CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY

Year 1849 Year 1849

Beginning of the Year. Limits his lessons and accepts no new pupils. Numerous visits from friends, pupils, grandes dames. Particularly frequent contacts with Delacroix, Norwid, Kalergis and Potocka. On one occasion he visits the ailing Mickiewicz, plays for him and improvises.

29 January. The frequent visits of Delacroix and the conversations carried on with Chopin are documented in the painter’s private diary, from January to June; important entries on the following dates: 2 and 9 February, 2, 8 and 30 March, 4, 7 and 14 April, 17 May and around 8 June. Delacroix: ‘we talked about Mrs Sand, about that strange fate, about that mixture of virtues and faults. It was in connection with her memoirs’.

30 March. Diary entry: ‘Yesterday I saw at Chopin’s the bewitching Mrs Potocka. I have heard her twice; I doubt that I have heard anything so perfect. […] I saw [at Chopin’s] Mrs Kalergis. She played not very pleasantly; but for that she is very beautiful, when, in playing, she lifts up her eyes in resemblance to the Magdalen of Guido Renni or Rubens.

3 April. Death of Juliusz Słowacki.

4 April. Conversation with Delacroix about counterpoint.

5 April. Chopin to Solange Clésinger: ‘I am at a loss what to do. I have a fourth successive doctor, they take from me 10 fr. a visit – they come sometimes twice a day, but bring me little relief’. Chopin maintains with Solange a lively correspondence; August Clésinger visits him from time to time. He tries to use his influence for the sculptor in the high circles of Paris and London, to where Clésinger is intending to travel.

7 April. Delacroix accompanies Chopin on a ride around the Champs Elysées: ‘Talking about music livened him up. […] I asked him what is logic in music. He replied that harmony and counterpoint. […] Beethoven departs from the rules, Mozart never’.

11 April. Delacroix: ‘Once again I saw Mrs Potocka at Chopin’s, once again that enchanting voice. She sang fragments of nocturnes and piano music by Chopin, including Młyn w Nohant, which she executes in the style of O salutaris’.

12 April. Another visit from Clésinger seeking assistance. To Solange Clésinger in Guillery: ‘Your husband is well […] on Monday he will be presented to the president; he is of a most positive mind. […] May You make the most of the climate there. Paris is abysmal. The weather changes 36 times, mud, draughts in the room. There is nothing bearable, everything for the moment is abominable’ .

14 April. Delacroix visits Chopin: ‘He was distressed, breathless […] He said that boredom is for him the cruellest torment’.

16 April. At the opera, the premiere of Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète. Success for P. Viardot. Chopin to S. Clésinger: ‘They speak wonders of the (stage) fire, of the beautiful scenery and of Mrs Viardot, who moved everyone to tears in the role of the mother’.

20 April. At a performance of Le Prophète, in the company of Kalergis and Delacroix. A negative appraisal. According to Delacroix, ‘that botched piece of work seemed dreadful to him’. Two days later, at Chopin’s they exchange impressions from the show.

Spring. P. Viardot to Sand: ‘You ask for news of Chopin. Here it is. His health is gradually deteriorating; he has some bearable days, when he is able to travel by carriage, and others when he is spitting blood and has attacks of coughing that choke him. He does not go out in the evenings. However, he is still able to give a few lessons, and on good days can even be cheerful. […] He has visited me three times but not found me home. He speaks of You with the utmost respect’.

13 May. Solange Clésinger: ‘I wanted to inform You of my joy […] I have a daughter as huge as the other was little’. She asks Chopin to urge Clésinger into trying his skills in London, when ‘he could perhaps sell a statue’. Five months later, August Clésinger would be the one to take the death-mask of Chopin’s face; he would also be responsible for the monument in the Père-Lachaise cemetery.

17 May. Delacroix: ‘He really feels slightly better. Mrs Kalergis was here’.

19 May. Chopin to S. Clésinger: ‘Friend, very unhappy, blesses You and Your child’.

Before 9 June. Last conversation with Delacroix prior to his lengthy absence from Paris.

