The Two Nocturnes Op. 48 were completed during the autumn of 1841. They are dedicated to one of Chopin‘s favorite pupils, Laure Duperré. One of the major works of the composer, the Nocturne Op. 48 No. 1 in C minor (Lento) is an impressive and tragic masterpiece breaking new musical ground. Its dark and austere solemnity is combined with an intensity at times almost unbearable.
It is one of the longest Nocturne, and one of the most dramatic. It represents a real diary of Chopin, where you can guess the expression of severe pain. Chopin wanted that the initial measures stand out as thematic element. As such he stressed the tone of the first three notes by playing them with the third finger, the finger which is the most forte in the piano.
This first episode is « Lento » is followed by a new element « Poco più lento » with shelled agreements and arpeggio which bring as a hope, but gradually the excitement is augmented, the sound volume increases, on figures haunting of triolets and double tongs in octaves and accelerates gradually towards the last fascinated passage feverish and desperate « Doppio movimento ». The theme gets detached, on a bass at the outlines more and more romantic and tormented. The nocturne ended as a long plaint.
In contrast, the softness nostalgic for the Nocturne Op. 48 No. 2 en F sharp minor (Andantino) expresses more serenity.
Eric Douzet – Web site diverse
Nocturne No. 13 in C Minor played by Samson François
|Blue Note – French paragraph
Les témoignages qui nous sont parvenus, nous les devons aux participants des soirées parisiennes de la Rue Pigalle, ils font la description d‘un salon aux lumières baissées où Chopin, entouré de ses compatriotes, leur jouait du piano. Assis devant l‘instrument, il préludait par de légers arpèges en glissant comme à l‘accoutumée sur les touches du piano jusqu‘à ce qu‘il trouve, par le rubato, la tonalité reflétant le mieux l‘ambiance générale de la soirée. Cette « note bleue » est un terme de George Sand qui décelait « l‘azur de la nuit transparente » dès lors Chopin édifiait la base de ses improvisations, variations ou encore le choix d‘une de ses œuvres dans la tonalité correspondante.
Robert Schumann nous rapporte, non sans énervement, qu‘à la fin de ce type de manifestation, Chopin avait comme manie de faire glisser rapidement sa main sur les touches du piano de gauche à droite « comme pour effacer le rêve qu‘il venait de créer ».
Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, the Polish composer and pianist, was born on 1 March 1810, according to the statements of the artist himself and his family, but according to his baptismal certificate, which was written several weeks after his birth, the date was 22 February. His birthplace was the village of Zelazowa Wola near Sochaczew, in the region of Mazovia, which was part of the Duchy of Warsaw. The manor-house in Zelazowa Wola belonged to Count Skarbek and Chopin‘s father, Mikolaj (Nicolas) Chopin, a Polonized Frenchman, was employed there as a tutor. He had been born in 1771 in Marainville in the province of Lorraine in France, but already as a child he had established contacts with the Polish families of Count Michal Pac and the manager of his estate, Jan Adam Weydlich. At the age of 16, Mikolaj accompanied them to Poland where he settled down permanently. He never returned to France and did not retain contacts with his French family but brought up his children as Poles. In 1806, Mikolaj Chopin married Tekla Justyna Krzyzanowska, who was the housekeeper for the Skarbek family at Zelazowa Wola. They had four children: three daughters Ludwika, Izabela and Emilia, and a son Fryderyk, the second child. Several months after his birth, the whole family moved to Warsaw, where Mikolaj Chopin was offered the post of French language and literature lecturer in the Warsaw Lyceum. He also ran a boarding school for sons of the gentry.
The musical talent of Fryderyk became apparent extremely early on, and it was compared with the childhood genius of Mozart. Already at the age of 7, Fryderyk was the author of two polonaises (in G minor and B flat major), the first being published in the engraving workshop of Father Cybulski. The prodigy was featured in the Warsaw newspapers, and « little Chopin » became the attraction and ornament of receptions given in the aristocratic salons of the capital. He also began giving public charity concerts. His first professional piano lessons, given to him by Wojciech Zywny (b. 1756 in Bohemia), lasted from 1816 to 1822, when the teacher was no longer able to give any more help to the pupil whose skills surpassed his own. The further development of Fryderyk‘s talent was supervised by Wilhelm Würfel (b.1791 in Bohemia), the renowned pianist and professor at the Warsaw Conservatory who was to offer valuable, although irregular, advice as regards playing the piano and organ.
