CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY

Year 1838 Year 1838

23 January. Marie d’Agoult: ‘I never go out in the evenings and would be extremely grateful if a kind thought would detain You in front of number 39, rue Godet, on one of those moments in which we do not scrupulously watch the clock’.

2 February. In ‘La France Musicale’ a venomous review of the Impromptu in A flat major Op. 29, probably penned by H. Herz: ‘The best thing that one can say about this work is that Chopin composed extremely beautiful mazurkas. Yet, as for the Impromptu, we know of nothing more assiduously overwrought’.

23 February. ‘The Musical World’ of London carries a review of the Nocturnes Op. 32. On the Nocturne in B major: ‘Il lamento [...] is a work adhering to the style of the charming and stirring melodies of Bellini’.

25 February. The ‘Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris’ publishes an account of a concert given by Chopin at the court of Louis Philippe in the Tuileries ‘for an intimate group of listeners’: ‘The opulent improvisations constituted the highlight of the evening’.

3 March. Concert by Ch. V. Alkan in the Pape showrooms. Chopin takes part, together with A. Gutmann, P. Zimmermann and Alkan himself, among the pieces performed are the Allegretto and Finale from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony in an arrangement for eight hands.

5 March. Plays in the apartments of the duc d’Orléans.

12 March. In the Hôtel de Ville of Rouen, amicable participation in a benefit concert for Antoni Orłowski, director of the local Philharmonic Society. Plays the Concerto in E minor, ‘passionately received’; possibly also the Polonaise in E flat major Op. 22.

25 March. E. Legouvé in the ‘Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris, summarising the Rouen concert: ‘To the question as to who is the foremost pianist in the world: Liszt or Thalberg, there is only one answer: Chopin’.

2 April. Słowacki to his mother: ‘They say that Szopen has wed Maria Wodzińska, who used to by my Maria – perhaps she married him a little out of friendship for me, as people say that we are alike as two peas…’.

April. Composes the song Wiosna [Spring], to words by Witwicki, which in subsequent years would be most readily written by Chopin into numerous albums, including in a purely piano version. Also dating from this part of the year is the Nocturne in G minor which would become part of opus 37.

Hears from Teresa Wodzińska: ‘I interrupt Your silence, but it is essential that I learn about Your health’. She suggests to Chopin the idea of a new edition of Niemcewicz’s Śpiewy historyczne, remarking that they are most needed back in Poland. Only ‘put some different music to them’.

25 (27?) April. Memorable evening at the home of Charlotte Marliani. Sand to Chopin on a sheet of paper: ‘On vous adore’. To this, the actress Marie Dorval, also present at the meeting, adds ‘et moi aussi!

8 May. Chopin improvises at the home of de Custine. Among those present are Victor Hugo, Jules Janin and George Sand.

12 May. Soirée at Marliani’s. Sand to Delacroix: ‘Chopin will be playing in an intimate circle […] Please come at midnight, if You are not too great a lie-abed’.

End of May. Famous 32-page letter from Sand to Grzymała on the subject of Chopin: ‘I ask not if he loves or is loved, if he loves her more or less than me. From what is happening inside of me, I can divine what must be happening in him. I want to know which of us he should forget or abandon in order to preserve his peace, his happiness, his life, indeed, which appears to be too frail and faint to be exposed to great suffering. […] We have not enticed one another – we have let ourselves be lifted by a passing wind, which after a few moments swept us away to some other land. […] Should he wish to place his fate in my hands, I would be extremely frightened, as I have already taken into my hands the fate of another [Mallefille], and therefore would not be able to replace that which he discarded for me… I believe that our love could only exist under the same conditions in which it was born, that is from time to time […] we shall fly to the land of stars, and then we shall part, to walk once again on the earth’. Chopin to Grzymała: ‘I must see You without delay, be it at 12 or 1 in the night […] It is to do with advice for me’. In another letter of a couple of sentences: ‘What will come of it, God knows. I am seriously unwell’ Start of an intimate friendship with George Sand – the author of Lélia, great-granddaughter of Duke Maurice of Saxony.

19 July. Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz in his diary, after meeting Sand: ‘A talent in her writing that is rare, familiar to all, a life that is free, unfortunately! She nevertheless deigns to believe in God, the immortality of the soul and a future better life. For younger men, completely unalluring. Original in everything, even in attire’.

JulyAugust. Eugène Delacroix makes sketches for a joint portrait of Chopin and George Sand. Her son, Maurice, draws the guests of artistic-social gatherings at Sand’s home, creating a kind of panneau. They include Chopin, Liszt, Delacroix, August Charpentier, Luigi Calamata, Emmanuel Arago, Pierre Bocage, Félicien Mallefille and Grzymała.

