Frederick Nicks, Frederick Chopin as a Man and Musician, London (Novello and Co., Ltd.) 31902, 2 voll.
(II, pp. 89÷114)
TWO PUBLIC CONCERTS, ONE IN 1841 AND ANOTHER IN 1842.—CHOPIN'S STYLE OF PLAYING: TECHNICAL QUALITIES; FAVOURABLE PHYSICAL CONDITIONS; VOLUME OF TONE; USE OF THE PEDALS; SPIRITUAL QUALITIES; TEMPO RUBATO; INSTRUMENTS.—HIS MUSICAL SYMPATHIES AND ANTIPATHIES.—OPINIONS ON MUSIC AND MUSICIANS.(*)
HE concert which Chopin gave in 1841, after several years of retirement, took place at Pleyel's rooms on Monday, the 26th of April. It was like his subsequent concerts a semi-public rather than a public one, for the audience consisted of a select circle of pupils, friends, and partisans who, as Chopin told Lenz,(a)
took the tickets in advance and divided them among themselves. As most of the pupils belonged to the aristocracy, it followed as a matter of course that the concert was emphatically what Liszt calls it, “un concert de
fashion.” The three chief musical papers of Paris: the Gazette Musicale
, the France Musicale
, and the Ménestrel
were unanimous in their high, unqualified praise of the concert-giver, “the king of the fête
, who was overwhelmed with bravos.” The pianoforte performances of Chopin took up by far the greater part of the programme, which was varied by two arias from Adam's La Rose de Péronne
, sung by Mdme. Damoreau-Cinti, who was as usual “ravissante de perfection
,” and by Ernst's Élegie
, played by the composer himself “in a grand style, with passionate feeling and a purity worthy of the great masters.” Escudier, the writer of the notice in the France Musicale
, says of Ernst's playing: “If you wish to hear the violin weep, go and hear Ernst; he produces such heart-rending, such passionate sounds, that you fear every moment to see his instrument break to pieces in his hands. It is difficult to carry farther the expression of sadness, of suffering, and of despair.”
To give the reader an idea of the character of the concert, I shall quote largely from Liszt's notice, in which he not only sets forth the merits of the artists,(b)
but also describes the appearance of the room and the audience. First, however, I must tell a pretty anecdote of which this notice reminds me. When Liszt was moving about among the audience during the intervals of the concert, paying his respects here and there, he came upon M. Ernest Legouvé. The latter told him of his intention to give an account of the concert in the Gazette Musicale
. Liszt thereupon said that he had a great wish to write one himself, and M. Legouvé, although reluctantly, gave way. When it came to the ears of Chopin that Liszt was going to report on the concert, he remarked: “ Il me donnera un petit royaume dans son empire
” (He will give me a little kingdom in his empire).(1) (c)
These few words speak volumes. But here is what Liszt wrote about the concert in the Gazette Musicale
of May 2, 1841:—(d)
Last Monday, at eight o'clock in the evening, M. Pleyel's rooms were brilliantly lighted up; numerous carriages brought incessantly to the foot of a staircase covered with carpet and perfumed with flowers the most elegant women, the most fashionable young men, the most celebrated artists, the richest financiers, the most illustrious noblemen, a whole élite of society, a whole aristocracy of birth, fortune, talent, and beauty.
A grand piano was open on a platform; people crowded round, eager for the seats nearest it; they prepared to listen, they composed them-selves, they said to themselves that they must not lose a chord, a note, an intention, a thought of him who was going to seat himself there. And people were right in being thus eager, attentive, and religiously moved, because he for whom they waited, whom they wished to hear, admire, and applaud, was not only a clever virtuoso, a pianist expert in the art of making notes [de faire des notes], not only an artist of great renown, he was all this and more than all this, he was Chopin...
... If less éclat
has gathered round his name, if a less bright aureole has encircled his head, it is not because he had not in him perhaps the same depth of feeling as the illustrious author of Conrad Wallenrod
and the Pilgrims
but his means of expression were too limited, his instrument too imperfect; he could not reveal his whole self by means of a piano. Hence, if we are not mistaken, a dull and continual suffering, a certain repugnance to reveal himself to the outer world, a sadness which shrinks out of sight under apparent gaiety, in short, a whole individuality in the highest degree remarkable and attractive.
... It was only rarely, at very distant intervals, that Chopin played in public; but what would have been for anyone else an almost certain cause of oblivion and obscurity was precisely what assured to him a fame above the caprices of fashion, and kept him from rivalries, jealousies, and injustice. Chopin, who has taken no part in the extreme movement which for several years has thrust one on another and one against another the executive artists from all quarters of the world, has been constantly surrounded by faithful adepts, enthusiastic pupils, and warm friends, all of whom, while guarding him against disagreeable contests and painful collisions, have not ceased to spread abroad his works, and with them admiration for his name. Moreover, this exquisite, altogether lofty, and eminently aristocratic celebrity has remained unattacked. A complete silence of criticism already reigns round it, as if posterity were come; and in the brilliant audience which flocked together to hear the too long silent poet there was neither reticence nor restriction, unanimous praise was on the lips of all.
... He has known how to give to new thoughts a new form. That element of wildness and abruptness which belongs to his country has found its expression in bold dissonances, in strange harmonies, while the delicacy and grace which belong to his personality were revealed in a thousand contours, in a thousand embellishments of an inimitable fancy.
In Monday's concert Chopin had chosen in preference those of his works which swerve more from the classical forms. He played neither concerto, nor sonata, nor fantasia, nor variations, but preludes, studies, nocturnes, and mazurkas. Addressing himself to a society rather than to a public, he could show himself with impunity as he is, an elegiac poet, profound, chaste, and dreamy. He did not need either to astonish or to overwhelm, he sought for delicate sympathy rather than for noisy enthusiasm. Let us say at once that he had no reason to complain of want of sympathy. From the first chords there was established a close communication between him and his audience. Two studies and a ballade were encored, and had it not been for the fear of adding to the already great fatigue which betrayed itself on his pale face, people would have asked for a repetition of the pieces of the programme one by one...
An account of the concert in La France Musicale
of May 2, 1841,(e)
contained a general characterisation of Chopin's artistic position with regard to the public coinciding with that given by Liszt, but the following excerpts from the other parts of the article may not be unacceptable to the reader:—
We spoke of Schubert because there is no other nature which has a more complete analogy with him. The one has done for the piano what the other has done for the voice... Chopin was a composer from conviction.(f) He composes for himself, and what he composes he performs for himself... Chopin is the pianist of sentiment par excellence. One may say that Chopin is the creator of a school of pianoforte-playing and of a school of composition. Indeed, nothing equals the lightness and sweetness with which the artist preludes on the piano, nothing again can be placed by the side of his works full of originality, distinction, and grace. Chopin is an exceptional pianist who ought not to be, and cannot be, compared with anyone.
The words with which the critic of the Ménestrel(g)
closes his remarks, describe well the nature of the emotions which the artist excited in his hearers:—
In order to appreciate Chopin rightly, one must love gentle impressions, and have the feeling for poetry: to hear Chopin is to read a strophe of Lamartine... Everyone went away full of sweet joy and deep reverie (recueillement).
The concert, which was beyond a doubt a complete success, must have given Chopin satisfaction in every respect.(h)
At any rate, he faced the public again before a year had gone by.(i)
In the Gazette Musicale
of February 20, 1842, we read that on the following evening, Monday, at Pleyel's rooms, the haute société de Paris et tous les artistes s'y donneront rendez-vous
. The programme of the concert was to be as follows:—
1. Andante suivi de la 3ième Ballade, par Chopin.
2. Felice Donzella, air de Dessauer.
3. Suite de Nocturnes, Préludes et Études, par Chopin.
4. Divers fragments de Handel, chanté par Madame Viardot-
5. Solo pour Violoncello, par M. Franchomme.
6. Nocturne, Préludes, Mazurkas et Impromptu.
[p. 93] 7. Le Chêne et le Roseau, chanté par Madame Viardot-Garcia, accompagné par Chopin.