From 1823 to 1826, Fryderyk attended the Warsaw Lyceum where his father was one of the professors. He spent his summer holidays in estates belonging to the parents of his school friends in various parts of the country. For example, he twice visited Szafarnia in the Kujawy region where he revealed a particular interest in folk music and country traditions. The young composer listened to and noted down the texts of folk songs, took part in peasant weddings and harvest festivities, danced, and played a folk instrument resembling a double bass with the village musicians; all of which he described in his letters. Chopin became well acquainted with the folk music of the Polish plains in its authentic form, with its distinct tonality, richness of rhythms and dance vigour. When composing his first mazurkas in 1825, as well as the later ones, he resorted to this source of inspiration which he kept in mind until the very end of his life.
In the autumn of 1826, Chopin began studying the theory of music, figured bass and composition at the Warsaw High School of Music, which was both part of the Conservatory and, at the same time, connected with Warsaw University. Its head was the composer Józef Elsner (b. 1769 in Silesia). Chopin, however, did not attend the piano class. Aware of the exceptional nature of Chopin‘s talent, Elsner allowed him, in accordance with his personality and temperament, to concentrate on piano music but was unbending as regards theoretical subjects, in particular counterpoint. Chopin, endowed by nature with magnificent melodic invention, ease of free improvisation and an inclination towards brilliant effects and perfect harmony, gained in Elsner‘s school a solid grounding, discipline, and precision of construction, as well as an understanding of the meaning and logic of each note. This was the period of the first extended works such as the Sonata in C minor, Variations, Op. 2 on a theme from Don Juan by Mozart, the Rondo á la Krakowiak, Op. 14, the Fantaisie, Op. 13 on Polish Airs (the three last ones written for piano and orchestra) and the Trio in G minor, Op. 8 for piano, violin and cello. Chopin ended his education at the High School in 1829, and after the third year of his studies Elsner wrote in a report: « Chopin, Fryderyk, third year student, amazing talent, musical genius ».
After completing his studies, Chopin planned a longer stay abroad to become acquainted with the musical life of Europe and to win fame. Up to then, he had never left Poland, with the exception of two brief stays in Prussia. In 1826, he had spent a holiday in Bad Reinertz (modern day Duszniki-Zdrój) in Lower Silesia, and two years later he had accompanied his father‘s friend, Professor Feliks Jarocki, on his journey to Berlin to attend a congress of naturalists. Here, quite unknown to the Prussian public, he concentrated on observing the local musical scene. Now he pursued bolder plans. In July 1829 he made a short excursion to Vienna in the company of his acquaintances. Wilhelm Würfel, who had been staying there for three years, introduced him to the musical milieu, and enabled Chopin to give two performances in the Kärtnertortheater, where, accompanied by an orchestra, he played Variations, Op. 2 on a Mozart theme and the Rondo á la Krakowiak, Op. 14, as well as performing improvisations. He enjoyed tremendous success with the public, and although the critics censured his performance for its small volume of sound, they acclaimed him as a genius of the piano and praised his compositions. Consequently, the Viennese publisher Tobias Haslinger printed the Variations on a theme from Mozart (1830). This was the first publication of a Chopin composition abroad, for up to then, his works had only been published in Warsaw.
Upon his return to Warsaw, Chopin, already free from student duties, devoted himself to composition and wrote, among other pieces, two Concertos for piano and orchestra: in F minor and E minor. The first concerto was inspired to a considerable extent by the composer‘s feelings towards Konstancja Gladkowska, who studied singing at the Conservatory. This was also the period of the first nocturne, etudes, waltzes, mazurkas, and songs to words by Stefan Witwicki. During the last months prior to his planned longer stay abroad, Chopin gave a number of public performances, mainly in the National Theatre in Warsaw where the première of both concertos took place. Originally, his destination was to be Berlin, where the artist had been invited by Prince Antoni Radziwill, the governor of the Grand Duchy of Poznan, who had been appointed by the king of Prussia, and who was a long-standing admirer of Chopin‘s talent and who, in the autumn of 1829, was his host in Antonin. Chopin, however, ultimately chose Vienna where he wished to consolidate his earlier success and establish his reputation. On 11 October 1830, he gave a ceremonial farewell concert in the National Theatre in Warsaw, during which he played the Concerto in E minor, and K. Gladkowska sang. On 2 November, together with his friend Tytus Woyciechowski, Chopin left for Austria, with the intention of going on to Italy.
