacher. He gave
pianoforte lessons at the Conservatorium and in many private
houses; he worked day after day, year after year, from morning
till night, and with no other outcome as far as he himself was
concerned than that all his pupils--especially his female
pupils--loved him enthusiastically. He was a pupil of Friedrich
Wieck and a friend of Schumann."]

In a letter dated October 6, 1835, and addressed to his family,
Mendelssohn describes another part of Chopin's sojourn in Leipzig
and gives us his opinion of the Polish artist's compositions and

The day after I accompanied the Hensels to Delitzsch, Chopin
was here; he intended to remain only one day, so we spent
this entirely together and had a great deal of music. I
cannot deny, dear Fanny, that I have lately found that you do
not do him justice in your judgment [of his talents]; perhaps
he was not in a right humour for playing when you heard him,
which may not unfrequently be the case with him. But his
playing has enchanted me anew, and I am persuaded that if you
and my father had heard some of his better pieces played as
he played them to me, you would say the same. There is
something thoroughly original and at the same time so very
masterly in his piano-forte-playing that he may be called a
really perfect virtuoso; and as every kind of perfection is
welcome and gratifying to me, that day was a most pleasant
one, although so entirely different from the previous ones
spent with you Hensels.

I was glad to be once more with a thorough musician, not with
those half-virtuosos and half-classics who would gladly
combine in music les honneurs de la vertu et les plaisirs du
vice, but with one who has his perfect and well-defined genre
[Richtung]. To whatever extent it may differ from mine, I can
get on with it famously; but not with those half-men. The
Sunday evening was really curious when Chopin made me play
over my oratorio to him, while curious Leipzigers stole into
the room to see him, and how between the first and second
parts he dashed off his new Etudes and a new Concerto, to the
astonishment of the Leipzigers, and I afterwards resumed my

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