Maurice Bourges, who a week later reports on the concert, states more particularly what Chopin played. He mentions three mazurkas in A flat major, B major, and A minor; three studies in A flat major, F minor, and C minor; the Ballade in A flat major; four nocturnes, one of which was that in F sharp minor; a prelude in D flat; and an impromptu in G (G flat major?). Maurice Bourges's account is not altogether free from strictures. He finds Chopin's ornamentations always novel, but sometimes mannered (maniérées
). He says: " Trop de recherche fine et minutieuse n'est pas quelquefois sans prétention et sans froideur.
" But on the whole the critique is very laudatory. "Liszt and Thalberg excite, as is well known, violent enthusiasm; Chopin also awakens enthusiasm, but of a less energetic, less noisy nature, precisely because he causes the most intimate chords of the heart to vibrate."(j)
From the report in the France musicale we see that the audience was not less brilliant than that of the first concert:—
... Chopin has given in Pleyel's hall a charming soirée, a fête peopled with adorable smiles, delicate and rosy faces, small and well-formed white hands; a splendid fête where simplicity was combined with grace and elegance, and where good taste served as a pedestal to wealth. Those ugly black hats which give to men the most unsightly appearance possible were very few in number. The gilded ribbons, the delicate blue gauze, the chaplets of trembling pearls, the freshest roses and mignonettes, in short, a thousand medleys of the prettiest and gayest colours were assembled, and intersected each other in all sorts of ways on the perfumed heads and snowy shoulders of the most charming women for whom the princely salons contend. The first success of the séance was for Madame George Sand. As soon as she appeared with her two charming daughters [daughter and cousin?], she was the observed of all observers. Others would have been disturbed by all those eyes turned on her like so many stars; but George Sand contented herself with lowering her head and smiling...(k)
This description is so graphic that one seems to see the actual scene, and imagines one's self one of the audience. It also points out a very characteristic feature of these concerts-namely, the preponderance of the fair sex. As /[p. 94] regards Chopin's playing, the writer remarks that the genre of execution which aims at the imitation of orchestral effects suits neither Chopin's organisation nor his ideas:—
In listening to all these sounds, all these nuances, which follow each other, intermingle, separate, and reunite to arrive at one and the same goal, melody, do you not think you hear little fairy voices sighing under silver bells, or a rain of pearls falling on crystal tables? The fingers of the pianist seem to multiply ad infinitum; it does not appear possible that only two hands can produce effects of rapidity so precise and so natural...
I shall now try to give the reader a clearer idea of what Chopin's style of playing was like than any and all of the criticisms and descriptions I have hitherto quoted can have done. And I do this not only in order to satisfy a natural curiosity, but also, and more especially, to furnish a guide for the better understanding and execution of the master's works. Some, seeing that no music reflects more clearly its author's nature than that of Chopin, may think that it would be wiser to illustrate the style of playing by the style of composition, and not the style of composition by the style of playing. Two reasons determine me to differ from them. Our musical notation is an inadequate exponent of the conceptions of the great masters—visible signs cannot express the subtle shades of the emotional language; and the capabilities of Chopin the composer and of Chopin the executant were by no means coextensive—we cannot draw conclusions as to the character of his playing from the character of his Polonaises in A major (Op. 40) and in A flat (Op. 53), and certain movements of the Sonata in B flat minor (Op. 35). The information contained in the following remarks is derived partly from printed publications, partly from private letters and conversations; nothing is admitted which does not proceed from Chopin's pupils, friends, and such persons as have frequently heard him.
What struck everyone who had the good fortune to hear Chopin was the fact that he was a pianist sui generis
. Moscheles calls him an unicum
; Mendelssohn describes him as "radically original" (grundeigenthümlich
); Meyerbeer said of him that he knew no pianist, no composer for the piano, /[p. 95]
like him; and thus I could go on quoting ad infinitum
. A writer in the Gazette musicale
(of the year 1835, I think), who, although he places at the head of his article side by side the names of Liszt, Hiller, Chopin, and — Bertini, proved himself in the characterisation of these pianists a man of some insight, remarks of Chopin: “Thought, style, conception, even the fingering, everything, in fact, appears individual, but of a communicative, expansive individuality, an individuality of which superficial organisations alone fail to recognise the magnetic influence (… pensée, style, conception, tout, jusqu'au doigté, tout se montre individuel, mais d'une individualité communicative, expansive, et dont les organisations superficielles méconnaissent seules l'influence magnétique
Chopin's place among the great pianists of the second quarter of this century has been felicitously characterised by an anonymous contemporary: Thalberg, he said, is a king, Liszt a prophet, Chopin a poet, Herz an advocate, Kalkbrenner a minstrel, Madame Pleyel a sibyl, and Doehler a pianist.
But if our investigation is to be profitable, we must proceed analytically. It will be best to begin with the fundamental technical qualities. First of all, then, we have to note the suppleness and equality of Chopin's fingers and the perfect independence of his hands. “The evenness of his scales and passages in all kinds of touch,” writes Mikuli, “was unsurpassed, nay, prodigious.” Gutmann told me that his master's playing was particularly smooth, and his fingering calculated to attain this result. A great lady who was present at Chopin's last concert in Paris (1848), when he played among other works his Valse in D flat (Op. 64, No. 1), wished to know “le secret de Chopin pour que les gammes fussent si coulées sur le piano.” Madame Dubois, who related this incident to me, added that the expression was felicitous, for this “limpidité delicate” had never been equalled. Such indeed were the lightness, delicacy, neatness, elegance, and gracefulness of Chopin's playing that they won for him the name of Ariel of the piano. The reader will remember how much Chopin admired these qualities in other artists, notably in Mdlle. Sontag and in Kalkbrenner.
So high a degree and so peculiar a kind of excellence was of course attainable only under exceptionally favourable conditions, physical as well as mental. The first and chief condition was a suitably formed hand. Now, no one can /[p. 96] look at Chopin's hand, of which there exists a cast, without perceiving at once its capabilities. It was indeed small, but at the same time it was thin, light, delicately articulated, and, if I may say so, highly expressive. Chopin's whole body was extraordinarily flexible. According to Gutmann, he could, like a clown, throw his legs over his shoulders. After this we may easily imagine how great must have been the flexibility of his hands, those members of his body which he had specially trained all his life. Indeed, the startlingly wide-spread chords, arpeggios, &c., which constantly occur in his compositions, and which until he introduced them had been undreamt-of and still are far from being common, seemed to offer him no difficulty, for he executed them not only without any visible effort, but even with a pleasing ease and freedom. Stephen Heller told me that it was a wonderful sight to see one of those small hands expand and cover a third of the keyboard. It was like the opening of the mouth of a serpent which is going to swallow a rabbit whole. In fact, Chopin appeared to be made of caoutchouc.
In the criticisms on Chopin's public performances we have met again and again with the statement that he brought little tone out of the piano. Now, although it is no doubt true that Chopin could neither subdue to his sway large audiences nor successfully battle with a full orchestra, it would be a mistake to infer from this that he was always a weak and languid player. Stephen Heller, who declared that Chopin's tone was rich, remembered hearing him play a duet with Moscheles (the latter's duet, of which Chopin was so fond), and on this occasion the Polish pianist, who insisted on playing the bass, drowned the treble of his partner, a virtuoso well known for his vigour and brilliancy. Were we, however, to form our judgment on this single item of evidence, we should again arrive at a wrong conclusion. Where musical matters—i.e., matters generally estimated according to individual taste and momentary impressibility alone—are concerned, there is safety only in the multitude of witnesses. Let us, therefore, hear first what Chopin's pupils have got to say on this point, and then go and inquire further. Gutmann said that Chopin /[p. 97] played generally very quietly, and rarely, indeed hardly ever, fortissimo. The A flat major Polonaise (Op. 53), for instance, he could not thunder forth in the way we are accustomed to hear it. As for the famous octave passages which occur in it, he began them pianissimo and continued thus without much increase in loudness. And, then, Chopin never thumped. M. Mathias remarks that his master had extraordinary vigour, but only in flashes. Mikuli's preface to his edition of the works of Chopin affords more explicit information. We read there:—
The tone which Chopin brought out of the instrument was always, especially in the cantabiles, immense (riesengross), only Field could perhaps in this respect be compared to him. A manly energy gave to appropriate passages overpowering effect—energy without roughness (Rohheit); but, on the other hand, he knew how by delicacy—delicacy without affectation—to captivate the hearer.