Several days after their arrival in Vienna, the two friends learnt about the outbreak of the uprising in Warsaw, against the subservience of the Kingdom of Poland to Russia and the presence of the Russian Tsar on the Polish throne. This was the beginning of a months-long Russo-Polish war. T. Woyciechowski returned to Warsaw to join the insurgent army, while Chopin, succumbing to the persuasion of his friend, stayed in Vienna. In low spirits and anxious about the fate of his country and family, he ceased planning the further course of his career, an attitude explained in a letter to J. Elsner: « In vain does Malfatti try to convince me that every artist is a cosmopolitan. Even if so, as an artist, I am still in my cradle, as a Pole, I am already twenty; I hope, therefore that, knowing me well, you will not chide me that so far I have not thought about the programme of the concert. » The performance ultimately took place on 11 June 1831, in the Kärtnerthortheater, where Chopin played the Concerto in E minor. The eight months spent in Vienna were not wasted. Strong and dramatic emotional experiences inspired the creative imagination of the composer, probably accelerating the emergence of a new, individual style, quite different from his previous brilliant style. The new works, which revealed force and passion, included the sketch of the Scherzo in B minor and, above all, the powerful Etudes from Op. 10.
Having given up his plans for a journey to Italy, due to the hostilities there against Austria, Chopin resolved to go to Paris. On the way, he first stopped in Munich where he gave a concert on the 28th of August and then went on to Stuttgart. Here he learnt about the dramatic collapse of the November Uprising and the capture of Warsaw by the Russians. His reaction to this news assumed the form of a fever and nervous crisis. Traces of these experiences are encountered in the so-called Stuttgart diary: « The enemy is in the house (...) Oh God, do You exist? You do and yet You do not avenge. – Have You not had enough of Moscow‘s crimes – or are You Yourself a Muscovite [...] I here, useless! And I here empty-handed. At times I can only groan, suffer, and pour out my despair at my piano! ».
n the autumn of 1831 Chopin arrived in Paris where he met many fellow countrymen. Following the national defeat, thousands of exiles, including participants of the armed struggle, politicians, representatives of Polish culture, such as the writer Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, Romantic poets A. Mickiewicz and Juliusz Slowacki, and the Warsaw friends of Chopin, the poets Stefan Witwicki and Bohdan Zaleski, sought refuge from the Russian occupation in a country and city which they found most friendly. Chopin made close contacts with the so-called Great Emigration, befriended its leader Prince Adam Czartoryski, and became a member of the Polish Literary Society, which he supported financially. He also attended emigre meetings, played at charity concerts held for poor emigres, and organised similar events.
In Paris, his reputation as an artist grew rapidly. Letters of recommendation which the composer brought from Vienna allowed him immediately to join the local musical milieu, which welcomed him cordially. Chopin became the friend of Liszt, Mendelssohn, Ferdinand Hiller, Berlioz and Auguste Franchomme. Later on, in 1835, in Leipzig, he also met Schumann who held his works in great esteem and wrote enthusiastic articles about the Polish composer. Upon hearing the performance of the unknown arrival from Warsaw, the great pianist Friedrich Kalkbrenner, called the king of the piano, organised a concert for Chopin which took place on the 26th of February 1832 in the Salle Pleyel. The ensuing success was enormous, and he quickly became a famous musician, renowned throughout Paris. This rise to fame aroused the interest of publishers and by the summer of 1832, Chopin had signed a contract with the leading Parisian publishing firm of Schlesinger. At the same time, his compositions were published in Leipzig by Probst, and then Breitkopf, and in London by Wessel.
The most important source of Chopin‘s income in Paris was, however, from giving lessons. He became a popular teacher among the Polish and French aristocracy and Parisian salons were his favourite place for performances. As a pianist, Chopin was ranked among the greatest artists of his epoch, such as Kalkbrenner, Liszt, Thalberg and Herz, but, in contrast to them, he disliked public performances and appeared rarely and rather unwillingly. In a friendly, intimate group of listeners he disclosed supreme artistry and the full scale of his pianistic and expressive talents.
