xxxxxThe Polish romantic composer Frédéric Chopin wrote almost entirely for the piano, and his inspired music, rich in melody, included waltzes, nocturnes, preludes, mazurkas and polonaises. He settled in Paris in 1831, and it was here, the artistic centre of Europe, that he won fame for his compositions and the recitals he gave in the fashionable salons of the city. His famous affair with the notorious woman novelist George Sand began in 1838, and it was during this ten-
FRÉDÉRIC FRANÇOIS CHOPIN 1810 -
(G3c, G4, W4, Va)
Chopin: by the French painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-
xxxxxThe Polish romantic composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin, one of the world’s most talented and inventive musicians, wrote almost entirely for solo piano, and produced a steady stream of inspired music, including waltzes, nocturnes, preludes, mazurkas and polonaises. His mastery of the keyboard revolutionized the technique of playing the pianoforte, and his compositions, mostly in relatively small pieces, became known for their attention to pure form and their rich and varied melody, ranging in mood from the stormy and sad to the tender and majestic.
xxxxxChopin was born at Zelazowa Wola, near Warsaw. His mother was Polish, and his father, who was employed as a private tutor and teacher, was a French émigré. Showing an extraordinary musical talent at an early age, he started piano lessons when he was six, and produced his first attempt at composition -
xxxxxMany of Chopin’s compositions revealed a deep love of his native land, its folk music and dance, but, in fact, he was to spend his life outside of Poland from the age of 18, mostly in Paris. On completion of his studies in 1829 he went on tour, visiting a number of German cities and playing in Vienna and Munich. To this period belongs his first piano concerto, a subtle, effortless and melodic work composed in 1830. But it was during that year, while paying a visit to Stuttgart, that he learnt of the Russian occupation of Warsaw during the November Uprising. This event might well have persuaded him not return to Poland, but to make his home in Paris, then the artistic capital of Europe. There, in fact, his delicate, refined style was more fully appreciated, and he earned a good living by composing and giving lessons and recitals at the musical parties of the rich and famous. As a cultured, quiet mannered man of good taste, this life suited him. In 1833 he wrote home, “I have found my way into the very best society, and have my place among ambassadors, princes and ministers.” To this early period belong a large number of piano studies, including Tristess and Butterfly, and the piano ballade Fantaisie-
xxxxxAnd it was soon after arriving in Paris that he became a prominent member of a circle of young romantic composers which included Felix Mendelssohn, Vincenzo Bellini, Hector Berlioz and Franz Liszt. He became a particularly close friend of the last named, the Hungarian virtuoso pianist, and it was through him that he came to know George Sand (pen-
xxxxxOn their return to Paris they spent the next eight years living in the city over the winter months -
xxxxxHis love affair with Sand came to an end in 1847. A family quarrel between Sand and her daughter Solange in which Chopin sided with her daughter led to an estrangement between the two of them, and by 1848 the rift was complete. Devastated by the break-
xxxxxChopin’s gift of producing exquisite, original melody rivalled that of both Mozart and Schubert. During his short musical career his compositions included two concertos for piano and orchestra, three piano sonatas, and a number of waltzes, but he is mostly remembered today for his twenty or more études, preludes and nocturnes -
xxxxxThese works, together with the remarkable agility and subtlety with which they were played, made the piano an important instrument in its own right, whilst his brilliant harmonic and rhythmic innovations influenced, amongst others, the Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt, the German composer Richard Wagner, and the French composer Claude Debussy. And later composers, such as Antonin Dvorák, Edvard Grieg and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, were to be romantically inspired by a love for their homeland, a love first demonstrated so brilliantly by Chopin in the fashionable salons of high society.
xxxxxIncidentally, a great admirer of Chopin and his works was the German composer Robert Schumann. He regarded him as “the boldest and proudest poetic spirit of the time”. Earlier, on hearing his variations on La ci darem la mano, from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, he is said to have exclaimed, “Hats off, gentlemen, here is a genius!”. Likewise Felix Mendelssohn called him “a perfect virtuoso”. ……
Xxxxx…… Thexnocturne, though generally associated with Chopin, was named and introduced earlier by the Irish-
xxxxx…… It is said that Chopin’s Waltz No.3 in F Major was inspired by a cat walking over the keys of his piano! Later, a suite of his piano music was used as the basis for the ballet Chopiniana, produced by the Russian dancer and choreographer Mikhail Fokine in 1908. The ballet was renamed Les Sylphides the following year.
