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´╗┐Title: Chopin : the Man and His Music
Author: Huneker, James, 1857-1921
Language: English
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website.



CHOPIN: THE MAN AND HIS MUSIC

by

James Huneker



TABLE OF CONTENTS


  PART I.--THE MAN.

     I. POLAND:--YOUTHFUL IDEALS
    II. PARIS:--IN THE MAELSTROM
   III. ENGLAND, SCOTLAND AND FERE LA CHAISE
    IV. THE ARTIST
     V. POET AND PSYCHOLOGIST

  PART II.--HIS MUSIC.

    VI. THE STUDIES:--TITANIC EXPERIMENTS
   VII. MOODS IN MINIATURE: THE PRELUDES
  VIII. IMPROMPTUS AND VALSES
    IX. NIGHT AND ITS MELANCHOLY MYSTERIES: THE NOCTURNES
     X. THE BALLADES: FAERY DRAMAS
    XI. CLASSICAL CURRENTS
   XII. THE POLONAISES: HEROIC HYMNS OF BATTLE
  XIII. MAZURKAS: DANCES OF THE SOUL
   XIV. CHOPIN THE CONQUEROR

  BIBLIOGRAPHY
  BOOKS BY JAMES HUNEKER



PART I.--THE MAN



I. POLAND:--YOUTHFUL IDEALS


Gustave Flaubert, pessimist and master of cadenced lyric prose, urged
young writers to lead ascetic lives that in their art they might be
violent. Chopin's violence was psychic, a travailing and groaning of
the spirit; the bright roughness of adventure was missing from his
quotidian existence. The tragedy was within. One recalls Maurice
Maeterlinck: "Whereas most of our life is passed far from blood, cries
and swords, and the tears of men have become silent, invisible and
almost spiritual." Chopin went from Poland to France--from Warsaw to
Paris--where, finally, he was borne to his grave in Pere la Chaise. He
lived, loved and died; and not for him were the perils, prizes and
fascinations of a hero's career. He fought his battles within the walls
of his soul--we may note and enjoy them in his music. His outward state
was not niggardly of incident though his inner life was richer,
nourished as it was in the silence and the profound unrest of a being
that irritably resented every intrusion. There were events that left
ineradicable impressions upon his nature, upon his work: his early
love, his sorrow at parting from parents and home, the shock of the
Warsaw revolt, his passion for George Sand, the death of his father and
of his friend Matuszynski, and the rupture with Madame Sand--these were
crises of his history. All else was but an indeterminate factor in the
scheme of his earthly sojourn. Chopin though not an anchorite resembled
Flaubert, being both proud and timid; he led a detached life, hence his
art was bold and violent. Unlike Liszt he seldom sought the glamor of
the theatre, and was never in such public view as his maternal admirer,
Sand. He was Frederic Francois Chopin, composer, teacher of piano and a
lyric genius of the highest range.

Recently the date of his birth has been again discussed by Natalie
Janotha, the Polish pianist. Chopin was born in Zelazowa-Wola, six
miles from Warsaw, March 1, 1809. This place is sometimes spelled
Jeliasovaya-Volia. The medallion made for the tomb by Clesinger--the
son-in-law of George Sand--and the watch given by the singer Catalan!
in 1820 with the inscription "Donne par Madame Catalan! a Frederic
Chopin, age de dix ans," have incited a conflict of authorities.
Karasowski was informed by Chopin's sister that the correct year of his
birth was 1809, and Szulc, Sowinski and Niecks agree with him. Szulc
asserts that the memorial in the Holy Cross Church, Warsaw--where
Chopin's heart is preserved--bears the date March 2, 1809. Chopin, so
Henry T. Finck declares, was twenty-two years of age when he wrote to
his teacher Elsner in 1831. Liszt told Niecks in 1878 that Karasowski
had published the correct date in his biography. Now let us consider
Janotha's arguments. According to her evidence the composer's natal day
was February 22, 1810 and his christening occurred April 28 of the same
year. The following baptismal certificate, originally in Latin and
translated by Finck, is adduced. It is said to be from the church in
which Chopin was christened: "I, the above, have performed the ceremony
of baptizing in water a boy with the double name Frederic Francois, on
the 22d day of February, son of the musicians Nicolai Choppen, a
Frenchman, and Justina de Krzyzanowska his legal spouse. God-parents:
the musicians Franciscus Grembeki and Donna Anna Skarbekowa, Countess
of Zelazowa-Wola." The wrong date was chiselled upon the monument
unveiled October 14, 1894, at Chopin's birthplace--erected practically
through the efforts of Milia Balakireff the Russian composer. Janotha,
whose father founded the Warsaw Conservatory, informed Finck that the
later date has also been put on other monuments in Poland.

Now Chopin's father was not a musician, neither was his mother. I
cannot trace Grembeki, but we know that the Countess Skarbek, mother of
Chopin's namesake, was not a musician; however, the title "musician" in
the baptismal certificate may have signified something eulogistic at
that time. Besides, the Polish clergy was not a particularly accurate
class. But Janotha has more testimony: in her controversy with me in
1896 she quoted Father Bielawski, the present cure of Brochow parish
church of Zelazowa-Wola; this reverend person consulted records and
gave as his opinion that 1810 is authentic. Nevertheless, the biography
of Wojcicki and the statement of the Chopin family contradict him. And
so the case stands. Janotha continues firm in her belief although
authorities do not justify her position.

All this petty pother arose since Niecks' comprehensive biography
appeared. So sure was he of his facts that he disposed of the
pseudo-date in one footnote. Perhaps the composer was to blame;
artists, male as well as female, have been known to make themselves
younger in years by conveniently forgetting their birthdate, or by
attributing the error to carelessness in the registry of dates. Surely
the Chopin family could not have been mistaken in such an important
matter! Regarding Chopin's ancestry there is still a moiety of doubt.
His father was born August 17, 1770--the same year as Beethoven--at
Nancy, Lorraine. Some claim that he had Polish blood in his veins.
Szulc claims that he was the natural son of a Polish nobleman, who
followed King Stanislas Leszcinski to Lorraine, dropping the Szopen, or
Szop, for the more Gallic Chopin. When Frederic went to Paris, he in
turn changed the name from Szopen to Chopin, which is common in France.

Chopin's father emigrated to Warsaw in 1787--enticed by the offer of a
compatriot there in the tobacco business--and was the traditional
Frenchman of his time, well-bred, agreeable and more than usually
cultivated.

He joined the national guard during the Kosciuszko revolution in 1794.
When business stagnated he was forced to teach in the family of the
Leszynskis; Mary of that name, one of his pupils, being beloved by
Napoleon I. became the mother of Count Walewski, a minister of the
second French empire. Drifting to Zelazowa-Wola, Nicholas Chopin lived
in the house of the Countess Skarbek, acting as tutor to her son,
Frederic. There he made the acquaintance of Justina Krzyzanowska, born
of "poor but noble parents." He married her in 1806 and she bore him
four children: three girls, and the boy Frederic Francois.

With a refined, scholarly French father, Polish in political
sentiments, and an admirable Polish mother, patriotic to the extreme,
Frederic grew to be an intelligent, vivacious, home-loving lad. Never a
hearty boy but never very delicate, he seemed to escape most of the
disagreeable ills of childhood. The moonstruck, pale, sentimental calf
of many biographers, he never was. Strong evidence exists that he was
merry, pleasure-loving and fond of practical jokes. While his father
was never rich, the family after the removal to Warsaw lived at ease.
The country was prosperous and Chopin the elder became a professor in
the Warsaw Lyceum. His children were brought up in an atmosphere of
charming simplicity, love and refinement. The mother was an ideal
mother, and, as George Sand declared, Chopin's "only love." But, as we
shall discover later, Lelia was ever jealous--jealous even of Chopin's
past. His sisters were gifted, gentle and disposed to pet him. Niecks
has killed all the pretty fairy tales of his poverty and suffering.

Strong common sense ruled the actions of Chopin's parents, and when his
love for music revealed itself at an early age they engaged a teacher
named Adalbert Zwyny, a Bohemian who played the violin and taught
piano. Julius Fontana, one of the first friends of the boy--he
committed suicide in Paris, December 31, 1869,--says that at the age of
twelve Chopin knew so much that he was left to himself with the usual
good and ill results. He first played on February 24, 1818, a concerto
by Gyrowetz and was so pleased with his new collar that he naively told
his mother, "Everybody was looking at my collar." His musical
precocity, not as marked as Mozart's, but phenomenal withal, brought
him into intimacy with the Polish aristocracy and there his taste for
fashionable society developed. The Czartoryskis, Radziwills, Skarbeks,
Potockis, Lubeckis and the Grand Duke Constantine with his Princess
Lowicka made life pleasant for the talented boy. Then came his lessons
with Joseph Elsner in composition, lessons of great value. Elsner saw
the material he had to mould, and so deftly did he teach that his
pupil's individuality was never checked, never warped. For Elsner
Chopin entertained love and reverence; to him he wrote from Paris
asking his advice in the matter of studying with Kalkbrenner, and this
advice he took seriously. "From Zwyny and Elsner even the greatest ass
must learn something," he is quoted as having said.

Then there are the usual anecdotes--one is tempted to call them the
stock stories of the boyhood of any great composer. In infancy Chopin
could not hear music without crying. Mozart was morbidly sensitive to
the tones of a trumpet. Later the Polish lad sported familiarly with
his talents, for he is related to have sent to sleep and awakened a
party of unruly boys at his father's school. Another story is his
fooling of a Jew merchant. He had high spirits, perhaps too high, for
his slender physique. He was a facile mimic, and Liszt, Balzac, Bocage,
Sand and others believed that he would have made an actor of ability.
With his sister Emilia he wrote a little comedy. Altogether he was a
clever, if not a brilliant lad. His letters show that he was not the
latter, for while they are lively they do not reveal much literary
ability. But their writer saw with open eyes, eyes that were disposed
to caricature the peculiarities of others. This trait, much clarified
and spiritualized in later life, became a distinct, ironic note in his
character. Possibly it attracted Heine, although his irony was on a
more intellectual plane.

His piano playing at this time was neat and finished, and he had
already begun those experimentings in technique and tone that afterward
revolutionized the world of music and the keyboard. He being sickly and
his sister's health poor, the pair was sent in 1826 to Reinerz, a
watering place in Prussian Silesia. This with a visit to his godmother,
a titled lady named Wiesiolowska and a sister of Count Frederic
Skarbek,--the name does not tally with the one given heretofore, as
noted by Janotha,--consumed this year. In 1827 he left his regular
studies at the Lyceum and devoted his time to music. He was much in the
country, listening to the fiddling and singing of the peasants, thus
laying the corner stone of his art as a national composer. In the fall
of 1828 he went to Berlin, and this trip gave him a foretaste of the
outer world.

Stephen Heller, who saw Chopin in 1830, described him as pale, of
delicate health, and not destined, so they said in Warsaw, for a long
life. This must have been during one of his depressed periods, for his
stay in Berlin gives a record of unclouded spirits. However, his sister
Emilia died young of pulmonary trouble and doubtless Frederic was
predisposed to lung complaint. He was constantly admonished by his
relatives to keep his coat closed. Perhaps, as in Wagner's case, the
uncontrollable gayety and hectic humors were but so many signs of a
fatal disintegrating process. Wagner outlived them until the Scriptural
age, but Chopin succumbed when grief, disappointment and intense
feeling had undermined him. For the dissipations of the "average
sensual man" he had an abiding contempt. He never smoked, in fact
disliked it. His friend Sand differed greatly in this respect, and one
of the saddest anecdotes related by De Lenz accuses her of calling for
a match to light her cigar: "Frederic, un fidibus," she commanded, and
Frederic obeyed. Mr. Philip Hale mentions a letter from Balzac to his
Countess Hanska, dated March 15, 1841, which concludes: "George Sand
did not leave Paris last year. She lives at Rue Pigalle, No.
16...Chopin is always there. Elle ne fume que des cigarettes, et pas
autre chose" Mr. Hale states that the italics are in the letter. So
much for De Lenz and his fidibus!

I am impelled here to quote from Mr. Earnest Newman's "Study of Wagner"
because Chopin's exaltation of spirits, alternating with irritability
and intense depression, were duplicated in Wagner. Mr. Newman writes of
Wagner: "There have been few men in whom the torch of life has burned
so fiercely. In his early days he seems to have had that gayety of
temperament and that apparently boundless energy which men in his case,
as in that of Heine, Nietzsche, Amiel and others, have wrongly assumed
to be the outcome of harmonious physical and mental health. There is a
pathetic exception in the outward lives of so many men of genius, the
bloom being, to the instructed eye, only the indication of some subtle
nervous derangement, only the forerunner of decay." The overmastering
cerebral agitation that obsessed Wagner's life, was as with Chopin a
symptom, not a sickness; but in the latter it had not yet assumed a
sinister turn.

Chopin's fourteen days in Berlin,--he went there under the protection
of his father's friend, Professor Jarocki, to attend the great
scientific congress--were full of joy unrestrained. The pair left
Warsaw September 9, 1828, and after five days travel in a diligence
arrived at Berlin. This was a period of leisure travelling and living.
Frederic saw Spontini, Mendelssohn and Zelter at a distance and heard
"Freischutz." He attended the congress and made sport of the
scientists, Alexander von Humboldt included. On the way home they
stopped at a place called Zullichau, and Chopin improvised on Polish
airs so charmingly that the stage was delayed, "all hands turning in"
to listen. This is another of the anecdotes of honorable antiquity.
Count Tarnowski relates that "Chopin left Warsaw with a light heart,
with a mind full of ideas, perhaps full of dreams of fame and
happiness. 'I have only twenty kreuzers in my pockets,' he writes in
his note-book, 'and it seems to me that I am richer than Arthur
Potocki, whom I met only a moment ago;' besides this, witty
conceptions, fun, showing a quiet and cheerful spirit; for example,
'May it be permitted to me to sign myself as belonging to the circle of
your friends,--F. Chopin.' Or, 'A welcome moment in which I can express
to you my friendship.--F. Chopin, office clerk.' Or again, 'Ah, my most
lordly sir, I do not myself yet understand the joy which I feel on
entering the circle of your real friends.--F. Chopin, penniless'!"

These letters have a Micawber ring, but they indicate Chopin's love of
jest. Sikorski tells a story of the lad's improvising in church so that
the priest, choir and congregation were forgotten by him.

The travellers arrived at Warsaw October 6 after staying a few days in
Posen where the Prince Radziwill lived; here Chopin played in private.
This prince-composer, despite what Liszt wrote, did not contribute a
penny to the youth's musical education, though he always treated him in
a sympathetic manner.

Hummel and Paganini visited Warsaw in 1829. The former he met and
admired, the latter he worshipped. This year may have seen the
composition, if not the publication of the "Souvenir de Paganini," said
to be in the key of A major and first published in the supplement of
the "Warsaw Echo Muzyczne." Niecks writes that he never saw a copy of
this rare composition. Paderewski tells me he has the piece and that it
is weak, having historic interest only. I cannot find much about the
Polish poet, Julius Slowacki, who died the same year, 1849, as Edgar
Allan Poe. Tarnowski declares him to have been Chopin's warmest friend
and in his poetry a starting point of inspiration for the composer.

In July 1829, accompanied by two friends, Chopin started for Vienna.
Travelling in a delightful, old-fashioned manner, the party saw much of
the country--Galicia, Upper Silesia and Moravia--the Polish
Switzerland. On July 31 they arrived in the Austrian capital. Then
Chopin first began to enjoy an artistic atmosphere, to live less
parochially. His home life, sweet and tranquil as it was, could not
fail to hurt him as artist; he was flattered and coddled and doubtless
the touch of effeminacy in his person was fostered. In Vienna the life
was gayer, freer and infinitely more artistic than in Warsaw. He met
every one worth knowing in the artistic world and his letters at that
period are positively brimming over with gossip and pen pictures of the
people he knew. The little drop of malice he injects into his
descriptions of the personages he encounters is harmless enough and
proves that the young man had considerable wit. Count Gallenberg, the
lessee of the famous Karnthnerthor Theatre, was kind to him, and the
publisher Haslinger treated him politely. He had brought with him his
variations on "La ci darem la mano"; altogether the times seemed
propitious and much more so when he was urged to give a concert.
Persuaded to overcome a natural timidity, he made his Vienna debut at
this theatre August 11, 1829, playing on a Stein piano his Variations,
opus 2. His Krakowiak Rondo had been announced, but the parts were not
legible, so instead he improvised. He had success, being recalled, and
his improvisation on the Polish tune called "Chmiel" and a theme from
"La Dame Blanche" stirred up much enthusiasm in which a grumbling
orchestra joined. The press was favorable, though Chopin's playing was
considered rather light in weight. His style was admired and voted
original--here the critics could see through the millstone--while a
lady remarked "It's a pity his appearance is so insignificant." This
reached the composer's ear and caused him an evil quarter of an hour
for he was morbidly sensitive; but being, like most Poles, secretive,
managed to hide it.

August 18, encouraged by his triumph, Chopin gave a second concert on
the same stage. This time he played the Krakowiak and his talent for
composition was discussed by the newspapers. "He plays very quietly,
without the daring elan which distinguishes the artist from the
amateur," said one; "his defect is the non-observance of the indication
of accent at the beginning of musical phrases." What was then admired
in Vienna was explosive accentuations and piano drumming. The article
continues: "As in his playing he was like a beautiful young tree that
stands free and full of fragrant blossoms and ripening fruits, so he
manifested as much estimable individuality in his compositions where
new figures and passages, new forms unfolded themselves." This rather
acute critique, translated by Dr. Niecks, is from the Wiener
"Theaterzeitung" of August 20, 1829. The writer of it cannot be accused
of misoneism, that hardening of the faculties of curiousness and
prophecy--that semi-paralysis of the organs of hearing which afflicts
critics of music so early in life and evokes rancor and dislike to
novelties. Chopin derived no money from either of his concerts.

By this time he was accustomed to being reminded of the lightness and
exquisite delicacy of his touch and the originality of his style. It
elated him to be no longer mistaken for a pupil and he writes home that
"my manner of playing pleases the ladies so very much." This manner
never lost its hold over female hearts, and the airs, caprices and
little struttings of Frederic are to blame for the widely circulated
legend of his effeminate ways. The legend soon absorbed his music, and
so it has come to pass that this fiction, begotten of half fact and
half mental indolence, has taken root, like the noxious weed it is.
When Rubinstein, Tausig and Liszt played Chopin in passional phrases,
the public and critics were aghast. This was a transformed Chopin
indeed, a Chopin transposed to the key of manliness. Yet it is the true
Chopin. The young man's manners were a trifle feminine but his brain
was masculine, electric, and his soul courageous. His Polonaises,
Ballades, Scherzi and Etudes need a mighty grip, a grip mental and
physical.

Chopin met Czerny. "He is a good man, but nothing more," he said of
him. Czerny admired the young pianist with the elastic hand and on his
second visit to Vienna, characteristically inquired, "Are you still
industrious?" Czerny's brain was a tireless incubator of piano
exercises, while Chopin so fused the technical problem with the poetic
idea, that such a nature as the old pedagogue's must have been
unattractive to him. He knew Franz, Lachner and other celebrities and
seems to have enjoyed a mild flirtation with Leopoldine Blahetka, a
popular young pianist, for he wrote of his sorrow at parting from her.
On August 19 he left with friends for Bohemia, arriving at Prague two
days later. There he saw everything and met Klengel, of canon fame, a
still greater canon-eer than the redoubtable Jadassohn of Leipzig.
Chopin and Klengel liked each other. Three days later the party
proceeded to Teplitz and Chopin played in aristocratic company. He
reached Dresden August 26, heard Spohr's "Faust" and met capellmeister
Morlacchi--that same Morlacchi whom Wagner succeeded as a conductor
January 10, 1843--vide Finck's "Wagner." By September 12, after a brief
sojourn in Breslau, Chopin was again safe at home in Warsaw.

About this time he fell in love with Constantia Gladowska, a singer and
pupil of the Warsaw Conservatory. Niecks dwells gingerly upon his
fervor in love and friendship--"a passion with him" and thinks that it
gives the key to his life. Of his romantic friendship for Titus
Woyciechowski and John Matuszynski--his "Johnnie"--there are abundant
evidences in the letters. They are like the letters of a love-sick
maiden. But Chopin's purity of character was marked; he shrank from
coarseness of all sorts, and the Fates only know what he must have
suffered at times from George Sand and her gallant band of retainers.
To this impressionable man, Parisian badinage--not to call it anything
stronger--was positively antipathetical. Of him we might indeed say in
Lafcadio Hearn's words, "Every mortal man has been many million times a
woman." And was it the Goncourts who dared to assert that, "there are
no women of genius: women of genius are men"? Chopin needed an outlet
for his sentimentalism. His piano was but a sieve for some, and we are
rather amused than otherwise on reading the romantic nonsense of his
boyish letters.

After the Vienna trip his spirits and his health flagged. He was
overwrought and Warsaw became hateful to him, for he loved but had not
the courage to tell it to the beloved one. He put it on paper, he
played it, but speak it he could not. Here is a point that reveals
Chopin's native indecision, his inability to make up his mind. He
recalls to me the Frederic Moreau of Flaubert's "L'Education
Sentimentale." There is an atrophy of the will, for Chopin can neither
propose nor fly from Warsaw. He writes letters that are full of
self-reproaches, letters that must have both bored and irritated his
friends. Like many other men of genius he suffered all his life from
folie de doute, indeed his was what specialists call "a beautiful
case." This halting and irresolution was a stumbling block in his
career and is faithfully mirrored in his art.

Chopin went to Posen in October, 1829, and at the Radziwills was
attracted by the beauty and talent of the Princess Elisa, who died
young. George Sand has noted Chopin's emotional versatility in the
matter of falling in and out of love. He could accomplish both of an
evening and a crumpled roseleaf was sufficient cause to induce frowns
and capricious flights--decidedly a young man tres difficile. He played
at the "Ressource" in November, 1829, the Variations, opus 2. On March
17, 1830, he gave his first concert in Warsaw, and selected the adagio
and rondo of his first concerto, the one in F minor, and the Potpourri
on Polish airs. His playing was criticised for being too delicate--an
old complaint--but the musicians, Elsner, Kurpinski and the rest were
pleased. Edouard Wolff said they had no idea in Warsaw of "the real
greatness of Chopin." He was Polish, this the public appreciated, but
of Chopin the individual they missed entirely the flavor. A week later,
spurred by adverse and favorable criticism, he gave a second concert,
playing the same excerpts from this concerto--the slow movement is
Constance Gladowska musically idealized--the Krakowiak and an
improvisation. The affair was a success. From these concerts he cleared
six hundred dollars, not a small sum in those days for an unknown
virtuoso. A sonnet was printed in his honor, champagne was offered him
by an enthusiastic Paris bred, but not born, pianist named Dunst, who
for this act will live in all chronicles of piano playing. Worse still,
Orlowski served up the themes of his concerto into mazurkas and had the
impudence to publish them.

Then came the last blow: he was asked by a music seller for his
portrait, which he refused, having no desire, he said with a shiver, to
see his face on cheese and butter wrappers. Some of the criticisms were
glowing, others absurd as criticisms occasionally are. Chopin wrote to
Titus the same rhapsodical protestations and finally declared in
meticulous peevishness, "I will no longer read what people write about
me." This has the familiar ring of the true artist who cares nothing
for the newspapers but reads them religiously after his own and his
rivals' concerts.