June. Summer at Chaillot. Belated rest in the outer suburbs of Paris, then almost in the countryside, commemorated by the accounts of Norwid in Czarne kwiaty [Black Flowers] and a lyrical reflection in Fortepian Szopena [Chopin’s Piano]: ‘I was with You on those penultimate days…’ Possibly from this time and place is the incomplete sketch of a Mazurka in F minor (WN 65), considered to be Chopin’s last work, although this is not absolutely certain. In June, Justyna Chopin gives her son financial support, sending him 1200 francs. His stay in Chaillot was financed discreetly by (probably) Duke N. Obreskov.

18 June. To Grzymała about the cholera which is rampant in Paris: ‘Everyone is leaving – some from fear of cholera, others from fear of revolution’. Among those to die of cholera are Angelica Catalani and Friedrich Kalkbrenner. On himself: ‘I am stronger, as I have caught up on eating and thrown up my medicine – but I am panting and coughing the same, just that I am bearing it better – I have not yet started to play – I cannot compose – I do not know what kind of straw I shall soon be eating’. Among his visitors are Jenny Lind (‘she sang one evening at my home’), Potocka, L. Beauvau, N. Rothschild, the Duke and Duchess Czartoryski, Jane Stirling and Catherine Erskine, and earlier Duke N. Obreskov, E. Legouvé, Baron N. Stockhausen.

22 June. Violent attacks of illness. Two haemorrhages during the night.

25 June. To Ludwika Jędrzejewiczowa: ‘If You can, then come. I am weak and no doctor can help me like You. […] Beautiful weather today, I am sitting in the drawing-room and admiring my view over the whole of Paris: the tower, the Tuileries, Izba, St. Germ[ain], L’Aux[errois], St. Etienne du Mont, Notre Dame, Panthéon, St. Sulpice, Val-de-Grâce, Invalides, from five windows and nothing but gardens between them. You will see when You come’. In the eyes of Norwid, a frequent guest from June onwards: ‘His apartment has windows looking over gardens and the dome of the Pantheon and the whole of Paris […] the main part of the apartment being a large drawing-room with two windows, where his immortal piano stood’.

4 July. To Solange: ‘The cholera is slightly abating, but from what they are saying Paris is emptying even more. It is hot and full of dust. Penury and dirt…’ He takes an interest in Solange’s little daughter, who is doubtless ‘smiling, screaming, making a din, slavering […] When will You start to teach her horse-riding?’ With Norwid, who calls in ‘many times’, he eats dinner, goes for rides in the Bois de Boulogne, visits his friends; one of them is Bohdan Zaleski.

10 July. On Dr J. Cruveiller: ‘I see that he too has me down as consumptive’. The doctor (to Chopin’s sister, Ludwika): ‘He has survived thirty years with this illness’.

July. Amélie Grille de Beuzelin to Sand: ‘He painfully feels Your absence’. In reply: ‘His sentiment died long ago, and if my memory still oppresses him, it is because he feels pangs of conscience’.

16 July. Delfina Potocka: ‘It afflicts one to feel that You are so alone in Your illness and sadness; please send a few words. […] Here it is gloomy and tedious, but for me life shifts along in the same manner everywhere; if it would only pass without bitter suffering and trials, what I have already had to bear is quite sufficient. Somehow I, too, have been rather out of luck in this world! […] Au total, this life is just one mighty dissonance’. She recommends ‘thinking seriously about Nice for the winter’. One day sees a visit from the singer Adelaide Sartoris (Kemble); she sings to Chopin a favourite aria from Bellini’s Norma (‘Casta diva’?)

9 August. Ludwika arrives in Paris with her husband, Kalasanty Jędrzejewicz, and their daughter, Ludwika. Norwid, in Czarne kwiaty: ‘the artist’s sister sat by him, strangely similar to him in profile. […] In the deep shade of the curtained bed, resting on cushions and bound in a shawl, he was extremely beautiful, just as always in his movements in everyday life possessing something complete, something monumentally drawn…’ The scene is immortalised on one of the numerous drawings by Teofil Kwiatkowski, also a frequent guest of Chopin’s during these months.