Having settled down in Paris, Chopin deliberately chose the status of an emigre. Despite the requests of his father, he did not obey the Tsarist regulations, issued in subjugated Poland, and never extended his passport in the Russian embassy. Consequently, being regarded as a political refugee, Chopin deprived himself of the possibility of legally revisiting his homeland. He longed to see his family and friends and, seeking refuge against loneliness, decided to share accommodation with the physician Aleksander Hoffman, another Polish exile, and after the latter‘s departure from Paris, with his Warsaw friend, former insurgent and physician, Jan Matuszynski. In this situation, the composer could meet his parents only outside Poland and when in August 1835 they went to Karlsbad for a cure, Chopin soon followed. Afterwards, while in nearby Dresden, he renewed his acquaintance with the Wodzinski family. Years earlier, the three young Wodzinski sons had stayed in the boarding house managed by Mikolaj Chopin. Their younger sister, Maria, now an adolescent, showed considerable musical and artistic talent and Chopin fell in love with her and wanted to marry her and set up a family home of his own in exile. The following year, during a holiday spent together with the seventeen year-old Maria and her mother in Marienbad (modern day Márianské Lázne in the Czech Republic), and then in Dresden, he proposed and was accepted on the condition that he would take better care of his health. The engagement was unofficial, and did not end in marriage, for after a year-long « trial » period, Maria‘s parents, disturbed by the bad state of the health of her fiance who was seriously ill in the winter, and especially by his irregular lifestyle, viewed him as an unsuitable partner for their daughter. Chopin found this rejection an extremely painful experience, and labelled the letters from the Wodzinski family, tied into a small bundle, « My sorrow ».
In July 1837, Chopin travelled to London in the company of Camille Pleyel in the hope of forgetting all unpleasant memories. Soon afterwards, he entered into a close liaison with the famous French writer George Sand. This author of daring novels, older by six years, and a divorcee with two children, offered the lonely artist what he missed most from the time when he left Warsaw: extraordinary tenderness, warmth and maternal care. The lovers spent the winter of 1838/1839 on the Spanish island of Majorca, living in a former monastery in Valdemosa. There, due to unfavourable weather conditions, Chopin became gravely ill and showed symptoms of tuberculosis. For many weeks, he remained so weak as to be unable to leave the house but nonetheless, continued to work intensively and composed a number of masterpieces: the series of 24 preludes, the Polonaise in C minor, the Ballade in F major, and the Scherzo in C sharp minor.
On his return from Majorca in the spring of 1839, and following a convalescence in Marseilles, Chopin, still greatly weakened, moved to George Sand‘s manor house in Nohant, in central France. Here, he was to spend long vacations up to 1846, with the exception of 1840, returning to Paris only for the winters. This was the happiest, and the most productive, period in his life after he left his family home. The majority of his most outstanding and profound works were composed in Nohant. In Paris, the composer and writer were treated as a married couple, although they were never married. Both had common friends among the artistic circles of the capital, such as the painter Delacroix and the singer Pauline Viardot, as well as the Polish emigres, such as A. Mickiewicz and W. Grzymala. For years, the couple enjoyed a deep love and friendship, but with time the increasingly hostile attitude of George Sand‘s son, who exerted a strong influence on the writer, caused ever more serious conflicts. A final parting of ways took place in July 1847.
Grievous personal experiences as well as the loss of Nohant, so important for the health and creativity of the composer, had a devastating effect on Chopin‘s mental and physical state. He almost completely gave up composition, and from then to the end of his life wrote only a few miniatures. In April 1848, persuaded by his Scottish pupil, Jane Stirling, Chopin left for England and Scotland. Together with her sister, Miss Stirling organised concerts and visits in various localities, including the castles of the Scottish aristocracy. This exceptionally hectic life style and excessive strain on his strength from constant travelling and numerous performances, together with a climate deleterious to his lungs, further damaged his health. On 16 November 1848, despite frailty and a fever, Chopin gave his last concert, playing for Polish emigres in the Guildhall in London. A few days later, he returned to Paris.