Chopin heard Henrietta Sontag with great joy; he was ever a lover and a
connoisseur of singing. He advised young pianists to listen carefully
and often to great singers. Mdlle. de Belleville the pianist and
Lipinski the violinist were admired, and he could write a sound
criticism when he chose. But the Gladowska is worrying him. "Unbearable
longing" is driving him to exile. He attends her debut as Agnese in
Paer's opera of that title and writes a complete description of the
important function to Titus, who is at his country seat where Chopin
visits him betimes. Agitated, he thinks of going to Berlin or Vienna,
but after much philandering remains in Warsaw. On October 11, 1830,
following many preparations and much emotional shilly-shallying, Chopin
gave his third and last Warsaw concert. He played the E minor concerto
for the first time in public but not in sequence. The first and last
two movements were separated by an aria, such being the custom of those
days. Later he gave the Fantasia on Polish airs. Best of all for him,
Miss Gladowska sang a Rossini air, "wore a white dress and roses in her
hair, and was charmingly beautiful." Thus Chopin; and the details have
all the relevancy of a male besieged by Dan Cupid. Chopin must have
played well. He said so himself, and he was always a cautious
self-critic despite his pride. His vanity and girlishness peep out in
his recital by the response to a quartet of recalls: "I believe I did
it yesterday with a certain grace, for Brandt had taught me how to do
it properly." He is not speaking of his poetic performance, but of his
bow to the public. As he formerly spoke to his mother of his pretty
collar, so as young man he makes much of his deportment. But it is all
quite in the role; scratch an artist and you surprise a child.

Of course, Constantia sang wonderfully. "Her low B came out so
magnificently that Zielinski declared it alone was worth a thousand
ducats." Ah, these enamored ones! Chopin left Warsaw November 1, 1830,
for Vienna and without declaring his love. Or was he a rejected suitor?
History is dumb. He never saw his Gladowska again, for he did not
return to Warsaw. The lady was married in 1832--preferring a solid
certainty to nebulous genius--to Joseph Grabowski, a merchant at
Warsaw. Her husband, so saith a romantic biographer, Count Wodzinski,
became blind; perhaps even a blind country gentleman was preferable to
a lachrymose pianist. Chopin must have heard of the attachment in 1831.
Her name almost disappears from his correspondence. Time as well as
other nails drove from his memory her image. If she was fickle, he was
inconstant, and so let us waste no pity on this episode, over which
lakes of tears have been shed and rivers of ink have been spilt.

Chopin was accompanied by Elsner and a party of friends as far as Wola,
a short distance from Warsaw. There the pupils of the Conservatory sang
a cantata by Elsner, and after a banquet he was given a silver goblet
filled with Polish earth, being adjured, so Karasowski relates, never
to forget his country or his friends wherever he might wander. Chopin,
his heart full of sorrow, left home, parents, friends, and "ideal,"
severed with his youth, and went forth in the world with the keyboard
and a brain full of beautiful music as his only weapons.

At Kaliz he was joined by the faithful Titus, and the two went to
Breslau, where they spent four days, going to the theatre and listening
to music. Chopin played quite impromptu two movements of his E minor
concerto, supplanting a tremulous amateur. In Dresden where they
arrived November 10, they enjoyed themselves with music. Chopin went to
a soiree at Dr. Kreyssig's and was overwhelmed at the sight of a circle
of dames armed with knitting needles which they used during the
intervals of music-making in the most formidable manner. He heard Auber
and Rossini operas and Rolla, the Italian violinist, and listened with
delight to Dotzauer and Kummer the violoncellists--the cello being an
instrument for which he had a consuming affection. Rubini, the brother
of the great tenor, he met, and was promised important letters of
introduction if he desired to visit Italy. He saw Klengel again, who
told the young Pole, thereby pleasing him very much, that his playing
was like John Field's. Prague was also visited, and he arrived at
Vienna in November. There he confidently expected a repetition of his
former successes, but was disappointed. Haslinger received him coldly
and refused to print his variations or concerto unless he got them for
nothing. Chopin's first brush with the hated tribe of publishers begins
here, and he adopts as his motto the pleasing device, "Pay, thou
animal," a motto he strictly adhered to; in money matters Chopin was
very particular. The bulk of his extant correspondence is devoted to
the exposure of the ways and wiles of music publishers. "Animal" is the
mildest term he applies to them, "Jew" the most frequent objurgation.
After all Chopin was very Polish.

He missed his friends the Blahetkas, who had gone to Stuttgart, and
altogether did not find things so promising as formerly. No profitable
engagements could be secured, and, to cap his misery, Titus, his other
self, left him to join the revolutionists in Poland November 30. His
letters reflect his mental agitation and terror over his parents'
safety. A thousand times he thought of renouncing his artistic
ambitions and rushing to Poland to fight for his country. He never did,
and his indecision--it was not cowardice--is our gain. Chopin put his
patriotism, his wrath and his heroism into his Polonaises. That is why
we have them now, instead of Chopin having been the target of some
black-browed Russian. Chopin was psychically brave; let us not cavil at
the almost miraculous delicacy of his organization. He wrote letters to
his parents and to Matuszyriski, but they are not despairing--at least
not to the former. He pretended gayety and had great hopes for the
future, for he was living entirely on means supplied him by his father.
News of Constantia gladdened him, and he decided to go to Italy, but
the revolution early in 1831 decided him for France. Dr. Malfatti was
good to him and cheered him, and he managed to accomplish much social
visiting. The letters of this period are most interesting. He heard
Sarah Heinefetter sing, and listened to Thaiberg's playing of a
movement of his own concerto. Thalberg was three years younger than
Chopin and already famous. Chopin did not admire him: "Thalberg plays
famously, but he is not my man...He plays forte and piano with the
pedals but not with the hand; takes tenths as easily as I do octaves,
and wears studs with diamonds."

Thalberg was not only too much of a technician for Chopin, but he was
also a Jew and a successful one. In consequence, both poet and Pole
revolted.

Hummel called on Frederic, but we hear nothing of his opinion of the
elder man and his music; this is all the more strange, considering how
much Chopin built on Hummel's style. Perhaps that is the cause of the
silence, just as Wagner's dislike for Meyerbeer was the result of his
obligations to the composer of "Les Huguenots." He heard Aloys Schmitt
play, and uttered the very Heinesque witticism that "he is already over
forty years old, and composes eighty years old music." This in a letter
to Elsner. Our Chopin could be amazingly sarcastic on occasion. He knew
Slavik the violin virtuoso, Merk the 'cellist, and all the music
publishers. At a concert given by Madame Garzia-Vestris, in April,
1831, he appeared, and in June gave a concert of his own, at which he
must have played the E minor concerto, because of a passing mention in
a musical paper. He studied much, and it was July 20, 1831, before he
left Vienna after a second, last, and thoroughly discouraging visit.

Chopin got a passport vised for London, "passant par Paris &. Londres,"
and had permission from the Russian Ambassador to go as far as Munich.
Then the cholera gave him some bother, as he had to secure a clean bill
of health, but he finally got away. The romantic story of "I am only
passing through Paris," which he is reported to have said in after
years, has been ruthlessly shorn of its sentiment. At Munich he played
his second concerto and pleased greatly. But he did not remain in the
Bavarian capital, hastening to Stuttgart, where he heard of the capture
of Warsaw by the Russians, September 8, 1831. This news, it is said,
was the genesis of the great C minor etude in opus 10, sometimes called
the "Revolutionary." Chopin exclaimed in a letter dated December 16,
1831, "All this caused me much pain--who could have foreseen it!" and
in another letter he wrote, "How glad my mamma will be that I did not
go back." Count Tarnowski in his recollections prints some extracts
from a diary said to have been kept by Chopin. According to this his
agitation must have been terrible. Here are several examples:

"My poor father! My dearest ones! Perhaps they hunger? Maybe he has not
anything to buy bread for mother? Perhaps my sisters have fallen
victims to the fury of the Muscovite soldiers? Oh, father, is this the
consolation of your old age? Mother, poor suffering mother, is it for
this you outlived your daughter?"

"And I here unoccupied! And I am here with empty hands! Sometimes I
groan, suffer and despair at the piano! O God, move the earth, that it
may swallow the humanity of this century! May the most cruel fortune
fall upon the French, that they did not come to our aid." All this
sounds a trifle melodramatic and quite unlike Chopin.

He did not go to Warsaw, but started for France at the end of
September, arriving early in October, 1831. Poland's downfall had
aroused him from his apathy, even if it sent him further from her. This
journey, as Liszt declares, "settled his fate." Chopin was twenty-two
years old when he reached Paris.



II. PARIS:--IN THE MAELSTROM


Here, according to Niecks, is the itinerary of Chopin's life for the
next eighteen years: In Paris, 27 Boulevard Poisonniere, to 5 and 38
Chaussee d'Antin, to Aix-la-Chapelle, Carlsbad, Leipzig, Heidelberg,
Marienbad, and London, to Majorca, to 5 Rue Tronchet, 16 Rue Pigalle,
and 9 Square d'Orleans, to England and Scotland, to 9 Square d'Orleans
once more, Rue Chaillot and 12 Place Vendeme, and then--Pere la Chaise,
the last resting-place. It may be seen that Chopin was a restless,
though not roving nature. In later years his inability to remain
settled in one place bore a pathological impress,--consumptives are
often so.

The Paris of 1831, the Paris of arts and letters, was one of the most
delightful cities in the world for the culture-loving. The molten tide
of passion and decorative extravagance that swept over intellectual
Europe three score years and ten ago, bore on its foaming crest Victor
Hugo, prince of romanticists. Near by was Henri Heine,--he left
Heinrich across the Rhine,--Heine, who dipped his pen in honey and
gall, who sneered and wept in the same couplet. The star of classicism
had seemingly set. In the rich conflict of genius were Gautier,
Schumann, and the rest. All was romance, fantasy, and passion, and the
young men heard the moon sing silvery--you remember De Musset!--and the
leaves rustle rhythms to the heart-beats of lovers. "Away with the
gray-beards," cried he of the scarlet waistcoat, and all France
applauded "Ernani." Pity it was that the romantic infant had to die of
intellectual anaemia, leaving as a legacy the memories and work of one
of the most marvellous groupings of genius since the Athens of
Pericles. The revolution of 1848 called from the mud the sewermen.
Flaubert, his face to the past, gazed sorrowfully at Carthage and wrote
an epic of the French bourgeois. Zola and his crowd delved into a moral
morass, and the world grew weary of them. And then the faint, fading
flowers of romanticism were put into albums where their purple
harmonies and subtle sayings are pressed into sweet twilight
forgetfulness. Berlioz, mad Hector of the flaming locks, whose
orchestral ozone vivified the scores of Wagnerand Liszt, began to sound
garishly empty, brilliantly superficial; "the colossal nightingale" is
difficult to classify even to-day. A romantic by temperament he
unquestionably was. But then his music, all color, nuance, and
brilliancy, was not genuinely romantic in its themes. Compare him with
Schumann, and the genuine romanticist tops the virtuoso. Berlioz, I
suspect, was a magnified virtuoso. His orchestral technique is supreme,
but his music fails to force its way into my soul. It pricks the
nerves, it pleases the sense of the gigantic, the strange, the
formless, but there is something uncanny about it all, like some huge,
prehistoric bird, an awful Pterodactyl with goggle eyes, horrid snout
and scream. Berlioz, like Baudelaire, has the power of evoking the
shudder. But as John Addington Symonds wrote: "The shams of the
classicists, the spasms of the romanticists have alike to be abandoned.
Neither on a mock Parnassus nor on a paste-board Blocksberg can the
poet of the age now worship. The artist walks the world at large
beneath the light of natural day." All this was before the Polish
charmer distilled his sugared wormwood, his sweet, exasperated poison,
for thirsty souls in morbid Paris.

Think of the men and women with whom the new comer associated--for his
genius was quickly divined: Hugo, Lamartine, Pere Lamenais,--ah! what
balm for those troubled days was in his "Paroles d'un
Croyant,"--Chateaubriand, Saint-Simon, Merimee, Gautier, Liszt, Victor
Cousin, Baudelaire, Ary Scheffer, Berlioz, Heine,--who asked the Pole
news of his muse the "laughing nymph,"--"If she still continued to
drape her silvery veil around the flowing locks of her green hair, with
a coquetry so enticing; if the old sea god with the long white beard
still pursued this mischievous maid with his ridiculous love?"--De
Musset, De Vigny, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Auber, Sainte-Beuve, Adolphe
Nourrit, Ferdinand Hiller, Balzac, Dumas, Heller, Delacroix,--the Hugo
of painters,--Michelet, Guizot, Thiers, Niemcevicz and Mickiewicz the
Polish bards, and George Sand: the quintessence of the Paris of art and
literature.

The most eloquent page in Liszt's "Chopin" is the narrative of an
evening in the Chaussee d'Antin, for it demonstrates the Hungarian's
literary gifts and feeling for the right phrase. This description of
Chopin's apartment "invaded by surprise" has a hypnotizing effect on
me. The very furnishings of the chamber seem vocal under Liszt's
fanciful pen. In more doubtful taste is his statement that "the glace
which covers the grace of the elite, as it does the fruit of their
desserts,...could not have been satisfactory to Chopin"! Liszt, despite
his tendency to idealize Chopin after his death, is our most
trustworthy witness at this period. Chopin was an ideal to Liszt though
he has not left us a record of his defects. The Pole was ombrageux and
easily offended; he disliked democracies, in fact mankind in the bulk
stunned him. This is one reason, combined with a frail physique, of his
inability to conquer the larger public. Thalberg could do it; his
aristocratic tournure, imperturbability, beautiful touch and polished
mechanism won the suffrage of his audiences. Liszt never stooped to
cajole. He came, he played, he overwhelmed. Chopin knew all this, knew
his weaknesses, and fought to overcome them but failed. Another
crumpled roseleaf for this man of excessive sensibility.

Since told of Liszt and first related by him, is the anecdote of Chopin
refusing to play, on being incautiously pressed, after dinner, giving
as a reason "Ah, sir, I have eaten so little!" Even though his host was
gauche it cannot be denied that the retort was rude.

Chopin met Osborne, Mendelssohn--who rather patronized him with his
"Chopinetto,"--Baillot the violinist and Franchomme the 'cellist. With
the latter he contracted a lasting friendship, often playing duos with
him and dedicating to him his G minor 'cello Sonata. He called on
Kalkbrenner, then the first pianist of his day, who was puzzled by the
prodigious novelty of the young Pole's playing. Having heard Herz and
Hiller, Chopin did not fear to perform his E minor concerto for him. He
tells all about the interview in a letter to Titus: "Are you a pupil of
Field's?" was asked by Kalkbrenner, who remarked that Chopin had the
style of Cramer and the touch of Field. Not having a standard by which
to gauge the new phenomenon, Kalkbrenner was forced to fall back on the
playing of men he knew. He then begged Chopin to study three years with
him--only three!--but Elsner in an earnest letter dissuaded his pupil
from making any experiments that might hurt his originality of style.
Chopin actually attended the class of Kalkbrenner but soon quit, for he
had nothing to learn of the pompous, penurious pianist. The Hiller
story of how Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt and Heller teased this grouty
old gentleman on the Boulevard des Italiens is capital reading, if not
absolutely true. Yet Chopin admired Kalkbrenner's finished technique
despite his platitudinous manner. Heine said--or rather quoted
Koreff--that Kalkbrenner looked like a bonbon that had been in the mud.
Niecks thinks Chopin might have learned of Kalkbrenner on the
mechanical side. Chopin, in public, was modest about his attainments,
looking upon himself as self-taught. "I cannot create a new school,
because I do not even know the old," he said. It is this very absence
of scholasticism that is both the power and weakness of his music. In
reality his true technical ancestor was Hummel.

He played the E minor concerto first in Paris, February 26, 1832, and
some smaller pieces. Although Kalkbrenner, Baillot and others
participated, Chopin was the hero of the evening. The affair was a
financial failure, the audience consisting mostly of distinguished and
aristocratic Poles. Mendelssohn, who disliked Kalkbrenner and was
angered at his arrogance in asking Chopin to study with him, "applauded
furiously." "After this," Hiller writes, "nothing more was heard of
Chopin's lack of technique." The criticisms were favorable. On May 20,
1832, Chopin appeared at a charity concert organized by Prince de la
Moskowa. He was lionized in society and he wrote to Titus that his
heart beat in syncopation, so exciting was all this adulation, social
excitement and rapid gait of living. But he still sentimentalizes to
Titus and wishes him in Paris.

A flirtation of no moment, with Francilla Pixis, the adopted daughter
of Pixis the hunchback pianist--cruelly mimicked by Chopin--aroused the
jealousy of the elder artist. Chopin was delighted, for he was
malicious in a dainty way. "What do you think of this?" he writes.
"_I_, a dangerous seducteur!" The Paris letters to his parents were
unluckily destroyed, as Karasowski relates, by Russian soldiers in
Warsaw, September 19, 1863, and with them were burned his portrait by
Ary Scheffer and his first piano. The loss of the letters is
irremediable. Karasowski who saw some of them says they were tinged
with melancholy. Despite his artistic success Chopin needed money and
began to consider again his projected trip to America. Luckily he met
Prince Valentine Radziwill on the street, so it is said, and was
persuaded to play at a Rothschild soiree. From that moment his
prospects brightened, for he secured paying pupils. Niecks, the
iconoclast, has run this story to earth and finds it built on airy,
romantic foundations. Liszt, Hiller, Franchomme and Sowinski never
heard of it although it was a stock anecdote of Chopin.

Chopin must have broadened mentally as well as musically in this
congenial, artistic environment. He went about, hobnobbed with
princesses, and of the effect of this upon his compositions there can
be no doubt. If he became more cosmopolitan he also became more
artificial and for a time the salon with its perfumed, elegant
atmosphere threatened to drug his talent into forgetfulness of loftier
aims. Luckily the master-sculptor Life intervened and real troubles
chiselled his character on tragic, broader and more passionate lines.
He played frequently in public during 1832-1833 with Hiller, Liszt,
Herz and Osborne, and much in private. There was some rivalry in this
parterre of pianists. Liszt, Chopin and Hiller indulged in friendly
contests and Chopin always came off winner when Polish music was
essayed. He delighted in imitating his colleagues, Thalberg especially.
Adolphe Brisson tells of a meeting of Sand, Chopin and Thalberg, where,
as Mathias says, the lady "chattered like a magpie" and Thalberg, after
being congratulated by Chopin on his magnificent virtuosity, reeled off
polite phrases in return; doubtless he valued the Pole's compliments
for what they were worth. The moment his back was presented, Chopin at
the keyboard was mocking him. It was then Chopin told Sand of his
pupil, Georges Mathias, "c'est une bonne caboche." Thalberg took his
revenge whenever he could. After a concert by Chopin he astonished
Hiller by shouting on the way home. In reply to questions he slily
answered that he needed a forte as he had heard nothing but pianissimo
the entire evening!

Chopin was never a hearty partisan of the Romantic movement. Its
extravagance, misplaced enthusiasm, turbulence, attacks on church,
state and tradition disturbed the finical Pole while noise, reclame and
boisterousness chilled and repulsed him. He wished to be the Uhland of
Poland, but he objected to smashing idols and refused to wade in
gutters to reach his ideal. He was not a fighter, yet as one reviews
the past half century it is his still small voice that has emerged from
the din, the golden voice of a poet and not the roar of the artistic
demagogues of his day. Liszt's influence was stimulating, but what did
not Chopin do for Liszt? Read Schumann. He managed in 1834 to go to
Aix-la-Chapelle to attend the Lower Rhenish Music Festival. There he
met Hiller and Mendelssohn at the painter Schadow's and improvised
marvellously, so Hiller writes. He visited Coblenz with Hiller before
returning home.

Professor Niecks has a deep spring of personal humor which he taps at
rare intervals. He remarks that "the coming to Paris and settlement
there of his friend Matuszynski must have been very gratifying to
Chopin, who felt so much the want of one with whom to sigh." This
slanting allusion is matched by his treatment of George Sand. After
literally ratting her in a separate chapter, he winds up his work with
the solemn assurance that he abstains "from pronouncing judgment
because the complete evidence did not seem to me to warrant my doing
so." This is positively delicious. When I met this biographer at
Bayreuth in 1896, I told him how much I had enjoyed his work, adding
that I found it indispensable in the re-construction of Chopin.
Professor Niecks gazed at me blandly--he is most amiable and
scholarly-looking--and remarked, "You are not the only one." He was
probably thinking of the many who have had recourse to his human
documents of Chopin. But Niecks, in 1888, built on Karasowski, Liszt,
Schumann, Sand and others, so the process is bound to continue. Since
1888 much has been written of Chopin, much surmised.

With Matuszysnki the composer was happier. He devoutly loved his
country and despite his sarcasm was fond of his countrymen. Never an
extravagant man, he invariably assisted the Poles. After 1834-5,
Chopin's activity as a public pianist began to wane. He was not always
understood and was not so warmly welcomed as he deserved to be; on one
occasion when he played the Larghetto of his F minor concerto in a
Conservatoire concert, its frigid reception annoyed him very much.
Nevertheless he appeared at a benefit concert at Habeneck's, April 26,
1835. The papers praised, but his irritability increased with every
public performance. About this time he became acquainted with Bellini,
for whose sensuous melodies he had a peculiar predilection.

In July, 1835, Chopin met his father at Carlsbad. Then he went to
Dresden and later to Leipzig, playing privately for Schumann, Clara
Wieck, Wenzel and Mendelssohn. Schumann gushes over Chopin, but this
friendliness was never reciprocated. On his return to Paris Chopin
visited Heidelberg, where he saw the father of his pupil, Adolphe
Gutmann, and reached the capital of the civilized world the middle of
October.

Meanwhile a love affair had occupied his attention in Dresden. In
September, 1835, Chopin met his old school friends, the Wodzinskis,
former pupils at his father's school. He fell in love with their sister
Marie and they became engaged. He spoke to his father about the matter,
and for the time Paris and his ambitions were forgotten. He enjoyed a
brief dream of marrying and of settling near Warsaw, teaching and
composing--the occasional dream that tempts most active artists,
soothing them with the notion that there is really a haven of rest from
the world's buffets. Again the gods intervened in the interest of
music. The father of the girl objected on the score of Chopin's means
and his social position--artists were not Paderewskis in those
days--although the mother favored the romance. The Wodzinskis were
noble and wealthy. In the summer of 1836, at Marienbad, Chopin met
Marie again. In 1837, the engagement was broken and the following year
the inconstant beauty married the son of Chopin's godfather, Count
Frederic Skarbek. As the marriage did not prove a success--perhaps the
lady played too much Chopin--a divorce ensued and later she married a
gentleman by the name of Orpiszewski. Count Wodzinski wrote "Les Trois
Romans de Frederic Chopin," in which he asserts that his sister
rejected Chopin at Marienbad in 1836. But Chopin survived the shock. He
went back to Paris, and in July 1837, accompanied by Camille Pleyel and
Stanislas Kozmian, visited England for the first time. His stay was
short, only eleven days, and his chest trouble dates from this time. He
played at the house of James Broadwood, the piano manufacturer, being
introduced by Pleyel as M. Fritz; but his performance betrayed his
identity. His music was already admired by amateurs but the critics
with a few exceptions were unfavorable to him.

Now sounds for the first time the sinister motif of the George Sand
affair. In deference to Mr. Hadow I shall not call it a liaison. It was
not, in the vulgar sense. Chopin might have been petty--a common
failing of artistic men--but he was never vulgar in word or deed. He
disliked "the woman with the sombre eye" before he had met her. Her
reputation was not good, no matter if George Eliot, Matthew Arnold,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning and others believed her an injured saint.
Mr. Hadow indignantly repudiates anything that savors of irregularity
in the relations of Chopin and Aurore Dudevant. If he honestly believes
that their contemporaries flagrantly lied and that the woman's words
are to be credited, why by all means let us leave the critic in his
Utopia. Mary, Queen of Scots, has her Meline; why should not Sand boast
of at least one apologist for her life--besides herself? I do not say
this with cynical intent. Nor do I propose to discuss the details of
the affair which has been dwelt upon ad nauseam by every twanger of the
romantic string. The idealists will always see a union of souls, the
realists--and there were plenty of them in Paris taking notes from 1837
to 1847--view the alliance as a matter for gossip. The truth lies
midway.