We may summarise these various depositions by saying with Lenz that, being deficient in physical strength, Chopin put his all in the cantabile style, in the connections and combinations, in the detail. But two things are evident, and they ought to be noted: (1) The volume of tone, of pure tone, which Chopin was capable of producing was by no means inconsiderable; (2) he had learnt the art of economising his means so as to cover his shortcomings. This last statement is confirmed by some remarks of Moscheles which have already been quoted—namely, that Chopin's piano was breathed forth so softly that he required no vigorous forte to produce the desired contrasts; and that one did not miss the orchestral effects which the German school demanded from a pianist, but allowed one's self to be carried away as by a singer who takes little heed of the accompaniment and follows his own feelings.
In listening to accounts of Chopin's style of playing, we must not leave out of consideration the time to which they refer. What is true of the Chopin of 1848 is not true of the Chopin of 1831 nor of 1841. In the last years of his life he became so weak that sometimes, as Stephen Heller told me, his playing was hardly audible. He then made use of all sorts of devices to hide the want of vigour, often modifying /[p. 98] the original conception of his compositions, but always producing beautiful effects. Thus, to give only one example (for which and much other interesting information I am indebted to Mr. Charles Hallé), Chopin played at his last concert in Paris (February, 1848) the two forte passages towards the end of the Barcarole, not as they are printed, but pianissimo and with all sorts of dynamic finesses. Having possessed himself of the most recondite mysteries of touch, and mastered as no other pianist had done the subtlest gradations of tone, he even then, reduced by disease as he was, did not give the hearer the impression of weakness. At least this is what Mr. Otto Goldschmidt relates, who likewise was present at this concert. There can be no doubt that what Chopin aimed at chiefly, or rather, let us say, what his physical constitution permitted him to aim at, was quality not quantity of tone. A writer in the Ménestrel (October 21, 1849) remarks that for Chopin, who in this was unlike all other pianists, the piano had always too much tone; and that his constant endeavour was to sentimentaliser the timbre, his greatest care to avoid everything which approached the fracas pianistique of the time.
Of course, a true artist's touch has besides its mechanical also its spiritual aspect. With regard to this it is impossible to overlook the personal element which pervaded and characterised Chopin's touch. M. Marmontel does not forget to note it in his Pianistes Célèbres. He writes:—
In the marvellous art of carrying and modulating the tone, in the expressive, melancholy manner of shading it off, Chopin was entirely himself. He had quite an individual way of attacking the keyboard, a supple, mellow touch, sonorous effects of a vaporous fluidity of which only he knew the secret. (Où Chopin était tout à fait lui-même, c'était dans l'art merveilleux de conduire et de moduler le son, dans la manière espressive, mélancolique de le nuancer. Chopin avait une façon toute personnelle d'attaquer le clavier, un toucher souple, moelleux, des effets de sonorité d'une fluidité vaporeuse dont lui seul connaissait le secret).(m)
In connection with Chopin's production of tone, I must not omit to mention his felicitous utilisation of the loud and soft pedals. It was not till the time of Liszt, Thalberg, and Chopin that the pedals became a power in pianoforte-playing. Hummel did not understand their importance, and failed to take advantage of them. The few indications we find in Beethoven's works prove that this genius began to see some of the as yet latent possibilities. Of the virtuosi, /[p. 99]
Moscheles was the first who made a more extensive and artistic use of the pedals, although also he employed them sparingly compared with his above-named younger contemporaries. Every pianist of note has, of course, his own style of pedalling. Unfortunately, there are no particulars forthcoming with regard to Chopin's peculiar style; and this is the more to be regretted as the composer was very careless in his notation of the pedals. Rubinstein declares that most of the pedal marks in Chopin's compositions are wrongly placed. If nothing more, we know at least thus much: "No pianist before him [Chopin] has employed the pedals alternately or simultaneously with so much tact and ability," and "in making constantly use of the pedal he obtained des harmonies ravissantes, des bruissements mélodiques qui étonnaient et charmaient
The poetical qualities of Chopin's playing are not so easily defined as the technical ones. Indeed, if they are definable at all they are so only by one who, like Liszt, is a poet as well as a great pianist. I shall, therefore, transcribe from his book some of the most important remarks bearing on this matter.
After saying that Chopin idealised the fugitive poesy inspired by fugitive apparitions like La Fée aux Miettes, Le Lutin d'Argail, &c., to such an extent as to render its fibres so thin and friable that they seemed no longer to belong to our nature, but to reveal to us the indiscreet confidences of the Undines, Titanias, Ariels, Queen Mabs, and Oberons, Liszt proceeds thus:—
When this kind of inspiration laid hold of Chopin his playing assumed a distinctive character, whatever the kind of music he executed might be—dance-music or dreamy music, mazurkas or nocturnes, preludes or scherzos, waltzes or tarantellas, studies or ballades. He imprinted on them all one knows not what nameless colour, what vague appearance, what pulsations akin to vibration, that had almost no longer anything material about them, and, like the imponderables, seemed to act on one's being without passing through the senses. Sometimes one thought one heard the joyous tripping of some amorously-teasing Peri; sometimes there were modulations velvety and iridescent as the robe of a salaman-/[p. 100]der; sometimes one heard accents of deep despondency, as if souls in torment did not find the loving prayers necessary for their final deliverance. At other times there breathed forth from his fingers a despair so mournful, so inconsolable, that one thought one saw Byron's Jacopo Foscari come to life again, and contemplated the extreme dejection of him who, dying of love for his country, preferred death to exile, being unable to endure the pain of leaving Venezia la bella!(o)
It is interesting to compare this description with that of another poet, a poet who sent forth his poetry daintily dressed in verse as well as carelessly wrapped in prose. Liszt tells us that Chopin had in his imagination and talent something "qui, par la pureté de sa diction, par ses accointances avec
La Fée aux Miettes et
Le Lutin d'Argail, par ses rencontres de
Séraphine et de
Diane, murmurant a son oreille leurs plus confidentielles plaintes, leurs rêves les plus innommés
reminded him of Nodier. Now, what thoughts did Chopin's playing call up in Heine?
Yes, one must admit that Chopin has genius in the full sense of the word; he is not only a virtuoso, he is also a poet; he can embody for us the poesy which lives within his soul, he is a tone-poet, and nothing can be compared to the pleasure which he gives us when he sits at the piano and improvises. He is then neither a Pole, nor a Frenchman, nor a German, he reveals then a higher origin, one perceives then that he comes from the land of Mozart, Raphael, and Goethe, his true fatherland is the dream-realm of poesy. When he sits at the piano and improvises I feel as though a countryman from my beloved native land were visiting me and telling me the most curious things which have taken place there during my absence... Sometimes I should like to interrupt him with questions: And how is the beautiful little water-nymph who knows how to fasten her silvery veil so coquettishly round her green locks? Does the white-bearded sea-god still persecute her with his foolish, stale love? Are the roses at home still in their flame-hued pride? Do the trees still sing as beautifully in the moonlight?(q)
But to return to Liszt. A little farther on than the passage I quoted above he says:—
In his playing the great artist rendered exquisitely that kind of agitated trepidation, timid or breathless, which seizes the heart when /[p. 101] one believes one's self in the vicinity of supernatural beings, in presence of those whom one does not know either how to divine or to lay hold of, to embrace or to charm. He always made the melody undulate like a skiff borne on the bosom of a powerful wave; or he made it move vaguely like an aerial apparition suddenly sprung up in this tangible and palpable world. In his writings he at first indicated this manner which gave so individual an impress to his virtuosity by the term tempo rubato: stolen, broken time—a measure at once supple, abrupt, and languid, vacillating like the flame under the breath which agitates it, like the corn in a field swayed by the soft pressure of a warm air, like the top of trees bent hither and thither by a keen breeze.
