CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY

Year 1836 Year 1836

8 January. In the ‘Kurier Warszawski’ the rumour of Chopin’s death is retracted.

9 January. Mikołaj Chopin to his son: ‘no letter was ever more longed for and more impatiently awaited than this […] You can imagine our consternation, our mortal anxiety’. He puts forward the plan of a meeting between Fryderyk and his mother in Dresden, in the summer (‘it is a beautiful castle in the air’), ‘if the impression has not yet faded within You, Mr Wodziński was here before the holidays […] From the eagerness with which he informed himself of Your news, we later became convinced that he knew about the rumour that was circulating’. At the same time, a letter to Matuszyński, with thanks and a request for further efforts: ‘The spiritual side [of Fryderyk] takes the upper hand over the physical side, thus care needs to be taken over the latter’. He sends ‘review upon review’ from Poland.

In the weekly ‘Przyjaciel Ludu’ [Friend of the People], published in Leszno, of 9, 16 and 23 January, Antoni Woykowski publishes an essay about Chopin; he calls him an ‘architect of the romantic school in music’ and the ‘Shakespeare, Byron and Mickiewicz of pianists’; as he stresses, ‘with no care for the plaudits of the crowd […] he has reached the highest degree of excellence’.

January. Assists Karol Lipiński in the organisation of a concert. Mikołaj Chopin to his son, 15 December of the previous year: ‘You did well in introducing Lipiński everywhere You could’; 9 January: ‘It is sad that Lipiński does not know how to please, that he has no success’.

27 January. Date on which a fragment of the Étude in F minor Op. 25 No. 2, is written into the album of Antoni Teichmann, a Polish singer and cellist recommended by Chopin’s family.

5 February. Teresa Wodzińska, Maria’s mother, writes with a request for friendly care over her son Antoni, who is idling aimlessly in Paris. ‘And when might we see You? Is it true that You are to be here this summer, because here Clara Wieck and (more so) Chevalier Kuntzel told us so […] Adieu, my dear Freddie, we always, always think of You here’.

10 February. At a ‘musical soirée’ at the Hôtel Lambert in the apartments of the Duke and Duchess Czartoryski, Chopin ‘improvised delightful fantasies on themes from Polish melodies’; information from the ‘Kronika Emigracji Polskiej’ of 22 February.

Early Spring. His illness returns. Countess Marie d’Agoult: ‘I learned from Liszt that You are gravely ill, I hasten therefore to remind You that Croissy would be a perfect infirmary for You […] You would breathe in good air. I promise wonderful milk and the music of the nightingales […] I adore Your études, they are absolutely wonderful’. Opus 25 would be dedicated to her. In another letter from this time: ‘I was ill, and am still ailing; I think that one of Your nocturnes would cure me completely. Pray do not refuse. P.S. If You cannot tomorrow, then Saturday, if not on Saturday, then Sunday, etc.’

1 March. Heine in the ‘Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung’: ‘For the Paris élite, yesterday was a day full of significance: at the opera the premiere was given of the long-awaited Les Huguenots, by Meyerbeer, and Rothschild gave a grand ball at his new palace. […] As the judges of art assure us, in Les Huguenots Meyerbeer provides an even more excellent [then in Robert le diable] finish of form. […] He is at present probably the greatest contrapuntist alive’.

14 March. To his family: ‘Suffice it to say that I am well’. Matuszyński tells of a plan to visit Poland a year from hence.

25 March. Fétis asks Chopin for data on the subject of his life and work for the lexicon Biographie universelle des musiciens, which is appearing in fascicles. Under the headword ‘Chopin’, besides information, an assessment was also included: ‘First heard in Paris in 1832, and he caused a genuine sensation. His manner of playing the piano and his compositions are without any known analogy; originality has become his distinguishing feature’.

27 March. In the Stavovski Theatre in Prague, Alexander Dreyschock plays the first movement of the Concerto in E minor with an orchestra conducted by F. W. Pixis. The reviewer of ‘Bohemia’ refers to the ‘staggering difficulties’ of the score.

28 March. Mendelssohn, together with Schumann, invites Chopin to take part in a festival of music of the Lower Rhine in Düsseldorf, which is to be held at Whitsuntide. Chopin declines the invitation.

