CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY

Year 1839 Year 1839

Around 10 January. The piano sent by Pleyel arrives. Final phase of work on the preludes. Sand writes Lélia.

22 January. Sand to Marliani: ‘I write to You from my hermitage in Valldemossa […] In this no quarter is given me by the warbling piano of Chopin working in his normal, beautiful, way, to the astonishment of the eavesdropping walls of the cell’. In a later recollection, in Histoire de ma vie: ‘He could not curb his restless imagination. Even when he felt good, the monastery seemed to him to be full of phantoms and frights […] I found him at ten in the evening sitting pale at the piano, with a vague look in his eyes, with his hair on end…’ Chopin (to Fontana): ‘I send You the Preludes. Transcribe them, You and [Edward] Wolff; I think there are no errors. You will give the transcriptions to Probst and the manuscript to Pleyel. […[ In a couple of weeks’ time You will get a ballade [F major], polonaises [A major and C minor] and a scherzo [C sharp minor]. Tell Pleyel to agree on the timing of the publication of the preludes with Probst. I still have not yet received any letter from my parents!’ To Pleyel: ‘At last I send You my preludes, completed on Your piano. […] I advised Fontana to hand You my manuscript. For France and England I want for it one thousand five hundred francs. Probst, as You know, purchased the German rights for Härtel for one thousand francs’. There follows an offer from Chopin concerning the ballade, polonaises and scherzo, with precise stipulation of price and territory. In a note: ‘I noticed that I have not yet thanked You for the piano, and that I write only about money. Decidedly, I am a man of business’.

11 (12?) February. Together with Sand and her children leaves Valldemossa, and on 13 February Majorca. Sand (to Marliani): ‘On Majorca we were pariahs, due to Chopin’s cough, and also because we did not attend Mass. Stones were thrown at my children. They said that we were pagans, and I do not know what else’.

14 February. In Barcelona, following a dramatic sea journey aboard ‘El Mallorquin’. Sand to F. Rollinat: ‘After arriving in Palma [from Valldemossa], Chopin began to spit blood terribly; the next day we got on the only steamboat running from the island, which transports pigs to Barcelona. […] The endless squealing and hideous stench prevented the patient from resting or drawing fresh air. He sailed into Barcelona having spat out a bowl-full of blood and reeling like a ghost’. One week’s stay in Barcelona, under the care of Doctor J. H. Coste.

24 February. In Marseilles, where they would stay for three months, with Chopin’s reconvalescence led by Dr Cauvière. Sand (to Marliani): ‘At last in France […] One more month and we would have died in Spain, both Chopin and myself, he from melancholy and repugnance, I from anger and indignation. […] He no longer spits blood, he is sleeping well and coughing little, but above all he is in France! He can sleep in a bed which will not be burned because he has slept in it’.

7 March. Chopin to Fontana, whom he burdens with a dozen instructions relating to manuscripts, publications, money, furniture, the apartment: ‘There you have my affairs. […] To Your genuine and sincere letter You have a reply in the second polonaise [C minor] – it is not my fault that I am like that fungus, similar to a mushroom that poisons […] I know that I have never been of any use to anyone – but then neither have I been of much use to myself’. He sends Fontana a quite mysterious task: ‘in the bureau, in the first drawer from the doors, is a sheet of paper, which either You, or Grz[ymała], or Jaś [Jan Matuszyński] could have unsealed; now I ask You to take it out and burn it unread – do it, I beseech you on our friendship’.

8 March. Sand (to Marliani): ‘As for Chopin, he has worked awfully hard, and will now be rolling in gold. I am not letting up in my work and will eventually send You a new manuscript’.