But as the term taught nothing to him who knew, said nothing to him who did not know, understand, and feel, Chopin afterwards ceased to add this explanation to his music, being persuaded that if one understood it, it was impossible not to divine this rule of irregularity. Accordingly, all his compositions ought to be played with that kind of accented, rhythmical balancement
, that morbidezza
, the secret of which it was difficult to seize if one had not often heard him play.(r)
Let us try if it is not possible to obtain a clearer notion of this mysterious tempo rubato
. Among instrumentalists the "stolen time" was brought into vogue especially by Chopin and Liszt. But it is not an invention of theirs or their time. Quanz, the great flutist (see Marpurg: Kritische Beiträge
. Vol. I.), said that he heard it for the first time from the celebrated singer Santa Stella Lotti, who was engaged in 1717 at the Dresden Opera, and died in 1759 at Venice.(s)
Above all, however, we have to keep in mind that the tempo rubato
is a genus which comprehends numerous species. In short, the tempo rubato
of Chopin is not that of Liszt, that of Liszt is not that of Henselt, and so on. As for the general definitions we find in dictionaries, they can afford us no particular enlightenment. But help comes to us from elsewhere. Liszt explained Chopin's tempo rubato
in a very poetical and graphic manner to his pupil the Russian pianist Neilissow:—"Look at these trees!" he said, "the wind plays in the leaves, stirs up life among them, the tree remains the same, that is Chopinesque rubato
." But how did the composer himself describe it? From Madame Dubois and other pupils of Chopin we learn that he was in the habit of saying to them: "Que votre main gauche soit votre maître de chapelle et garde toujours la mesure
" (Let your left hand be /[p. 102]
your conductor and always keep time). According to Lenz Chopin taught also: "Angenommen, ein Stück dauert so und so viel Minuten, wenn das
Ganze nur so lange gedauert hat, im Einzelnen kann's anders sein!
" (Suppose a piece lasts so and so many minutes, if only the whole lasts so long, the differences in the details do not matter).(t)
This is somewhat ambiguous teaching, and seems to be in contradiction to the preceding precept. Mikuli, another pupil of Chopin's, explains his master's tempo rubato
thus:—"While the singing hand, either irresolutely lingering or as in passionate speech eagerly anticipating with a certain impatient vehemence, freed the truth of the musical expression from all rhythmical fetters, the other, the accompanying hand, continued to play strictly in time." We get a very lucid description of Chopin's tempo rubato
from the critic of the Athenaeum
who after hearing the pianist-composer at a London matinée
in 1848 wrote:—"He makes <a> free use of tempo rubato: leaning about within his bars more than any player we recollect, but still subject to a presiding <sentiment of> measure such as presently habituates the ear to the liberties taken."(u
) Often, no doubt, people mistook for tempo rubato
what in reality was a suppression or displacement of accent, to which kind of playing the term is indeed sometimes applied. The reader will remember the following passage from a criticism in the Wiener Theaterzeitung
of 1829:—"There are defects noticeable in the young man's [Chopin's] playing, among which is perhaps especially to be mentioned the non-observance of the indication by accent of the commencement of musical phrases." Mr. Hallé related to me an interesting dispute bearing on this matter. The German pianist told Chopin one day that he played in his mazurkas often 4
instead of ¾ time. Chopin would not admit it at first, but when Mr. Hallé proved his case by counting to Chopin's playing, the latter admitted the correctness of the observation, and laughing said that this was national.(v)
Lenz reports a similar dispute between Chopin and Meyerbeer. In short, we may sum up in Moscheles' words, Chopin's playing did not degenerate into Tactlosigkeit
[lit., timelessness], but it was of the most charming originality. Along with the above testimony we /[p. 103]
have, however, to take note of what Berlioz said on the subject: "Chopin supportait mal le frein de la mesure; il a poussé beaucoup trop loin, selon moi, l'independance rhythmique.
" Berlioz even went so far as to say that "Chopin could not play strictly in time [ne pouvait pas jouer régulièrement
Indeed, so strange was Chopin's style that when Mr. Charles Hallé first heard him play his compositions he could not imagine how what he heard was represented by musical signs. But strange as Chopin's style of playing was he thinks that its peculiarities are generally exaggerated.(x)
The Parisians said of Rubinstein's playing of compositions of Chopin: “ Ce n'est pas ça!
” Mr. Hallé himself thinks that Rubinstein's rendering of Chopin is clever, but not Chopinesque. Nor do Von Bulow's readings come near the original. As for Chopin's pupils, they are even less successful than others in imitating their master's style. The opinion of one who is so distinguished a pianist and at the same time was so well acquainted with Chopin as Mr. Hallé is worth having. Hearing Chopin often play his compositions he got so familiar with that master's music and felt so much in sympathy with it that the composer liked to have it played by him, and told him that when he was in the adjoining room he could imagine he was playing himself.
But it is time that we got off the shoals on which we have been lying so long. Well, Lenz shall set us afloat:—
In the undulation of the motion, in that suspension and unrest [Hangen und Bangen], in the rubato as he understood it, Chopin was captivating, every note was the outcome of the best taste in the best sense of the word. If he introduced an embellishment, which happened only rarely, it was always a kind of miracle of good taste. Chopin was by his whole nature unfitted to render Beethoven or Weber, who paint on a large scale and with a big brush. Chopin was an artist in crayons [Pastellmaler], but an incomparable one! By the side of Liszt he might pass with honour for that master's well-matched wife [ebenbürtige Frau, i.e., wife of equal rank]. Beethoven's B flat major Sonata, Op. 106, and Chopin exclude each other.(y)
One day Chopin took Lenz with him to the Baronne Krüdner and her friend the Countess Schérémetjew to whom he had promised to play the variations of Beethoven's Sonata in A flat major (Op. 26). And how did he play them?
[p. 104] Beautifully [says Lenz], but not so beautifully as his own things, not enthrallingly [packend], not en relief, not as a romance increasing in interest from variation to variation. He whispered it mezza voce, but it was incomparable in the cantilena, infinitely perfect in the phrasing of the structure, ideally beautiful, but feminine! Beethoven is a man and never ceases to be one!
Chopin played on a Pleyel, he made it a point never to give lessons on another instrument; they were obliged to get a Pleyel. All were charmed, I also was charmed, but only with the tone of Chopin, with his touch, with his sweetness and grace, with the purity of his style.(z)
Chopin's purity of style, self-command, and aristocratic reserve have to be quite especially noted by us who are accustomed to hear the master's compositions played wildly, deliriously, ostentatiously. J. B. Cramer's remarks on Chopin are significant. The master of a bygone age said of the master of the then flourishing generation:—
I do not understand him, but he plays beautifully and correctly, oh! very correctly, he does not give way to his passion like other young men, but I do not understand him.(aa)
What one reads and hears of Chopin's playing agrees with the account of his pupil Mikuli, who remarks that, with all the warmth which Chopin possessed in so high a degree, his rendering was nevertheless temperate [massvoll
], chaste, nay, aristocratic, and sometimes even severely reserved. When, on returning home from the above-mentioned visit to the Russian ladies, Lenz expressed his sincere opinion of Chopin's playing of Beethoven's variations, the master replied testily: "I indicate (j'indique
); the hearer must complete (parachever
) the picture."(ab)
And when afterwards, while Chopin was changing his clothes in an adjoining room, Lenz committed the impertinence(ac)
of playing Beethoven's theme as he understood it, the master came in in his shirt-sleeves, sat down beside him, and at the end of the theme laid his hand on Lenz's shoulder and said: "I shall tell Liszt of it; this has never happened to me before; but it is beautiful-well, but must one then always speak so passionately
)?" The italics in the text, not those in parentheses, are mine. I marked some of Chopin's words thus that they might get the attention they deserve.