Chopin, a neurotic being, met the polyandrous Sand, a trampler on all
the social and ethical conventions, albeit a woman of great gifts;
repelled at first he gave way before the ardent passion she manifested
toward him. She was his elder, so could veil the situation with the
maternal mask, and she was the stronger intellect, more
celebrated--Chopin was but a pianist in the eyes of the many--and so
won by her magnetism the man she desired. Paris, artistic Paris, was
full of such situations. Liszt protected the Countess d'Agoult, who
bore him children, Cosima Von Bulow-Wagner among the rest.
Balzac--Balzac, that magnificent combination of Bonaparte and Byron,
pirate and poet--was apparently leading the life of a saint, but his
most careful student, Viscount Spelboerch de Lovenjoul--whose name is
veritably Balzac-ian--tells us some different stories; even Gustave
Flaubert, the ascetic giant of Rouen, had a romance with Madame Louise
Colet, a mediocre writer and imitator of Sand,--as was Countess
d'Agoult, the Frankfort Jewess better known as "Daniel Stern,"--that
lasted from 1846 to 1854, according to Emile Faguet. Here then was a
medium which was the other side of good and evil, a new transvaluation
of morals, as Nietzsche would say. Frederic deplored the union for he
was theoretically a Catholic. Did he not once resent the visit of Liszt
and a companion to his apartments when he was absent? Indeed he may be
fairly called a moralist. Carefully reared in the Roman Catholic
religion he died confessing that faith. With the exception of the Sand
episode, his life was not an irregular one, He abhorred the vulgar and
tried to conceal this infatuation from his parents.

This intimacy, however, did the pair no harm artistically,
notwithstanding the inevitable sorrow and heart burnings at the close.
Chopin had some one to look after him--he needed it--and in the society
of this brilliant Frenchwoman he throve amazingly: his best work may be
traced to Nohant and Majorca. She on her side profited also. After the
bitterness of her separation from Alfred de Musset about 1833 she had
been lonely, for the Pagello intermezzo was of short duration. The De
Musset-Sand story was not known in its entirety until 1896. Again M.
Spelboerch de Lovenjoul must be consulted, as he possessed a bundle of
letters that were written by George Sand and M. Buloz, the editor of
"La Revue des Deux Mondes," in 1858.

De Musset went to Venice with Sand in the fall of 1833. They had the
maternal sanction and means supplied by Madame de Musset. The story
gives forth the true Gallic resonance on being critically tapped. De
Musset returned alone, sick in body and soul, and thenceforth absinthe
was his constant solace. There had been references, vague and
disquieting, of a Dr. Pagello for whom Sand had suddenly manifested one
of her extraordinary fancies. This she denied, but De Musset's brother
plainly intimated that the aggravating cause of his brother's illness
had been the unexpected vision of Sand coquetting with the young
medical man called in to prescribe for Alfred. Dr. Pagello in 1896 was
interviewed by Dr. Cabanes of the Paris "Figaro" and here is his story
of what had happened in 1833. This story will explain the later
behavior of "la merle blanche" toward Chopin.

"One night George Sand, after writing three pages of prose full of
poetry and inspiration, took an unaddressed envelope, placed therein
the poetic declaration, and handed it to Dr. Pagello. He, seeing no
address, did not, or feigned not, to understand for whom the letter was
intended, and asked George Sand what he should do with it. Snatching
the letter from his hands, she wrote upon the envelope: 'To the Stupid
Pagello.' Some days afterward George Sand frankly told De Musset that
henceforth she could be to him only a friend."

De Musset died in 1857 and after his death Sand startled Paris with
"Elle et Lui," an obvious answer to "Confessions of a Child of the
Age," De Musset's version--an uncomplimentary one to himself--of their
separation. The poet's brother Paul rallied to his memory with "Lui et
Elle," and even Louisa Colet ventured into the fracas with a trashy
novel called "Lui." During all this mud-throwing the cause of the
trouble calmly lived in the little Italian town of Belluno. It was Dr.
Giuseppe Pagello who will go down in literary history as the one man
that played Joseph to George Sand.

Now do you ask why I believe that Sand left Chopin when she was bored
with him? The words "some days afterwards" are significant. I print the
Pagello story not only because it is new, but as a reminder that George
Sand in her love affairs was always the man. She treated Chopin as a
child, a toy, used him for literary copy--pace Mr. Hadow!--and threw
him over after she had wrung out all the emotional possibilities of the
problem. She was true to herself even when she attempted to palliate
her want of heart. Beware of the woman who punctuates the pages of her
life with "heart" and "maternal feelings." "If I do not believe any
more in tears it is because I saw thee crying!" exclaimed Chopin. Sand
was the product of abnormal forces, she herself was abnormal, and her
mental activity, while it created no permanent types in literary
fiction, was also abnormal. She dominated Chopin, as she had dominated
Jules Sandeau, Calmatta the mezzotinter, De Musset, Franz Liszt,
Delacroix, Michel de Bourges--I have not the exact chronological
order--and later Flaubert. The most lovable event in the life of this
much loved woman was her old age affair--purely platonic--with Gustave
Flaubert. The correspondence shows her to have been "maternal" to the
last.

In the recently published "Lettres a l'etrangere" of Honore de Balzac,
this about Sand is very apropos. A visit paid to George Sand at Nohant,
in March 1838, brought the following to Madame Hanska:

  It was rather well that I saw her, for we exchanged
  confidences regarding Sandeau. I, who blamed her to the last
  for deserting him, now feel only a deep compassion for her, as
  you will have for me, when you learn with whom we have had
  relations, she of love, I of friendship.

  But she has been even more unhappy with Musset. So here she
  is, in retreat, denouncing both marriage and love, because in
  both she has found nothing but delusion.

  I will tell you of her immense and secret devotion to these
  two men, and you will agree that there is nothing in common
  between angels and devils. All the follies she has committed
  are claims to glory in the eyes of great and beautiful souls.
  She has been the dupe of la Dorval, Bocage, Lamenais, etc.;
  through the same sentiment she is the dupe of Liszt and Madame
  d'Agoult.

So let us accept without too much questioning as did Balzac, a reader
of souls, the Sand-Chopin partnership and follow its sinuous course
until 1847.

Chopin met Sand at a musical matinee in 1837. Niecks throttles every
romantic yarn about the pair that has been spoken or printed. He got
his facts viva voce from Franchomme. Sand was antipathetic to Chopin
but her technique for overcoming masculine coyness was as remarkable in
its particular fashion as Chopin's proficiency at the keyboard. They
were soon seen together, and everywhere. She was not musical, not a
trained musician, but her appreciation for all art forms was highly
sympathetic. Not a beautiful woman, being swarthy and rather heavy-set
in figure, this is what she was, as seen by Edouard Grenier:--

  She was short and stout, but her face attracted all my
  attention, the eyes especially. They were wonderful eyes, a
  little too close together, it may be, large, with full
  eyelids, and black, very black, but by no means lustrous; they
  reminded me of unpolished marble, or rather of velvet, and
  this gave a strange, dull, even cold expression to her
  countenance. Her fine eyebrows and these great placid eyes
  gave her an air of strength and dignity which was not borne
  out by the lower part of her face. Her nose was rather thick
  and not over shapely. Her mouth was also rather coarse and her
  chin small. She spoke with great simplicity, and her manners
  were very quiet.

But she attracted with imperious power all that she met. Liszt felt
this attraction at one time--and it is whispered that Chopin was
jealous of him. Pouf! the woman who could conquer Franz Liszt in his
youth must have been a sorceress. He, too, was versatile.

In 1838, Sand's boy Maurice being ill, she proposed a visit to Majorca.
Chopin went with the party in November and full accounts of the
Mediterranean trip, Chopin's illness, the bad weather, discomforts and
all the rest may be found in the "Histoire de Ma Vie" by Sand. It was a
time of torment. "Chopin is a detestable invalid," said Sand, and so
they returned to Nohant in June 1839. They saw Genoa for a few days in
May, but that is as far as Chopin ever penetrated into the promised
land--Italy, at one time a passion with him. Sand enjoyed the subtle
and truly feminine pleasure of again entering the city which six years
before she had visited in company with another man, the former lover of
Rachel.

Chopin's health in 1839 was a source of alarm to himself and his
friends. He had been dangerously ill at Majorca and Marseilles. Fever
and severe coughing proved to be the dread forerunners of the disease
that killed him ten years later. He was forced to be very careful in
his habits, resting more, giving fewer lessons, playing but little in
private or public, and becoming frugal of his emotions. Now Sand began
to cool, though her lively imagination never ceased making graceful,
touching pictures of herself in the roles of sister of mercy, mother,
and discreet friend, all merged into one sentimental composite. Her
invalid was her one thought, and for an active mind and body like hers,
it must have been irksome to submit to the caprices of a moody, ailing
man. He composed at Nohant, and she has told us all about it; how he
groaned, wrote and re-wrote and tore to pieces draft after draft of his
work. This brings to memory another martyr to style, Gustave Flaubert,
who for forty years in a room at Croisset, near Rouen, wrestled with
the devils of syntax and epithet. Chopin was of an impatient, nervous
disposition. All the more remarkable then his capacity for taking
infinite pains. Like Balzac he was never pleased with the final
"revise" of his work, he must needs aim at finishing touches. His
letters at this period are interesting for the Chopinist but for the
most part they consist of requests made to his pupils, Fontana, Gutmann
and others, to jog the publishers, to get him new apartments, to buy
him many things. Wagner was not more importunate or minatory than this
Pole, who depended on others for the material comforts and necessities
of his existence. Nor is his abuse of friends and patrons, the Leos and
others, indicative of an altogether frank, sincere nature. He did not
hesitate to lump them all as "pigs" and "Jews" if anything happened to
jar his nerves. Money, money, is the leading theme of the Paris and
Mallorean letters. Sand was a spendthrift and Chopin had often to put
his hands in his pocket for her. He charged twenty francs a lesson, but
was not a machine and for at least four months of the year he earned
nothing. Hence his anxiety to get all he could for his compositions.
Heaven-born geniuses are sometimes very keen in financial transactions,
and indeed why should they not be?

In 1839 Chopin met Moscheles. They appeared together at St. Cloud,
playing for the royal family. Chopin received a gold cup, Moscheles a
travelling case. "The King gave him this," said the amiable Frederic,
"to get the sooner rid of him." There were two public concerts in 1841
and 1842, the first on April 26 at Pleyel's rooms, the second on
February 20 at the same hall. Niecks devotes an engrossing chapter to
the public accounts and the general style of Chopin's playing; of this
more hereafter. From 1843 to 1847 Chopin taught, and spent the
vacations at Nohant, to which charming retreat Liszt, Matthew Arnold,
Delacroix, Charles Rollinat and many others came. His life was
apparently happy. He composed and amused himself with Maurice and
Solange, the "terrible children" of this Bohemian household. There,
according to reports, Chopin and Liszt were in friendly rivalry--are
two pianists ever friendly?--Liszt imitating Chopin's style, and once
in the dark they exchanged places and fooled their listeners. Liszt
denied this. Another story is of one or the other working the pedal
rods--the pedals being broken. This too has been laughed to scorn by
Liszt. Nor could he recall having played while Viardot-Garcia sang out
on the terrace of the chateau. Garcia's memory is also short about this
event. Rollinat, Delacroix and Sand have written abundant souvenirs of
Nohant and its distinguished gatherings, so let us not attempt to
impugn the details of the Chopin legend, that legend which coughs
deprecatingly as it points to its aureoled alabaster brow. De Lenz
should be consulted for an account of this period; he will add the
finishing touches of unreality that may be missing.

Chopin knew every one of note in Paris. The best salons were open to
him. Some of his confreres have not hesitated to describe him as a bit
snobbish, for during the last ten years of his life he was generally
inaccessible. But consider his retiring nature, his suspicious Slavic
temperament, above all his delicate health! Where one accuses him of
indifference and selfishness there are ten who praise his unfaltering
kindness, generosity and forbearance. He was as a rule a kind and
patient teacher, and where talent was displayed his interest trebled.
Can you fancy this Ariel of the piano giving lessons to hum-drum
pupils! Playing in a charmed and bewitching circle of countesses,
surrounded by the luxury and the praise that kills, Chopin is a much
more natural figure, yet he gave lessons regularly and appeared to
relish them. He had not much taste for literature. He liked Voltaire
though he read but little that was not Polish--did he really enjoy
Sand's novels?--and when asked why he did not compose symphonies or
operas, answered that his metier was the piano, and to it he would
stick. He spoke French though with a Polish accent, and also German,
but did not care much for German music except Bach and Mozart.
Beethoven--save in the C sharp minor and several other sonatas--was not
sympathetic. Schubert he found rough, Weber, in his piano music, too
operatic and Schumann he dismissed without a word. He told Heller that
the "Carneval" was really not music at all. This remark is one of the
curiosities of musical anecdotage.

But he had his gay moments when he would gossip, chatter, imitate every
one, cut up all manner of tricks and, like Wagner, stand on his head.
Perhaps it was feverish, agitated gayety, yet somehow it seemed more
human than that eternal Thaddeus of Warsaw melancholy and regret for
the vanished greatness and happiness of Poland--a greatness and
happiness that never had existed. Chopin disliked letter writing and
would go miles to answer one in person. He did not hate any one in
particular, being rather indifferent to every one and to political
events--except where Poland was concerned. Theoretically he hated Jews
and Russians, yet associated with both. He was, like his music, a
bundle of unreconciled affirmations and evasions and never could have
been contented anywhere or with any one. Of himself he said that "he
was in this world like the E string of a violin on a contrabass." This
"divine dissatisfaction" led him to extremes: to the flouting of
friends for fancied affronts, to the snubbing of artists who sometimes
visited him. He grew suspicious of Liszt and for ten years was not on
terms of intimacy with him although they never openly quarrelled.

The breach which had been very perceptibly widening became hopeless in
1847, when Sand and Chopin parted forever. A literature has grown up on
the subject. Chopin never had much to say but Sand did; so did Chopin's
pupils, who were quite virulent in their assertions that she killed
their master. The break had to come. It was the inevitable end of such
a friendship. The dynamics of free-love have yet to be formulated. This
much we know: two such natures could never entirely cohere. When the
novelty wore off the stronger of the two--the one least in love--took
the initial step. It was George Sand who took it with Chopin. He would
never have had the courage nor the will.

The final causes are not very interesting. Niecks has sifted all the
evidence before the court and jury of scandal-mongers. The main quarrel
was about the marriage of Solange Sand with Clesinger the sculptor. Her
mother did not oppose the match, but later she resented Clesinger's
actions. He was coarse and violent, she said, with the true
mother-in-law spirit--and when Chopin received the young woman and her
husband after a terrible scene at Nohant, she broke with him. It was a
good excuse. He had ennuied her for several years, and as he had
completed his artistic work on this planet and there was nothing more
to be studied,--the psychological portrait was supposedly
painted--Madame George got rid of him. The dark stories of maternal
jealousy, of Chopin's preference for Solange, the visit to Chopin of
the concierge's wife to complain of her mistress' behavior with her
husband, all these rakings I leave to others. It was a triste affair
and I do not doubt in the least that it undermined Chopin's feeble
health. Why not! Animals die of broken hearts, and this emotional
product of Poland, deprived of affection, home and careful attention,
may well, as De Lenz swears, have died of heart-break. Recent gossip
declares that Sand was jealous of Chopin's friendships--this is silly.

Mr. A. B. Walkley, the English dramatic critic, after declaring that he
would rather have lived during the Balzac epoch in Paris, continues in
this entertaining vein:

  And then one might have had a chance of seeing George Sand in
  the thick of her amorisms. For my part I would certainly
  rather have met her than Pontius Pilate. The people who saw
  her in her old age--Flaubert, Gautier, the Goncourts--have
  left us copious records of her odd appearance, her perpetual
  cigarette smoking, and her whimsical life at Nohant. But then
  she was only an "extinct volcano;" she must have been much
  more interesting in full eruption. Of her earlier career--the
  period of Musset and Pagello--she herself told us something in
  "Elle et Lui," and correspondence published a year or so ago
  in the "Revue de Paris" told us more. But, to my mind, the
  most fascinating chapter in this part of her history is the
  Chopin chapter, covering the next decade, or, roughly
  speaking, the 'forties. She has revealed something of this
  time--naturally from her own point of view--in "Lucrezia
  Floriana" (1847). For it is, of course, one of the most
  notorious characteristics of George Sand that she invariably
  turned her loves into "copy." The mixture of passion and
  printer's ink in this lady's composition is surely one of the
  most curious blends ever offered to the palate of the epicure.

  But it was a blend which gave the lady an unfair advantage for
  posterity. We hear too much of her side of the matter. This
  one feels especially as regards her affair with Chopin. With
  Musset she had to reckon a writer like herself; and against
  her "Elle et Lui" we can set his "Confession d'un enfant du
  siecle." But poor Chopin, being a musician, was not good at
  "copy." The emotions she gave him he had to pour out in music,
  which, delightful as sound, is unfortunately vague as a
  literary "document." How one longs to have his full, true, and
  particular account of the six months he spent with George Sand
  in Majorca! M. Pierre Mille, who has just published in the
  "Revue Bleue" some letters of Chopin (first printed, it seems,
  in a Warsaw newspaper), would have us believe that the lady
  was really the masculine partner. We are to understand that it
  was Chopin who did the weeping, and pouting, and "scene"-making
  while George Sand did the consoling, the pooh-poohing,
  and the protecting. Liszt had already given us a
  characteristic anecdote of this Majorca period. We see George
  Sand, in sheer exuberance of health and animal spirits,
  wandering out into the storm, while Chopin stays at home, to
  have an attack of "nerves," to give vent to his anxiety (oh,
  "artistic temperament"!) by composing a prelude, and to fall
  fainting at the lady's feet when she returns safe and sound.
  There is no doubt that the lady had enough of the masculine
  temper in her to be the first to get tired. And as poor Chopin
  was coughing and swooning most of the time, this is scarcely
  surprising. But she did not leave him forthwith. She kept up
  the pretence of loving him, in a maternal, protecting sort of
  way, out of pity, as it were, for a sick child.

  So much the published letters clearly show. Many of them are
  dated from Nohant. But in themselves the letters are dull
  enough. Chopin composed with the keyboard of a piano; with ink
  and paper he could do little. Probably his love letters were
  wooden productions, and George Sand, we know, was a fastidious
  critic in that matter. She had received and written so many!
  But any rate, Chopin did not write whining recriminations like
  Mussel. His real view of her we shall never know--and, if you
  like, you may say it is no business of ours. She once uttered
  a truth about that (though not apropos of Chopin), "There are
  so many things between two lovers of which they alone can be
  the judges."

Chopin gave his last concert in Paris, February 16, 1848, at Pleyel's.
He was ill but played beautifully. Oscar Commettant said he fainted in
the artist's room. Sand and Chopin met but once again. She took his
hand, which was "trembling and cold," but he escaped without saying a
word. He permitted himself in a letter to Grzymala from London dated
November 17-18, 1848, to speak of Sand. "I have never cursed any one,
but now I am so weary of life that I am near cursing Lucrezia. But she
suffers too, and suffers more because she grows older in wickedness.
What a pity about Soli! Alas! everything goes wrong with the world!" I
wonder what Mr. Hadow thinks of this reference to Sand!

"Soli" is Solange Sand, who was forced to leave her husband because of
ill-treatment. As her mother once boxed Clesinger's ears at Nohant, she
followed the example. In trying to settle the affair Sand quarrelled
hopelessly with her daughter. That energetic descendant of "emancipated
woman" formed a partnership, literary of course, with the Marquis
Alfieri, the nephew of the Italian poet. Her salon was as much in vogue
as her mother's, but her tastes were inclined to politics,
revolutionary politics preferred. She had for associates Gambetta,
Jules Ferry, Floquet, Taine, Herve, Weiss, the critic of the "Debats,"
Henri Fouquier and many others. She had the "curved Hebraic nose of her
mother and hair coal-black." She died in her chateau at Montgivray and
was buried March 20, 1899, at Nohant where, as my informant says, "her
mother died of over-much cigarette smoking." She was a clever woman and
wrote a book "Masks and Buffoons." Maurice Sand died in 1883. He was
the son of his mother, who was gathered to her heterogeneous ancestors
June 8, 1876.

In literature George Sand is a feminine pendant to Jean Jacques
Rousseau, full of ill-digested, troubled, fermenting, social,
political, philosophical and religious speculations and theories. She
wrote picturesque French, smooth, flowing and full of color. The
sketches of nature, of country life, have positive value, but where has
vanished her gallery of Byronic passion-pursued women? Where are the
Lelias, the Indianas, the Rudolstadts? She had not, as Mr. Henry James
points out, a faculty for characterization. As Flaubert wrote her: "In
spite of your great Sphinx eyes you have always seen the world as
through a golden mist." She dealt in vague, vast figures, and so her
Prince Karol in "Lucrezia Floriana," unquestionably intended for
Chopin, is a burlesque--little wonder he was angered when the precious
children asked him "Cher M. Chopin, have you read 'Lucrezia'? Mamma has
put you in it." Of all persons Sand was pre-elected to give to the
world a true, a sympathetic picture of her friend. She understood him,
but she had not the power of putting him between the coversof a book.
If Flaubert, or better still, Pierre Loti, could have known Chopin so
intimately we should possess a memoir in which every vibration of
emotion would be recorded, every shade noted, and all pinned with the
precise adjective, the phrase exquisite.



III. ENGLAND, SCOTLAND AND PERE LA CHAISE.


The remaining years of Chopin's life were lonely. His father died in
1844 of chest and heart complaint, his sister Emilia died of
consumption--ill-omens these!--and shortly after, John Matuszynski
died. Titus Woyciechowski was in far-off Poland on his estates and
Chopin had but Grzymala and Fontana to confide in; they being Polish he
preferred them, although he was diplomatic enough not to let others see
this. Both Franchomme and Gutmann whispered to Niecks at different
times that each was the particular soul, the alter ego, of Chopin. He
appeared to give himself to his friends but it was usually surface
affection. He had coaxing, coquettish ways, playful ways that cost him
nothing when in good spirits. So he was "more loved than loving." This
is another trait of the man, which, allied with his fastidiousness and
spiritual brusquerie, made him difficult to decipher. The loss of Sand
completed his misery and we find him in poor health when he arrived in
London, for the second and last time, April 21, 1848.

Mr. A. J. Hipkins is the chief authority on the details of Chopin's
visit to England. To this amiable gentleman and learned writer on
pianos, Franz Hueffer, Joseph Bennett and Niecks are indebted for the
most of their facts. From them the curious may learn all there is to
learn. The story is not especially noteworthy, being in the main a
record of ill-health, complainings, lamentations and not one signal
artistic success.