12 March. Chopin continues to send Fontana new and varying instructions concerning the sale of the ‘Palman’ manuscripts; he strives to obtain favourable prices for them, haggling with publishers, about which he never ceases to complain and which he reviles without restraint. ‘When one has to deal with Jews, let it at least be the orthodox variety. Probst might swindle me even worse […] Schlésinger is constantly swindling me: he has made plenty on me and would not refuse a new source of profit’. He offers thanks for the copy of Mickiewicz’s Dziady [Forefather’s Eve] sent to him in Marseilles; Sand is busy elaborating an essay on romantic drama. He generally puts a brave face on things, but with Grzymała is honest: ‘I am dreadfully thinner and miserable looking, but now I am catching up on eating. To my eternal cough add all the ills that the Spanish visited upon me and all the pleasures too, as seeing her anxious the whole time, treating me, because the local doctors, God have mercy, making my bed, cleaning my room, preparing tisanes, denying herself everything for me […] with the children in need of her constant attention. […] Add to this, that she is writing’.

13 March. Sand to Marliani: ‘We were shaken today by a story that somebody told us about Nourrit: apparently he jumped from a window and smashed into the pavement. […] But we do not believe it yet, it is too awful’. Two days later: ‘Now the whole literary mob is laying siege at my door, and the whole musical mob is pursuing Chopin. For the time being I am giving him as dead, and if it lasts any longer we will send out to everyone notification of both our deaths, so that they mourn us and leave us in peace’.

End of March. Visit from Konstanty Gaszyński, the author of Pieśni pielgrzyma polskiego [Songs of a Polish Pilgrim] (1833), from Aix en Provence. ‘The only person whom I received’; they attended secondary school together. Further bargaining with publishers, also concerned now is a newly planned work: the Mazurkas Op. 41. Changing plans for the dedications in editions of the preludes (Pleyel, Kessler, Schumann). The Ballade in F major is dedicated to Schumann, and the Polonaises Op. 40 to Fontana, in thanks for his efforts.

27 March. To Grzymała: ‘Now my own has finished the most wonderful article about Goethe, Byron and Mickiewicz. You have to read it for Your heart to rejoice. We often take You on our walks. You would not believe how we enjoy being in Your company. Marseilles is ugly; […] we are a little bored’.

12 April. Troubled at the news of his mother’s intention to visit, in order to look after him: ‘father is weak and needs her more than anyone’. Sand is ‘in the fervour of inspiration’, finishing her ‘new romance, Gabriel’; she would dedicate it to Grzymała.

24 April. Chopin plays the organ in the church of Notre Dame du Mont in Marseilles at the funeral Mass for Adolphe Nourrit, whom he accompanied in songs by Schubert; he plays, among other works, Schubert’s Les astres. The following day he returns to abusing publishers: ‘Scoundrels, Germans, Jews, knaves, rogues, rascals, etc., etc. – in a word, You will finish the litany [the letter is to Fontana], since You now know them just as well as I’.

26 April. Sand (to Marliani): ‘His goodness, tenderness and patience are worrying […] He is too subtle a being, too exceptional and too perfect to live long. […] While at death’s door from illness, on Majorca, he composed music bringing paradise to mind. Yet, I have become so used to seeing him in the clouds, that I have the impression that his life or death mean nothing to him. He himself is not well aware on what planet he is living’.

3–18 May. Sea excursion aboard the ‘Pharamond’ to Genoa, ‘where we spent a couple of weeks’.

20 May. Sand (to Marliani): ‘We returned from Genoa lashed by a terrible storm at sea. We had marvellous views, wonderful nature, palaces and gardens towering above one another. […] Yet, Chopin was dreadfully tired’.

22 May. Słowacki to Gaszyński, who produced the French translation of his Anhelli: ‘The best path would be through Chopin – to Mrs Sand – through Mrs Sand to the “Revue des Deux Mondes”’.

22 May – 1 June. Journey by boat from Marseilles to Arles, and thence by carriage through St-Étienne, Montbrison and Clermont – to Nohant.

