Life Of Chopin
By Franz Liszt

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10 chapters

6 hour read

Translated from the French by Martha Walker Cook

1 minute read

PREFACE CHAPTER I. CHAPTER II. CHAPTER III. CHAPTER IV. CHAPTER V. CHAPTER VI. CHAPTER VII. CHAPTER VIII. DEDICATION OF THE TRANSLATION TO JAN PYCHOWSKI Without your consent or knowledge, I have ventured to dedicate this translation to you! As the countryman of Chopin, and filled with the same earnest patriotism which distinguished him; as an impassioned and perfect Pianist, capable, of reproducing his difficult compositions in all the subtle tenderness, fire, energy, melancholy, despair, caprice, hope, delicacy and startling vigor which they imperiously exact; as thorough master of the complicated instrument to which he devoted his best powers; as an erudite and experienced possessor of that abstruse and difficult science, music; as a composer of true, deep, and highly original genius,—this dedication is justly made to you! Even though I may have wounded your characteristically haughty, shrinking, and Sclavic susceptibilities in rendering so public a tribute to your artistic skill,...


9 minute read

To a people, always prompt in its recognition of genius, and ready to sympathize in the joys and woes of a truly great artist, this work will be one of exceeding interest. It is a short, glowing, and generous sketch, from the hand of Franz Liszt, (who, considered in the double light of composer and performer, has no living equal,) of the original and romantic Chopin; the most ethereal, subtle, and delicate among our modern tone-poets. It is a rare thing for a great artist to write on art, to leave the passionate worlds of sounds or colors for the colder realm of words; rarer still for him to abdicate, even temporarily, his own throne, to stand patiently and hold aloft the blazing torch of his own genius, to illume the gloomy grave of another: yet this has Liszt done through love for Chopin. It is a matter of considerable...


29 minute read

Chopin—Style and Improvements—The Adagio of the Second Concerto—Funeral March—Psychological Character of the Compositions of Chopin, &c., &c. Deeply regretted as he may be by the whole body of artists, lamented by all who have ever known him, we must still be permitted to doubt if the time has even yet arrived in which he, whose loss is so peculiarly deplored by ourselves, can be appreciated in accordance with his just value, or occupy that high rank which in all probability will be assigned him in the future. If it has been often proved that "no one is a prophet in his own country;" is it not equally true that the prophets, the men of the future, who feel its life in advance, and prefigure it in their works, are never recognized as prophets in their own times? It would be presumptuous to assert that it can ever be otherwise. In...


49 minute read

National Character of the Polonaise—Oginski—Meyseder—Weber—Chopin—His Polonaise in F Sharp, Minor—Polonaise—Fantaisie. It must not be supposed that the tortured aberrations of feeling to which we have just alluded, ever injure the harmonic tissue in the works of Chopin on the contrary, they only render it a more curious subject for analysis. Such eccentricities rarely occur in his more generally known and admired compositions. His Polonaises, which are less studied than they merit, on account of the difficulties presented by their perfect execution, are to be classed among his highest inspirations. They never remind us of the mincing and affected "Polonaises a la Pompadour," which our orchestras have introduced into ball-rooms, our virtuosi in concerts, or of those to be found in our "Parlor Repertories," filled, as they invariably are, with hackneyed collections of music, marked by insipidity and mannerism. His Polonaises, characterized by an energetic rhythm, galvanize and electrify the torpor...


41 minute read

Chopin's Mazourkas—Polish Ladies—Mazourka in Poland—Tortured Motives—Early life of Chopin—Zal. In all that regards expression, the MAZOURKAS of Chopin differ greatly from his POLONAISES. Indeed they are entirely unlike in character. The bold and vigorous coloring of the Polonaises gives place to the most delicate, tender, and evanescent shades in the Mazourkas. A nation, considered as a whole, in its united, characteristic, and single impetus, is no longer placed before us; the character and impressions now become purely personal, always individualized and divided. No longer is the feminine and effeminate element driven back into shadowy recesses. On the contrary, it is brought out in the boldest relief, nay, it is brought into such prominent importance that all else disappears, or, at most, serves only as its accompaniment. The days are now past when to say that a woman was charming, they called her GRATEFUL (WDZIECZNA); the very word charm being derived...