22 April. The ‘Neue Zeitschrift für Musik’ carries a review of both concertos, from the pen of Schumann; the Concerto in F minor, inspired in 1829 by his feelings towards Konstancja Gładkowska and dedicated in 1836 to Delfina Potocka, appeared in April in a Leipzig edition. The review gives an overview of the Chopin oeuvre. In Schumann’s opinion, Chopin has inherited from Beethoven ‘a boldness of spirit’, from Schubert ‘the expression of love’, and from Field ‘a fluidity of the fingers’, yet above all is distinguished by his ‘powerful and distinctive nationalism’. He employs the famous words: ‘If the autonomous, mighty monarch of the North knew what a dangerous foe was threatening him in these utterly simple mazurka melodies, he would doubtless ban this music. The works of Chopin are cannons concealed amongst flowers’. In the opinion of the reviewer, Chopin’s path leads him from a marked nationalism towards a universal ideal. Also in April, the publication of the E minor Concerto prompted a reaction from the reviewer Rellstab, in the Berlin ‘Iris’; his assessments of Chopin slowly become increasingly less aggressive: ‘In a word, this Concerto is most appealing; it is just a shame that it does not possess a proper construction, that it rather constitutes an agglomeration of difficult details, and does not create a uniform whole’. In the summer of this year, the dedicant of the Concerto leaves Paris, undertaking an attempt to rebuild her marriage – unsuccessfully.

3 May. Date placed on the manuscript of the song ‘Leci liście z drzewa’ [‘The Leaves are Falling’], to words by Wincenty Pol, preserved in a copy by Fontana. Another song to words by the same poet is known solely from its title: Pożegnanie [Farewell] (‘Panna młoda jak jagoda...’ [‘The bride as pretty as a berry…’].

14 May. Liszt to Marie d’Agoult: ‘Chopin, whom I saw this morning, was exceptionally obliging to me. […] He expressed himself critically with regard to Thalberg, he cannot bear any comparisons being made between us’. The stage rivalry between Liszt and Thalberg is reaching its apogee.

Maj. In Leipzig, the Nocturnes Op. 27 are published. In 20 July, in the ‘Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung’, one could read the following on their subject: ‘This is a dreamlike fantasy, which enters a dance with longing; it chooses sadness, since the joy that it loves, it cannot rediscover’.

30 May. Hiller invites Chopin to visit him in Frankfurt.

12 June. Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz in his diary: ‘Ordinary celebrations of Corpus Christi […] Dinner at general Kniaziewicz’s, attended by Mickiewicz and Chopin, one of the foremost pianists in Europe, cheerful, witty, capable of mimicking anyone, entertained us splendidly’.

14 June. B. Jański notes an ‘exchange of reading material’ between Mickiewicz and Chopin.

June. Publication in Leipzig of the Ballade in G minor Op. 23, probably sketched whilst the composer was still in Vienna. If Schumann is to be believed, the idea for the genre was suggested to Chopin by reading the ballads of Mickiewicz.

25 June. Niemcewicz: ‘I had a whole host of guests to breakfast at home. The Platers with their children, Olizar, Osławski, W. Potocki, Mickiewicz, Chopin, Dr Matuszyński and several others – 14 in total’.

Summer. Sojourn at the Lac d’Enghien near Paris.

July. Leipzig edition of the two Polonaises Op. 26; in August – the Polonaise Op. 22.

28 July–24 August. Month in Marienbad (Mariânské Lâznë). Stays in the ‘White Swan’ Inn. Previously arranged meeting with the Wodziński family. Józefa Wodzińska (years later): ‘we arrived virtually simultaneously, so we spent together almost a month’.

8 September. In Dresden. In the album of Maria Wodzińska, writes out the song Pierścień [The Ring] (‘Smutno niańki ci śpiewały, a ja już kochałem...’ [‘Nannies sang sadly to You, and I was already in love…’]). Schumann – ‘expressing words of adoration and love’ – invites him to Leipzig.

9 September. 26-year-old Chopin proposes to 17-year-old Maria Wodzińska, and is accepted, on condition that he looks after his health, for a trial period. The engagement is secret. Maria makes sketched water-colour portraits of Chopin; a lithograph of one of the likenesses she sends to Warsaw with the words: ‘to his parents, with gratitude for their graceful favour towards us’. Chopin writes two études into her album (A flat major and F minor), which would later open opus 25.

11–13 September. In Leipzig. Meets with Schumann and his circle. Chopin plays, among other pieces, the Ballade in F major Op. 38, in an initial (or shortened) version, as well as études, nocturnes and mazurkas .

