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- Chopin: The Man and His Music - 3/43 -


with friends for Bohemia, arriving at Prague two days later. There he saw everything and met Klengel, of canon fame, a still greater canon-eer than the redoubtable Jadassohn of Leipzig. Chopin and Klengel liked each other. Three days later the party proceeded to Teplitz and Chopin played in aristocratic company. He reached Dresden August 26, heard Spohr's "Faust" and met capellmeister Morlacchi--that same Morlacchi whom Wagner succeeded as a conductor January 10, 1843--vide Finck's "Wagner." By September 12, after a brief sojourn in Breslau, Chopin was again safe at home in Warsaw.

About this time he fell in love with Constantia Gladowska, a singer and pupil of the Warsaw Conservatory. Niecks dwells gingerly upon his fervor in love and friendship--"a passion with him" and thinks that it gives the key to his life. Of his romantic friendship for Titus Woyciechowski and John Matuszynski- -his "Johnnie"--there are abundant evidences in the letters. They are like the letters of a love-sick maiden. But Chopin's purity of character was marked; he shrank from coarseness of all sorts, and the Fates only know what he must have suffered at times from George Sand and her gallant band of retainers. To this impressionable man, Parisian badinage--not to call it anything stronger--was positively antipathetical. Of him we might indeed say in Lafcadio Hearn's words, "Every mortal man has been many million times a woman." And was it the Goncourts who dared to assert that, "there are no women of genius: women of genius are men"? Chopin needed an outlet for his sentimentalism. His piano was but a sieve for some, and we are rather amused than otherwise on reading the romantic nonsense of his boyish letters.

After the Vienna trip his spirits and his health flagged. He was overwrought and Warsaw became hateful to him, for he loved but had not the courage to tell it to the beloved one. He put it on paper, he played it, but speak it he could not. Here is a point that reveals Chopin's native indecision, his inability to make up his mind. He recalls to me the Frederic Moreau of Flaubert's "L'Education Sentimentale." There is an atrophy of the will, for Chopin can neither propose nor fly from Warsaw. He writes letters that are full of self-reproaches, letters that must have both bored and irritated his friends. Like many other men of genius he suffered all his life from folie de doute, indeed his was what specialists call "a beautiful case." This halting and irresolution was a stumbling block in his career and is faithfully mirrored in his art.

Chopin went to Posen in October, 1829, and at the Radziwills was attracted by the beauty and talent of the Princess Elisa, who died young. George Sand has noted Chopin's emotional versatility in the matter of falling in and out of love. He could accomplish both of an evening and a crumpled roseleaf was sufficient cause to induce frowns and capricious flights--decidedly a young man tres difficile. He played at the "Ressource" in November, 1829, the Variations, opus 2. On March 17, 1830, he gave his first concert in Warsaw, and selected the adagio and rondo of his first concerto, the one in F minor, and the Potpourri on Polish airs. His playing was criticised for being too delicate--an old complaint--but the musicians, Elsner, Kurpinski and the rest were pleased. Edouard Wolff said they had no idea in Warsaw of "the real greatness of Chopin." He was Polish, this the public appreciated, but of Chopin the individual they missed entirely the flavor. A week later, spurred by adverse and favorable criticism, he gave a second concert, playing the same excerpts from this concerto--the slow movement is Constance Gladowska musically idealized--the Krakowiak and an improvisation. The affair was a success. From these concerts he cleared six hundred dollars, not a small sum in those days for an unknown virtuoso. A sonnet was printed in his honor, champagne was offered him by an enthusiastic Paris bred, but not born, pianist named Dunst, who for this act will live in all chronicles of piano playing. Worse still, Orlowski served up the themes of his concerto into mazurkas and had the impudence to publish them.

Then came the last blow: he was asked by a music seller for his portrait, which he refused, having no desire, he said with a shiver, to see his face on cheese and butter wrappers. Some of the criticisms were glowing, others absurd as criticisms occasionally are. Chopin wrote to Titus the same rhapsodical protestations and finally declared in meticulous peevishness, "I will no longer read what people write about me." This has the familiar ring of the true artist who cares nothing for the newspapers but reads them religiously after his own and his rivals' concerts.

Chopin heard Henrietta Sontag with great joy; he was ever a lover and a connoisseur of singing. He advised young pianists to listen carefully and often to great singers. Mdlle. de Belleville the pianist and Lipinski the violinist were admired, and he could write a sound criticism when he chose. But the Gladowska is worrying him. "Unbearable longing" is driving him to exile. He attends her debut as Agnese in Paer's opera of that title and writes a complete description of the important function to Titus, who is at his country seat where Chopin visits him betimes. Agitated, he thinks of going to Berlin or Vienna, but after much philandering remains in Warsaw. On October 11, 1830, following many preparations and much emotional shilly-shallying, Chopin gave his third and last Warsaw concert. He played the E minor concerto for the first time in public but not in sequence. The first and last two movements were separated by an aria, such being the custom of those days. Later he gave the Fantasia on Polish airs. Best of all for him, Miss Gladowska sang a Rossini air, "wore a white dress and roses in her hair, and was charmingly beautiful." Thus Chopin; and the details have all the relevancy of a male besieged by Dan Cupid. Chopin must have played well. He said so himself, and he was always a cautious self-critic despite his pride. His vanity and girlishness peep out in his recital by the response to a quartet of recalls: "I believe I did it yesterday with a certain grace, for Brandt had taught me how to do it properly." He is not speaking of his poetic performance, but of his bow to the public. As he formerly spoke to his mother of his pretty collar, so as young man he makes much of his deportment. But it is all quite in the role; scratch an artist and you surprise a child.