[p. 105] "Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are." Parodying this aphorism one might say, not without a good deal of truth: Tell me what piano you use, and I will tell you what sort of a pianist you are. Liszt gives us all the desirable information as to Chopin's predilection in this respect. But Lenz too has, as we have seen, touched on this point. Liszt writes:—
While Chopin was strong and healthy, as during the first years of his residence in Paris, he used to play on an Erard piano; but after his friend Camille Pleyel had made him a present of one of his splendid instruments, remarkable for their metallic ring and very light touch, he would play on no other maker's.
If he was engaged for a soirée
at the house of one of his Polish or French friends, he would often send his own instrument, if there did not happen to be a Pleyel in the house.(ad)
Chopin was very partial to [affectionnait
] Pleyel's pianos, particularly on account of their silvery and somewhat veiled sonority, and of the easy touch which permitted him to draw from them sounds which one might have believed to belong to those harmonicas of which romantic Germany has kept the monopoly, and which her ancient masters constructed so ingeniously, marrying crystal to water.(ae)
Chopin himself said:—
When I am indisposed, I play on one of Erard's pianos and there I easily find a ready-made tone. But when I feel in the right mood and strong enough to find my own tone for myself, I must have one of Pleyel's pianos.(af)
From the fact that Chopin played during his visit to Great Britain in 1848 at public concerts as well as at private parties on instruments of Broadwood's, we may conclude that he also appreciated the pianos of this firm. In a letter dated London, 48, Dover Street, May 6, 1848, he writes to Gutmann: « Érard a été charmant, il m'a fait poser un piano. J'ai un de Broadwood et un de Pleyel, ce qui fait 3, et je ne trouve pas encore le temps pour les jouer
And in a letter dated Edinburgh, August 6, and Calder House, August 11, he writes to Franchomme: "I have a Broadwood piano in my room, and the Pleyel of Miss Stirling in the salon
Here, I think, will be the fittest place to record what I have learnt regarding Chopin's musical taste and opinions on music and musicians, and what will perhaps illustrate better than any /[p. 106]
other part of this book the character of the man and artist. His opinions of composers and musical works show that he had in a high degree les vices de ses qualités
. The delicacy of his constitution and the super-refinement of his breeding, which put within his reach the inimitable beauties of subtlest tenderness and grace that distinguish his compositions and distinguished his playing, were disqualifications as well as qualifications. "Every kind of uncouth roughness [toutes les rudesses sauvages
] inspired him with aversion," says Liszt. "In music as in literature and in every-day life everything which bordered on melodrama was torture to him."(ah)
In short, Chopin was an aristocrat with all the exclusiveness of an aristocrat.
The inability of men of genius to appreciate the merit of one or the other of their great predecessors and more especially of their contemporaries has often been commented on and wondered at, but I doubt very much whether a musician could be instanced whose sympathies were narrower than those of Chopin. Besides being biographically important, the record of the master's likings and dislikings will teach a useful lesson to the critic and furnish some curious material for the psychological student.
Highest among all the composers, living and dead, Chopin esteemed Mozart. Him he regarded as "the ideal type, the poet par excellence
It is related of Chopin—with what truth I do not know—that he never travelled without having either the score of Don Giovanni
or that of the Requiem
in his portmanteau. Significant, although not founded on fact, is the story according to which he expressed the wish that the Requiem
should be performed at his funeral service. Nothing, however, shows his love for the great German master more unmistakably and more touchingly than the words which on his death-bed he addressed to his dear friends the Princess Czartoryska and M. Franchomme: "You will play Mozart together, and I shall hear you." And why did Chopin regard Mozart as the ideal type, the poet par excellence
? Liszt answers: "Because Mozart condescended more rarely than any other composer to cross the steps which separate refinement from vulgarity." But what no doubt more especially /[p. 107]
stirred sympathetic chords in the heart of Chopin, and inspired him with that loving admiration for the earlier master, was the sweetness, the grace, and the harmoniousness which in Mozart's works reign supreme and undisturbed—the unsurpassed and unsurpassable perfect loveliness and lovely perfection which result from a complete absence of everything that is harsh, hard, awkward, unhealthy, and eccentric. And yet, says Liszt of Chopin:—
His sybaritism of purity, his apprehension of what was commonplace, were such that even in Don Giovanni, even in this immortal chef-d'oeuvre, he discovered passages the presence of which we have heard him regret. His worship of Mozart was not thereby diminished, but as it were saddened.(ak)
The composer who next to Mozart stood highest in Chopin's esteem was Bach. "It was difficult to say," remarks Mikuli, "which of the two he loved most." Chopin not only, as has already been mentioned, had works of Bach on his writing-table at Valdemosa, corrected the Parisian edition for his own use,(al)
and prepared himself for his concerts by playing Bach,(am)
but also set his pupils to study the immortal cantor's suites, partitas, and preludes and fugues. Madame Dubois told me that at her last meeting with him (in 1848) he recommended her "de toujours travailler Bach
," adding that that was the best means of making progress.
Hummel, Field, and Moscheles were the pianoforte composers who seem to have given Chopin most satisfaction. Mozart and Bach were his gods, but these were his friends. Gutmann informed me that Chopin was particularly fond of Hummel; Liszt writes that Hummel was one of the composers Chopin played again and again with the greatest pleasure;(an)
and from Mikuli we learn that of Hummel's compositions his master liked best the Fantasia, the Septet, and the Concertos. Liszt's statement that the Nocturnes of Field were regarded by Chopin as "insuffisants
" seems to me disproved by unexceptionable evidence.(ao)
Chopin schooled his pupils most assiduously and carefully in the Nocturnes as well as in the Concertos of Field, who was, to use Madame Dubois's words, "an author very sympathetic to him." Mikuli relates that Chopin had a predilection for /[p. 108]
Field's A flat Concerto and the Nocturnes, and that, when playing the latter, he used to improvise the most charming embellishments. To take liberties with another artist's works and complain when another artist takes liberties with your own works is very inconsistent, is it not? But it is also thoroughly human, and Chopin was not exempt from the common failing. One day when Liszt did with some composition of Chopin's what the latter was in the habit of doing with Field's Nocturnes, the enraged composer is said to have told his friend to play his compositions as they were written or to let them alone. M. Marmontel writes:—
Either from a profound love of the art or from an excess of conscience personelle, Chopin could not bear any one to touch the text of his works. The slightest modification seemed to him a grave fault which he did not even forgive his intimate friends, his fervent admirers, Liszt not excepted. I have many a time, as well as my master, Zimmermann, caused Chopin's sonatas, concertos, ballades, and allegros to be played as examination pieces; but restricted as I was to a fragment of the work, I was pained by the thought of hurting the composer, who considered these alterations a veritable sacrilege.(ap)
This, however, is a digression. Little need be added to what has already been said in another chapter of the third composer of the group we were speaking of. Chopin, the reader will remember, told Moscheles that he loved his music, and Moscheles admitted that he who thus complimented him was intimately acquainted with it. From Mikuli we learn that Moscheles' studies were very sympathetic to his master. As to Moscheles' duets, they were played by Chopin probably more frequently than the works of any other composer, excepting of course his own works. We hear of his playing them not only with his pupils, but with Osborne, with Moscheles himself, and with Liszt, who told me that Chopin was fond of playing with him the duets of Moscheles and Hummel.