His rapidly progressing disease made it impossible to continue giving lessons. In the summer of 1849, Ludwika Jedrzejewiczowa, the eldest sister of the composer, came from Warsaw to take care of her ill brother. On 17 October 1849, Chopin died of pulmonary tuberculosis in his Parisian flat in the Place Vendôme. He was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. In accordance with his will, however, his heart, taken from his body after death, was brought by his sister to Warsaw where it was placed in an urn installed in a pillar of the Holy Cross church in Krakowskie Przedmiscie.
|Quotes by Fryderyk Chopin
About life and philosophy
« Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art. »
« When one does a thing, it appears good, otherwise one would not write it. Only later comes reflection, and one discards or accepts the thing. Time is the best censor, and patience a most excellent teacher. »
« Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. »
« I wish I could throw off the thoughts which poison my happiness. And yet I take a kind of pleasure in indulging them. »
« Sometimes I can only groan, suffer, and pour out my despair at the piano! »
« Put all your soul into it, play the way you feel! »
« It is dreadful when something weighs on your mind, not to have a soul to unburden yourself to. You know what I mean. I tell my piano the things I used to tell you. »
« I feel like a novice, just as I felt before I knew anything of the keyboard. It is far too original, and I shall end up not being able to learn it myself. »
« I am gay on the outside, especially among my own folk (I count Poles my own); but inside something gnaws at me; some presentiment, anxiety, dreams – or sleeplessness – melancholy, indifference – desire for life, and the next instant, desire for death; some kind of sweet peace, some kind of numbness, absent-mindedness... »
« If I were still stupider than I am, I should think myself at the apex of my career; yet I know how much I still lack, to reach perfection; I see it the more clearly now that I live only among first-rank artists and know what each one of them lacks. »
« Having nothing to do, I am correcting the Paris edition of Bach; not only the engraver‘s mistakes, but also the mistakes hallowed by those who are supposed to understand Bach (I have no pretensions to understand better, but I do think that sometimes I can guess). »
« I‘m a revolutionary, money means nothing to me. »
About concerts and performance
« Yesterday‘s concert was a success. I hasten to let you know. I inform your Lordship that I was not a bit nervous and played as I play when I am alone. It went well... and I had to come back and bow four times. »
« All the same it is being said everywhere that I played too softly, or rather, too delicately for people used to the piano-pounding of the artists here. »
« They want me to give another concert but I have no desire to do so. You cannot imagine what a torture the three days before a public appearance are to me. »
« There are certain times when I feel more inspired, filled with a strong power that forces me to listen to my inner voice, and when I feel more need than ever for a Pleyel piano. »
« A strange adventure befell me while I was playing my Sonata in B flat minor before some English friends. I had played the Allegro and the Scherzo more or less correctly. I was about to attack the March when suddenly I saw arising from the body of my piano those cursed creatures which had appeared to me one lugubrious night at the Chartreuse. I had to leave for one instant to pull myself together after which I continued without saying anything. »
« One needs only to study a certain positioning of the hand in relation to the keys to obtain with ease the most beautiful sounds, to know how to play long notes and short notes and to achieve certain unlimited dexterity. A well formed technique, it seems to me, can control and vary a beautiful sound quality. »
About places and people
« I don‘t know where there can be so many pianists as in Paris, so many asses and so many virtuosi. »
« I haven‘t heard anything so great for a long time; Beethoven snaps his fingers at the whole world... »
« I have met a great celebrity, Madame Dudevant, known as George Sand... Her appearance is not to my liking. Indeed there is something about her which positively repels me... What an unattractive person La Sand is... Is she really a woman? I‘m inclined to doubt it. »
« The Official Bulletin declared that the Poles should be as proud of me as the Germans are of Mozart; obvious nonsense. »
« I don‘t know how it is, but the Germans are amazed at me and I am amazed at them for finding anything to be amazed about. »
« Among the numerous pleasures of Vienna the hotel evenings are famous. During supper Strauss or Lanner play waltzes...After every waltz they get huge applause; and if they play a Quodlibet, or jumble of opera, song and dance, the hearers are so overjoyed that they don‘t know what to do with themselves. It shows the corrupt taste of the Viennese public. »