War was declared upon Chopin by a part of the musical world. The
criticism was compounded of pure malice and stupidity. Chopin was
angered but little for he was too sick to care now. He went to an
evening party but missed the Macready dinner where he was to have met
Thackeray, Berlioz, Mrs. Procter and Sir Julius Benedict. With Benedict
he played a Mozart duet at the Duchess of Sutherland's. Whether he
played at court the Queen can tell; Niecks cannot. He met Jenny
Lind-Goldschmidt and liked her exceedingly--as did all who had the
honor of knowing her. She sided with him, woman-like, in the Sand
affair--echoes of which had floated across the channel--and visited him
in Paris in 1849. Chopin gave two matinees at the houses of Adelaide
Kemble and Lord Falmouth--June 23 and July 7. They were very recherche,
so it appears. Viardot-Garcia sang. The composer's face and frame were
wasted by illness and Mr. Solomon spoke of his "long attenuated
fingers." He made money and that was useful to him, for doctors' bills
and living had taken up his savings. There was talk of his settling in
London, but the climate, not to speak of the unmusical atmosphere,
would have been fatal to him. Wagner succumbed to both, sturdy fighter
that he was.

Chopin left for Scotland in August and stopped at the house of his
pupil, Miss Stirling. Her name is familiar to Chopin students, for the
two nocturnes, opus 55, are dedicated to her. He was nearly killed with
kindness but continually bemoaned his existence. At the house of Dr.
Lyschinski, a Pole, he lodged in Edinburgh and was so weak that he had
to be carried up and down stairs. To the doctor's good wife he replied
in answer to the question "George Sand is your particular friend?" "Not
even George Sand." And is he to be blamed for evading tiresome
reminders of the past? He confessed that his excessive thinness had
caused Sand to address him as "My Dear Corpse." Charming, is it not?
Miss Stirling was doubtless in love with him and Princess Czartoryska
followed him to Scotland to see if his health was better. So he was not
altogether deserted by the women--indeed he could not live without
their little flatteries and agreeable attentions. It is safe to say
that a woman was always within call of Chopin.

He played at Manchester on the 28th of August, but his friend Mr.
Osborne, who was present, says "his playing was too delicate to create
enthusiasm and I felt truly sorry for him." On his return to Scotland
he stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Salis Schwabe.

Mr. J. Cuthbert Hadden wrote several years ago in the Glasgow "Herald"
of Chopin's visit to Scotland in 1848. The tone-poet was in the poorest
health, but with characteristic tenacity played at concerts and paid
visits to his admirers. Mr. Hadden found the following notice in the
back files of the Glasgow "Courier":

  Monsieur Chopin has the honour to announce that his matinee
  musicale will take place on Wednesday, the 27th September, in
  the Merchant Hall, Glasgow. To commence at half-past two
  o'clock. Tickets, limited in number, half-a-guinea each, and
  full particulars to be had from Mr. Muir Wood, 42, Buchanan
  street.

He continues:

  The net profits of this concert are said to have been exactly
  L60--a ridiculously low sum when we compare it with the
  earnings of later day virtuosi; nay, still more ridiculously
  low when we recall the circumstance that for two concerts in
  Glasgow sixteen years before this Paganini had L 1,400. Muir
  Wood, who has since died, said: "I was then a comparative
  stranger in Glasgow, but I was told that so many private
  carriages had never been seen at any concert in the town. In
  fact, it was the county people who turned out, with a few of
  the elite of Glasgow society. Being a morning concert, the
  citizens were busy otherwise, and half a guinea was considered
  too high a sum for their wives and daughters."

  The late Dr. James Hedderwick, of Glasgow, tells in his
  reminiscences that on entering the hall he found it about one-third
  full. It was obvious that a number of the audience were
  personal friends of Chopin. Dr. Hedderwick recognized the
  composer at once as "a little, fragile-looking man, in pale
  gray suit, including frock coat of identical tint and texture,
  moving about among the company, conversing with different
  groups, and occasionally consulting his watch," which seemed
  to be "no bigger than an agate stone on the forefinger of an
  alderman." Whiskerless, beardless, fair of hair, and pale and
  thin of face, his appearance was "interesting and
  conspicuous," and when, "after a final glance at his miniature
  horologe, he ascended the platform and placed himself at the
  instrument, he at once commanded attention." Dr. Hedderwick
  says it was a drawing-room entertainment, more piano than
  forte, though not without occasional episodes of both strength
  and grandeur. It was perfectly clear to him that Chopin was
  marked for an early grave.

  So far as can be ascertained, there are now living only two
  members of that Glasgow audience of 1848. One of the two is
  Julius Seligmann, the veteran president of the Glasgow Society
  of Musicians, who, in response to some inquiries on the
  subject, writes as follows:

  "Several weeks before the concert Chopin lived with different
  friends or pupils on their invitations, in the surrounding
  counties. I think his pupil Miss Jane Stirling had something
  to do with all the general arrangements. Muir Wood managed the
  special arrangements of the concert, and I distinctly remember
  him telling me that he never had so much difficulty in
  arranging a concert as on this occasion. Chopin constantly
  changed his mind. Wood had to visit him several times at the
  house of Admiral Napier, at Milliken Park, near Johnstone, but
  scarcely had he returned to Glasgow when he was summoned back
  to alter something. The concert was given in the Merchant
  Hall, Hutcheson street, now the County Buildings. The hall was
  about three-quarters filled. Between Chopin's playing Madame
  Adelasio de Margueritte, daughter of a well-known London
  physician, sang, and Mr. Muir accompanied her. Chopin was
  evidently very ill. His touch was very feeble, and while the
  finish, grace, elegance and delicacy of his performances were
  greatly admired by the audience, the want of power made his
  playing somewhat monotonous. I do not remember the whole
  programme, but he was encored for his well-known mazurka in B
  flat (op. 7, No. 1), which he repeated with quite different
  nuances from those of the first time. The audience was very
  aristocratic, consisting mostly of ladies, among whom were the
  then Duchess of Argyll and her sister, Lady Blantyre."

  The other survivor is George Russell Alexander, son of the
  proprietor of the Theatre Royal, Dunlop street, who in a
  letter to the writer remarks especially upon Chopin's pale,
  cadaverous appearance. "My emotion," he says, "was so great
  that two or three times I was compelled to retire from the
  room to recover myself. I have heard all the best and most
  celebrated stars of the musical firmament, but never one has
  left such an impress on my mind."

Chopin played October 4 in Edinburgh, and returned to London in
November after various visits. We read of a Polish ball and concert at
which he played, but the affair was not a success. He left England in
January 1849 and heartily glad he was to go. "Do you see the cattle in
this meadow?" he asked, en route for Paris: "Ca a plus d'intelligence
que des Anglais," which was not nice of him. Perhaps M. Niedzwiecki, to
whom he made the remark took as earnest a pure bit of nonsense, and
perhaps--! He certainly disliked England and the English.

Now the curtain prepares to fall on the last dreary finale of Chopin's
life, a life not for a moment heroic, yet lived according to his lights
and free from the sordid and the soil of vulgarity. Jules Janin said:
"He lived ten miraculous years with a breath ready to fly away," and we
know that his servant Daniel had always to carry him to bed. For ten
years he had suffered from so much illness that a relapse was not
noticed by the world. His very death was at first received with
incredulity, for, as Stephen Heller said, he had been reported dead so
often that the real news was doubted. In 1847 his legs began to bother
him by swelling, and M. Mathias described him as "a painful spectacle,
the picture of exhaustion, the back bent, head bowed--but always
amiable and full of distinction." His purse was empty, and his lodgings
in the Rue Chaillot were represented to the proud man as being just
half their cost,--the balance being paid by the Countess Obreskoff, a
Russian lady. Like a romance is the sending, by Miss Stirling, of
twenty-five thousand francs, but it is nevertheless true. The
noble-hearted Scotchwoman heard of Chopin's needs through Madame Rubio,
a pupil, and the money was raised. That packet containing it was
mislaid or lost by the portress of Chopin's house, but found after the
woman had been taxed with keeping it.

Chopin, his future assured, moved to Place Vendome, No. 12. There he
died. His sister Louise was sent for, and came from Poland to Paris. In
the early days of October he could no longer sit upright without
support. Gutmann and the Countess Delphine Potocka, his sister, and M.
Gavard, were constantly with him. It was Turgenev who spoke of the half
hundred countesses in Europe who claimed to have held the dying Chopin
in their arms. In reality he died in Gutmann's, raising that pupil's
hand to his mouth and murmuring "cher ami" as he expired. Solange Sand
was there, but not her mother, who called and was not admitted--so they
say. Gutmann denies having refused her admittance. On the other hand,
if she had called, Chopin's friends would have kept her away from him,
from the man who told Franchomme two days before his death, "She said
to me that I would die in no arms but hers." Surely--unless she was
monstrous in her egotism, and she was not--George Sand did not hear
this sad speech without tears and boundless regrets. Alas! all things
come too late for those who wait.

Tarnowski relates that Chopin gave his last orders in perfect
consciousness. He begged his sister to burn all his inferior
compositions. "I owe it to the public," he said, "and to myself to
publish only good things. I kept to this resolution all my life; I wish
to keep to it now." This wish has not been respected. The posthumous
publications are for the most part feeble stuff.

Chopin died, October 17, 1849, between three and four in the morning,
after having been shrived by the Abbe Jelowicki. His last word,
according to Gavard, was "Plus," on being asked if he suffered.
Regarding the touching and slightly melodramatic death bed scene on the
day previous, when Delphine Potocka sang Stradella and Mozart--or was
it Marcello?--Liszt, Karasowski, and Gutmann disagree.

The following authentic account of the last hours of Chopin appears
here for the first time in English, translated by Mr. Hugh Craig. In
Liszt's well-known work on Chopin, second edition, 1879, mention is
made of a conversation that he had held with the Abbe Jelowicki
respecting Chopin's death; and in Niecks' biography of Chopin some
sentences from letters by the Abbe are quoted. These letters, written
in French, have been translated and published in the "Allgemeine Musik
Zeitung," to which they were given by the Princess Marie Hohenlohe, the
daughter of Princess Caroline Sayn Wittgenstein, Liszt's universal
legatee and executor, who died in 1887.

  For many years [so runs the document] the life of Chopin was
  but a breath. His frail, weak body was visibly unfitted for
  the strength and force of his genius. It was a wonder how in
  such a weak state, he could live at all, and occasionally act
  with the greatest energy. His body was almost diaphanous; his
  eyes were almost shadowed by a cloud from which, from time to
  time, the lightnings of his glance flashed. Gentle, kind,
  bubbling with humor, and every way charming, he seemed no
  longer to belong to earth, while, unfortunately, he had not
  yet thought of heaven. He had good friends, but many bad
  friends. These bad friends were his flatterers, that is, his
  enemies, men and women without principles, or rather with bad
  principles. Even his unrivalled success, so much more subtle
  and thus so much more stimulating than that of all other
  artists, carried the war into his soul and checked the
  expression of faith and of prayer. The teachings of the
  fondest, most pious mother became to him a recollection of his
  childhood's love. In the place of faith, doubt had stepped in,
  and only that decency innate in every generous heart hindered
  him from indulging in sarcasm and mockery over holy things and
  the consolations of religion.

  While he was in this spiritual condition he was attacked by
  the pulmonary disease that was soon to carry him away from us.
  The knowledge of this cruel sickness reached me on my return
  from Rome. With beating heart I hurried to him, to see once
  more the friend of my youth, whose soul was infinitely dearer
  to me than all his talent. I found him, not thinner, for that
  was impossible, but weaker. His strength sank, his life faded
  visibly. He embraced me with affection and with tears in his
  eyes, thinking not of his own pain but of mine; he spoke of my
  poor friend Eduard Worte, whom I had just lost, you know how.
  (He was shot, a martyr of liberty, at Vienna, November 10,
  1848.)

  I availed myself of his softened mood to speak to him about
  his soul. I recalled his thoughts to the piety of his
  childhood and of his beloved mother. "Yes," he said, "in order
  not to offend my mother I would not die without the
  sacraments, but for my part I do not regard them in the sense
  that you desire. I understand the blessing of confession in so
  far as it is the unburdening of a heavy heart into a friendly
  hand, but not as a sacrament. I am ready to confess to you if
  you wish it, because I love you, not because I hold it
  necessary." Enough: a crowd of anti-religious speeches filled
  me with terror and care for this elect soul, and I feared
  nothing more than to be called to be his confessor.

  Several months passed with similar conversations, so painful
  to me, the priest and the sincere friend. Yet I clung to the
  conviction that the grace of God would obtain the victory over
  this rebellious soul, even if I knew not how. After all my
  exertions, prayer remained my only refuge.

  On the evening of October 12 I had with my brethren retired to
  pray for a change in Chopin's mind, when I was summoned by
  orders of the physician, in fear that he would not live
  through the night. I hastened to him. He pressed my hand, but
  bade me at once to depart, while he assured me he loved me
  much, but did not wish to speak to me.

  Imagine, if you can, what a night I passed! Next day was the
  13th, the day of St. Edward, the patron of my poor brother. I
  said mass for the repose of his soul and prayed for Chopin's
  soul. "My God," I cried, "if the soul of my brother Edward is
  pleasing to thee, give me, this day, the soul of Frederic."

  In double distress I then went to the melancholy abode of our
  poor sick man.

  I found him at breakfast, which was served as carefully as
  ever, and after he had asked me to partake I said: "My friend,
  today is the name day of my poor brother." "Oh, do not let us
  speak of it!" he cried. "Dearest friend," I continued, "you
  must give me something for my brother's name day." "What shall
  I give you?" "Your soul." "Ah! I understand. Here it is; take
  it!"

  At these words unspeakable joy and anguish seized me. What
  should I say to him? What should I do to restore his faith,
  how not to lose instead of saving this beloved soul? How
  should I begin to bring it back to God? I flung myself on my
  knees, and after a moment of collecting my thoughts I cried in
  the depths of my heart, "Draw it to Thee, Thyself, my God!"

  Without saying a word I held out to our dear invalid the
  crucifix. Rays of divine light, flames of divine fire,
  streamed, I might say, visibly from the figure of the
  crucified Saviour, and at once illumined the soul and kindled
  the heart of Chopin. Burning tears streamed from his eyes. His
  faith was once more revived, and with unspeakable fervor he
  made his confession and received the Holy Supper. After the
  blessed Viaticum, penetrated by the heavenly consecration
  which the sacraments pour forth on pious souls, he asked for
  Extreme Unction. He wished to pay lavishly the sacristan who
  accompanied me, and when I remarked that the sum presented by
  him was twenty times too much he replied, "Oh, no, for what I
  have received is beyond price."

  From this hour he was a saint. The death struggle began and
  lasted four days. Patience, trust in God, even joyful
  confidence, never left him, in spite of all his sufferings,
  till the last breath. He was really happy, and called himself
  happy. In the midst of the sharpest sufferings he expressed
  only ecstatic joy, touching love of God, thankfulness that I
  had led him back to God, contempt of the world and its good,
  and a wish for a speedy death.

  He blessed his friends, and when, after an apparently last
  crisis, he saw himself surrounded by the crowd that day and
  night filled his chamber, he asked me, "Why do they not pray?"
  At these words all fell on their knees, and even the
  Protestants joined in the litanies and prayers for the dying.

  Day and night he held my hand, and would not let me leave him.
  "No, you will not leave me at the last moment," he said, and
  leaned on my breast as a little child in a moment of danger
  hides itself in its mother's breast.

  Soon he called upon Jesus and Mary, with a fervor that reached
  to heaven; soon he kissed the crucifix in an excess of faith,
  hope and love. He made the most touching utterances. "I love
  God and man," he said. "I am happy so to die; do not weep, my
  sister. My friends, do not weep. I am happy. I feel that I am
  dying. Farewell, pray for me!"

  Exhausted by deathly convulsions he said to the physicians,
  "Let me die. Do not keep me longer in this world of exile. Let
  me die; why do you prolong my life when I have renounced all
  things and God has enlightened my soul? God calls me; why do
  you keep me back?"

  Another time he said, "O lovely science, that only lets one
  suffer longer! Could it give me back my strength, qualify me
  to do any good, to make any sacrifice--but a life of fainting,
  of grief, of pain to all who love me, to prolong such a life--
  O lovely science!"

  Then he said again: "You let me suffer cruelly. Perhaps you
  have erred about my sickness. But God errs not. He punishes
  me, and I bless him therefor. Oh, how good is God to punish me
  here below! Oh, how good God is!"

  His usual language was always elegant, with well chosen words,
  but at last to express all his thankfulness and, at the same
  time, all the misery of those who die unreconciled to God, he
  cried, "Without you I should have croaked (krepiren) like a
  pig."

  While dying he still called on the names of Jesus, Mary,
  Joseph, kissed the crucifix and pressed it to his heart with
  the cry "Now I am at the source of Blessedness!"

  Thus died Chopin, and in truth, his death was the most
  beautiful concerto of all his life.

The worthy abbe must have had a phenomenal memory. I hope that it was
an exact one. His story is given in its entirety because of its
novelty. The only thing that makes me feel in the least sceptical is
that La Mara,--the pen name of a writer on musical
subjects,--translated these letters into German. But every one agrees
that Chopin's end was serene; indeed it is one of the musical
death-beds of history, another was Mozart's. His face was beautiful and
young in the flower-covered coffin, says Liszt. He was buried from the
Madeleine, October 30, with the ceremony befitting a man of genius. The
B flat minor Funeral march, orchestrated by Henri Reber, was given, and
during the ceremony Lefebure-Wely played on the organ the E and B minor
Preludes. The pall-bearers were distinguished men, Meyerbeer,
Delacroix, Pleyel and Franchomme--at least Theophile Gautier so
reported it for his journal. Even at his grave in Pere la Chaise no two
persons could agree about Chopin. This controversy is quite
characteristic of Chopin who was always the calm centre of argument.

He was buried in evening clothes, his concert dress, but not at his own
request. Kwiatowski the portrait painter told this to Niecks. It is a
Polish custom for the dying to select their grave clothes, yet Lombroso
writes that Chopin "in his will directed that he should be buried in a
white tie, small shoes and short breeches," adducing this as an
evidence of his insanity. He further adds "he abandoned the woman whom
he tenderly loved because she offered a chair to some one else before
giving the same invitation to himself." Here we have a Sand story
raised to the dignity of a diagnosed symptom. It is like the other
nonsense.



IV. THE ARTIST


Chopin's personality was a pleasant, persuasive one without being so
striking or so dramatic as Liszt's. As a youth his nose was too large,
his lips thin, the lower one protruding. Later, Moscheles said that he
looked like his music. Delicacy and a certain aristrocratic bearing, a
harmonious ensemble, produced a most agreeable sensation. "He was of
slim frame, middle height; fragile but wonderfully flexible limbs,
delicately formed hands, very small feet, an oval, softly outlined
head, a pale transparent complexion, long silken hair of a light
chestnut color, parted on one side, tender brown eyes, intelligent
rather than dreamy, a finely-curved aquiline nose, a sweet subtle
smile, graceful and varied gestures." This precise description is by
Niecks. Liszt said he had blue eyes, but he has been overruled. Chopin
was fond of elegant, costly attire, and was very correct in the matter
of studs, walking sticks and cravats. Not the ideal musician we read
of, but a gentleman. Berlioz told Legouve to see Chopin, "for he is
something which you have never seen--and some one you will never
forget." An orchidaceous individuality this.

With such personal refinement he was a man punctual and precise in his
habits. Associating constantly with fashionable folk his naturally
dignified behavior was increased. He was an aristocrat--there is no
other word--and he did not care to be hail-fellow-well-met with the
musicians. A certain primness and asperity did not make him popular.
While teaching, his manner warmed, the earnest artist came to life, all
halting of speech and polite insincerities were abandoned. His pupils
adored him. Here at least the sentiment was one of solidarity. De Lenz
is his most censorious critic and did not really love Chopin. The
dislike was returned, for the Pole suspected that his pupil was sent by
Liszt to spy on his methods. This I heard in Paris.

Chopin was a remarkable teacher. He never taught but one genius, little
Filtsch, the Hungarian lad of whom Liszt said, "When he starts playing
I will shut up shop." The boy died in 1845, aged fifteen; Paul
Gunsberg, who died the same year, was also very talented. Once after
delivering in a lovely way the master's E minor concerto Filtsch was
taken by Chopin to a music store and presented with the score of
Beethoven's "Fidelio." He was much affected by the talents of this
youthful pupil. Lindsay Sloper and Brinley Richards studied with
Chopin. Caroline Hartmann, Gutmann, Lysberg, Georges Mathias, Mlle.
O'Meara, many Polish ladies of rank, Delphine Potocka among the rest,
Madame Streicher, Carl Mikuli, Madame Rubio, Madame Peruzzi, Thomas
Tellefsen, Casimir Wernik, Gustav Schumann, Werner Steinbrecher, and
many others became excellent pianists. Was the American pianist, Louis
Moreau Gottschalk, ever his pupil? His friends say so, but Niecks does
not mention him. Ernst Pauer questions it. We know that Gottschalk
studied in Paris with Camille Stamaty, and made his first appearance
there in 1847. This was shortly before Chopin's death when his interest
in music had abated greatly. No doubt Gottschalk played for Chopin for
he was the first to introduce the Pole's music in America.

Chopin was very particular about the formation of the touch, giving
Clementi's Preludes at first. "Is that a dog barking?" was his sudden
exclamation at a rough attack. He taught the scales staccato and legato
beginning with E major. Ductility, ease, gracefulness were his aim;
stiffness, harshness annoyed him. He gave Clementi, Moscheles and Bach.
Before playing in concert he shut himself up and played, not Chopin but
Bach, always Bach. Absolute finger independence and touch
discrimination and color are to be gained by playing the preludes and
fugues of Bach. Chopin started a method but it was never finished and
his sister gave it to the Princess Czartoryska after his death. It is a
mere fragment. Janotha has translated it. One point is worth quoting.
He wrote:

  No one notices inequality in the power of the notes of a scale
  when it is played very fast and equally, as regards time. In a
  good mechanism the aim is not to play everything with an equal
  sound, but to acquire a beautiful quality of touch and a
  perfect shading. For a long time players have acted against
  nature in seeking to give equal power to each finger. On the
  contrary, each finger should have an appropriate part assigned
  it. The thumb has the greatest power, being the thickest
  finger and the freest. Then comes the little finger, at the
  other extremity of the hand. The middle finger is the main
  support of the hand, and is assisted by the first. Finally
  comes the third, the weakest one. As to this Siamese twin of
  the middle finger, some players try to force it with all their
  might to become independent. A thing impossible, and most
  likely unnecessary. There are, then, many different qualities
  of sound, just as there are several fingers. The point is to
  utilize the differences; and this, in other words, is the art
  of fingering.

Here, it seems to me, is one of the most practical truths ever uttered
by a teacher. Pianists spend thousands of hours trying to subjugate
impossible muscles. Chopin, who found out most things for himself, saw
the waste of time and force. I recommend his advice. He was ever
particular about fingering, but his innovations horrified the purists.
"Play as you feel," was his motto, a rather dangerous precept for
beginners. He gave to his pupils the concertos and sonatas--all
carefully graded--of Mozart, Scarlatti, Field, Dussek, Hummel,
Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Weber and Hiller and, of Schubert, the
four-hand pieces and dances. Liszt he did not favor, which is natural,
Liszt having written nothing but brilliant paraphrases in those days.
The music of the later Liszt is quite another thing. Chopin's genius
for the pedal, his utilization of its capacity for the vibration of
related strings, the overtones, I refer to later. Rubinstein said:

  The piano bard, the piano rhapsodist, the piano mind, the
  piano soul is Chopin. ... Tragic, romantic, lyric, heroic,
  dramatic, fantastic, soulful, sweet, dreamy, brilliant, grand,
  simple; all possible expressions are found in his compositions
  and all are sung by him upon his instrument.

