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- Chopin: The Man and His Music - 5/43 -


writes, "nothing more was heard of Chopin's lack of technique." The criticisms were favorable. On May 20, 1832, Chopin appeared at a charity concert organized by Prince de la Moskowa. He was lionized in society and he wrote to Titus that his heart beat in syncopation, so exciting was all this adulation, social excitement and rapid gait of living. But he still sentimentalizes to Titus and wishes him in Paris.

A flirtation of no moment, with Francilla Pixis, the adopted daughter of Pixis the hunchback pianist--cruelly mimicked by Chopin--aroused the jealousy of the elder artist. Chopin was delighted, for he was malicious in a dainty way. "What do you think of this?" he writes. "_I_, a dangerous seducteur!" The Paris letters to his parents were unluckily destroyed, as Karasowski relates, by Russian soldiers in Warsaw, September 19, 1863, and with them were burned his portrait by Ary Scheffer and his first piano. The loss of the letters is irremediable. Karasowski who saw some of them says they were tinged with melancholy. Despite his artistic success Chopin needed money and began to consider again his projected trip to America. Luckily he met Prince Valentine Radziwill on the street, so it is said, and was persuaded to play at a Rothschild soiree. From that moment his prospects brightened, for he secured paying pupils. Niecks, the iconoclast, has run this story to earth and finds it built on airy, romantic foundations. Liszt, Hiller, Franchomme and Sowinski never heard of it although it was a stock anecdote of Chopin.

Chopin must have broadened mentally as well as musically in this congenial, artistic environment. He went about, hobnobbed with princesses, and of the effect of this upon his compositions there can be no doubt. If he became more cosmopolitan he also became more artificial and for a time the salon with its perfumed, elegant atmosphere threatened to drug his talent into forgetfulness of loftier aims. Luckily the master-sculptor Life intervened and real troubles chiselled his character on tragic, broader and more passionate lines. He played frequently in public during 1832-1833 with Hiller, Liszt, Herz and Osborne, and much in private. There was some rivalry in this parterre of pianists. Liszt, Chopin and Hiller indulged in friendly contests and Chopin always came off winner when Polish music was essayed. He delighted in imitating his colleagues, Thalberg especially. Adolphe Brisson tells of a meeting of Sand, Chopin and Thalberg, where, as Mathias says, the lady "chattered like a magpie" and Thalberg, after being congratulated by Chopin on his magnificent virtuosity, reeled off polite phrases in return; doubtless he valued the Pole's compliments for what they were worth. The moment his back was presented, Chopin at the keyboard was mocking him. It was then Chopin told Sand of his pupil, Georges Mathias, "c'est une bonne caboche." Thalberg took his revenge whenever he could. After a concert by Chopin he astonished Hiller by shouting on the way home. In reply to questions he slily answered that he needed a forte as he had heard nothing but pianissimo the entire evening!

Chopin was never a hearty partisan of the Romantic movement. Its extravagance, misplaced enthusiasm, turbulence, attacks on church, state and tradition disturbed the finical Pole while noise, reclame and boisterousness chilled and repulsed him. He wished to be the Uhland of Poland, but he objected to smashing idols and refused to wade in gutters to reach his ideal. He was not a fighter, yet as one reviews the past half century it is his still small voice that has emerged from the din, the golden voice of a poet and not the roar of the artistic demagogues of his day. Liszt's influence was stimulating, but what did not Chopin do for Liszt? Read Schumann. He managed in 1834 to go to Aix-la-Chapelle to attend the Lower Rhenish Music Festival. There he met Hiller and Mendelssohn at the painter Schadow's and improvised marvellously, so Hiller writes. He visited Coblenz with Hiller before returning home.

Professor Niecks has a deep spring of personal humor which he taps at rare intervals. He remarks that "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 to sigh." This slanting allusion is matched by his treatment of George Sand. After literally ratting her in a separate chapter, he winds up his work with the solemn assurance that he abstains "from pronouncing judgment because the complete evidence did not seem to me to warrant my doing so." This is positively delicious. When I met this biographer at Bayreuth in 1896, I told him how much I had enjoyed his work, adding that I found it indispensable in the re-construction of Chopin. Professor Niecks gazed at me blandly--he is most amiable and scholarly-looking--and remarked, "You are not the only one." He was probably thinking of the many who have had recourse to his human documents of Chopin. But Niecks, in 1888, built on Karasowski, Liszt, Schumann, Sand and others, so the process is bound to continue. Since 1888 much has been written of Chopin, much surmised.

With Matuszysnki the composer was happier. He devoutly loved his country and despite his sarcasm was fond of his countrymen. Never an extravagant man, he invariably assisted the Poles. After 1834- 5, Chopin's activity as a public pianist began to wane. He was not always understood and was not so warmly welcomed as he deserved to be; on one occasion when he played the Larghetto of his F minor concerto in a Conservatoire concert, its frigid reception annoyed him very much. Nevertheless he appeared at a benefit concert at Habeneck's, April 26, 1835. The papers praised, but his irritability increased with every public performance. About this time he became acquainted with Bellini, for whose sensuous melodies he had a peculiar predilection.