« Here, waltzes are called works! And Strauss and Lanner, who play them for dancing, are called Kapellmeistern. This does not mean that everyone thinks like that; indeed, nearly everyone laughs about it; but only waltzes get printed. »
« Kalkbrenner has made me an offer; that I should study with him for three years, and he will make something really - really out of me. I answered that I know how much I lack; but that I cannot exploit him, and three years is too much. But he has convinced me that I can play admirably when I am in the mood, and badly when I am not; a thing which never happens to him. After close examination he told me that I have no school; that I am on an excellent road, but can slip off the track. That after his death, or when he finally stops playing, there will be no representative of the great piano-forte school. That even if I wish it, I cannot build up a new school without knowing the old one; in a word : that I am not a perfected machine, and that this hampers the flow of my thoughts. That I have a mark in composition; that it would be a pity not to become what I have the promise of being... »
« It‘s a huge Carthusian monastery, stuck down between rocks and sea, where you may imagine me, without white gloves or hair curling, as pale as ever, in a cell with such doors as Paris never had for gates. The cell is the shape of a tall coffin, with an enormous dusty vaulting, a small window... Bach, my scrawls and waste paper – silence – you could scream – there would still be silence. Indeed, I write to you from a strange place. »
« After a rest in Edinburgh, where, passing a music-shop, I heard some blind man playing a mazurka of mine... »
« England is a country of pianos, they are everywhere. »
« Here, whatever is not boring is not English. »
« My piano has not yet arrived. How did you send it? By Marseilles or by Perpignan? I dream music but I cannot make any because here there are not any pianos... in this respect this is a savage country. »
« England is so surrounded by the boredom of conventionalities, that it is all one to them whether music is good or bad, since they have to hear it from morning till night. For here they have flower-shows with music, dinners with music, sales with music... »
About health and death
« My manuscripts sleep, while I cannot, for I am covered with poultices. »
« How strange! This bed on which I shall lie has been slept on by more than one dying man, but today it does not repel me! Who knows what corpses have lain on it and for how long? But is a corpse any worse than I? A corpse too knows nothing of its father, mother or sisters or Titus. Nor has a corpse a sweetheart. A corpse, too, is pale, like me. A corpse is cold, just as I am cold and indifferent to everything. A corpse has ceased to live, and I too have had enough of life... Why do we live on through this wretched life which only devours us and serves to turn us into corpses? The clocks in the Stuttgart belfries strike the midnight hour. Oh how many people have become corpses at this moment! Mothers have been torn from their children, children from their mothers – how many plans have come to nothing, how much sorrow has sprung from these depths, and how much relief! ... Virtue and vice have come in the end to the same thing! It seems that to die is man‘s finest action – and what might be his worst? To be born, since that is the exact opposite of his best deed. It is therefore right of me to be angry that I was ever born into this world! Why was I not prevented from remaining in a world where I am utterly useless? What good can my existence bring to anyone? ... But wait, wait! What‘s this? Tears? How long it is since they flowed! How is this, seeing that an arid melancholy has held me for so long in its grip? How good it feels – and sorrowful. Sad but kindly tears! What a strange emotion! Sad but blessed. It is not good for one to be sad, and yet how pleasant it is a strange state... »
« The three most celebrated doctors on the island have been to see me. One sniffed at what I spat, the second tapped where I spat from, and the third sounded me and listened as I spat. The first said I was dead, the second that I was dying and the third that I‘m going to die. »
« The earth is suffocating... As this cough will choke me, I implore you to have my body opened, so that I may not be buried alive. »
« Play Mozart in memory of me. »
|Quotes about Fryderyk Chopin during his life
« Hats off gentlemen, a genius! »
« It was an unforgettable picture to see Chopin sitting at the piano like a clairvoyant, lost in his dreams; to see how his vision communicated itself through his playing, and how, at the end of each piece, he had the sad habit of running one finger over the length of the plaintive keyboard, as though to tear himself forcibly away from his dream. »
« If the mighty autocrat of the north knew what a dangerous enemy threatened him in Chopin‘s works in the simple tunes of his mazurkas, he would forbid this music. Chopin‘s works are canons buried in flowers. »
« We may be sure that a genius like Mozart, were he born today, would write concertos like Chopin and not like Mozart. »