Chopin is dead only fifty years, but his fame has traversed the half
century with ease, and bids fair to build securely in the loves of our
great-grandchildren. The six letters that comprise his name pursue
every piano that is made. Chopin and modern piano playing are
inseparable, and it is a strain upon homely prophecy to predict a time
when the two shall be put asunder. Chopin was the greatest interpreter
of Chopin, and following him came those giants of other days, Liszt,
Tausig, and Rubinstein.

While he never had the pupils to mould as had Liszt, Chopin made some
excellent piano artists. They all had, or have--the old guard dies
bravely--his tradition, but exactly what the Chopin tradition is no man
may dare to say. Anton Rubinstein, when I last heard him, played Chopin
inimitably. Never shall I forget the Ballades, the two Polonaises in F
sharp minor and A flat major, the B flat minor Prelude, the A minor
"Winter Wind" the two C minor studies, and the F minor Fantasie. Yet
the Chopin pupils, assembled in judgment at Paris when he gave his
Historical Recitals, refused to accept him as an interpreter. His touch
was too rich and full, his tone too big. Chopin did not care for
Liszt's reading of his music, though he trembled when he heard him
thunder in the Eroica Polonaise. I doubt if even Karl Tausig,
impeccable artist, unapproachable Chopin player, would have pleased the
composer. Chopin played as his moods prompted, and his playing was the
despair and delight of his hearers. Rubinstein did all sorts of
wonderful things with the coda of the Barcarolle--such a page!--but Sir
Charles Halle said that it was "clever but not Chopinesque." Yet Halle
heard Chopin at his last Paris concert, February, 1848, play the two
forte passages in the Barcarolle "pianissimo and with all sorts of
dynamic finesse." This is precisely what Rubinstein did, and his
pianissimo was a whisper. Von Bulow was too much of a martinet to
reveal the poetic quality, though he appreciated Chopin on the
intellectual side; his touch was not beautiful enough. The Slavic and
Magyar races are your only true Chopin interpreters. Witness Liszt the
magnificent, Rubinstein a passionate genius, Tausig who united in his
person all the elements of greatness, Essipowa fascinating and
feminine, the poetic Paderewski, de Pachmann the fantastic, subtle
Joseffy, and Rosenthal a phenomenon.

A world-great pianist was this Frederic Francois Chopin. He played as
he composed: uniquely. All testimony is emphatic as to this. Scales
that were pearls, a touch rich, sweet, supple and singing and a
technique that knew no difficulties, these were part of Chopin's
equipment as a pianist. He spiritualized the timbre of his instrument
until it became transformed into something strange, something remote
from its original nature. His pianissimo was an enchanting whisper, his
forte seemed powerful by contrast so numberless were the gradations, so
widely varied his dynamics. The fairylike quality of his play, his
diaphanous harmonies, his liquid tone, his pedalling--all were the work
of a genius and a lifetime; and the appealing humanity he infused into
his touch, gave his listeners a delight that bordered on the
supernatural. So the accounts, critical, professional and personal
read. There must have been a hypnotic quality in his performances that
transported his audience wherever the poet willed. Indeed the stories
told wear an air of enthusiasm that borders on the exaggerated, on the
fantastic. Crystalline pearls falling on red hot velvet-or did Scudo
write this of Liszt?--infinite nuance and the mingling of silvery
bells,--these are a few of the least exuberant notices. Was it not
Heine who called "Thalberg a king, Liszt a prophet, Chopin a poet, Herz
an advocate, Kalkbrenner a minstrel, Madame Pleyel a sibyl, and
Doehler--a pianist"? The limpidity, the smoothness and ease of Chopin's
playing were, after all, on the physical plane. It was the poetic
melancholy, the grandeur, above all the imaginative lift, that were
more in evidence than mere sensuous sweetness. Chopin had, we know, his
salon side when he played with elegance, brilliancy and coquetry. But
he had dark moments when the keyboard was too small, his ideas too big
for utterance. Then he astounded, thrilled his auditors. They were rare
moments. His mood-versatility was reproduced in his endless colorings
and capricious rhythms. The instrument vibrated with these new,
nameless effects like the violin in Paganini's hands. It was ravishing.
He was called the Ariel, the Undine of the piano. There was something
imponderable, fluid, vaporous, evanescent in his music that eluded
analysis and eluded all but hard-headed critics. This novelty was the
reason why he has been classed as a "gifted amateur" and even to-day is
he regarded by many musicians as a skilful inventor of piano passages
and patterned figures instead of what he really is--one of the most
daring harmonists since Bach.

Chopin's elastic hand, small, thin, with lightly articulated fingers,
was capable of stretching tenths with ease. Examine his first study for
confirmation of this. His wrist was very supple. Stephen Heller said
that "it was a wonderful sight to see Chopin's small hands expand and
cover a third of the keyboard. It was like the opening of the mouth of
a serpent about to swallow a rabbit whole." He played the octaves in
the A flat Polonaise with infinite ease but pianissimo. Now where is
the "tradition" when confronted by the mighty crashing of Rosenthal in
this particular part of the Polonaise? Of Karl Tausig, Weitzmann said
that "he relieved the romantically sentimental Chopin of his
Weltschmerz and showed him in his pristine creative vigor and wealth of
imagination." In Chopin's music there are many pianists, many styles
and all are correct if they are poetically musical, logical and
individually sincere. Of his rubato I treat in the chapter devoted to
the Mazurkas, making also an attempt to define the "zal" of his playing
and music.

When Chopin was strong he used a Pleyel piano, when he was ill an
Erard--a nice fable of Liszt's! He said that he liked the Erard but he
really preferred the Pleyel with its veiled sonority. What could not he
have accomplished with the modern grand piano? In the artist's room of
the Maison Pleyel there stands the piano at which Chopin composed the
Preludes, the G minor nocturne, the Funeral March, the three
supplementary etudes, the A minor Mazurka, the Tarantelle, the F minor
Fantasie and the B minor Scherzo. A brass tablet on the inside lid
notes this. The piano is still in good condition as regards tone and
action.

Mikuli asserted that Chopin brought out an "immense" tone in
cantabiles. He had not a small tone, but it was not the orchestral tone
of our day. Indeed how could it be, with the light action and tone of
the French pianos built in the first half of the century? After all it
was quality, not quantity that Chopin sought. Each one of his ten
fingers was a delicately differentiated voice, and these ten voices
could sing at times like the morning stars.

Rubinstein declared that all the pedal marks are wrong in Chopin. I
doubt if any edition can ever give them as they should be, for here
again the individual equation comes into play. Apart from certain
fundamental rules for managing the pedals, no pedagogic regulations
should ever be made for the more refined nuances.

The portraits of Chopin differ widely. There is the Ary Scheffer, the
Vigneron--praised by Mathias--the Bovy medallion, the Duval drawing,
and the head by Kwiatowski. Delacroix tried his powerful hand at
transfixing in oil the fleeting expressions of Chopin. Felix Barrias,
Franz Winterhalter, and Albert Graefle are others who tried with more
or less success. Anthony Kolberg painted Chopin in 1848-49. Kleczynski
reproduces it; it is mature in expression. The Clesinger head I have
seen at Pere la Chaise. It is mediocre and lifeless. Kwiatowski has
caught some of the Chopin spirit in the etching that may be found in
volume one of Niecks' biography. The Winterhalter portrait in Mr.
Hadow's volume is too Hebraic, and the Graefle is a trifle ghastly. It
is the dead Chopin, but the nose is that of a predaceous bird,
painfully aquiline. The "Echo Muzyczne" Warsaw, of October 1899--in
Polish "17 Pazdziernika"--printed a picture of the composer at the age
of seventeen. It is that of a thoughtful, poetic, but not handsome lad,
his hair waving over a fine forehead, a feminine mouth, large, aquiline
nose, the nostrils delicately cut, and about his slender neck a Byronic
collar. Altogether a novel likeness. Like the Chopin interpretation, a
satisfactory Chopin portrait is extremely rare.

As some difficulty was experienced in discovering the identity of
Countess Delphine Potocka, I applied in 1899 to Mr. Jaraslow de
Zielinski, a pianist of Buffalo, New York, for assistance; he is an
authority on Polish and Russian music and musicians. Here are the facts
he kindly transmitted: "In 1830 three beautiful Polish women came to
Nice to pass the winter. They were the daughters of Count Komar, the
business manager of the wealthy Count Potocki. They were singularly
accomplished; they spoke half the languages of Europe, drew well, and
sang to perfection. All they needed was money to make them queens of
society; this they soon obtained, and with it high rank. Their graceful
manners and loveliness won the hearts of three of the greatest of
noblemen. Marie married the Prince de Beauvau-Craon; Delphine became
Countess Potocka, and Nathalie, Marchioness Medici Spada. The last
named died young, a victim to the zeal in favor of the cholera-stricken
of Rome. The other two sisters went to live in Paris, and became famous
for their brilliant elegance. Their sumptuous 'hotels' or palaces were
thrown open to the most prominent men of genius of their time, and
hither came Chopin, to meet not only with the homage due to his genius,
but with a tender and sisterly friendship, which proved one of the
greatest consolations of his life. To the amiable Princess de Beauvau
he dedicated his famous Polonaise in F sharp minor, op. 44, written in
the brilliant bravura style for pianists of the first force. To
Delphine, Countess Potocka, he dedicated the loveliest of his valses,
op. 64, No. 1, so well transcribed by Joseffy into a study in thirds."

Therefore the picture of the Grafin Potocka in the Berlin gallery is
not that of Chopin's devoted friend.

Here is another Count Tarnowski story. It touches on a Potocka episode.
"Chopin liked and knew how to express individual characteristics on the
piano. Just as there formerly was a rather widely-known fashion of
describing dispositions and characters in so-called 'portraits,' which
gave to ready wits a scope for parading their knowledge of people and
their sharpness of observation; so he often amused himself by playing
such musical portraits. Without saying whom he had in his thoughts, he
illustrated the characters of a few or of several people present in the
room, and illustrated them so clearly and so delicately that the
listeners could always guess correctly who was intended, and admired
the resemblance of the portrait. One little anecdote is related in
connection with this which throws some light on his wit, and a little
pinch of sarcasm in it.

"During the time of Chopin's greatest brilliancy and popularity, in the
year 1835, he once played his musical portraits in a certain Polish
salon, where the three daughters of the house were the stars of the
evening. After a few portraits had been extemporized, one of these
ladies wished to have hers--Mme. Delphine Potocka. Chopin, in reply,
drew her shawl from her shoulders, threw it on the keyboard and began
to play, implying in this two things; first, that he knew the character
of the brilliant and famous queen of fashion so well, that by heart and
in the dark he was able to depict it; secondly, that this character and
this soul is hidden under habits, ornamentations and decorations of an
elegant worldly life, through the symbol of elegance and fashion of
that day, as the tones of the piano through the shawl."

Because Chopin did not label his works with any but general titles,
Ballades, Scherzi, Studies, Preludes and the like, his music sounds all
the better: the listener is not pinned down to any precise mood, the
music being allowed to work its particular charm without the aid of
literary crutches for unimaginative minds. Dr. Niecks gives specimens
of what the ingenious publisher, without a sense of humor, did with
some of Chopin's compositions: Adieu a Varsovie, so was named the
Rondo, op. 1; Hommage a Mozart, the Variations, op. 2; La Gaite,
Introduction and Polonaise, op. 3 for piano and 'cello; La
Posiana--what a name!--the Rondo a la Mazur, op. 5; Murmures de la
Seine, Nocturnes op. 9; Les Zephirs, Nocturnes, op. 15; Invitation a la
Valse, Valse, op. 18; Souvenir d'Andalousie, Bolero, op. 19--a bolero
which sounds Polish!--Le Banquet Infernal, the First Scherzo, op.
20--what a misnomer!--Ballade ohne Worte, the G minor Ballade--there is
a polyglot mess for you!--Les Plaintives, Nocturnes, op. 27; La
Meditation, Second Scherzo, B flat minor-meditation it is not!--II
Lamento e la Consolazione, Nocturnes, op. 32; Les Soupirs, Nocturnes,
op. 37, and Les Favorites, Polonaises, op. 40. The C minor Polonaise of
this opus was never, is not now, a favorite. The mazurkas generally
received the title of Souvenir de la Pologne.

In commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Chopin,
October 17, 1899, a medal was struck at Warsaw, bearing on one side an
artistically executed profile of the Polish composer. On the reverse,
the design represents a lyre, surrounded by a laurel branch, and having
engraved upon it the opening bars of the Mazurka in A flat major. The
name of the great composer with the dates of his birth and death, are
given in the margin. Paderewski is heading a movement to remove from
Paris to Warsaw the ashes of the pianist, but it is doubtful if it can
be managed. Paris will certainly object to losing the bones of such a
genius.

Chopin's acoustic parallelisms are not so concrete, so vivid as
Wagner's. Nor are they so theatrical, so obvious. It does not, however,
require much fancy to conjure up "the drums and tramplings of three
conquests" in the Eroica Polonaise or the F sharp major Impromptu. The
rhythms of the Cradle Song and the Barcarolle are suggestive enough and
if you please there are dew-drops in his cadenzas and there is the
whistling of the wind in the last A minor Study. Of the A flat Study
Chopin said: "Imagine a little shepherd who takes refuge in a peaceful
grotto from an approaching storm. In the distance rushes the wind and
the rain, while the shepherd gently plays a melody on his flute." This
is quoted by Kleczynski. There are word-whisperings in the next study
in F minor, whilst the symbolism of the dance--the Valse, Mazurka,
Polonaise, Menuetto, Bolero, Schottische, Krakowiak and Tarantella--is
admirably indicated in all of them. The bells of the Funeral March, the
will o' wisp character of the last movement of the B flat minor Sonata,
the dainty Butterfly Study in G flat, opus 25, the aeolian murmurs of
the E flat Study, in opus 10, the tiny prancing silvery hoofs in the F
major Study, opus 25, the flickering flame-like C major Study No. 7,
opus 10, the spinning in the D flat Valse and the cyclonic rush of
chromatic double notes in the E flat minor Scherzo--these are not
studied imitations but spontaneous transpositions to the ideal plane of
primary, natural phenomena.

Chopin's system--if it be a system--of cadenzas, fioriture
embellishment and ornamentation is perhaps traceable to the East. In
his "Folk Music Studies," Mr. H. E. Krehbiel quotes the description of
"a rhapsodical embellishment, called 'alap,' which after going through
a variety of ad libitum passages, rejoins the melody with as much grace
as if it had never been disunited, the musical accompaniment all the
while keeping time. These passages are not reckoned essential to the
melody, but are considered only as grace notes introduced according to
the fancy of the singer, when the only limitations by which the
performer is bound are the notes peculiar to that particular melody and
a strict regard to time."

Chopin founded no school, although the possibilities of the piano were
canalized by him. In playing, as in composition, only the broad trend
of his discoveries may be followed, for his was a manner not a method.
He has had for followers Liszt, Rubinstein, Mikuli, Zarembski,
Nowakowski, Xaver Scharwenka, Saint-Saens, Scholtz, Heller, Nicode,
Moriz Moszkowski, Paderewski, Stojowski, Arenski, Leschetizki, the two
Wieniawskis, and a whole group of the younger Russians Liadoff,
Scriabine and the rest. Even Brahms--in his F sharp major Sonata and E
flat minor Scherzo--shows Chopin's influence. Indeed but for Chopin
much modern music would not exist.

But a genuine school exists not. Henselt was only a German who fell
asleep and dreamed of Chopin. To a Thalberg-ian euphony he has added a
technical figuration not unlike Chopin's, and a spirit quite Teutonic
in its sentimentality. Rubinstein calls Chopin the exhalation of the
third epoch in art. He certainly closed one. With a less strong
rhythmic impulse and formal sense Chopin's music would have degenerated
into mere overperfumed impressionism. The French piano school of his
day, indeed of today, is entirely drowned by its devotion to cold
decoration, to unemotional ornamentation. Mannerisms he had--what great
artist has not?--but the Greek in him, as in Heine, kept him from
formlessness. He is seldom a landscapist, but he can handle his brush
deftly before nature if he must. He paints atmosphere, the open air at
eventide, with consummate skill, and for playing fantastic tricks on
your nerves in the depiction of the superhuman he has a peculiar
faculty. Remember that in Chopin's early days the Byronic pose, the
grandiose and the horrible prevailed--witness the pictures of Ingres
and Delacroix--and Richter wrote with his heart-strings saturated in
moonshine and tears. Chopin did not altogether escape the artistic
vices of his generation. As a man he was a bit of poseur--the little
whisker grown on one side of his face, the side which he turned to his
audience, is a note of foppery--but was ever a detester of the
sham-artistic. He was sincere, and his survival, when nearly all of
Mendelssohn, much of Schumann and half of Berlioz have suffered an
eclipse, is proof positive of his vitality. The fruit of his
experimentings in tonality we see in the whole latter-day school of
piano, dramatic and orchestral composers. That Chopin may lead to the
development and adoption of the new enharmonic scales, the "Homotonic
scales," I do not know. For these M. A. de Bertha claimed the future of
music. He wrote:

"Now vaporously illumined by the crepuscular light of a magical sky on
the boundaries of the major and minor modes, now seeming to spring from
the bowels of the earth with sepulchral inflexions, melody moves with
ease on the serried degrees of the enharmonic scales. Lively or slow
she always assumed in them the accents of a fatalist impossibility, for
the laws of arithmetic have preceded her, and there still remains, as
it were, an atmosphere of proud rigidity. Melancholy or passionate she
preserves the reflected lines of a primitive rusticity, which clings to
the homotones in despite of their artificial origin." But all this will
be in the days to come when the flat keyboard will be superseded by a
Janko many-banked clavier contrivance, when Mr. Krehbiel's oriental
srootis are in use and Mr. Apthorp's nullitonic order, no key at all,
is invented. Then too a new Chopin may be born, but I doubt it.

Despite his idiomatic treatment of the piano it must be remembered that
Chopin under Sontag's and Paganini's influence imitated both voice and
violin on the keyboard. His lyricism is most human, while the
portamento, the slides, trills and indescribably subtle turns--are they
not of the violin? Wagner said to Mr. Dannreuther--see Finck's "Wagner
and his Works"--that "Mozart's music and Mozart's orchestra are a
perfect match; an equally perfect balance exists between Palestrina's
choir and Palestrina's counterpoint, and I find a similar
correspondence between Chopin's piano and some of his Etudes and
Preludes--I do not care for the Ladies' Chopin; there is too much of
the Parisian salon in that, but he has given us many things which are
above the salon." Which latter statement is slightly condescending.
Recollect, however, Chopin's calm depreciation of Schumann. Mr. John F.
Runciman, the English critic, asserts that "Chopin thought in terms of
the piano, and only the piano. So when we see Chopin's orchestral music
or Wagner's music for the piano we realize that neither is talking his
native tongue--the tongue which nature fitted him to speak." Speaking
of "Chopin and the Sick Men" Mr. Runciman is most pertinent:

"These inheritors of rickets and exhausted physical frames made some of
the most wonderful music of the century for us. Schubert was the most
wonderful of them all, but Chopin runs him very close. ... He wrote
less, far less than Schubert wrote; but, for the quantity he did write,
its finish is miraculous. It may be feverish, merely mournful, cadavre,
or tranquil, and entirely beautiful; but there is not a phrase that is
not polished as far as a phrase will bear polishing. It is marvellous
music; but, all the same, it is sick, unhealthy music."

"Liszt's estimate of the technical importance of Chopin's works,"
writes Mr. W.J. Henderson, "is not too large. It was Chopin who
systematized the art of pedalling and showed us how to use both pedals
in combination to produce those wonderful effects of color which are so
necessary in the performance of his music. ... The harmonic schemes of
the simplest of Chopin's works are marvels of originality and musical
loveliness, and I make bold to say that his treatment of the passing
note did much toward showing later writers how to produce the restless
and endless complexity of the harmony in contemporaneous orchestral
music."

Heinrich Pudor in his strictures on German music is hardly
complimentary to Chopin: "Wagner is a thorough-going decadent, an
off-shoot, an epigonus, not a progonus. His cheeks are hollow and
pale--but the Germans have the full red cheeks. Equally decadent is
Liszt. Liszt is a Hungarian and the Hungarians are confessedly a
completely disorganized, self-outlived, dying people. No less decadent
is Chopin, whose figure comes before one as flesh without bones, this
morbid, womanly, womanish, slip-slop, powerless, sickly, bleached,
sweet-caramel Pole!" This has a ring of Nietzsche--Nietzsche who
boasted of his Polish origin.

Now listen to the fatidical Pole Przybyszewski: "In the beginning there
was sex, out of sex there was nothing and in it everything was. And sex
made itself brain whence was the birth of the soul." And then, as Mr.
Vance Thompson, who first Englished this "Mass of the Dead"--wrote: "He
pictures largely in great cosmic symbols, decorated with passionate and
mystic fervors, the singular combat between the growing soul and the
sex from which it fain would be free." Arno Holz thus parodies
Przybyszewski: "In our soul there is surging and singing a song of the
victorious bacteria. Our blood lacks the white corpuscles. On the
sounding board of our consciousness there echoes along the frightful
symphony of the flesh. It becomes objective in Chopin; he alone, the
modern primeval man, puts our brains on the green meadows, he alone
thinks in hyper-European dimensions. He alone rebuilds the shattered
Jerusalem of our souls."  All of which shows to what comically
delirious lengths this sort of deleterious soul-probing may go.

It would be well to consider this word "decadent" and its morbid
implications. There is a fashion just now in criticism to
over-accentuate the physical and moral weaknesses of the artist.
Lombroso started the fashion, Nordau carried it to its logical
absurdity, yet it is nothing new. In Hazlitt's day he complains, that
genius is called mad by foolish folk. Mr. Newman writes in his Wagner,
that "art in general, and music in particular, ought not to be
condemned merely in terms of the physical degeneration or abnormality
of the artist. Some of the finest work in art and literature, indeed,
has been produced by men who could not, from any standpoint, be
pronounced normal. In the case of Flaubert, of De Maupassant, of
Dostoievsky, of Poe, and a score of others, though the organic system
was more or less flawed, the work remains touched with that universal
quality that gives artistic permanence even to perceptions born of the
abnormal." Mr. Newman might have added other names to his list, those
of Michael Angelo and Beethoven and Swinburne. Really, is any great
genius quite sane according to philistine standards? The answer must be
negative. The old enemy has merely changed his mode of attack: instead
of charging genius with madness, the abnormal used in an abnormal sense
is lugged in and though these imputations of degeneracy, moral and
physical, have in some cases proven true, the genius of the accused one
can in no wise be denied. But then as Mr. Philip Hale asks: Why this
timidity at being called decadent? What's in the name?

Havelock Ellis in his masterly study of Joris Karl Huysmans, considers
the much misunderstood phenomenon in art called decadence. "Technically
a decadent style is only such in relation to a classic style. It is
simply a further development of a classic style, a further
specialization, the homogeneous in Spencerian phraseology having become
heterogeneous. The first is beautiful because the parts are
subordinated to the whole; the second is beautiful because the whole is
subordinated to the parts." Then he proceeds to show in literature that
Sir Thomas Browne, Emerson, Pater, Carlyle, Poe, Hawthorne and Whitman
are decadents--not in any invidious sense--but simply in "the breaking
up of the whole for the benefit of its parts." Nietzsche is quoted to
the effect that "in the period of corruption in the evolution of
societies we are apt to overlook the fact that the energy which in more
primitive times marked the operations of a community as a whole has now
simply been transferred to the individuals themselves, and this
aggrandizement of the individual really produces an even greater amount
of energy." And further, Ellis: "All art is the rising and falling of
the slopes of a rhythmic curve between these two classic and decadent
extremes. Decadence suggests to us going down, falling, decay. If we
walk down a real hill we do not feel that we commit a more wicked act
than when we walked up it....Roman architecture is classic to become in
its Byzantine developments completely decadent, and St. Mark's is the
perfected type of decadence in art. ... We have to recognize that
decadence is an aesthetic and not a moral conception. The power of
words is great but they need not befool us. ... We are not called upon
to air our moral indignation over the bass end of the musical clef." I
recommend the entire chapter to such men as Lombroso Levi, Max Nordau
and Heinrich Pudor, who have yet to learn that "all confusion of
intellectual substances is foolish."