In July, 1835, Chopin met his father at Carlsbad. Then he went to Dresden and later to Leipzig, playing privately for Schumann, Clara Wieck, Wenzel and Mendelssohn. Schumann gushes over Chopin, but this friendliness was never reciprocated. On his return to Paris Chopin visited Heidelberg, where he saw the father of his pupil, Adolphe Gutmann, and reached the capital of the civilized world the middle of October.

Meanwhile a love affair had occupied his attention in Dresden. In September, 1835, Chopin met his old school friends, the Wodzinskis, former pupils at his father's school. He fell in love with their sister Marie and they became engaged. He spoke to his father about the matter, and for the time Paris and his ambitions were forgotten. He enjoyed a brief dream of marrying and of settling near Warsaw, teaching and composing--the occasional dream that tempts most active artists, soothing them with the notion that there is really a haven of rest from the world's buffets. Again the gods intervened in the interest of music. The father of the girl objected on the score of Chopin's means and his social position--artists were not Paderewskis in those days-- although the mother favored the romance. The Wodzinskis were noble and wealthy. In the summer of 1836, at Marienbad, Chopin met Marie again. In 1837, the engagement was broken and the following year the inconstant beauty married the son of Chopin's godfather, Count Frederic Skarbek. As the marriage did not prove a success--perhaps the lady played too much Chopin--a divorce ensued and later she married a gentleman by the name of Orpiszewski. Count Wodzinski wrote "Les Trois Romans de Frederic Chopin," in which he asserts that his sister rejected Chopin at Marienbad in 1836. But Chopin survived the shock. He went back to Paris, and in July 1837, accompanied by Camille Pleyel and Stanislas Kozmian, visited England for the first time. His stay was short, only eleven days, and his chest trouble dates from this time. He played at the house of James Broadwood, the piano manufacturer, being introduced by Pleyel as M. Fritz; but his performance betrayed his identity. His music was already admired by amateurs but the critics with a few exceptions were unfavorable to him.

Now sounds for the first time the sinister motif of the George Sand affair. In deference to Mr. Hadow I shall not call it a liaison. It was not, in the vulgar sense. Chopin might have been petty--a common failing of artistic men--but he was never vulgar in word or deed. He disliked "the woman with the sombre eye" before he had met her. Her reputation was not good, no matter if George Eliot, Matthew Arnold, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and others believed her an injured saint. Mr. Hadow indignantly repudiates anything that savors of irregularity in the relations of Chopin and Aurore Dudevant. If he honestly believes that their contemporaries flagrantly lied and that the woman's words are to be credited, why by all means let us leave the critic in his Utopia. Mary, Queen of Scots, has her Meline; why should not Sand boast of at least one apologist for her life--besides herself? I do not say this with cynical intent. Nor do I propose to discuss the details of the affair which has been dwelt upon ad nauseam by every twanger of the romantic string. The idealists will always see a union of souls, the realists--and there were plenty of them in Paris taking notes from 1837 to 1847--view the alliance as a matter for gossip. The truth lies midway.

Chopin, a neurotic being, met the polyandrous Sand, a trampler on all the social and ethical conventions, albeit a woman of great gifts; repelled at first he gave way before the ardent passion she manifested toward him. She was his elder, so could veil the situation with the maternal mask, and she was the stronger intellect, more celebrated--Chopin was but a pianist in the eyes of the many--and so won by her magnetism the man she desired. Paris, artistic Paris, was full of such situations. Liszt protected the Countess d'Agoult, who bore him children, Cosima Von Bulow-Wagner among the rest. Balzac--Balzac, that magnificent combination of Bonaparte and Byron, pirate and poet--was apparently leading the life of a saint, but his most careful student, Viscount Spelboerch de Lovenjoul--whose name is veritably Balzac-ian--tells us some different stories; even Gustave Flaubert, the ascetic giant of Rouen, had a romance with Madame Louise Colet, a mediocre writer and imitator of Sand,--as was Countess d'Agoult, the Frankfort Jewess better known as "Daniel Stern,"--that lasted from 1846 to 1854, according to Emile Faguet. Here then was a medium which was the other side of good and evil, a new transvaluation of morals, as Nietzsche would say. Frederic deplored the union for he was theoretically a Catholic. Did he not once resent the visit of Liszt and a companion to his apartments when he was absent? Indeed he may be fairly called a moralist. Carefully reared in the Roman Catholic religion he died confessing that faith. With the exception of the Sand episode, his life was not an irregular one, He abhorred the vulgar and tried to conceal this infatuation from his parents.

This intimacy, however, did the pair no harm artistically, notwithstanding the inevitable sorrow and heart burnings at the close. Chopin had some one to look after him--he needed it--and in the society of this brilliant Frenchwoman he throve amazingly: his best work may be traced to Nohant and Majorca. She on her side profited also. After the bitterness of her separation from Alfred de Musset about 1833 she had been lonely, for the Pagello intermezzo was of short duration. The De Musset-Sand story was not known in its entirety until 1896. Again M. Spelboerch de


Chopin: The Man and His Music - 5/43

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