12 September. Schumann in his diary: ‘at 12 noon Chopin, Nowakowski and Raymund Härtel. His Ballade is dearer to me than anything […] He listens reluctantly when one speaks of his works. An all-penetrating warmth […] New Études in c minor, A flat major, f minor, old Mazurkas in B flat, two new ballades, a Nocturne in D flat... I present him with my Sonata and études and he – his [Ballade]. [...] I took him to Eleonora [Henrietta Voigt]. He played a nocturne and études from arpeggios alone. Farewell. Departed, departed’. Voigt also describes the meeting in her diary, the following day.

14 September. Schumann to H. Dorn: ‘ he then played me a host of études, mazurkas and nocturnes, everything unparalleled. The very sight of him at the piano is moving. You would certainly fall for him’. The same day, Teresa Wodzińska to Chopin: ‘I shall ask You for silence; keep well, why everything depends upon it. […] I bless You from my soul, as a mother who loves You’. She twice refers in the letter to a mysterious ‘dusk’.

15 September. M. Wodzińska: ‘The slippers are finished, I am sending them on […] Adieu, mio carissimo maestro, do not forget now about Dresden, and soon about Poland. […] The piano at Służewo is in such ruin that it is impossible to play. So please remember about the Pleyel. In happier times […] I hope that I shall hear You play on this piano’.

Around 20 September. In Paris. On the way, stops off at Kassel, where he meets with Ludwig Spohr, and in Frankfurt-am-Main, conversations with Lipiński and Mendelssohn, and possibly also with Hiller.

23 September. Sends T. Wodzińska news of the fortunes of her son, Antoni, who is fighting as a volunteer in Spain, in a regiment of Polish uhlans. He sends a batch of autographs (Berlioz, Liszt, Heine, Mickiewicz), with the assurance ‘Your orders shall be sacredly executed’.

2 October. M. Wodzińska thanks him for the autographs. ‘How it pleases me that I shall see Your family, and next year You! See You in May or June, of later!’

At Fryderyk’s behest, Ludwika prepares copies of seven songs and the Lento con gran espressione (WN 37), and then sends them to Chopin, who – after checking and correcting – sends the music to M. Wodzińska (the album ‘Maria’).

Autumn. In Paris, moves from the house at 5, Chaussée d’Antin to a house at number 38, in which he would remain until November 1838. Among his new pupils is the talented Lady Élise Peruzzi (until 1844?), with whom he would readily play for four hands and two pianos.

End of October. At a soirée at the residence of Countess Marie d’Agoult meets for the first time the 32-year-old George Sand (Aurore Dudevant). ‘I met a great celebrity, Mrs Sand, but her face is unappealing, she was not to my liking: there is something repulsive about her’. Hiller to Liszt about Chopin’s first impressions from this encounter, quoting his words: ‘what an unpleasant woman, that Mrs Sand! Is she really a woman? I allow myself to doubt’.

1 November. To T. Wodzińska: ‘I do not lie, I think only of [warm] slippers and play at dusk’. He acts as a go-between in her contacts with Antoni Wodziński, who is residing in Pamplona.

5 November. Sand – together with Liszt and d’Agoult – at a musical soirée at Chopin’s home.

9 November. The very same company at a soirée chez Charlotte Marliani.

10 November. Mickiewicz at a musical soirée at Chopin’s.

13 December. To Józef Brzowski: ‘Today I have a few people at home, including Mrs Sand, with Liszt playing and Nourrit singing’. According to Brzowski, also present at that musical evening were Heine, de Custine, E. Sue, d’Agoult and Liszt, the counts Włodzimierz and Bernard Potocki, Grzymała and Matuszyński.

21 December. Chopin is a witness at Matuszyński’s wedding in the ‘Polish’ church of St Roch.

24 December. Together with Mickiewicz and Niemcewicz at the villa of E. Januszkiewicz: ‘Old Julian […] told us kids about the times of the Four-Year Sejm1. The incomparable Chopin played, sang, improvised…’.

Turn of 1836–1837. Among the compositions on which Chopin works over the course of these two years are further études, which would comprise opus 25, the Impromptu in A flat major Op. 29, the Mazurkas Op. 30, the Scherzo Op. 31 and the Nocturnes Op. 32. From 1836, Julian Fontana is back in Paris; alongside Gutmann he becomes chief copyist of the Chopin works destined by the composer for print.


1  National Assembly (1788-1792) which introduced social and political reforms, also drafting the ‘3 May Constitution’ – the first codified constitution in Europe since Antiquity. Russia and Prussia reacted to the Polish efforts to establish national sovereignty with the Second Partition of Poland.


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