Oscar Bie states the Chopin case most excellently:--

  Chopin is a poet. It has become a very bad habit to place this
  poet in the hands of our youth. The concertos and polonaises
  being put aside, no one lends himself worse to youthful
  instruction than Chopin. Because his delicate touches
  inevitably seem perverse to the youthful mind, he has gained
  the name of a morbid genius. The grown man who understands how
  to play Chopin, whose music begins where that of another
  leaves off, whose tones show the supremest mastery in the
  tongue of music--such a man will discover nothing morbid in
  him. Chopin, a Pole, strikes sorrowful chords, which do not
  occur frequently to healthy normal persons. But why is a Pole
  to receive less justice than a German? We know that the
  extreme of culture is closely allied to decay; for perfect
  ripeness is but the foreboding of corruption. Children, of
  course, do not know this. And Chopin himself would have been
  much too noble ever to lay bare his mental sickness to the
  world. And his greatness lies precisely in this: that he
  preserves the mean between immaturity and decay. His greatness
  is his aristocracy. He stands among musicians in his faultless
  vesture, a noble from head to foot. The sublimest emotions
  toward whose refinement whole generations had tended, the last
  things in our soul, whose foreboding is interwoven with the
  mystery of Judgment Day, have in his music found their form.

Further on I shall attempt--I write the word with a patibulary
gesture--in a sort of a Chopin variorum, to analyze the salient
aspects, technical and aesthetic, of his music. To translate into
prose, into any language no matter how poetical, the images aroused by
his music, is impossible. I am forced to employ the technical
terminology of other arts, but against my judgment. Read Mr. W. F.
Apthorp's disheartening dictum in "By the Way." "The entrancing
phantasmagoria of picture and incident which we think we see rising
from the billowing sea of music is in reality nothing more than an
enchanting fata morgana, visible at no other angle than that of our own
eye. The true gist of music it never can be; it can never truly
translate what is most essential and characteristic in its expression.
It is but something that we have half unconsciously imputed to music;
nothing that really exists in music."

The shadowy miming of Chopin's soul has nevertheless a significance for
this generation.  It is now the reign of the brutal, the realistic, the
impossible in music. Formal excellence is neglected and programme-music
has reduced art to the level of an anecdote. Chopin neither preaches
nor paints, yet his art is decorative and dramatic--though in the
climate of the ideal. He touches earth and its emotional issues in
Poland only; otherwise his music is a pure aesthetic delight, an
artistic enchantment, freighted with no ethical or theatric messages.
It is poetry made audible, the "soul written in sound." All that I can
faintly indicate is the way it affects me, this music with the petals
of a glowing rose and the heart of gray ashes. Its analogies to Poe,
Verlaine, Shelley, Keats, Heine and Mickiewicz are but critical
sign-posts, for Chopin is incomparable, Chopin is unique. "Our
interval," writes Walter Pater, "is brief." Few pass it recollectedly
and with full understanding of its larger rhythms and more urgent
colors. Many endure it in frivol and violence, the majority in bored,
sullen submission. Chopin, the New Chopin, is a foe to ennui and the
spirit that denies; in his exquisite soul-sorrow, sweet world-pain, we
may find rich impersonal relief.



V. POET AND PSYCHOLOGIST


Music is an order of mystic, sensuous mathematics. A sounding mirror,
an aural mode of motion, it addresses itself on the formal side to the
intellect, in its content of expression it appeals to the emotions.
Ribot, admirable psychologist, does not hesitate to proclaim music as
the most emotional of the arts. "It acts like a burn, like heat, cold
or a caressing contact, and is the most dependent on physiological
conditions."

Music then, the most vague of the arts in the matter of representing
the concrete, is the swiftest, surest agent for attacking the
sensibilities. The CRY made manifest, as Wagner asserts, it is a cry
that takes on fanciful shapes, each soul interpreting it in an
individual fashion. Music and beauty are synonymous, just as their form
and substance are indivisible.

Havelock Ellis is not the only aesthetician who sees the marriage of
music and sex.  "No other art tells us such old forgotten secrets about
ourselves...It is in the mightiest of all instincts, the primitive sex
traditions of the race before man was, that music is rooted...Beauty is
the child of love." Dante Gabriel Rossetti has imprisoned in a sonnet
the almost intangible feeling aroused by music, the feeling of having
pursued in the immemorial past the "route of evanescence."

    Is it this sky's vast vault or ocean's sound,
    That is Life's self and draws my life from me,
    And by instinct ineffable decree
    Holds my breath
    Quailing on the bitter bound?
    Nay, is it Life or Death, thus thunder-crown'd,
    That 'mid the tide of all emergency
    Now notes my separate wave, and to what sea
    Its difficult eddies labor in the ground?
    Oh! what is this that knows the road I came,
    The flame turned cloud, the cloud returned to flame,
    The lifted, shifted steeps and all the way?
    That draws around me at last this wind-warm space,
    And in regenerate rapture turns my face
    Upon the devious coverts of dismay?

During the last half of the nineteenth century two men became rulers of
musical emotion, Richard Wagner and Frederic Francois Chopin. The music
of the latter is the most ravishing gesture that art has yet made.
Wagner and Chopin, the macrocosm and the microcosm! "Wagner has made
the largest impersonal synthesis attainable of the personal influences
that thrill our lives," cries Havelock Ellis. Chopin, a young man
slight of frame, furiously playing out upon the keyboard his soul, the
soul of his nation, the soul of his time, is the most individual
composer that has ever set humming the looms of our dreams. Wagner and
Chopin have a motor element in their music that is fiercer, intenser
and more fugacious than that of all other composers. For them is not
the Buddhistic void, in which shapes slowly form and fade; their
psychical tempo is devouring. They voiced their age, they moulded their
age and we listen eagerly to them, to these vibrile prophetic voices,
so sweetly corrosive, bardic and appealing. Chopin being nearer the
soil in the selection of forms, his style and structure are more naive,
more original than Wagner's, while his medium, less artificial, is
easier filled than the vast empty frame of the theatre. Through their
intensity of conception and of life, both men touch issues, though
widely dissimilar in all else. Chopin had greater melodic and as great
harmonic genius as Wagner; he made more themes, he was, as Rubinstein
wrote, the last of the original composers, but his scope was not
scenic, he preferred the stage of his soul to the windy spaces of the
music-drama. His is the interior play, the eternal conflict between
body and soul. He viewed music through his temperament and it often
becomes so imponderable, so bodiless as to suggest a fourth dimension
in the art. Space is obliterated. With Chopin one does not get, as from
Beethoven, the sense of spiritual vastness, of the overarching sublime.
There is the pathos of spiritual distance, but it is pathos, not
sublimity. "His soul was a star and dwelt apart," though not in the
Miltonic or Wordsworthian sense. A Shelley-like tenuity at times wings
his thought, and he is the creator of a new thrill within the thrill.
The charm of the dying fall, the unspeakable cadence of regret for the
love that is dead, is in his music; like John Keats he sometimes sees:--

  Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
  Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Chopin, "subtle-souled psychologist," is more kin to Keats than
Shelley, he is a greater artist than a thinker. His philosophy is of
the beautiful, as was Keats', and while he lingers by the river's edge
to catch the song of the reeds, his gaze is oftener fixed on the
quiring planets. He is nature's most exquisite sounding-board and
vibrates to her with intensity, color and vivacity that have no
parallel. Stained with melancholy, his joy is never that of the strong
man rejoicing in his muscles. Yet his very tenderness is tonic and his
cry is ever restrained by an Attic sense of proportion. Like Alfred De
Vigny, he dwelt in a "tour d'ivoire" that faced the west and for him
the sunrise was not, but O! the miraculous moons he discovered, the
sunsets and cloud-shine! His notes cast great rich shadows, these
chains of blown-roses drenched in the dew of beauty. Pompeian colors
are too restricted and flat; he divulges a world of half-tones, some
"enfolding sunny spots of greenery," or singing in silvery shade the
song of chromatic ecstasy, others "huge fragments vaulted like
rebounding hail" and black upon black. Chopin is the color genius of
the piano, his eye was attuned to hues the most fragile and attenuated;
he can weave harmonies that are as ghostly as a lunar rainbow. And
lunar-like in their libration are some of his melodies--glimpses,
mysterious and vast, as of a strange world.

His utterances are always dynamic, and he emerges betimes, as if from
Goya's tomb, and etches with sardonic finger Nada in dust. But this
spirit of denial is not an abiding mood; Chopin throws a net of tone
over souls wearied with rancors and revolts, bridges "salty, estranged
seas" of misery and presently we are viewing a mirrored, a fabulous
universe wherein Death is dead, and Love reigns Lord of all.


II

Heine said that "every epoch is a sphinx which plunges into the abyss
as soon as its problem is solved." Born in the very upheaval of the
Romantic revolution--a revolution evoked by the intensity of its
emotion, rather than by the power of its ideas--Chopin was not
altogether one of the insurgents of art. Just when his individual soul
germinated, who may tell? In his early music are discovered the roots
and fibres of Hummel and Field. His growth, involuntary, inevitable,
put forth strange sprouts, and he saw in the piano, an instrument of
two dimensions, a third, and so his music deepened and took on stranger
colors. The keyboard had never sung so before; he forged its formula. A
new apocalyptic seal of melody and harmony was let fall upon it.
Sounding scrolls, delicious arabesques gorgeous in tint, martial,
lyric, "a resonance of emerald," a sobbing of fountains--as that Chopin
of the Gutter, Paul Verlaine, has it--the tear crystallized midway, an
arrested pearl, were overheard in his music, and Europe felt a new
shudder of sheer delight.

The literary quality is absent and so is the ethical--Chopin may
prophesy but he never flames into the divers tongues of the upper
heaven. Compared with his passionate abandonment to the dance, Brahms
is the Lao-tsze of music, the great infant born with gray hair and with
the slow smile of childhood. Chopin seldom smiles, and while some of
his music is young, he does not raise in the mind pictures of the
fatuous romance of youth. His passion is mature, self-sustained and
never at a loss for the mot propre. And with what marvellous vibration
he gamuts the passions, festooning them with carnations and great white
tube roses, but the dark dramatic motive is never lost in the
decorative wiles of this magician. As the man grew he laid aside his
pretty garlands and his line became sterner, its traceries more gothic;
he made Bach his chief god and within the woven walls of his strange
harmonies he sings the history of a soul, a soul convulsed by antique
madness, by the memory of awful things, a soul lured by Beauty to
secret glades wherein sacrificial rites are performed to the solemn
sounds of unearthly music. Like Maurice de Guerin, Chopin perpetually
strove to decipher Beauty's enigma and passionately demanded of the
sphinx that defies:

"Upon the shores of what oceans have they rolled the stone that hides
them, O Macareus?"

His name was as the stroke of a bell to the Romancists; he remained
aloof from them though in a sympathetic attitude. The classic is but
the Romantic dead, said an acute critic. Chopin was a classic without
knowing it; he compassed for the dances of his land what Bach did for
the older forms. With Heine he led the spirit of revolt, but enclosed
his note of agitation in a frame beautiful. The color, the "lithe
perpetual escape" from the formal deceived his critics, Schumann among
the rest. Chopin, like Flaubert, was the last of the idealists, the
first of the realists. The newness of his form, his linear
counterpoint, misled the critics, who accused him of the lack of it.
Schumann's formal deficiency detracts from much of his music, and
because of their formal genius Wagner and Chopin will live.

To Chopin might be addressed Sar Merodack Peladan's words:

"When your hand writes a perfect line the Cherubim descend to find
pleasure therein as in a mirror." Chopin wrote many perfect lines; he
is, above all, the faultless lyrist, the Swinburne, the master of
fiery, many rhythms, the chanter of songs before sunrise, of the burden
of the flesh, the sting of desire and large-moulded lays of passionate
freedom. His music is, to quote Thoreau, "a proud sweet satire on the
meanness of our life." He had no feeling for the epic, his genius was
too concentrated, and though he could be furiously dramatic the
sustained majesty of blank verse was denied him. With musical ideas he
was ever gravid but their intensity is parent to their brevity. And it
must not be forgotten that with Chopin the form was conditioned by the
idea. He took up the dancing patterns of Poland because they suited his
vivid inner life; he transformed them, idealized them, attaining to
more prolonged phraseology and denser architecture in his Ballades and
Scherzi--but these periods are passionate, never philosophical.

All artists are androgynous; in Chopin the feminine often prevails, but
it must be noted that this quality is a distinguishing sign of
masculine lyric genius, for when he unbends, coquets and makes graceful
confessions or whimpers in lyric loveliness at fate, then his mother's
sex peeps out, a picture of the capricious, beautiful tyrannical Polish
woman. When he stiffens his soul, when Russia gets into his nostrils,
then the smoke and flame of his Polonaises, the tantalizing despair of
his Mazurkas are testimony to the strong man-soul in rebellion. But it
is often a psychical masquerade. The sag of melancholy is soon felt,
and the old Chopin, the subjective Chopin, wails afresh in melodic
moodiness.

That he could attempt far flights one may see in his B flat minor
Sonata, in his Scherzi, in several of the Ballades, above all in the F
minor Fantasie. In this great work the technical invention keeps pace
with the inspiration. It coheres, there is not a flaw in the
reverberating marble, not a rift in the idea. If Chopin, diseased to
death's door, could erect such a Palace of Dreams, what might not he
have dared had he been healthy? But forth from his misery came
sweetness and strength, like honey from the lion. He grew amazingly the
last ten years of his existence, grew with a promise that recalls
Keats, Shelley, Mozart, Schubert and the rest of the early slaughtered
angelic crew. His flame-like spirit waxed and waned in the gusty
surprises of a disappointed life. To the earth for consolation he bent
his ear and caught echoes of the cosmic comedy, the far-off laughter of
the hills, the lament of the sea and the mutterings of its depths.
These things with tales of sombre clouds and shining skies and
whisperings of strange creatures dancing timidly in pavonine twilights,
he traced upon the ivory keys of his instrument and the world was
richer for a poet. Chopin is not only the poet of the piano, he is also
the poet of music, the most poetic of composers. Compared with him Bach
seems a maker of solid polyphonic prose, Beethoven a scooper of stars,
a master of growling storms, Mozart a weaver of gay tapestries,
Schumann a divine stammerer. Schubert, alone of all the composers,
resembles him in his lyric prodigality. Both were masters of melody,
but Chopin was the master-workman of the two and polished, after
bending and beating, his theme fresh from the fire of his forge. He
knew that to complete his "wailing Iliads" the strong hand of the
reviser was necessary, and he also realized that nothing is more
difficult for the genius than to retain his gift. Of all natures the
most prone to pessimism, procrastination and vanity, the artist is most
apt to become ennuied. It is not easy to flame always at the focus, to
burn fiercely with the central fire. Chopin knew this and cultivated
his ego. He saw too that the love of beauty for beauty's sake was
fascinating but led to the way called madness. So he rooted his art,
gave it the earth of Poland and its deliquescence is put off to the day
when a new system of musical aestheticism will have routed the old,
when the Ugly shall be king and Melody the handmaiden of science. But
until that most grievous and undesired time he will catch the music of
our souls and give it cry and flesh.


III

Chopin is the open door in music. Besides having been a poet and giving
vibratory expression to the concrete, he was something else--he was a
pioneer. Pioneer because in youth he had bowed to the tyranny of the
diatonic scale and savored the illicit joys of the chromatic. It is
briefly curious that Chopin is regarded purely as a poet among
musicians and not as a practical musician. They will swear him a
phenomenal virtuoso, but your musician, orchestral and theoretical,
raises the eyebrow of the supercilious if Chopin is called creative. A
cunning finger-smith, a moulder of decorative patterns, a master at
making new figures, all this is granted, but speak of Chopin as
path-breaker in the harmonic forest--that true "forest of numbers"--as
the forger of a melodic metal, the sweetest, purest in temper, and lo!
you are regarded as one mentally askew. Chopin invented many new
harmonic devices, he untied the chord that was restrained within the
octave, leading it into the dangerous but delectable land of extended
harmonies. And how he chromaticized the prudish, rigid garden of German
harmony, how he moistened it with flashing changeful waters until it
grew bold and brilliant with promise! A French theorist, Albert
Lavignac, calls Chopin a product of the German Romantic school. This is
hitching the star to the wagon. Chopin influenced Schumann; it can be
proven a hundred times. And Schumann understood Chopin else he could
not have written the "Chopin" of the Carneval, which quite out-Chopins
Chopin.

Chopin is the musical soul of Poland; he incarnates its political
passion. First a Slav, by adoption a Parisian, he is the open door
because he admitted into the West, Eastern musical ideas, Eastern
tonalities, rhythms, in fine the Slavic, all that is objectionable,
decadent and dangerous. He inducted Europe into the mysteries and
seductions of the Orient. His music lies wavering between the East and
the West. A neurotic man, his tissues trembling, his sensibilities
aflame, the offspring of a nation doomed to pain and partition, it was
quite natural for him to go to France--Poland had ever been her
historical client--the France that overheated all Europe. Chopin, born
after two revolutions, the true child of insurrection, chose Paris for
his second home. Revolt sat easily upon his inherited aristocratic
instincts--no proletarian is quite so thorough a revolutionist as the
born aristocrat, witness Nietzsche--and Chopin, in the bloodless battle
of the Romantics, in the silent warring of Slav against Teuton, Gaul
and Anglo-Saxon, will ever stand as the protagonist of the artistic
drama.

All that followed, the breaking up of the old hard-and-fast boundaries
on the musical map is due to Chopin. A pioneer, he has been rewarded as
such by a polite ignorement or bland condescension. He smashed the
portals of the convention that forbade a man baring his soul to the
multitude. The psychology of music is the gainer thereby. Chopin, like
Velasquez, could paint single figures perfectly, but to great massed
effects he was a stranger. Wagner did not fail to profit by his
marvellously drawn soul-portraits. Chopin taught his century the pathos
of patriotism, and showed Grieg the value of national ore. He
practically re-created the harmonic charts, he gave voice to the
individual, himself a product of a nation dissolved by overwrought
individualism. As Schumann assures us, his is "the proudest and most
poetic spirit of his time." Chopin, subdued by his familiar demon, was
a true specimen of Nietzsche's Ubermensch,--which is but Emerson's
Oversoul shorn of her wings. Chopin's transcendental scheme of technics
is the image of a supernormal lift in composition. He sometimes robs
music of its corporeal vesture and his transcendentalism lies not alone
in his striving after strange tonalities and rhythms, but in seeking
the emotionally recondite. Self-tormented, ever "a dweller on the
threshold" he saw visions that outshone the glories of Hasheesh and his
nerve-swept soul ground in its mills exceeding fine music. His vision
is of beauty; he persistently groped at the hem of her robe, but never
sought to transpose or to tone the commonplace of life. For this he
reproved Schubert. Such intensity cannot be purchased but at the cost
of breadth, of sanity, and his picture of life is not so high, wide,
sublime, or awful as Beethoven's. Yet is it just as inevitable, sincere
and as tragically poignant.

Stanislaw Przybyszewski in his "Zur Psychologie des Individuums"
approaches the morbid Chopin--the Chopin who threw open to the world
the East, who waved his chromatic wand to Liszt, Tschaikowsky,
Saint-Saens, Goldmark, Rubinstein, Richard Strauss, Dvorak and all
Russia with its consonantal composers. This Polish psychologist--a
fulgurant expounder of Nietzsche--finds in Chopin faith and mania, the
true stigma of the mad individualist, the individual "who in the first
instance is naught but an oxidation apparatus." Nietzsche and Chopin
are the most outspoken individualities of the age--he forgets
Wagner--Chopin himself the finest flowering of a morbid and rare
culture. His music is a series of psychoses--he has the sehnsucht of a
marvellously constituted nature--and the shrill dissonance of his
nerves, as seen in the physiological outbursts of the B minor Scherzo,
is the agony of a tortured soul. The piece is Chopin's Iliad; in it are
the ghosts that lurk near the hidden alleys of the soul, but here come
out to leer and exult.

Horla! the Horla of Guy de Maupassant, the sinister Doppelganger of
mankind, which races with him to the goal of eternity, perhaps to
outstrip and master him in the next evolutionary cycle, master as does
man, the brute creation. This Horla, according to Przybyszewski,
conquered Chopin and became vocal in his music--this Horla has mastered
Nietzsche, who, quite mad, gave the world that Bible of the Ubermensch,
that dancing lyric prose-poem, "Also Sprach Zarathustra."

Nietzsche's disciple is half right. Chopin's moods are often morbid,
his music often pathological; Beethoven too is morbid, but in his
kingdom, so vast, so varied, the mood is lost or lightly felt, while in
Chopin's province, it looms a maleficent upas-tree, with flowers of
evil and its leaves glistering with sensuousness. But so keen for
symmetry, for all the term formal beauty implies, is Chopin, that
seldom does his morbidity madden, his voluptuousness poison. His music
has its morass, but also its upland where the gale blows strong and
true. Perhaps all art is, as the incorrigible Nordau declares, a slight
deviation from the normal, though Ribot scoffs at the existence of any
standard of normality. The butcher and the candle-stick-maker have
their Horla, their secret soul convulsions, which they set down to
taxation, the vapors, or weather.

Chopin has surprised the musical malady of the century. He is its chief
spokesman. After the vague, mad, noble dreams of Byron, Shelley and
Napoleon, the awakening found those disillusioned souls, Wagner,
Nietzsche and Chopin. Wagner sought in the epical rehabilitation of a
vanished Valhalla a surcease from the world-pain. He consciously
selected his anodyne and in "Die Meistersinger" touched a consoling
earth. Chopin and Nietzsche, temperamentally finer and more sensitive
than Wagner--the one musically, the other intellectually--sang
themselves in music and philosophy, because they were so constituted.
Their nerves rode them to their death. Neither found the serenity and
repose of Wagner, for neither was as sane and both suffered mortally
from hyperaesthesia, the penalty of all sick genius.

Chopin's music is the aesthetic symbol of a personality nurtured on
patriotism, pride and love; that it is better expressed by the piano is
because of that instrument's idiosyncrasies of evanescent tone,
sensitive touch and wide range in dynamics. It was Chopin's lyre, the
"orchestra of his heart," from it he extorted music the most intimate
since Sappho. Among lyric moderns Heine closely resembles the Pole.
Both sang because they suffered, sang ineffable and ironic melodies;
both will endure because of their brave sincerity, their surpassing
art. The musical, the psychical history of the nineteenth century would
be incomplete without the name of Frederic Francois Chopin. Wagner
externalized its dramatic soul; in Chopin the mad lyricism of the
Time-spirit is made eloquent. Into his music modulated the poesy of his
age; he is one of its heroes, a hero of whom Swinburne might have sung:

  O strong-winged soul with prophetic
  Lips hot with the blood-beats of song;
  With tremor of heart-strings magnetic,
  With thoughts as thunder in throng;
  With consonant ardor of chords
  That pierce men's souls as with swords
  And hale them hearing along.



PART II:--HIS MUSIC



VI. THE STUDIES:--TITANIC EXPERIMENTS


October 20, 1829, Frederic Chopin, aged twenty, wrote to his friend
Titus Woyciechowski, from Warsaw: "I have composed a study in my own
manner;" and November 14, the same year: "I have written some studies;
in your presence I would play them well."