Speaking of playing duets reminds me of Schubert, who, Gutmann informed me, was a favourite of Chopin's. The Viennese master's Divertissement hongrois he admired without reserve. Also the marches and polonaises à quatre mains he played with his pupils. But his teaching répertoire /[p. 109] seems to have contained, with the exception of the waltzes, none of the works à deux mains, neither the sonatas, nor the impromptus, nor the Moments musicaux. This shows that if Schubert was a favourite of Chopin's, he was so only to a certain extent. Indeed, Chopin even found fault with the master where he is universally regarded as facile princeps. Liszt remarks:—
In spite of the charm which he recognised in some of Schubert's melodies, he did not care to hear those whose contours were too sharp for his ear, where feeling is as it were denuded, where one feels, so to speak, the flesh palpitate and the bones crack under the grasp of anguish.(aq) … À propos of Schubert, Chopin is reported to have said: "The sublime is dimmed when it is followed by the common or the trivial."(ar)
I shall now mention some of those composers with whom Chopin was less in sympathy. In the case of Weber his approval, however, seems to have outweighed his censure. At least Mikuli relates that the E minor and A flat major Sonatas and the Concertstück were among those works for which his master had a predilection, and Madame Dubois says that he made his pupils play the Sonatas in C and in A flat major with extreme care. Now let us hear Lenz:—
He could not appreciate Weber; he spoke of "opera," "unsuitable for the piano" [unklaviermässig]! On the whole, Chopin was little in sympathy with the German spirit in music, although I heard him say: "There is only one school, the German!"(as)
Gutmann informed me that he brought the A flat major Sonata with him from Germany in 1836 or 1837, and that Chopin did not know it then. It is hard enough to believe that Liszt asked Lenz in 1828 if the composer of the Freischütz
had also written for the piano, but Chopin's ignorance in 1836 is much more startling. Did fame and publications travel so slowly in the earlier part of the century? Had genius to wait so long for recognition? If the statement, for the correctness of which Gutmann alone is responsible, rests on fact and not on some delusion of memory, this most characteristic work of Weber and one of the most important items of the pianoforte literature did not reach Chopin, one of the foremost /[p. 110]
European pianists, till twenty years after its publication, which took place in December, 1816.(at)
That Chopin had a high opinion of Beethoven may be gathered from a story which Lenz relates in an article written for the Berliner Musikzeitung (Vol. XXVI). Little Filtsch—the talented young Hungarian who made Liszt say: "I shall shut my shop when he begins to travel"—having played to a select company invited by his master the latter's Concerto in E minor, Chopin was so pleased with his pupil's performance that he went with him to Schlesinger's music-shop, asked for the score of Fidelio, and presented it to him with the words:—"I am in your debt, you have given me great pleasure to-day, I wrote the concerto in a happy time, accept, my dear young friend, the great master work! read in it as long as you live and remember me also sometimes." But Chopin's high opinion of Beethoven was neither unlimited nor unqualified. His attitude as regards this master, which Franchomme briefly indicated by saying that his friend loved Beethoven, but had his dislikes in connection with him, is more fully explained by Liszt.
However great his admiration for the works of Beethoven might be, certain parts of them seemed to him too rudely fashioned. Their structure was too athletic to please him; their wraths seemed to him too violent [leurs courroux lui semblaient trop rugissants]. He held that in them passion too closely approaches cataclysm; the lion's marrow which is found in every member of his phrases was in his opinion a too substantial matter, and the seraphic accents, the Raphaelesque profiles, which appear in the midst of the powerful creations of this genius, became at times almost painful to him in so violent a contrast.(au)
I am able to illustrate this most excellent general description by some examples. Chopin said that Beethoven raised him one moment up to the heavens and the next moment precipitated him to the earth, nay, into the very mire. Such a fall Chopin experienced always at the commencement of the last movement of the C minor Symphony. Gutmann, who informed me of this, added that pieces such as the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata (C sharp minor) were most highly appreciated by his master. One day when Mr. Hallé played to Chopin one of the three Sonatas, Op. 31 (I /[p. 111]
am not sure which it was), the latter remarked that he had formerly thought the last movement vulgar
. From this Mr. Hallé naturally concluded that Chopin could not have studied the works of Beethoven thoroughly.(av)
This conjecture is confirmed by what we learn from Lenz, who in 1842 saw a good deal of Chopin, and thanks to his Boswellian inquisitiveness, persistence, and forwardness, made himself acquainted with a number of interesting facts. Lenz and Chopin spoke a great deal about Beethoven after that visit to the Russian ladies mentioned in a foregoing part of this chapter. They had never spoken of the great master before. Lenz says of Chopin:—
He did not take a very serious interest in Beethoven; he knew only his principal compositions, the last works not at all. This was in the Paris air! People knew the symphonies, the quartets of the middle period but little, the last ones not at all.(aw)
Chopin, on being told by Lenz that Beethoven had in the F minor Quartet anticipated Mendelssohn, Schumann, and him; and that the scherzo prepared the way for his mazurka-fantasias, said: "Bring me this quartet, I do not know it." According to Mikuli Chopin was a regular frequenter of the concerts of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire and of the Alard, Franchomme, &c., quartet party. But one of the most distinguished musicians living in Paris, who knew Chopin's opinion of Beethoven, suspects that the music was for him not the greatest attraction of the Conservatoire concerts, that in fact, like most of those who went there, he considered them a fashionable resort. True or not, the suspicion is undeniably significant. "But Mendelssohn," the reader will say, "surely Chopin must have admired and felt in sympathy with this sweet-voiced, well-mannered musician?" Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. Chopin hated Mendelssohn's D minor Trio, and told Hallé that that composer had never written anything better than the first Song without Words. Franchomme, stating the case mildly, says that Chopin did not care much for Mendelssohn's music; Gutmann, however, declared stoutly that his master positively disliked it and thought /[p. 112]
. This word and the mention of the Trio remind me of a passage in Hiller's "Mendelssohn: Letters and Recollections," in which the author relates how, when his friend played to him the D minor Trio after its completion, he was favourably impressed by the fire, spirit, and flow, in one word, the masterly character of the work, but had some misgivings about certain pianoforte passages, especially those based on broken chords, which, accustomed as he was by his constant intercourse with Liszt and Chopin during his stay of several years in Paris to the rich passage work of the new school, appeared to him old-fashioned.(ax)
Mendelssohn, who in his letters repeatedly alludes to his sterility in the matter of new pianoforte passages, allowed himself to be persuaded by Hiller to rewrite the pianoforte part, and was pleased with the result. It is clear from the above that if Mendelssohn failed to give Chopin his due, Chopin did more than apply the jus talionis
Schumann, however, found still less favour in the eyes of Chopin than Mendelssohn; for whilst among the works which, for instance, Madame Dubois, who was Chopin's pupil for five years, studied under her master, Mendelssohn was represented at least by the Songs without Words and the G minor Concerto, Schumann was conspicuous by his total absence. And let it be remarked that this was in the last years of Chopin's life, when Schumann had composed and published almost all his important works for pianoforte alone and many of his finest works for pianoforte with other instruments. M. Mathias, Chopin's pupil during the years 1839-1844, wrote to me: "I think I recollect that he had no great opinion of Schumann. I remember seeing the Carnaval
, Op. 9, on his table; he did not speak very highly of it." In 1838, when Stephen Heller was about to leave Augsburg for Paris, Schumann sent him a copy of his Carnaval
(published in September, 1837), to be presented to Chopin. This copy had a title-page printed in various colours and was most tastefully bound; for Schumann knew Chopin's love of elegance, and wished to please him. Soon after his arrival in Paris, Heller called on the Polish musician and found him sitting for his portrait. On receiving the /[p. 113]
copy of the Carnaval
Chopin said: "How beautifully they get up these things in Germany!" but uttered not a word about the music. However, we shall see presently what his opinion of it was. Some time, perhaps some years, after this first meeting with Chopin, Hellerwas asked by Schlesinger whether he would advise him to publish Schumann's Carnaval
. Heller answered that it would be a good speculation, for although the work would probably not sell well at first, it was sure to pay in the long run. Thereupon Schlesinger confided to Heller what Chopin had told him-namely, that the Carnaval
was not music at all. The contemplation of this indifference and more than indifference of a great artist to the creations of one of his most distinguished contemporaries is saddening, especially if we remember how devoted Schumann was to Chopin, how he admired him, loved him, upheld him, and idolised him. Had it not been for Schumann's enthusiastic praise and valiant defence Chopin's fame would have risen and spread, more slowly in Germany.(ay)
"Of virtuoso music of any kind I never saw anything on his desk, nor do I think anybody else ever did," says Mikuli. This, although true in the main, is somewhat too strongly stated. Kalkbrenner, whose "noisy virtuosities [virtuosités tapageuses
] and decorative expressivities [expressivités decoratives
]" Chopin regarded with antipathy, and Thalberg, whose shallow elegancies and brilliancies he despised, were no doubt altogether banished from his desk;(az)
this, however, seems not to have been the case with Liszt, who occasionally made his appearance there. Thus Madame Dubois studied under Chopin Liszt's transcription of Rossini's Tarantella
and of the Septet from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor
. But the compositions of Liszt that had Chopin's approval were very limited in number. Chopin, who viewed making concessions to bad taste at the cost of true art and for the sake of success with the greatest indignation, found his former friend often guilty of this sin. In 1840 Liszt's transcription of Beethoven's Adelaide
was published in a supplement to the Gazette musicale
. M. Mathias happened to come to Chopin on the day when the latter had received the number /[p. 114]
of the journal which contained the piece in question, and found his master furious, outré
, on account of certain cadenzas which he considered out of place and out of keeping.