1 June to 10 October. Sojourn at Nohant, where Sand is based, situated near La Châtre, approx. 300 km to the south of Paris. To Grzymała: ‘A beautiful village; nightingales, larks, only You, dear bird, are missing’. Chopin composes there the Nocturne in G major Op. 37 No. 2 and the three remaining mazurkas from opus 41; he works on the completion of the Ballade in F major Op. 38, Scherzo in C sharp minor Op. 39, and the principal work of that summer: the Sonata in B flat minor Op. 35. In Paris, in June, the 24 Preludes Op. 28, dedicated to Pleyel, are ultimately published by A. Catelino; three months later a German edition, dedicated to J. Ch. Kessler, an acquaintance from his Warsaw days, would be published by Breitkopf & Härtel.

3 June. Sand (to Marliani): ‘I am home, happy […] after six months wandering across land and sea. […] Chopin is better, only thinner, more delicate and more nervous. […] I am putting great hopes into the months that he will be spending at Nohant, and he wishes to stay here as long as possible’.

15 June. Sand: ‘We eat dinner in the open air, our friends are beginning slowly to appear, we smoke, discuss, and in the evening, when they depart, at nightfall Chopin plays the piano’.

20 June. Sand: ‘He has a beautiful pianoforte and enchants us from morning till night’. The piano was ordered by Sand from Pleyel whilst they were still in Marseilles, as a surprise. ‘He has already created some ravishing things since he has been here’.

5 July. Metamorphosis of Rellstab, of the Berlin ‘Iris’: ‘Did we change or the composer?’ A positive review of a new edition of the Nocturne in E flat major Op. 9 No. 2.

8 July. Another letter to Grzymała, inviting him to Nohant: ‘Mrs d’Agoult’s bed is waiting for You, if it may please You, besides two hearts that love You, that are waiting and waiting for You like…’.

19 July. Schumann, in the ‘Neue Zeitschrift für Musik’, reviews the Mazurkas Op. 33, Waltzes Op. 34 and preludes: ‘I admit that I had imagined them differently, in a style as grand as his études. This is almost the opposite: they are sketches, outlines of études or, as you will, ruins, remains, a colourful and chaotic mixture. Yet, each of the works is marked in his pearly hand: “written by Fryderyk Chopin”; one recognizes him from the breathless pauses’. In 1834, in his Carnival, Schumann was already attempting to ‘forge’ this style.

24 July. Sand (to Marliani): ‘Chopin continues to feel now better, now worse, never decidedly good or bad […] As soon as he feels a little strength inside him, he is cheerful, but whenever he is gripped by melancholy he throws himself at the piano and composes beautiful sheets. He is giving lessons to Solange’. On the eleven-year-old Solange (to D. Richard): ‘My daughter is as fresh as a rosebud and extremely intelligent. She has her faults, but is great in spirit’.

8 August. Important letter to Fontana. On his personal situation: ‘I am not surprised at the various tales; You may note that I knew that I was exposing myself to them. Yet, that, too, will pass; and though our tongues will decay, our souls will remain untouched’. On composing: ‘I am writing her a Sonata in B flat minor, which will contain my march, which You know. There is an Allegro, then a Scherzo in B flat minor, the march and short finale, perhaps some 3 of my pages; the left-hand unisono with the right converse after the march’. And further: ‘I have a new Notturno in G major, which will be coupled with the G minor [Op. 37], if You remember:
You know, I have 4 new mazurkas: one in E minor, from Palma, and 3 from here, in B major, A flat major and C sharp minor [Op. 41]; they seem to me to be appealing, as the littlest children usually seem when parents grow older’. On other musical activities: ‘When I am idle I correct for myself the Paris edition of Bach, not only of the engraver’s errors, but also of errors accredited by those who apparently know Bach’. On his friends: ‘Woyciechowski wrote to me that I should write an oratorio […] I wrote back why is he setting up a sugar factory and not a Camaldolese or Dominican monastery’. On the drawbacks of popularity, or on two mazurkas of the ‘ram didiridi, ram didiridi, ram didiridi, rajda’ type sent to Chopin from Wiatrowo, near Węgrowiec, as themes for variations.