Thus, quite simply and without booming of cannon or brazen proclamation
by bell, did the great Polish composer announce an event of supreme
interest and importance to the piano-playing world. Niecks thinks these
studies were published in the summer of 1833, July or August, and were
numbered op. 10. Another set of studies, op. 25, did not find a
publisher until 1837, although some of them were composed at the same
time as the previous work; a Polish musician who visited the French
capital in 1834 heard Chopin play the studies contained in op. 25. The
C minor study, op. 10, No. 12, commonly known as the Revolutionary, was
born at Stuttgart, September, 1831, "while under the excitement caused
by the news of the taking of Warsaw by the Russians, on September 8,
1831." These dates are given so as to rout effectually any dilatory
suspicion that Liszt influenced Chopin in the production of his
masterpieces. Lina Ramann, in her exhaustive biography of Franz Liszt,
openly declares that Nos. 9 and 12 of op. 10 and Nos. 11 and 12 of op.
25 reveal the influence of the Hungarian virtuoso. Figures prove the
fallacy of her assertion. The influence was the other way, as Liszt's
three concert studies show--not to mention other compositions. When
Chopin arrived in Paris his style had been formed, he was the creator
of a new piano technique.

The three studies known as Trois Nouvelles Etudes, which appeared in
1840 in Moscheles and Fetis Method of Methods were published separately
afterward. Their date of composition we do not know.

Many are the editions of Chopin's studies, but after going over the
ground, one finds only about a dozen worthy of study and consultation.
Karasowski gives the date of the first complete edition of the Chopin
works as 1846, with Gebethner & Wolff, Warsaw, as publishers. Then,
according to Niecks, followed Tellefsen, Klindworth--Bote &
Bock--Scholtz--Peters--Breitkopf & Hartel, Mikuli, Schuberth, Kahnt,
Steingraber--better known as Mertke's--and Schlesinger, edited by the
great pedagogue Theodor Kullak. Xaver Scharwenka has edited Klindworth
for the London edition of Augener & Co. Mikuli criticised the Tellefsen
edition, yet both men had been Chopin pupils. This is a significant
fact and shows that little reliance can be placed on the brave talk
about tradition. Yet Mikuli had the assistance of a half dozen of
Chopin's "favorite" pupils, and, in addition, Ferdinand Hiller. Herman
Scholtz, who edited the works for Peters, based his results on careful
inspection of original French, German and English editions, besides
consulting M. Georges Mathias, a pupil of Chopin. If Fontana, Wolff,
Gutmann, Mikuli and Tellefsen, who copied from the original Chopin
manuscripts under the supervision of the composer, cannot agree, then
upon what foundation are reared the structures of the modern critical
editions? The early French, German and Polish editions are faulty,
indeed useless, because of misprints and errata of all kinds. Every
succeeding edition has cleared away some of these errors, but only in
Karl Klindworth has Chopin found a worthy, though not faultless,
editor. His edition is a work of genius and was called by Von Bulow
"the only model edition." In a few sections others, such as Kullak, Dr.
Hugo Riemann and Hans von Bulow, may have outstripped him, but as a
whole his editing is amazing for its exactitude, scholarship, fertility
in novel fingerings and sympathetic insight in phrasing. This edition
appeared at Moscow from 1873 to 1876.

The twenty-seven studies of Chopin have been separately edited by
Riemann and Von Bulow.

Let us narrow our investigations and critical comparisons to
Klindworth, Von Bulow, Kullak and Riemann. Carl Reinecke's edition of
the studies in Breitkopf & Hartel's collection offers nothing new,
neither do Mertke, Scholtz and Mikuli. The latter one should keep at
hand because of the possible freedom from impurities in his text, but
of phrasing or fingering he contributes little. It must be remembered
that with the studies, while they completely exhibit the entire range
of Chopin's genius, the play's the thing after all. The poetry, the
passion of the Ballades and Scherzi wind throughout these technical
problems like a flaming skein. With the modern avidity for exterior as
well as interior analysis, Mikuli, Reinecke, Mertke and Scholtz
evidence little sympathy. It is then from the masterly editing of
Kullak, Von Bulow, Riemann and Klindworth that I shall draw copiously.
They have, in their various ways, given us a clue to their musical
individuality, as well as their precise scholarship. Klindworth is the
most genially intellectual, Von Bulow the most pedagogic, and Kullak is
poetic, while Riemann is scholarly; the latter gives more attention to
phrasing than to fingering. The Chopin studies are poems fit for
Parnassus, yet they also serve a very useful purpose in pedagogy. Both
aspects, the material and the spiritual, should be studied, and with
four such guides the student need not go astray.

In the first study of the first book, op. 10, dedicated to Liszt,
Chopin at a leap reached new land. Extended chords had been sparingly
used by Hummel and Clementi, but to take a dispersed harmony and
transform it into an epical study, to raise the chord of the tenth to
heroic stature--that could have been accomplished by Chopin only. And
this first study in C is heroic. Theodore Kullak writes of it: "Above a
ground bass proudly and boldly striding along, flow mighty waves of
sound. The etude--whose technical end is the rapid execution of widely
extended chord figurations exceeding the span of an octave--is to be
played on the basis of forte throughout. With sharply dissonant
harmonies the forte is to be increased to fortissimo, diminishing again
with consonant ones. Pithy accents! Their effect is enhanced when
combined with an elastic recoil of the hand."

The irregular, black, ascending and descending staircases of notes
strike the neophyte with terror. Like Piranesi's marvellous aerial
architectural dreams, these dizzy acclivities and descents of Chopin
exercise a charm, hypnotic, if you will, for eye as well as ear. Here
is the new technique in all its nakedness, new in the sense of figure,
design, pattern, web, new in a harmonic way. The old order was
horrified at the modulatory harshness, the young sprigs of the new,
fascinated and a little frightened. A man who could explode a mine that
assailed the stars must be reckoned with. The nub of modern piano music
is in the study, the most formally reckless Chopin ever penned. Kullak
gives Chopin's favorite metronome sign, 176 to the quarter, but this
editor rightly believes that "the majestic grandeur is impaired," and
suggests 152 instead. The gain is at once apparent. Indeed Kullak, a
man of moderate pulse, is quite right in his strictures on the Chopin
tempi, tempi that sprang from the expressively light mechanism of the
prevailing pianos of Chopin's day. Von Bulow declares that "the
requisite suppleness of the hand in gradual extension and rapid
contraction will be most quickly attained if the player does not
disdain first of all to impress on the individual fingers the chord
which is the foundation of each arpeggio;" a sound pedagogic point. He
also inveighs against the disposition to play the octave basses
arpeggio. In fact, those basses are the argument of the play; they must
be granitic, ponderable and powerful. The same authority calls
attention to a misprint C, which he makes B flat, the last note treble
in the twenty-ninth bar. Von Bulow gives the Chopin metronomic marking.

It remained for Riemann to make some radical changes. This learned and
worthy doctor astonished the musical world a few years by his new marks
of phrasing in the Beethoven symphonies. They topsy-turvied the old
bowing. With Chopin, new dynamic and agogic accents are rather
dangerous, at least to the peace of mind of worshippers of the Chopin
fetish. Riemann breaks two bars into one. It is a finished period for
him, and by detaching several of the sixteenths in the first group, the
first and fourth, he makes the accent clearer,--at least to the eye. He
indicates alla breve with 88 to the half. In later studies examples
will be given of this phrasing, a phrasing that becomes a mannerism
with the editor. He offers no startling finger changes. The value of
his criticism throughout the volume seems to be in the phrasing, and
this by no means conforms to accepted notions of how Chopin should be
interpreted. I intend quoting more freely from Riemann than from the
others, but not for the reason that I consider him as a cloud by day
and a pillar of fire by night in the desirable land of the Chopin
fitudes, rather because his piercing analysis lays bare the very roots
of these shining examples of piano literature. Klindworth contents
himself with a straightforward version of the C major study, his
fingering being the clearest and most admirable. The Mikuli edition
makes one addition: it is a line which binds the last note of the first
group to the first of the second. The device is useful, and occurs only
on the upward flights of the arpeggio.

This study suggests that its composer wished to begin the exposition of
his wonderful technical system with a skeletonized statement. It is the
tree stripped of its bark, the flower of its leaves, yet, austere as is
the result, there is compensating power, dignity and unswerving logic.
This study is the key with which Chopin unlocked--not his heart, but
the kingdom of technique. It should be played, for variety, unisono,
with both hands, omitting, of course, the octave bass.

Von Bulow writes cannily enough, that the second study in A minor being
chromatically related to Moscheles' etude, op. 70, No. 3, that piece
should prepare the way for Chopin's more musical composition. In
different degrees of tempo, strength and rhythmic accent it should be
practised, omitting the thumb and first finger. Mikuli's metronome is
144 to the quarter, Von Bulow's, 114; Klindworth's, the same as Mikuli,
and Riemann is 72 to the half, with an alla breve. The fingering in
three of these authorities is almost identical. Riemann has ideas of
his own, both in the phrasing and figuration. Look at these first two
bars:

[Musical score excerpt without caption: ]

Von Bulow orders "the middle harmonies to be played throughout
distinctly, and yet transiently"--in German, "fluchtig." In fact, the
entire composition, with its murmuring, meandering, chromatic
character, is a forerunner to the whispering, weaving, moonlit effects
in some of his later studies. The technical purpose is clear, but not
obtrusive. It is intended for the fourth and fifth finger of the right
hand, but given in unison with both hands it becomes a veritable but
laudable torture for the thumb of the left. With the repeat of the
first at bar 36 Von Bulow gives a variation in fingering. Kullak's
method of fingering is this: "Everywhere that two white keys occur in
succession the fifth finger is to be used for C and F in the right
hand, and for F and E in the left." He has also something to say about
holding "the hand sideways, so that the back of the hand and arm form
an angle." This question of hand position, particularly in Chopin, is
largely a matter of individual formation. No two hands are alike, no
two pianists use the same muscular movements. Play along the easiest
line of resistance.

We now have reached a study, the third, in which the more intimately
known Chopin reveals himself. This one in E is among the finest
flowering of the composer's choice garden. It is simpler, less morbid,
sultry and languorous, therefore saner, than the much bepraised study
in C sharp minor, No. 7, op. 25. Niecks writes that this study "may be
counted among Chopin's loveliest compositions." It combines "classical
chasteness of contour with the fragrance of romanticism." Chopin told
his faithful Gutmann that "he had never in his life written another
such melody," and once when hearing it raised his arms aloft and cried
out: "Oh, ma patrie!"

I cannot vouch for the sincerity of Chopin's utterance for as Runciman
writes: "They were a very Byronic set, these young men; and they took
themselves with ludicrous seriousness."

Von Bulow calls it a study in expression--which is obvious--and thinks
it should be studied in company with No. 6, in E flat minor. This
reason is not patent. Emotions should not be hunted in couples and the
very object of the collection, variety in mood as well as mechanism, is
thus defeated. But Von Bulow was ever an ardent classifier. Perhaps he
had his soul compartmentized. He also attempts to regulate the
rubato--this is the first of the studies wherein the rubato's rights
must be acknowledged. The bars are even mentioned 32, 33, 36 and 37,
where tempo license may be indulged. But here is a case which innate
taste and feeling must guide. You can no more teach a real Chopin
rubato--not the mawkish imitation,--than you can make a donkey
comprehend Kant. The metronome is the same in all editions, 100 to the
eighth.

Kullak rightly calls this lovely study "ein wunderschones, poetisches
Tonstuck," more in the nocturne than study style. He gives in the
bravura-like cadenza, an alternate for small hands, but small hands
should not touch this piece unless they can grapple the double sixths
with ease. Klindworth fingers the study with great care. The figuration
in three of the editions is the same, Mikuli separating the voices
distinctly. Riemann exercises all his ingenuity to make the beginning
clear to the eye.

[Musical score excerpt]

What a joy is the next study, No. 4! How well Chopin knew the value of
contrast in tonality and sentiment! A veritable classic is this piece,
which, despite its dark key color, C sharp minor as a foil to the
preceding one in E, bubbles with life and spurts flame. It reminds one
of the story of the Polish peasants, who are happiest when they sing in
the minor mode. Kullak calls this "a bravura study for velocity and
lightness in both hands. Accentuation fiery!" while Von Bulow believes
that "the irresistible interest inspired by the spirited content of
this truly classical and model piece of music may become a stumbling
block in attempting to conquer the technical difficulties." Hardly. The
technics of this composition do not lie beneath the surface. They are
very much in the way of clumsy fingers and heavy wrists. Presto 88 to
the half is the metronome indication in all five editions. Klindworth
does not comment, but I like his fingering and phrasing best of all.
Riemann repeats his trick of breaking a group, detaching a note for
emphasis; although he is careful to retain the legato bow. One wonders
why this study does not figure more frequently on programmes of piano
recitals. It is a fine, healthy technical test, it is brilliant, and
the coda is very dramatic. Ten bars before the return of the theme
there is a stiff digital hedge for the student. A veritable lance of
tone is this study, if justly poised.

Riemann has his own ideas of the phrasing of the following one, the
fifth and familiar "Black Key" etude. Examine the first bar:

[Musical Illustration without caption]

Von Bulow would have grown jealous if he had seen this rather fantastic
phrasing. It is a trifle too finical, though it must be confessed looks
pretty. I like longer breathed phrasing. The student may profit by this
analysis. The piece is indeed, as Kullak says, "full of Polish
elegance." Von Bulow speaks rather disdainfully of it as a Damen-Salon
Etude. It is certainly graceful, delicately witty, a trifle naughty,
arch and roguish, and it is delightfully invented. Technically, it
requires smooth, velvet-tipped fingers and a supple wrist. In the
fourth bar, third group, third note of group, Klindworth and Riemann
print E flat instead of D flat. Mikuli, Kullak and Von Bulow use the D
flat. Now, which is right? The D flat is preferable. There are already
two E flats in the bar. The change is an agreeable one. Joseffy has
made a concert variation for this study. The metronome of the original
is given at 116 to the quarter.

A dark, doleful nocturne is No. 6, in E flat minor. Niecks praises it
in company with the preceding one in E. It is beautiful, if music so
sad may be called beautiful, and the melody is full of stifled sorrow.
The study figure is ingenious, but subordinated to the theme. In the E
major section the piece broadens to dramatic vigor. Chopin was not yet
the slave of his mood. There must be a psychical programme to this
study, some record of a youthful disillusion, but the expression of it
is kept well within chaste lines. The Sarmatian composer had not yet
unlearned the value of reserve. The Klindworth reading of this troubled
poem is the best though Kullak used Chopin's autographic copy. There is
no metronomic sign in this autograph. Tellefsen gives 69 to the
quarter; Klindworth, 60; Riemann, 69; Mikuli, the same; Von Bulow and
Kullak, 60. Kullak also gives several variante from the text, adding an
A flat to the last group in bar II. Riemann and the others make the
same addition. The note must have been accidentally omitted from the
Chopin autograph. Two bars will illustrate what Riemann can accomplish
when he makes up his mind to be explicit, leaving little to the
imagination:

[Illustration without caption]

A luscious touch, and a sympathetic soul is needed for this nocturne
study.

We emerge into a clearer, more bracing atmosphere in the C major study,
No. 7. It is a genuine toccata, with moments of tender twilight,
serving a distinct technical purpose--the study of double notes and
changing on one key--and is as healthy as the toccata by Robert
Schumann. Here is a brave, an undaunted Chopin, a gay cavalier, with
the sunshine shimmering about him. There are times when this study
seems like light dripping through the trees of a mysterious forest;
with the delicato there are Puck-like rustlings, and all the while the
pianist without imagination is exercising wrist and ringers in a
technical exercise! Were ever Beauty and Duty so mated in double
harness? Pegasus pulling a cloud charged with rain over an arid
country! For study, playing the entire composition with a wrist stroke
is advisable. It will secure clear articulation, staccato and
finger-memory. Von Bulow phrases the study in groups of two, Kullak in
sixes, Klindworth and Mikuli the same, while Riemann in alternate twos,
fours and sixes. One sees his logic rather than hears it. Von Bulow
plastically reproduces the flitting, elusive character of the study far
better than the others.

It is quite like him to suggest to the panting and ambitious pupil that
the performance in F sharp major, with the same fingering as the next
study in F, No. 8, would be beneficial. It certainly would. By the same
token, the playing of the F minor Sonata, the Appassionata of
Beethoven, in the key of F sharp minor, might produce good results.
This was another crotchet of Wagner's friend and probably was born of
the story that Beethoven transposed the Bach fugues in all keys. The
same is said of Saint-Saens.

In his notes to the F major study Theodor Kullak expatiates at length
upon his favorite idea that Chopin must not be played according to his
metronomic markings. The original autograph gives 96 to the half, the
Tellefsen edition 88, Klindworth 80, Von Bulow 89, Mikuli 88, and
Riemann the same. Kullak takes the slower tempo of Klindworth,
believing that the old Herz and Czerny ideals of velocity are vanished,
that the shallow dip of the keys in Chopin's day had much to do with
the swiftness and lightness of his playing. The noble, more sonorous
tone of a modern piano requires greater breadth of style and less
speedy passage work. There can be no doubt as to the wisdom of a
broader treatment of this charming display piece. How it makes the
piano sound--what a rich, brilliant sweep it secures! It elbows the
treble to its last euphonious point, glitters and crests itself, only
to fall away as if the sea were melodic and could shatter and tumble
into tuneful foam! The emotional content is not marked. The piece is
for the fashionable salon or the concert hall. One catches at its close
the overtones of bustling plaudits and the clapping of gloved palms.
Ductility, an aristocratic ease, a delicate touch and fluent technique
will carry off this study with good effect. Technically it is useful;
one must speak of the usefulness of Chopin, even in these imprisoned,
iridescent soap bubbles of his. On the fourth line and in the first bar
of the Kullak version, there is a chord of the dominant seventh in
dispersed position that does not occur in any other edition. Yet it
must be Chopin or one of his disciples, for this autograph is in the
Royal Library at Berlin. Kullak thinks it ought to be omitted, moreover
he slights an E flat, that occurs in all the other editions situated in
the fourth group of the twentieth bar from the end.

The F minor study, No. 9, is the first one of those tone studies of
Chopin in which the mood is more petulant than tempestuous. The melody
is morbid, almost irritating, and yet not without certain accents of
grandeur. There is a persistency in repetition that foreshadows the
Chopin of the later, sadder years. The figure in the left hand is the
first in which a prominent part is given to that member. Not as noble
and sonorous a figure as the one in the C minor study, it is a distinct
forerunner of the bass of the D minor Prelude. In this F minor study
the stretch is the technical object. It is rather awkward for
close-knit fingers. The best fingering is Von Bulow's. It is 5, 3, 1,
4, 1, 3 for the first figure. All the other editions, except Riemann's,
recommend the fifth finger on F, the fourth on C. Von Billow believes
that small hands beginning with his system will achieve quicker results
than by the Chopin fingering. This is true. Riemann phrases the study
with a multiplicity of legato bows and dynamic accents. Kullak prefers
the Tellefsen metronome 80, rather than the traditional 96. Most of the
others use 88 to the quarter, except Riemann, who espouses the more
rapid gait of 96. Klindworth, with his 88, strikes a fair medium.

The verdict of Von Bulow on the following study in A flat, No. 10, has
no uncertainty of tone in its proclamation:

  He who can play this study in a really finished manner may
  congratulate himself on having climbed to the highest point of
  the pianist's Parnassus, as it is perhaps the most difficult
  piece of the entire set. The whole repertory of piano music
  does not contain a study of perpetuum mobile so full of genius
  and fancy as this particular one is universally acknowledged
  to be, except perhaps Liszt's Feux Follets. The most important
  point would appear to lie not so much in the interchange of
  the groups of legato and staccato as in the exercise of
  rhythmic contrasts--the alternation of two and three part
  metre (that is, of four and six) in the same bar. To overcome
  this fundamental difficulty in the art of musical reproduction
  is the most important thing here, and with true zeal it may
  even be accomplished easily.

Kullak writes: "Harmonic anticipations; a rich rhythmic life
originating in the changing articulation of the twelve-eights in groups
of three and two each. ... This etude is an exceedingly piquant
composition, possessing for the hearer a wondrous, fantastic charm, if
played with the proper insight." The metronomic marking is practically
the same in all editions, 152 to the quarter notes. The study is one of
the most charming of the composer. There is more depth in it than in
the G flat and F major studies, and its effectiveness in the virtuoso
sense is unquestionable. A savor of the salon hovers over its perfumed
measures, but there is grace, spontaneity and happiness. Chopin must
have been as happy as his sensitive nature would allow when he
conceived this vivacious caprice.

In all the editions, Riemann's excepted, there is no doubt left as to
the alternations of metres. Here are the first few bars of Von
Billow's, which is normal phrasing:

[Musical score excerpt]

Read Riemann's version of these bars:

[Musical score excerpt]

Riemann is conducive to clear-sighted phrasing, and will set the
student thinking, but the general effect of accentuation is certainly
different. All the editors quoted agree with Von Bulow, Klindworth and
Kullak. But if this is a marked specimen of Riemann, examine his
reading of the phrase wherein Chopin's triple rhythm is supplanted by
duple. Thus Von Bulow--and who will dare cavil?

[Musical score excerpt]

Riemann:

[Musical score excerpt]

The difference is more imaginary than real, for the stems of the
accented notes give us the binary metre. But the illustration serves to
show how Dr. Riemann is disposed to refine upon the gold of Chopin.

Kullak dilates upon a peculiarity of Chopin: the dispersed position of
his underlying harmonies. This in a footnote to the eleventh study of
op. 10. Here one must let go the critical valve, else strangle in
pedagogics. So much has been written, so much that is false, perverted
sentimentalism and unmitigated cant about the nocturnes, that the
wonder is the real Chopin lover has not rebelled. There are pearls and
diamonds in the jewelled collection of nocturnes, many are dolorous,
few dramatic, and others are sweetly insane and songful. I yield to
none in my admiration for the first one of the two in G minor, for the
psychical despair in the C sharp minor nocturne, for that noble drama
called the C minor nocturne, for the B major, the Tuberose nocturne;
and for the E, D flat and G major nocturnes, it remains unabated. But
in the list there is no such picture painted, a Corot if ever there was
one, as this E flat study.

Its novel design, delicate arabesques--as if the guitar had been
dowered with a soul--and the richness and originality of its harmonic
scheme, gives us pause to ask if Chopin's invention is not almost
boundless. The melody itself is plaintive; a plaintive grace informs
the entire piece. The harmonization is far more wonderful, but to us
the chord of the tenth and more remote intervals, seem no longer
daring; modern composition has devilled the musical alphabet into the
very caverns of the grotesque, yet there are harmonies in the last page
of this study that still excite wonder. The fifteenth bar from the end
is one that Richard Wagner might have made. From that bar to the close,
every group is a masterpiece.

Remember, this study is a nocturne, and even the accepted metronomic
markings in most editions, 76 to the quarter, are not too slow; they
might even be slower. Allegretto and not a shade speedier! The color
scheme is celestial and the ending a sigh, not unmixed with happiness.
Chopin, sensitive poet, had his moments of peace, of divine
content--lebensruhe. The dizzy appoggiatura leaps in the last two bars
set the seal of perfection upon this unique composition.