We have seen in one of the earlier chapters how little Chopin approved of Berlioz's matter and manner; some of the ultra-romanticist's antipodes did not fare much better. As for Halevy, Chopin had no great opinion of him; Meyerbeer's music he heartily disliked; and, although not insensible to Auber's French esprit and liveliness, he did not prize this master's works very highly. Indeed, at the Italian opera-house he found more that was to his taste than at the French opera-houses. Bellini's music had a particular charm for Chopin, and he was also an admirer of Rossini.
The above notes exemplify and show the truth of Liszt's remark:—
In the great models and the master-works of art Chopin sought only what corresponded with his nature. What resembled it pleased him; what differed from it hardly received justice from him.(ba)
[*] The notes numbered are Niecks'; the ones marked by letters are ours.
(a) Cf. W. von Lenz, Die grossen Pianoforte-Virtuosen unserer Zeit aus persönlicher Bekanntschaft. Liszt. – Chopin. – Tausig. – Henselt., Berlin (B. Behr's Buchhandlung) 1872, p. 36: «Jetzt spielte er nur einmal jährlich, halb öffentlich, in einem gewählten Zirkel seiner Schüler und Anhänger, unter der Blüthe der höchsten Gesellschaft, die im Voraus die Billette nahm, und unter sich vertheilte, wie er mir erzählte (Now he played only once a year, semi-publicly, to a select circe of his pupils and adherents, among the flower of the highest society, who took the tickets in advance, and divided them among themselves, as he told me)».
(b) About this Liszt's account we reserve to write an article.
(1) Since I wrote the above, M. Legouvé has published his Soixante ans de Souvenirs, and in this book gives his version of the story, which, it is to be hoped, is less incorrect than some other statements of his relating to Chopin: “He [Chopin] had asked me to write a report of the concert. Liszt claimed the honour. I hastened to announce this good news to Chopin, who quietly said to me: 'I should have liked better if it had been you.' 'What are you thinking of my dear friend! An article by Liszt, that is a fortunate thing for the public and for you. Trust in his admiration for your talent. I promise you qu'il vous fera un beau royaume.'-'Oui, me dit-il en souriant, dans son empire!'”
[c] In note no. 1, here above, Niecks writes: “…which [version], it is to be hoped, is less incorrect than some other statements of his relating to Chopin,” but he does not justify in any way such a sibylline observation. His partisanship for Liszt to the detriment of Chopin meanders through the whole chapter.
[d] The reader will find the full text of the review by clicking on the following link: Liszt's Review of the Concert performed by Chopin on April 26, 1841.
 Adam Mickiewicz.
[e] The reader will find the full text of the review by clicking on the following link: Léon Escudier's Review of the Concert performed by Chopin on April 26, 1841.
[f] It is not clear what Niecks wanted to translate, because the original text is different: “Chopin is a pianist from conviction (Chopin est un pianiste de conviction)".
[g] The reader will find the full text of the review by clicking on the following link: Review of the Concert performed by Chopin on April 26, 1841, published by Le Ménestrel.
[h] We have found another account not mentioned by Niecks. The anonymous author (“C.V.”), who takes the reviews of both the France Musicale and the Ménestrel as starting point, gives to understand that he attended the concert. The reader will find the full text of the review by clicking on the following link: Another review of the Concert performed by Chopin on April 26, 1841.
[i] To tell the truth, in the meanwhile Chopin gave another concert. In fact, on December 1, 1841, he was the only instrumentalist at a concert the Duke d'Orléans offered to his guests, who in that occasion were 150—not 500 as Atwood writes in his appreciable book (cf. W. G. Atwood, Fryderyk Chopin Pianist from Warsaw, New York [Columbia University Press] 1987, p. 136: probably a translator's misunderstanding)—. It is clear that the concert was not a public one, but the guests had not been chosen among Chopin's friends and pupils. In any case, according to the author of the short article published by La France Musicale, Chopin performed en public. The composer executed the third Ballade and, as it was already happened in previous occasions, improvised too. The reader will find the text of the three short accounts by clicking on the following link: Short accounts on Chopin's participation to Royal Concert of December 1, 1841.
[j] The reader will find the full text of the review by clicking on the following link: Maurice Bourges' Review of the Concert performed by Chopin on February 21, 1842.
[k] The reader will find the full text of the review by clicking on the following link: Léon Escudier's Review of the Concert performed by Chopin on February 21, 1842.
[l] This vacuous and longwinded article quoted by Niecks wants to sing Liszt's praises, glorieuse pyramide de ce triangle de talents. The passage, which Niecks translates literally, is hard to be understood both in French and in English. What the author means is that in spite of good points and uniqueness the effect of Chopin's performance misses magnetism, i.e. does not galvanize the audience. In any case, this article was not published in 1835: Niecks' memory failed. Nevertheless, this time we let the pleasure of finding the true date of publication to those pseudo-chopinologists—as long as they are willing to do it, of course—, who write books by making use of someone else's researches without quoting them.
[m] Cf. A. Marmontel, Les pianistes célèbres, Paris (A. Chaix et Cie) 1878, p. 4.
 Marmontel, Les Pianistes célèbres.
[n] Ibid., pp. 4-5.
[o] Cf. F. Liszt, F. Chopin, Leipsic (Breitkopf et Haerte) 21879, p. 113. Niecks extracts this passage and the following ones from the second edition (nouvelle édition), which was the result of the unscrupulous and capricious revision by the wordy Princess Wittgenstein—with Liszt's consent of course.
 The allusions are to stories by Charles Nodier. According to Sainte-Beuve, La Fée aux Miettes was one of those stories in which the author was influenced by Hoffmann's creations.
[p] The first edition's text expresses a different thought: "Chopin savait que son talent, dont le style et l'imagination nous rappelaient ceux de Nodier, par la pureté [...]; Chopin savait, disons-nous, qu'il n'agissait pas sur la multitude et ne pouvait frapper les masses, car pareils à une mer de plomb, leurs flots malléables à tous les feux, n'en sont pas moins lourds à remuer, et nécessitent le bras puissant de l'ouvrier athlète pour être versés dans un moule, où le métal en fusion devient tout d'un coup pensée et sentiment, sous la forme qu'on lui impose."
[q] Cf. H. Heine, De tout un peu, Paris (Calman Lévy, Éditeur) 1890, p. 307f.
[r] Compared with the first edition, the text from agitated till to charm is a figment of the unrestrained imagination of Princess Wittgenstein. In any case, even in the bombastic style of this period, the word morbidezza—-into Italian language in the original too—bears out, together with the context, that Chopin with rubato meant breathing, exactly like the great singers of the age of Belcanto did. We will deal with the question elsewhere in detail.
