CHOPIN`S LIFE CHOPIN`S LIFE

Year Paris, 1830s

Paryż, salon Fryderyka Chopina przy Place Vendôme 12After his public success, he enjoyed a meteoric rise to the ranks of the most outstanding artists of the day. He befriended Liszt, Berlioz, Hiller, Heine and Mickiewicz. He began frequenting the leading salons of the capital. He made contact with the Polish Great Emigration and became friends with Prince Adam Czartoryski and Delfina Potocka. His popularity was described by Antoni Orłowski: ‘turning the heads of all the French women, and arousing the envy of the men. He is currently in fashion, and soon the world will see gloves à la Chopin’.

That success made it difficult to concentrate on composing. He gradually published his works from the Warsaw and Vienna periods, and he also wrote a few virtuosic compositions (including the Grand Duo Concertant), but among the more valuable works one should mention the cycle of Etudes, Op. 10, completed at this time. Those compositions – thanks to their remarkably innovative approach to the genre and the wealth of means employed – provide key evidence of the consistent development of Chopin’s style. They represent a sort of bridge between the earlier works and the masterworks published during the 30s: the Scherzos in B minor and B flat minor, the Ballade in G minor and the Impromptu in A flat major.

George Sand (1804-1876)George Sand. At the height of his Parisian success, Chopin sought to stabilise his personal life. In 1835, he grew closer to the Wodziński family of Służewo. A year later, he proposed to Maria Wodzińska and was accepted, but in a rather enigmatic way: in secrecy and on condition that he took good care of his health. Still not entirely clear today are the circumstances surrounding the ultimate fiasco of his matrimonial plans, yet the composer’s genuine commitment is attested by the note he wrote on a bundle of correspondence with the Wodzińskis: ‘my misery’. Soon afterwards, in 1836, he met Aurore Dudevant, a divorced French writer six years his senior known under the pseudonym George Sand, but that encounter aroused his aversion rather than presaging their future intimacy. Less than a year later, it became clear that the marriage to Maria Wodzińska would not come about, and George Sand was showing increasing interest in the composer.

At that time, Chopin completed – besides further mazurkas and nocturnes – his second set of etudes (Op. 25) and his second, and most lyrical, scherzo (in B flat minor). Before the latter work was published, Robert Schumann – who several years earlier had hailed his peer as a genius – quipped: ‘It is sad that he has done so little over the seven years since he came to Paris’. Schumann clearly failed to appreciate what with hindsight appears obvious: up to 1837, Chopin composed little in Paris because life forced him to concentrate on other things. However, his peculiar method of composing, involving the endless polishing of details, meant that he produced works of exceptional value. In addition, the changes in his compositional style were irreversible and created a huge potential which seems to have awaited a suitable moment to reveal itself with full force. Such a moment was provided by his closer links with George Sand, culminating in their joint trip to Majorca in the winter of 1838. From there, Chopin sent a friend this telling reflection: ‘And my life, I am living a little more… I am close to that which is most beautiful. I am better’. It is probably to that state of mind, to the long desired haven and the atmosphere of warmth created by George Sand, that we owe the explosion of his creative genius. It was then that Chopin wrote his most outstanding compositions, despite being tormented by serious illness (diagnosed symptoms of tuberculosis), caused by the most unfavourable humid climate on the island at that time of year.

Valldemossa, klasztor KartuzówGeorge Sand wrote on the return journey: ‘While at death’s door from illness, on Majorca, he composed music that brings paradise to mind. Yet I have become so used to seeing him in the clouds that I have the impression that his life and death mean nothing to him. He himself is not very well aware on what planet he is living’. At the Charterhouse in Valldemossa, Chopin completed the Preludes, Op. 28 and two Polonaises, Op. 40, and he also worked on the Ballade in F major, Scherzo in C sharp minor and Mazurkas, Op. 41. He completed those labours, interrupted by violent bouts of illness and suspended after the decision was taken to return to France, in the summer, during his first stay on George Sand’s estate in Nohant. There, he also worked on new compositions: the Impromptu in F sharp major and the Sonata in B flat minor.


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