Of course, Constantia sang wonderfully. "Her low B came out so magnificently that Zielinski declared it alone was worth a thousand ducats." Ah, these enamored ones! Chopin left Warsaw November 1, 1830, for Vienna and without declaring his love. Or was he a rejected suitor? History is dumb. He never saw his Gladowska again, for he did not return to Warsaw. The lady was married in 1832--preferring a solid certainty to nebulous genius- -to Joseph Grabowski, a merchant at Warsaw. Her husband, so saith a romantic biographer, Count Wodzinski, became blind; perhaps even a blind country gentleman was preferable to a lachrymose pianist. Chopin must have heard of the attachment in 1831. Her name almost disappears from his correspondence. Time as well as other nails drove from his memory her image. If she was fickle, he was inconstant, and so let us waste no pity on this episode, over which lakes of tears have been shed and rivers of ink have been spilt.

Chopin was accompanied by Elsner and a party of friends as far as Wola, a short distance from Warsaw. There the pupils of the Conservatory sang a cantata by Elsner, and after a banquet he was given a silver goblet filled with Polish earth, being adjured, so Karasowski relates, never to forget his country or his friends wherever he might wander. Chopin, his heart full of sorrow, left home, parents, friends, and "ideal," severed with his youth, and went forth in the world with the keyboard and a brain full of beautiful music as his only weapons.

At Kaliz he was joined by the faithful Titus, and the two went to Breslau, where they spent four days, going to the theatre and listening to music. Chopin played quite impromptu two movements of his E minor concerto, supplanting a tremulous amateur. In Dresden where they arrived November 10, they enjoyed themselves with music. Chopin went to a soiree at Dr. Kreyssig's and was overwhelmed at the sight of a circle of dames armed with knitting needles which they used during the intervals of music-making in the most formidable manner. He heard Auber and Rossini operas and Rolla, the Italian violinist, and listened with delight to Dotzauer and Kummer the violoncellists--the cello being an instrument for which he had a consuming affection. Rubini, the brother of the great tenor, he met, and was promised important letters of introduction if he desired to visit Italy. He saw Klengel again, who told the young Pole, thereby pleasing him very much, that his playing was like John Field's. Prague was also visited, and he arrived at Vienna in November. There he confidently expected a repetition of his former successes, but was disappointed. Haslinger received him coldly and refused to print his variations or concerto unless he got them for nothing. Chopin's first brush with the hated tribe of publishers begins here, and he adopts as his motto the pleasing device, "Pay, thou animal," a motto he strictly adhered to; in money matters Chopin was very particular. The bulk of his extant correspondence is devoted to the exposure of the ways and wiles of music publishers. "Animal" is the mildest term he applies to them, "Jew" the most frequent objurgation. After all Chopin was very Polish.

He missed his friends the Blahetkas, who had gone to Stuttgart, and altogether did not find things so promising as formerly. No profitable engagements could be secured, and, to cap his misery, Titus, his other self, left him to join the revolutionists in Poland November 30. His letters reflect his mental agitation and terror over his parents' safety. A thousand times he thought of renouncing his artistic ambitions and rushing to Poland to fight for his country. He never did, and his indecision--it was not cowardice--is our gain. Chopin put his patriotism, his wrath and his heroism into his Polonaises. That is why we have them now, instead of Chopin having been the target of some black-browed Russian. Chopin was psychically brave; let us not cavil at the almost miraculous delicacy of his organization. He wrote letters to his parents and to Matuszyriski, but they are not despairing-- at least not to the former. He pretended gayety and had great hopes for the future, for he was living entirely on means supplied him by his father. News of Constantia gladdened him, and he decided to go to Italy, but the revolution early in 1831 decided him for France. Dr. Malfatti was good to him and cheered him, and he managed to accomplish much social visiting. The letters of this period are most interesting. He heard Sarah Heinefetter sing, and listened to Thaiberg's playing of a movement of his own concerto. Thalberg was three years younger than Chopin and already famous. Chopin did not admire him: "Thalberg plays famously, but he is not my man...He plays forte and piano with the pedals but not with the hand; takes tenths as easily as I do octaves, and wears studs with diamonds."

Thalberg was not only too much of a technician for Chopin, but he was also a Jew and a successful one. In consequence, both poet and Pole revolted.


Chopin: The Man and His Music - 3/43

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