[s] Actually, in his short biography Quantz tells us that in 1719 heard two Italian operas for the first time in his life (Dieses war nun die ersten Opern, die ich in meinem Leben gehöret hatte). Moreover, he mentions the singers and gives an opinion on them. About Santa Stella (Lotti was the family name of her husband, who conducted the orchestra) he writes: «Madame Lotti had a full and loud soprano voice, a good intonation and a good quaver. She had some difficulty in doing high notes. The Adagios were her strong point. I heard for the first time the so-called Tempo rubato from her. On the stage she cut a very fine figure, and her attitude was irreproachable, particularly playing lofty characters (Die Lotti hatte eine völlige starcke Sopranstimme, gute Intonation, und guten Trillo. Die hohen Töne machten ihr einige Mühe. Das Adagio was ihre Stärcke. Das sogenannte Tempo rubato habe ich von ihr zum erstenmale gehöret. Sie machte auf der Schaubühne eine sehr gute Figur, und ihre Action war besonders in erhabener Charakteren unverbesserlich)» (cf. J. J. Quantz, Herrn Johann Joachim Quantzens Lebenslauf, von ihm selbst entworfen, in „Historisch-kritische Beyträge zur Aufnahme der Musik“, I.3 , p. 212ff.). Well, since the singers company counted even Francesco Bernardi, called Senesino, one of the most renowned castratos at that time, one may asks what Quantz meant by tempo rubato; in fact, it is absolutely unlikely that the other singers of the company did not make use of it, as there is no Belcanto without tempo rubato. Apropos of tempo rubato and Chopin, the topic has been exhaustively treated with full knowledge of the matter—a very rare coincidence!—by G. Belotti, Le origini italiane del “rubato” chopiniano, republished in Saggi sull'arte e sull'opera di F. Chopin, Bologna 1977, pp. 41÷75.
[t] Cf. W. von Lenz, Die grossen Pianoforte-Virtuosen unserer Zeit aus persönlicher Bekanntschaft, Berlin (B. Behr's Buchhandlung) 1872, p. 47.
[u] The text of this account has been republished in “The Musical Times” 23 (1882) p. 315f., from which we notice that Niecks leaves out “a” and “sentiment of”.
[v] The reader will find the report of that episode told by Hallé himself, by clicking on the following link: Kalkbrenner, Chopin, Liszt e Thalberg.
[w] From Niecks onwards, these Berlioz's assertions are quoted out of their context, and so they lose their real meaning: «Ernst was compared to Chopin. In some respects this comparison is quite pertinent, but in many others, and much more important, it is missing altogether. Considered from a strictly musical point of view, these two artists differ from each other substantially. Chopin supported badly the brake of the time, and he pushed too far, in my opinion, rhythmic independence. Even if Ernst takes the reasonable liberties admitted by the art and often requested by a passionate expression, he remains a regular, measured musician, who steadily keeps imperturbable even among his most daring whims. Chopin could not play regularly. Ernst, when he likes doing it, can leave for a few seconds the regularity, so that-when he comes back into the measured time-he gets regularity's power felt in a better way. You ought to hear him in Beethoven's Quartets for appreciating such a skill. [...]», cf. H. Berlioz, Mémoires, II, Paris (Calmann-Lévy, Éditerus, post 1865, p. 295f.
[x] In his autobiography Hallé does not mention at all such exaggeration, which Niecks talks about
[y] Cf. W. von Lenz, op. cit., p. 47.
[z] Ibid. p. 39. Perhaps Lenz does not realize that “purity of style” and “feminine” are in contradiction.
[aa] Ibid. p. 30.
[ab] “Testily” is an arbitrary and incomprehensible invention of Niecks, because Lenz tells exactly the opposite: «… without any touchiness (ohne alle Empfindlichkeit)»!, cf. ibid. p. 39.
[ac] Why Niecks wants to give to Lenz's words a strain which they have not, we do not understand or nearly... It is true that Lenz is not surely innocent, but his aim is another, and we will talk about elsewhere.
[ad] Liszt never wrote these lines either in the first or in the second edition of his Chopin. Probably Niecks mistook his notes.
[ae] This passage, instead, is a quotation not from the second, but from the first edition. In the second edition, the Princess Wittgenstein simply restricted herself reshaping the period without adding anything. As for “veiled”, cf. in this site the note no. 9 to the article On the margins of the XVI International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition of Warsaw. We add here that Marmontel, too, qualifies the Pleyel's pianos sonority “voilée”, but not together with “argentine”—as Liszt does—but with “discrète”, and expresses a thought decidedly opposite to that of Liszt. Cf. A. Marmontel, Histoire du piano, Paris (Heugel & Fils) 1885, pp. 248, 256, 356.
[af] Niecks draws this quotation from H. Blaze de Bury, Musiciens contemporains, Paris (Michel Lévy Frères) 1856, p. 118; nevertheless, the reader will find a more precise exposition of what Chopin meant, in A. Marmontel, op. cit., p. 256.
[ag] The text edited by the Korespondencja is a little different: «Érard s'est montré très empressé et a mis un de ses pianos à ma disposition. J'ai donc un instrument de Broadwood, un autre de Pleyel – en tout trois pianos, mais à quoi cela me sert-il puisque je n'ai pas le temps de jouer (Erard was very courteous, and placed a piano at my disposal. I have one instrument of Broadwood and one of Pleyel: three in all; but what is the use, since I have not the time to play on them)».
[ah] Cf. p. 194 of the second edition.
[ai] Ibid. p. 196.
[aj] Ibid. p. 196.
[ak] Ibid. p. 196f.
[al] An example of such a corrections is now offered by J.S. Bach, Vingt-quatre Préludes et Fugues (Le Clavier bien tempéré, Livre I) Annoté par Frédéric Chopin, comm. de J.-J. Eigeldinger, Paris (Société française de Musicologie) 2010.
[am] W. von Lenz, op. cit., p. 36.
[an] Cf. F. Liszt, op. cit., p. 196: «Hummel, parmi les compositeurs de piano, était un des auteurs qu'il relisait avec le plus de plaisir».
[ao] Ibid. p. 191: «Les nocturnes de Field, les sonates de Dussek, les virtuosités tapageuses et les expressivités décoratives de Kalkbrenner, lui étant ou insuffisants ou antipathiques, il prétendait n'être pas attaché aux rivages fleuris et un peu mignards des uns, ni obligé de trouver bonnes les manières échevelées des autres». Here is an evidence of Princess Wittgenstein's unscrupulous revision; in fact, in the first edition the judgements on Mozart and Hummel were in the chapter titled “Jeunesse de Chopin”, where there is no hint of Field, Dussek, and Kalkbrenner. Most likely, Princess Wittgenstein, preparing the second edition, mixed up, as she liked, news and nouns heard during her chats with Liszt, whose annotation with regard to Field's Nocturnes stops being embarrassing, if you ascribe it to its true authoress.
[ap] Cf. A. Marmontel, Les pianistes célèbres, Paris (A. Chaix et Cie) 1878, p. 11f.
[aq] Cf. op.cit., p. 194.
[ar] Ibid. p. 196.
[as] Cf. W. von Lenz, op.cit., p. 41.
[at] Niecks seems a little shocked, but we cannot see anything strange in that. As Niecks too is quite aware, at the time the ways for knowing new music were only two: (a) to have a score at one's disposal; (b) to hear a performance live. In Poland Chopin may have had neither opportunity, and in Paris he rationed his time according to his needs. We would have done the same!
[au] Cf. op.cit., p. 193f.
[av] See, just in this site, what Hallé himself tells us about.
[aw] Cf. W. von Lenz, op.cit., p. 40.
[ax] Cf. F. Hiller, Letters and Recollections, translated, with the consent and revision of the author, by M.E. von Glehn, London (Macmillan and Co.) 1874, p. 154s.
[ay] Niecks' statements are very odd indeed: in substance he maintains that the received courtesies must be reciprocated, if necessary, by the lie; in other words, Chopin had to praise in any case and without reservation his colleague's music. This is a principle of mafia-like solidarity, which in a single blow discredits all Niecks' judgments. As for the attitude of Schumann toward Chopin, we are afraid Niecks lies knowingly: let aside the famous “hats-off !”—which Schumann was in the habit of doing—the inconsistent critiques of the German musician show a progressive change of direction, cf. the essay even too cautious of L. Bronarski, Les jugements de Schumann sur les œuvres de Chopin, in Etudes sur Chopin, II, Lausanne (Éditions La Concorde) 1946, pp. 71÷140.
[az] See here above note ao.
[ba] Cf. op.cit. p. 193).
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