August – October. Lively exchange of correspondence with Fontana (ten letters), concerning new apartments for Chopin and for George Sand. Chopin gives strikingly detailed instructions, maps and descriptions of streets, and sets out his conditions. Also drawn into these efforts is Grzymała (two letters). He punctuates the practical indications with gallows or schoolboy humour: ‘Have Moscheles be given an enema of Neukomm oratorios, seasoned with Cellini [Berlioz] and a Doehler concerto’, etc., in a rather indecent style. The apartment search lasts until 8 October, due to the conditions: ‘It should be quiet, calm, no blacksmiths nearby, no young ladies. […] Sunny. […] There should not be any odours. Quite high. It should be smoke-free, light, as attractive as possible, in other words a view or garden not made a mess of’.

8 October. In a strange mood, Chopin informs Fontana of his new work, the Impromptu in F sharp major Op. 36, ‘which might be second-rate, I do not know, as it is too fresh. Yet, it would be good were it not too Ordowskian or Zimmermannian, or Karsko-Końskian, or Sowińskian, or swine-ian, or other-animalian as it could, according to my reckoning, bring in at least 800 fr.’ He accepts the choice of flats. A sudden request: ‘Also give orders that […] in the new apartment, once such a proficient person, no black thoughts or suffocating coughs come in – think well of me – and forgive me, if You can, many past episodes’.

11 October. In Paris. The journey from Nohant leads via Orleans. He moves into a house a 5, rue Tronchet; Sand at 16, rue Pigalle, nearby. Their relationship is kept rather secret..

October. Among his pupils are the twenty-three-year-old Friederike Müller-Streicher (until 1841) and the thirteen-year-old Georg Mathias (to 1843-1844). Müller-Streicher: ‘In Paris, people alarmed me with tales of how Chopin instructs his pupils to practice Clementi, Hummel, Cramer, Moscheles, Beethoven and Bach, but not his own works. Nothing of the sort. Of course, I had to practice with him compositions by the above-mentioned maestri, but he also required me to play new compositions, and the latest works by Hiller, Thalberg, Liszt, etc. And on the very first lesson he spread out before me his fabulous preludes and études’. Mathias: ‘With Chopin one studied a great deal of Field; besides this, also Clementi’s Gradus and Bach’s Das wohltemperierte Klavier. He was a great enemy of tempo rubato. His favourite form was an even accompaniment to a freedom in the part of the leading song, and so seemingly tempo rubato, but in one hand only. […] His lessons were very poetic’.

21 October. Plays at a musical soirée in the home of the banker August Léo, to whom he later dedicated his Polonaise in A flat major Op. 53. Among those present were Meyerbeer and also Moscheles, who was related to the host. Moscheles on Chopin: ‘He does not employ the orchestral effects adopted by the German school, but proceeds like a singer concerned with expressing sentiment’.

29 October. Gives a joint concert with Moscheles in Saint Cloud, in the presence of the royal court. According to the ‘Revue et Gazette Musicale’ of 31 October, they played (Chopin’s) études and Moscheles’s Sonata in E flat major Op. 47 for four hands, and also improvised – Chopin on La Folie, a melody by A. Grisar, and Moscheles on a theme from Die Zauberflöte. Chopin was ‘admired and coddled like a favourite’. For the Méthode des Méthodes – a piano course by Moscheles and Fétis – in the years 1839–1840 he would compose three new études.

15 November. The Marquis de Custine makes contact after returning from Russia and Siberia, and revives his artistic-literary soirées: ‘I return from the end of the world’. The recollections from his journey, published as La Roussie en 1839, take a strongly critical tone.

1 December. In the ‘Revue des Deux Mondes’, Sand publishes the Essai sur le drame fantastique: Goethe, Byron, Mickiewicz, written in Marseilles.

14 December. Chopin sets new conditions for the Leipzig publishers Breitkopf & Härtel, offering a total of 12 works (Op. 35-41) at ‘500 fr. for each work. It is a price below which I shall provide nothing’.


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