« There is something fundamentally personal and at the same time so very masterly in his playing that he may be called a really perfect virtuoso. »
« Music was his language, the divine tongue through which he expressed a whole realm of sentiments that only the select few can appreciate... The muse of his homeland dictates his songs, and the anguished cries of Poland lend to his art a mysterious, indefinable poetry which, for all those who have truly experienced it, cannot be compared to anything else... The piano alone was not sufficient to reveal all that lies within him. In short he is a most remarkable individual who commands our highest degree of devotion. »
« His music was spontaneous, miraculous. He found it without seeking it, without previous intimation of it. It came upon his piano sudden, complete, sublime, or it sang in his head during a walk, and he was impatient to hear it himself with the help of the instrument. But then began the most desperate labor that I have ever witnessed. It was a succession of efforts, hesitations and moments of impatience to recapture certain details of the theme he could hear; what he had conceived as one piece, he analyzed too much in trying to write it down, and his dismay at his inability to rediscover it in what he thought was its original purity threw him into a kind of despair. He would lock himself up in his room for whole days, weeping, pacing back and forth, breaking his pens, repeating or changing one bar a hundred times, writing and erasing it as many times, and beginning again the next day with an infinite and desperate perseverance. He sometimes spent six weeks on one page, only in the end to write it exactly as he had sketched at the first draft. »
« Chopin has written two wonderful mazurkas which are worth more than forty novels and are more eloquent than the entire century‘s literature. »
« Chopin had the fortunate idea of playing the Adagio [Romance, Larghetto] from his last Concerto. Placed between two orchestral compositions maintained in a turbulent style, this enchanting work, in which irresistible charm is combined with most profound religious thoughts, submerged the listeners into a specific joy – serene and ecstatic – to which we have not become accustomed in a similar situation. All this differs greatly from the endless adagios, which usually fill the middle movement of a piano concerto; in this case, there is so much simplicity used with such freshness of imagination, that when the last note was heard, in the manner of a pearl cast into a golden vase, the audience, immersed in contemplation, continued to listen, and for a few moments restrained itself from applauding. In the same way, while observing the harmonious descent of twilight semi-shadows, we remain motionless in the darkness, with our eyes still focused on that point of the horizon, where the light has just faded. »
« Now, for the first time, I understood his music, and could also explain to myself the great enthusiasm of the ladies. The sudden modulations that I could not grasp when I myself played his works no longer bother me. His piano is so ethereal that no forte is needed to create the necessary contrast. Listening to him, one yields with one‘s whole soul, as to a singer who, oblivious of accompaniment, lets himself be carried away by his emotion. In short, he is unique among pianists. »
« Every single note was played with the highest degree of taste, in the noblest sense of the word. When he embellished, which he rarely did, it was a positive miracle of refinement. »
« I learnt about many general issues concerning piano playing by working together with Liszt on Mazurkas in Bb major and in A minor from Op. 7 by Chopin. [...] He treated them very seriously, especially the at the first glance easy bass in maggiore in the Mazurka in A minor. What a lot of work he took upon himself for my sake. Only an ass could think that this is easy, but you can tell a virtuoso in those ties. Play it this way to Chopin, and he will certainly notice and be pleased. Those foolish French editions spoil everything; the slurs in the bass must be placed thus. If you play to him in this fashion, he will give you a lesson. »
« This should be a question. Chopin taught, and it was never question enough for him, never played ‘piano‘ enough, never sufficiently falling away (tombé), as he said, never ‘important‘ enough. This must be a charnel house, he once said. He was also heard to say that this is the key to the whole composition. He was equally demanding as to the simple, quaver accompaniment to the cantilène and the cantilène itself. One should imagine the Italian canto and not the French vaudeville, he once declared mockingly. »
Karol Mikuli, Chopin‘s pupil
« Chopin‘s rubato possessed an unshakeable emotional logic. It always justified itself by a strengthening or weakening melodic line, by exaggeration or affectation. »
C.E. & M. Halle
« The marvelous charm, the poetry and originality, the perfect freedom and absolute lucidity of Chopin‘s playing cannot be described. It is perfect in every sense. »
« He felt very unhappy when he heard the grande polonaise in A flat major played fast, as it spoilt the whole grandeur and majesty of that noble inspiration. »