Franz Liszt and
xxxxxThe French writer Aurore Dupin (1804-
xxxxxThe Hungarian Franz Liszt (1811-
xxxxxLiszt was born in Raiding, Hungary, in 1811, and from an early age was taught music by his father, Adam, a talented amateur musician. His father took him to Vienna when he was ten, and it was there that he completed his musical studies and met and played for the great German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. After his first tour of Europe, during which he fascinated all by his immense talent, he settled in Paris in 1831 and became a particularly close friend of the romantic composers Hector Berlioz and Frédéric Chopin, and the literary figures Victor Hugo, Alphonse de Lamartine, Alfred de Musset and George Sand. And it was at this time that he attended performances by the Italian violin virtuoso Nicolò Paganini. Within a short while Liszt had won fame as a brilliant concert pianist, loved and rewarded wherever he went. And he was admired and not a little envied by the delicate and refined Chopin for his abundant energy, his panache as a showman, and the immense success of his public appearances.
xxxxxThree years later Liszt settled for a while in Geneva with his mistress the Countess Marie d’Agoult -
xxxxxIn 1848 he settled in Weimar with his new love the Russian princess Carolyne Sayn-
xxxxxIn 1861 Liszt retired to Rome where, motivated by a life-
xxxxxDuring his long career, Liszt learnt a great deal from the music of Berlioz, Chopin and Wagner. For his part, he was most generous in his help to up-
xxxxxIncidentally, Liszt was a particularly close friend of Richard Wagner, whom he first met in 1848. When, in the following year, the German composer was forced to flee from the city of Dresden, Liszt helped him make his escape. Later Cosima, his daughter by the Countess Marie d’Agoult, married Wagner. ……
xxxxx…… Liszt produced a third piano concerto (in E flat) in 1839, but it was not performed during his lifetime, and did not come to light, in fact, until 1988. ……
xxxxx…… A great admirer of Beethoven, Liszt wrote a cantata for the Beethoven Festival of 1845, and produced concerts to raise money for the completion of the Beethoven monument in the Munsterplatz in Bonn. ……
xxxxx…… Liszt might well be seen as the first “pop star”. We are told that women swooned over his playing and his good looks, and fought over locks of his hair and buttons from his clothing!
xxxxxDuring his career Liszt taught the piano to more than 400 pupils. A number of them became famous virtuosos, but none of them proved a patch on their master! Amongst them was the Spanish composer and virtuoso pianist Isaac Albéniz (1860-
xxxxxAlbéniz gave his first piano recital at the age of four, making his debut at the Teatro Romea in Barcelona. As a young man he travelled widely in South America and the United States before returning to Budapest in 1880 to take lessons from Liszt. He lived for a short time in London before settling in Paris in 1893. His works included Spanish Rhapsody for piano and orchestra in 1887, his Piano suite España, three years later, and his most famous work, Suite Iberia -
xxxxxThe French novelist Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin (1804-
xxxxxSand was born in Paris, the daughter of a French army officer. She spent most of her childhood at Nohant, the country home of her grandmother, and was educated at a convent in Paris. At the age of eighteen she married Casimir Dudevant, a man many years her senior. She had two children by him, but the marriage was an unhappy one, and she eventually left him, moved to Paris in 1831, and lived with another man. The following year she took up writing to make a living and during her career wrote a large number of sentimental novels, stories, essays and plays. Her first novel Indiana, closely based on her own marital experience, roundly condemned the “imprisonment” and “slavery” endured by married women, and won her overnight fame. This work was quickly followed by the novels Valentine and Lelia, and these shocked the reading public by their frank discussion of a woman’s private desires, and the rightful need for women to find emotional and sexual satisfaction. Such bold pronouncements, together with her off-
xxxxxIn the early 1840s she turned her attention to the ills of social injustice, taking up the cause of the working classes, and condemning the materialism of the bourgeoisie in works such as Consuelo and Le Meunier d’Angibault. Then, with the coming of the 1848 revolution, she took up the republican cause, using her considerable writing skills to produce pamphlets advocating the overthrow of the monarchy. Today, however, she is best remembered for her sentimental pastoral novels of the 1840s, seen by many as her finest works. Among these were The Devil’s Pool, The Country Waif, and The Little Fairy. These so-
xxxxxHer Story of My Life was published in 1855, and this, together with Tales of a Grandmother, a series of stories she wrote for her grandchildren, are often regarded as her most enduring works. Her A Winter in Majorca is an account of her stay on the island with Chopin and her two children during the winter of 1838-
xxxxxIncidentally, Sand wrote her first two novels in collaboration with her then lover, the French novelist Jules Sandeau. These were published under the name Jules Sand and this gave her the idea of her pen name when she published her own novel, Indiana, in 1832. ……
xxxxx…… Her short but highly romantic affair with Alfred de Musset, begun in 1833, is recounted in her She and Him, published in 1859. For his part, Musset gave an account of their relationship and break-
xxxxxThe Hungarian Franz Liszt (1811-