40 minute read

Chopin's Mode of Playing—Concerts—The Elite—Fading Bouquets and Immortal Crowns—Hospitality—Heine—Meyerbeer—Adolphe Nourrit—Eugene Delacroix—Niemcevicz—Mickiewicz—George Sand. AFTER having described the compositions palpitating with emotion in which genius struggles with grief, (grief, that terrible reality which Art must strive to reconcile with Heaven), confronting it sometimes as conqueror, sometimes as conquered; compositions in which all the memories of his youth, the affections of his heart, the mysteries of his desires, the secrets of his untold passions, are collected like tears in a lachrymatory; compositions in which, passing the limits of human sensations—too dull for his eager fancy, too obtuse for his keen perceptions—he makes incursions into the realms of Dryads, Oreads, and Oceanides;—we would naturally be expected to speak of his talent for execution. But this task we cannot assume. We cannot command the melancholy courage to exhume emotions linked with our fondest memories, our dearest personal recollections; we cannot force ourselves to make the...


2 hour read

The Lives of Artists—Pure Fame of Chopin—Reserve—Classic and Romantic Art-Language of the Sclaves—Chopin's Love of Home Memories. A natural curiosity is generally felt to know something of the lives of men who have consecrated their genius to embellish noble feelings through works of art, through which they shine like brilliant meteors in the eyes of the surprised and delighted crowd. The admiration and sympathy awakened by the compositions of such men, attach immediately to their own names, which are at once elevated as symbols of nobility and greatness, because the world is loath to believe that those who can express high sentiments with force, can themselves feel ignobly. The objects of this benevolent prejudice, this favorable presumption, are expected to justify such suppositions by the high course of life which they are required to lead. When it is seen that the poet feels with such exquisite delicacy all that which...


45 minute read

Birth and Early Life of Chopin—National Artists—Chopin embodies in himself the poetic sense of his whole nation—Opinion of Beethoven. CHOPIN was born in 1810, at Zelazowa-Wola, near Warsaw. Unlike most other children, he could not, during his childhood, remember his own age, and the date of his birth was only fixed in his memory by a watch given him in 1820 by Madame Catalani, which bore the following inscription: "Madame Catalani to Frederic Chopin, aged ten years." Perhaps the presentiments of the artist gave to the child a foresight of his future! Nothing extraordinary marked the course of his boyhood; his internal development traversed but few phases, and gave but few manifestations. As he was fragile and sickly, the attention of his family was concentrated upon his health. Doubtless it was from this cause that he acquired his habits of affability, his patience under suffering, his endurance of every annoyance...


36 minute read

Madame Sand—Lelia—Visit to Majorca—Exclusive Ideals. In 1836 Madame Sand had not only published INDIANA, VALENTINE, and JACQUES, but also LELIA, that prose poem of which she afterwards said: "If I regret having written it, it is because I could not now write it. Were I in the same state of mind now as when it was written, it would indeed be a great consolation to me to be able to commence it." The mere painting of romances in cold water colors must have seemed, without doubt, dull to Madame Sand, after having handled the hammer and chisel of the sculptor so boldly, in modeling the grand lines of that semi-colossal statue, in cutting those sinewy muscles, which even in their statuesque immobility, are full of bewildering and seductive charm. Should we continue long to gaze upon it, it excites the most painful emotion. In strong contrast to the miracle of...


41 minute read

Disappointment—Ill Health—Visit to England—Devotion of Friends—Last Sacraments—Delphina Potocka—Louise—M. Gutman—Death. FROM the date of 1840, the health of Chopin, affected by so many changes, visibly declined. During some years, his most tranquil hours were spent at Nohant, where he seemed to suffer less than elsewhere. He composed there, with pleasure, bringing with him every year to Paris several new compositions, but every winter caused him an increase of suffering. Motion became at first difficult, and soon almost impossible to him. From 1846 to 1847, he scarcely walked at all; he could not ascend the staircase without the most painful sensation of suffocation, and his life was only prolonged through continual care and the greatest precaution. Towards the Spring of 1847, as his health grew more precarious from day to day, he was attacked by an illness from which it was thought he could never recover. He was saved for the last...