La France Musicale
« Chopin is a pianist of conviction. He composes for himself, plays for himself and everyone listens with interest, with delight, with infinite pleasure. Listen how he dreams, how he weeps, with what sweetness, tenderness and melancholy he sings, how perfectly he expresses the gentlest and loftiest feelings. »
« Chopin is the pianist of sentiment par excellence. He may be said to have created a school of playing and a school of composition. Nothing indeed equals the lightness and sweetness of his preluding on the piano, nothing compares with his works in originality, distinction and grace. »
« Chopin has done for the piano what Schubert has done for the voice. Chopin is unique as a pianist: he should not and cannot be compared with anyone. »
La Revue Musicale
« Chopin has broken new trails for himself. His playing and his composition, from the very beginning, have won such high standing that in the eyes of many he has become an inexplicable phenomenon... No one as yet has tried to define the special character and merit of those works, what distinguished them from others, and why they occupy such a high place. »
« Here is a young man, abandoning himself to his natural impressions and without taking a model, has found, if not a complete renewal of pianoforte music, at least a part of what has been sought in vain for a long time – namely an abundance of original ideas of which the type is to be found nowhere. »
« The enchanting pianist speaks a seductive language with his fingers and discloses his soul through his playing, which in turn leaves nothing to be desired. It is as though the piano had been transformed in some way and had become a totally different instrument, responding to the fiery touch of a genius, at once gentle and passionate. »
« Chopin is full of health and strength; all the French women are after him, and all the French men are jealous. He is the rage; the world will soon see people wearing new-fashioned gloves – gloves à la Chopin. »
« Everybody will weep, believing that he really suffers with one who can weep so well. »
« But when he asked Chopin whether he was still in pain, we quite distinctly heard the answer: « No more ». These were the last words heard from his lips. »
Below is the list of books and articles I used as references to build this web page. All references are in alphabetical order of the author‘s last name.
William G. Atwood – The Parisian worlds of Frédéric Chopin – Yale University Press, 1999
Maurice J. E. Brown – Chopin: an index of his works in chronological order – Macmillan, 1972
Józef Michal Chominski – Katalog dziel Fryderyka Chopina
Frederick Chopin Society Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, Kraków 1990
Chopin Society in Warsaw – The photo library
Alfred Cortot – In search of Chopin
Translated from French by Cyril and Rena Clarke, Greenwood Press, 1952
A. Redgrave Cripps – Chopin as a master of form – The Musical Times, Vol. 55, No. 858, 1914
David Dubal – Chopin Works – The Vancouver Chopin Society, 1999
Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger – Chopin: Pianist and Teacher: As Seen by his Pupils
Cambridge University Press, 1999, originally published in French 1970
Jan Ekier and Pawel Kaminski – National Edition of the Works of Fryderyk Chopin – PWM Edition, 2000
Arthur Hedley – Selected correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin – Heinemann, 1962
James Huneker – Chopin: The man and his music – New York, Dover, 1966, originally published by Scribner 1900
James Huneker – The classic Chopin – The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1915
Jeffrey Kallberg – The Chopin sources: variants and versions in later manuscripts and printed editions – 1982
Lubov Keefer – The influence of Adam Mickiewicz on the ballades of Chopin
American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 5, No. 1/2, 1946
Krystyna Kobylanska – Rekopisy utworów Chopina: katalog – Kraków, 1977
Wilhelm von Lenz – The great piano virtuosos of our time
Translated from the German by Madeleine R. Baker, New York, G. Schirmer, 1899
Franz Liszt – Life of Chopin
Translated from French by Martha Walker Cook and John Broadhouse, London, W. Reeves, 1913
Barbara Milewski – Chopin‘s mazurkas and the myths of the folk – 19th Century Music, Vol. 23, No. 2, 1999
Frederick Niecks – Chopin as a man and musician – London, New York, Novello, Ewer & Co.1888
Philips Classics – Great Pianists of the 20th Century: The Complete Edition – Polygram Records, 1997
Jim Samson – Chopin and genre – Music Analysis, Vol. 8, No. 3, 1989
Jim Samson – Chopin, the four ballades – London: Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992
Jeremy Siepmann – Chopin: Complete Edition – Deutsche Grammophon, 1999
Jeremy Siepmann – Chopin, the reluctant romantic – Boston Northeastern University Press, 1995
Barbara Smolenska-Zielinska – Fryderyk Chopin i jego muzyka – Warszawa, 1995
Tad Szulc – Chopin in Paris: The Life and Times of the Romantic Composer – New York, Da Capo Press, 2000
Reference Web Site – www.ourchopin.com