7 September. Sand to Delacroix: ‘Nothing gives such languor in the bones as the delicious lassitude that flows from happy love. I remain in the intoxication in which You saw me last. […] I am beginning to believe that angels can appear disguised as men, dwelling for some time upon the earth, in order to console and lure heavenwards behind them poor, exhausted and troubled souls, close to ruin. If in one hour’s time God were to send me death, I would not complain, as three months have passed in undisturbed intoxication’.

9 September. Félicien Mallefille publishes in the ‘Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris’ an enthusiastic text devoted to Poland, Chopin and his Polish Ballade: ‘And when You stopped, we stayed a long while in silence, lost in thought, still hearing that marvellous song, whose final note had long since resounded. […] Accept this offering as a token of my feelings towards You and of sympathy with your homeland’. Soon afterwards, tormented by jealousy over Sand, he would seek an opportunity for a duel with Chopin.

10 September. At the opera, the premiere of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini.

October. Schlésinger publishes the Mazurkas Op. 33, dedicated to Countess Róża Mostowska.

18 October. Sand leaves with her children, Maurice and Solange, for Majorca, travelling in short stages. Nine days later, Chopin sets off after her.

31 October. Meeting with Sand and her children in Perpignan. Sand: ‘he arrived as fresh as a daisy and as red as a beetroot, in good health, after four nights heroically spent in a mail-coach’.

2–7 November. In Barcelona, at the ‘Cuatro Naciones’ Inn. Visiting the cathedral, the old part of the city, the ruined house of the Inquisition. Evening at the theatre.

7 November. Passage from Barcelona to Majorca on board ‘El Mallorquin’.

8 November. In Palma, at an inn on Calle de la Marina.

15 November. In the villa ‘Son Vent’, near Palma. Chopin to Fontana: ‘I am in Palma, amidst the palms, cedars, cactuses, oranges, lemons, aloes, figs, pomegranates, etc. What only the Jardin des Plantes has in its ovens. The sky like turquoise, sea like azure, mountains like emerald, air like in heaven. During the day, sunny, everyone walking as if it were summer and hot; at night, guitars and song for hours on end. […] The piano has not yet arrived. What route did they send it? You will soon receive the preludes. […] And my life, I am living a little more… I am close to that which is most beautiful. I am better’.

22 November. Outbreak of illness, ‘in spite of the 18-degree warmth, roses, oranges, palms and figs’. Two weeks later, to Fontana: ‘The 3 most famous doctors of the whole island: one smelled what I spat, another tapped whence I spat, the third rubbed and listened how I spat. The one said that I had died, the second that I was dying, and the third that I would die […] à grâce de Providence I am today back to normal. However, it does affect the preludes, which the Lord God knows when You will receive’.

28 November. Date placed on sketches of the Mazurka in E minor Op. 41 No. 1 (‘Palman’) and two preludes (in A minor and E minor) from opus 28.

3 December. To Grzymała: ‘It is a devilish land, with regard to the post, the people and the comfort. The sky is lovely like Your soul; the earth is black, like my heart’. To Fontana: ‘Only the piano I am still without. […] Do not tell people that I was ill, as they will start gossiping’.

4 December. Reflection of Schumann, opening his review of the Impromptu Op. 29, Mazurkas Op. 30 and Scherzo Op. 31, in the ‘Neue Zeitschrift für Musik’: ‘Chopin is no longer capable of writing anything in such a way that by the seventh or eighth bar it would not be possible to cry: it’s his! This mannerism has been reproached him, and it has been claimed that he is not progressing. Yet, one must rather be grateful to him for this. Is it not still that same original force, which […] once instantly dazzled and delighted you?’ December sees the publication of the 3 Waltzes Op. 34.

14 December. Sand to Marliani: ‘Our family ties are becoming even closer, and we hug each other with ever-increasing feeling and trustful happiness’. Chopin to Fontana: ‘Meanwhile, my manuscripts sleep, and I myself cannot, I only cough and, long since covered with plasters, I wait for the spring, or for something else… Tomorrow I am going to that most wonderful cloister to write in the cell of an old monk, who may have had in his soul more fervour that I’. In spite of everything, he continues to work: ‘I am planning to send You my preludes and a Ballade quite soon’.

15 December. In Valldemossa, a wild and uninhabited area, after being forced to leave Palma due to the inhabitants’ fear of Chopin’s illness.

28 December. To Fontana: ‘Between the rocks and the sea the huge abandoned Carthusian monastery, where in one of the cells, behind doors like no gates Paris has ever seen, You can imagine me dishevelled, without my white gloves, pale as always. The cell has the form of a high coffin, with a vast vault […] outside the window oranges, palms, cypresses […] a square klak that barely serves me for writing, upon which stands a lead candlestick […] with a candle, Bach, my scribblings […] quiet… one could shout… quiet. In a word, I am writing to You from a strange place’. He works on composing the opus 28 Preludes into a single whole. Still awaiting the piano. Sand to Marliani: ‘Our poor Chopin is weak and suffering. Rains fall here the like of which people have no conception elsewhere’. She finishes writing Spiridion and sends the manuscript to Paris.


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