30 August. Medical consultation between the doctors J. Cruveiller, P. Ch. Louis and J. G. Blache. Grzymała to Léo (a few months later): ‘the doctors Roth, Simon, Olendorf and Fraenkel from Warsaw, Louis, Blache and Cruveiller, and many others did what they could: however, the illness was already too advanced, and the patient too weak, for him to be saved’.

1 September. Sand to Ludwika Jędrzejewiczowa: ‘I have learned that You are in Paris. […] At last, through You I shall have some real news of Fryderyk. […] The memory of me has evidently been tarnished in Your heart, but I do not believe that I have deserved everything that I have gone through’. The reply is not known.

9 September. Chopin moves to 12, Place Vendôme, to a sunny apartment found by friends.

September. Visits from many friends, pupils and acquaintances returning from their summer travels. Among the occasional guests are Duchess M. Czartoryska, Stirling, Erskine, Kalergis, Duke C. Soutzo, Duke Obreskov, Ch. Rothschild, de Rozières, Franchomme, Gutmann, Grzymała, Kwiatkowski and Zaleski. Gutmann plays Mozart to Chopin, Potocka sings, Kwiatkowski sketches. Besides this, as P. Viardot spitefully remarked, ‘all the grande dames of Paris considered it their duty to faint in his room’.

October. Chopin instructs all his unpublished and unfinished works to be thrown on the fire. According to the account given by Grzymała, he was to have said: ‘There are many works, to a greater or lesser degree unworthy of me; in the name of the affection that You feel for me. please burn them all except for the beginning of the method [of piano playing]. […] The remainder without exception is to be consumed by the flames, since I have too great a respect for the public and do not wish for works unworthy of the public to become disseminated on my responsibility and in my name’.

Mid October. Visit from an old acquaintance, a former insurgent and now priest, Aleksander Jełowicki; conversations, last rites. Grzymała in a later letter to Léo: ‘Even antiquity, even the era of the Stoics did not give an example of a death more beautiful and – more splendid, more Christian, of a pure soul. The dying moments, after confession and the receiving of the Sacraments, lasted three more days and nights’.

Around 15 October. Delfina Potocka sings at Chopin’s bed. As Grzymała recalled: ‘a few hours before his death, he asked Mrs Potocka for three melodies by Bellini and Rossini, which she sang in weeping; he listened to the final sounds of this world absorbed in prayer’. According to P. Viardot, this was a psalm by Marcello, according to others a hymn by Stradella, an aria by Pergolesi from the Stabat Mater, Dignare Domine from Handel’s Te Deum and one of Chopin’s nocturnes with words from the hymn O salutaris. In the final hours, as P. Viardot relates, ‘he still found the strength to say a heartfelt word to each, to cheer his friends. He asked Gutmann, Franchomme and other musicians to practise only good music: ‘do this for me – I am certain that I shall hear you – it will give me pleasure’.

17 October. At two after midnight Fryderyk Chopin dies. According to family tradition, his last words were ‘Matka, moja biedna matka’ [‘Mother, my poor mother’].

18 October. Cyprian Kamil Norwid: ‘Born a Varsovian, a Pole in his heart, and in his talent a citizen of the world, Fryderyk Chopin, has departed this world’ (‘Dziennik Polski’, Poznań, 28 October). Stanisław Mycielski (?) in another of the numerous obituaries: ‘in him Poland lost her greatest musician, of whom she may boast, and the world of music the founder of a new school, the romantic school’ (‘Gazeta Polska’, Poznań, 11 November).

30 October. Funeral solemnities in the church of St Magdalen. Performed during the service were Preludes in E minor and B flat minor (played on the organ by Lefébure-Wély) and, probably in keeping with Chopin’s wishes, Mozart’s Requiem. Played at the Père-Lachaise cemetery was the Funeral March from the B flat minor Sonata, in an instrumentation by N. H. Réber. Chopin’s heart was removed to Poland, to be placed in the church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw.


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