Touching upon the execution, one may say that it is not for small
hands, nor yet for big fists. The former must not believe that any
"arrangements" or simplified versions will ever produce the aerial
effect, the swaying of the tendrils of tone, intended by Chopin. Very
large hands are tempted by their reach to crush the life out of the
study in not arpeggiating it. This I have heard, and the impression was
indescribably brutal. As for fingering, Mikuli, Von Bulow, Kullak,
Riemann and Klindworth all differ, and from them must most pianists
differ. Your own grasp, individual sense of fingering and tact will
dictate the management of technics. Von Bulow gives a very sensible
pattern to work from, and Kullak is still more explicit. He analyzes
the melody and, planning the arpeggiating with scrupulous fidelity, he
shows why the arpeggiating "must be affected with the utmost rapidity,
bordering upon simultaneousness of harmony in the case of many chords."
Kullak has something to say about the grace notes and this bids me call
your attention to Von Bulow's change in the appoggiatura at the last
return of the subject. A bad misprint is in the Von Bulow edition: it
is in the seventeenth bar from the end, the lowest note in the first
bass group and should read E natural, instead of the E flat that stands.

Von Bulow does not use the arpeggio sign after the first chord. He
rightly believes it makes unclear for the student the subtleties of
harmonic changes and fingering. He also suggests--quite like the
fertile Hans Guido--that "players who have sufficient patience and
enthusiasm for the task would find it worth their while to practise the
arpeggi the reverse way, from top to bottom; or in contrary motion,
beginning with the top note in one hand and the bottom note in the
other. A variety of devices like this would certainly help to give
greater finish to the task."

Doubtless, but consider: man's years are but threescore and ten!

The phrasing of the various editions examined do not vary much. Riemann
is excepted, who has his say in this fashion, at the beginning:

[Musical score excerpt]

More remarkable still is the diversity of opinion regarding the first
three bass chord groups in the fifteenth bar from the close: the bottom
notes in the Von Bulow and Klindworth editions are B flat and two A
naturals, and in the Riemann, Kullak and Mikuli editions the notes are
two B flats and one A natural. The former sounds more varied, but we
may suppose the latter to be correct because of Mikuli. Here is the
particular bar, as given by Riemann:

[Musical score excerpt]

Yet this exquisite flight into the blue, this nocturne which should be
played before sundown, excited the astonishment of Mendelssohn, the
perplexed wrath of Moscheles and the contempt of Rellstab, editor of
the "Iris," who wrote in that journal in 1834 of the studies in op.
10:--

"Those who have distorted fingers may put them right by practising
these studies; but those who have not, should not play them, at least
not without having a surgeon at hand." What incredible surgery would
have been needed to get within the skull of this narrow critic any
savor of the beauty of these compositions! In the years to come the
Chopin studies will be played for their music, without any thought of
their technical problems.

Now the young eagle begins to face the sun, begins to mount on
wind-weaving pinions. We have reached the last study of op. 10, the
magnificent one in C minor. Four pages suffice for a background upon
which the composer has flung with overwhelming fury the darkest, the
most demoniac expressions of his nature. Here is no veiled surmise, no
smothered rage, but all sweeps along in tornadic passion. Karasowski's
story may be true regarding the genesis of this work, but true or not,
it is one of the greatest dramatic outbursts in piano literature. Great
in outline, pride, force and velocity, it never relaxes its grim grip
from the first shrill dissonance to the overwhelming chordal close.
This end rings out like the crack of creation. It is elemental. Kullak
calls it a "bravura study of the very highest order for the left hand.
It was composed in 1831 in Stuttgart, shortly after Chopin had received
tidings of the taking of Warsaw by the Russians, September 8, 1831."
Karasowski wrote: "Grief, anxiety and despair over the fate of his
relatives and his dearly-beloved father filled the measure of his
sufferings. Under the influence of this mood he wrote the C minor
Etude, called by many the Revolutionary Etude. Out of the mad and
tempestuous storm of passages for the left hand the melody rises aloft,
now passionate and anon proudly majestic, until thrills of awe stream
over the listener, and the image is evoked of Zeus hurling thunderbolts
at the world."

Niecks thinks it "superbly grand," and furthermore writes: "The
composer seems fuming with rage; the left hand rushes impetuously along
and the right hand strikes in with passionate ejaculations." Von Bulow
said: "This C minor study must be considered a finished work of art in
an even higher degree than the study in C sharp minor." All of which is
pretty, but not enough to the point.

Von Bulow fingers the first passage for the left hand in a very
rational manner; Klindworth differs by beginning with the third instead
of the second finger, while Riemann--dear innovator--takes the group:
second, first, third, and then, the fifth finger on D, if you please!
Kullak is more normal, beginning with the third. Here is Riemann's
phrasing and grouping for the first few bars. Notice the half note with
peculiar changes of fingering at the end. It gives surety and variety.
Von Bulow makes the changes ring on the second and fifth, instead of
third and fifth, fingers. Thus Riemann:

[Musical score excerpt]

In the above the accustomed phrasing is altered, for in all other
editions the accent falls upon the first note of each group. In Riemann
the accentuation seems perverse, but there is no question as to its
pedagogic value. It may be ugly, but it is useful though I should not
care to hear it in the concert room. Another striking peculiarity of
the Riemann phrasing is his heavy accent on the top E flat in the
principal passage for the left hand. He also fingers what Von Bulow
calls the "chromatic meanderings," in an unusual manner, both on the
first page and the last. His idea of the enunciation of the first theme
is peculiar:

[Musical score excerpt]

Mikuli places a legato bow over the first three octaves--so does
Kullak--Von Bulow only over the last two, which gives a slightly
different effect, while Klindworth does the same as Kullak. The heavy
dynamic accents employed by Riemann are unmistakable. They signify the
vital importance of the phrase at its initial entrance. He does not use
it at the repetition, but throughout both dynamic and agogic accents
are unsparingly used, and the study seems to resound with the sullen
booming of a park of artillery. The working-out section, with its
anticipations of "Tristan and Isolde," is phrased by all the editors as
it is never played. Here the technical figure takes precedence over the
law of the phrase, and so most virtuosi place the accent on the fifth
finger, regardless of the pattern. This is as it should be. In
Klindworth there is a misprint at the beginning of the fifteenth bar
from the end in the bass. It should read B natural, not B flat. The
metronome is the same in all editions, 160 to the quarter, but speed
should give way to breadth at all hazards. Von Bulow is the only
editor, to my knowledge, who makes an enharmonic key change in this
working-out section. It looks neater, sounds the same, but is it
Chopin? He also gives a variant for public performance by transforming
the last run in unisono into a veritable hurricane by interlocked
octaves. The effect is brazen. Chopin needs no such clangorous padding
in this etude, which gains by legitimate strokes the most startling
contrasts.

The study is full of tremendous pathos; it compasses the sublime, and
in its most torrential moments the composer never quite loses his
mental equipoise. He, too, can evoke tragic spirits, and at will send
them scurrying back to their dim profound. It has but one rival in the
Chopin studies--No. 12, op. 25, in the same key.


II


Opus 25, twelve studies by Frederic Chopin, are dedicated to Madame la
Comtesse d'Agoult. The set opens with the familiar study in A flat, so
familiar that I shall not make further ado about it except to say that
it is delicious, but played often and badly. All that modern editing
can do since Miluki is to hunt out fresh accentuation. Von Bullow is
the worst sinner in this respect, for he discovers quaint nooks and
dells for his dynamics undreamed of by the composer. His edition should
be respectfully studied and, when mastered, discarded for a more poetic
interpretation. Above all, poetry, poetry and pedals. Without pedalling
of the most varied sort this study will remain as dry as a dog-gnawed
bone. Von Bulow says the "figure must be treated as a double
triplet--twice three and not three times two--as indicated in the first
two bars." Klindworth makes the group a sextolet. Von Bulow has set
forth numerous directions in fingering and phrasing, giving the exact
number of notes in the bass trill at the end. Kullak uses the most
ingenious fingering. Look at the last group of the last bar, second
line, third page. It is the last word in fingering. Better to end with
Robert Schumann's beautiful description of this study, as quoted by
Kullak:

  In treating of the present book of Etudes, Robert Schumann,
  after comparing Chopin to a strange star seen at midnight,
  wrote as follows: "Whither his path lies and leads, or how
  long, how brilliant its course is yet to be, who can say? As
  often, however, as it shows itself, there is ever seen the
  same deep dark glow, the same starry light and the same
  austerity, so that even a child could not fail to recognize
  it. But besides this, I have had the advantage of hearing most
  of these Etudes played by Chopin himself, and quite a la
  Chopin did he play them!"

  Of the first one especially he writes: "Imagine that an
  aeolian harp possessed all the musical scales, and that the
  hand of an artist were to cause them all to intermingle in all
  sorts of fantastic embellishments, yet in such a way as to
  leave everywhere audible a deep fundamental tone and a soft
  continuously-singing upper voice, and you will get the right
  idea of his playing. But it would be an error to think that
  Chopin permitted every one of the small notes to be distinctly
  heard. It was rather an undulation of the A flat major chord,
  here and there thrown aloft anew by the pedal. Throughout all
  the harmonies one always heard in great tones a wondrous
  melody, while once only, in the middle of the piece, besides
  that chief song, a tenor voice became prominent in the midst
  of chords. After the Etude a feeling came over one as of
  having seen in a dream a beatific picture which when half
  awake one would gladly recall."

  After these words there can be no doubt as to the mode of
  delivery. No commentary is required to show that the melodic
  and other important tones indicated by means of large notes
  must emerge from within the sweetly whispering waves, and that
  the upper tones must be combined so as to form a real melody
  with the finest and most thoughtful shadings.

The twenty-fourth bar of this study in A major is so Lisztian that
Liszt must have benefited by its harmonies.

"And then he played the second in the book, in F minor, one in which
his individuality displays itself in a manner never to be forgotten.
How charming, how dreamy it was! Soft as the song of a sleeping child."
Schumann wrote this about the wonderful study in F minor, which
whispers, not of baleful deeds in a dream, as does the last movement of
the B flat minor sonata, but is--"the song of a sleeping child." No
comparison could be prettier, for there is a sweet, delicate drone that
sometimes issues from childish lips, having a charm for ears not
attuned to grosser things.

This must have been the study that Chopin played for Henrietta Voigt at
Leipsic, September 12, 1836. In her diary she wrote: "The over
excitement of his fantastic manner is imparted to the keen eared. It
made me hold my breath. Wonderful is the ease with which his velvet
fingers glide, I might almost say fly, over the keys. He has enraptured
me--in a way which hitherto had been unknown to me. What delighted me
was the childlike, natural manner which he showed in his demeanor and
in his playing." Von Bulow believes the interpretation of this magical
music should be without sentimentality, almost without
shading--clearly, delicately and dreamily executed. "An ideal
pianissimo, an accentless quality, and completely without passion or
rubato." There is little doubt this was the way Chopin played it. Liszt
is an authority on the subject, and M. Mathias corroborates him.
Regarding the rhythmical problem to be overcome, the combination of two
opposing rhythms, Von Bulow indicates an excellent method, and Kullak
devotes part of a page to examples of how the right, then the left, and
finally both hands, are to be treated. Kullak furthermore writes: "Or,
if one will, he may also betake himself in fancy to a still, green,
dusky forest, and listen in profound solitude to the mysterious
rustling and whispering of the foliage. What, indeed, despite the
algebraic character of the tone-language, may not a lively fancy
conjure out of, or, rather, into, this etude! But one thing is to be
held fast: it is to be played in that Chopin-like whisper of which,
among others, Mendelssohn also affirmed that for him nothing more
enchanting existed." But enough of subjective fancies. This study
contains much beauty, and every bar rules over a little harmonic
kingdom of its own. It is so lovely that not even the Brahms'
distortion in double notes or the version in octaves can dull its
magnetic crooning. At times so delicate is its design that it recalls
the faint fantastic tracery made by frost on glass. In all instances
save one it is written as four unbroken quarter triplets in the
bar--right hand. Not so Riemann. He has views of his own, both as to
fingering and phrasing:

[Musical score excerpt]

Jean Kleczynski's interesting brochure, "The Works of Frederic Chopin
and Their Proper Interpretation," is made up of three lectures
delivered at Warsaw. While the subject is of necessity foreshortened,
he says some practical things about the use of the pedals in Chopin's
music. He speaks of this very study in F minor and the enchanting way
Rubinstein and Essipowa ended it--the echo-like effects on the four
C's, the pedal floating the tone. The pedals are half the battle in
Chopin playing. ONE CAN NEVER PLAY CHOPIN BEAUTIFULLY ENOUGH. Realistic
treatment dissipates his dream palaces, shatters his aerial
architecture. He may be played broadly, fervently, dramatically but
coarsely, never. I deprecate the rose-leaf sentimentalism in which he
is swathed by nearly all pianists. "Chopin is a sigh, with something
pleasing in it," wrote some one, and it is precisely this notion which
has created such havoc among his interpreters. But if excess in feeling
is objectionable, so too is the "healthy" reading accorded his works by
pianists with more brawn than brain. The real Chopin player is born and
can never be a product of the schools.

Schumann thinks the third study in F less novel in character, although
"here the master showed his admirable bravura powers." "But," he
continues, "they are all models of bold, indwelling, creative force,
truly poetic creations, though not without small blots in their
details, but on the whole striking and powerful. Yet, if I give my
complete opinion, I must confess that his earlier collection seems more
valuable to me. Not that I mean to imply any deterioration, for these
recently published studies were nearly all written at the same time as
the earlier ones, and only a few were composed a little while ago--the
first in A flat and the last magnificent one in C minor, both of which
display great mastership."

One may be permitted to disagree with Schumann, for op. 25 contains at
least two of Chopin's greater studies--A minor and C minor. The most
valuable point of the passage quoted is the clenching of the fact that
the studies were composed in a bunch. That settles many important
psychological details. Chopin had suffered much before going to Paris,
had undergone the purification and renunciation of an unsuccessful love
affair, and arrived in Paris with his style fully formed--in his case
the style was most emphatically the man.

Kullak calls the study in F "a spirited little caprice, whose kernel
lies in the simultaneous application of four different little rhythms
to form a single figure in sound, which figure is then repeated
continuously to the end. In these repetitions, however, changes of
accentuation, fresh modulations, and piquant antitheses, serve to make
the composition extremely vivacious and effective." He pulls apart the
brightly colored petals of the thematic flower and reveals the inner
chemistry of this delicate growth. Four different voices are
distinguished in the kernel.

"The third voice is the chief one, and after it the first, because they
determine the melodic and harmonic contents":

[Musical score excerpt of 'four different voices']

Kullak and Mikuli dot the C of the first bar. Klindworth and Von Bulow
do not. As to phrasing and fingering I pin my faith to Riemann. His
version is the most satisfactory. Here are the first bars. The idea is
clearly expressed:

[Musical score excerpt]

Best of all is the careful accentuation, and at a place indicated in no
other edition that I have examined. With the arrival of the
thirty-second notes, Riemann punctuates the theme this way:

[Musical score excerpt]

The melody, of course in profile, is in the eighth notes. This gives
meaning to the decorative pattern of the passage. And what charm,
buoyancy, and sweetness there is in this caprice! It has the
tantalizing, elusive charm of a humming bird in full flight. The human
element is almost eliminated. We are in the open, the sun blazes in the
blue, and all is gay, atmospheric, and illuding. Even where the tone
deepens, where the shadows grow cooler and darker in the B major
section, there is little hint of preoccupation with sadness. Subtle are
the harmonic shifts, admirable the ever changing devices of the
figuration. Riemann accents the B, the E, A, B flat, C and F, at the
close--perilous leaps for the left hand, but they bring into fine
relief the exquisite harmonic web. An easy way of avoiding the tricky
position in the left hand at this spot--thirteen bars from the
close--is to take the upper C in bass with the right hand thumb and in
the next bar the upper B in bass the same way. This minimizes the risk
of the skip, and it is perfectly legitimate to do this--in public at
least. The ending, to be "breathed" away, according to Kullak, is
variously fingered. He also prescribes a most trying fingering for the
first group, fourth finger on both hands. This is useful for study, but
for performance the third finger is surer. Von Bulow advises the player
to keep the "upper part of the body as still as possible, as any haste
of movement would destroy the object in view, which is the acquisition
of a loose wrist." He also suggests certain phrasing in bar seventeen,
and forbids a sharp, cutting manner in playing the sforzati at the last
return of the subject. Kullak is copious in his directions, and thinks
the touch should be light and the hand gliding, and in the B major part
"fiery, wilful accentuation of the inferior beats." Capricious,
fantastic, and graceful, this study is Chopin in rare spirits. Schumann
has the phrase--the study should be executed with "amiable bravura."
There is a misprint in the Kullak edition: at the beginning of the
thirty-second notes an A instead of an F upsets the tonality, besides
being absurd.

Of the fourth study in A minor there is little to add to Theodor
Kullak, who writes:

  "In the broadest sense of the word, every piece of music is an
  etude. In a narrower sense, however, we demand of an etude
  that it shall have a special end in view, promote facility in
  something, and lead to the conquest of some particular
  difficulty, whether of technics, of rhythm, expression or
  delivery." (Robert Schumann, Collected Writings, i., 201.) The
  present study is less interesting from a technical than a
  rhythmical point of view. While the chief beats of the measure
  (1st, 3d, 5th and 7th eighths) are represented only by single
  tones (in the bass part), which are to a certain extent "free
  and unconcerned, and void of all encumbrance," the inferior
  parts of the measure (2d, 4th, 6th and 8th eighths) are
  burdened with chords, the most of which, moreover, are
  provided with accents in opposition to the regular beats of
  the measure. Further, there is associated with these chords,
  or there may be said to grow out of them, a cantilene in the
  upper voice, which appears in syncopated form opposite to the
  strong beats of the bass. This cantilene begins on a weak
  beat, and produces numerous suspensions, which, in view of the
  time of their entrance, appear as so many retardations and
  delayals of melodic tones.

  All these things combine to give the composition a wholly
  peculiar coloring, to render its flow somewhat restless and to
  stamp the etude as a little characteristic piece, a capriccio,
  which might well be named "Inquietude."

  As regards technics, two things are to be studied: the
  staccato of the chords and the execution of the cantilena. The
  chords must be formed more by pressure than by striking. The
  fingers must support themselves very lightly upon the chord
  keys and then rise again with the back of the hand in the most
  elastic manner. The upward movement of the hand must be very
  slight. Everything must be done with the greatest precision,
  and not merely in a superficial manner. Where the cantilena
  appears, every melodic tone must stand apart from the tones of
  the accompaniment as if in "relief." Hence the fingers for the
  melodic tones must press down the keys allotted to them with
  special force, in doing which the back of the hand may be
  permitted to turn lightly to the right (sideward stroke),
  especially when there is a rest in the accompaniment. Compare
  with this etude the introduction to the Capriccio in B minor,
  with orchestra, by Felix Mendelssohn, first page. Aside from a
  few rallentando places, the etude is to be played strictly in
  time.

I prefer the Klindworth editing of this rather sombre, nervous
composition, which may be merely an etude, but it also indicates a
slightly pathologic condition. With its breath-catching syncopations
and narrow emotional range, the A minor study has nevertheless moments
of power and interest. Riemann's phrasing, while careful, is not more
enlightening than Klindworth's. Von Bulow says: "The bass must be
strongly marked throughout--even when piano--and brought out in
imitation of the upper part." Singularly enough, his is the only
edition in which the left hand arpeggios at the close, though in the
final bar "both hands may do so." This is editorial quibbling. Stephen
Heller remarked that this study reminded him of the first bar of the
Kyrie--rather the Requiem Aeternam of Mozart's Requiem.

It is safe to say that the fifth study in E minor is less often heard
in the concert room than any one of its companions. I cannot recall
having heard it since Annette Essipowa gave that famous recital during
which she played the entire twenty-seven studies. Yet it is a sonorous
piano piece, rich in embroideries and general decorative effect in the
middle section. Perhaps the rather perverse, capricious and not
altogether amiable character of the beginning has caused pianists to be
wary of introducing it at a recital. It is hugely effective and also
difficult, especially if played with the same fingering throughout, as
Von Bulow suggests. Niecks quotes Stephen Heller's partiality for this
very study. In the "Gazette Musicale," February 24, 1839, Heller wrote
of Chopin's op. 25:

  What more do we require to pass one or several evenings in as
  perfect a happiness as possible? As for me, I seek in this
  collection of poesy--this is the only name appropriate to the
  works of Chopin--some favorite pieces which I might fix in my
  memory, rather than others. Who could retain everything? For
  this reason I have in my notebook quite particularly marked
  the numbers four, five and seven of the present poems. Of
  these twelve much loved studies--every one of which has a
  charm of its own--the three numbers are those I prefer to all
  the rest.

The middle part of this E minor study recalls Thalberg. Von Bulow
cautions the student against "the accenting of the first note with the
thumb--right hand--as it does not form part of the melody, but only
comes in as an unimportant passing note." This refers to the melody in
E. He also writes that the addition of the third in the left hand,
Klindworth edition, needs no special justification. I discovered one
marked difference in the Klindworth edition. The leap in the left
hand--first variant of the theme, tenth bar from beginning--is preceded
by an appoggiatura, E natural. The jump is to F sharp, instead of G, as
in the Mikuli, Kullak and Riemann editions. Von Bulow uses the F sharp,
but without the ninth below. Riemann phrases the piece so as to get the
top melody, B, E and G, and his stems are below instead of above, as in
Mikuli and Von Bulow. Kullak dots the eighth note. Riemann uses a
sixteenth, thus:

[Musical score excerpt]

Kullak writes that the figure 184 is not found on the older metronomes.
This is not too fast for the capriccio, with its pretty and ingenious
rhythmical transformations. As regards the execution of the 130th bar,
Von Bulow says: "The acciaccature--prefixes--are to be struck
simultaneously with the other parts, as also the shake in bar 134 and
following bars; this must begin with the upper auxiliary note." These
details are important. Kullak concludes his notes thus:

  Despite all the little transformations of the motive member
  which forms the kernel, its recognizability remains
  essentially unimpaired. Meanwhile out of these little
  metamorphoses there is developed a rich rhythmic life, which
  the performer must bring out with great precision. If in
  addition, he possesses a fine feeling for what is graceful,
  coquettish, or agreeably capricious, he will understand how to
  heighten still further the charm of the chief part, which, as
  far as its character is concerned, reminds one of Etude, op.
  25, No. 3.

  The secondary part, in major, begins. Its kernel is formed of
  a beautiful broad melody, which, if soulfully conceived and
  delivered, will sing its way deep into the heart of the
  listener. For the accompaniment in the right hand we find
  chord arpeggiations in triplets, afterward in sixteenths,
  calmly ascending and descending, and surrounding the melody as
  with a veil. They are to be played almost without
  accentuation.

It was Louis Ehlert who wrote of the celebrated study in G sharp minor
op. 25, No. 6: "Chopin not only versifies an exercise in thirds; he
transforms it into such a work of art that in studying it one could
sooner fancy himself on Parnassus than at a lesson. He deprives every
passage of all mechanical appearance by promoting it to become the
embodiment of a beautiful thought, which in turn finds graceful
expression in its motion."

And indeed in the piano literature no more remarkable merging of matter
and manner exists. The means justifies the end, and the means employed
by the composer are beautiful, there is no other word to describe the
style and architectonics of this noble study. It is seldom played in
public because of its difficulty. With the Schumann Toccata, the G
sharp minor study stands at the portals of the delectable land of
Double Notes. Both compositions have a common ancestry in the Czerny
Toccata, and both are the parents of such a sensational offspring as
Balakirew's "Islamey." In reading through the double note studies for
the instrument it is in the nature of a miracle to come upon Chopin's
transfiguration of such a barren subject. This study is first music,
then a technical problem. Where two or three pianists are gathered
together in the name of Chopin, the conversation is bound to formulate
itself thus: "How do you finger the double chromatic thirds in the G
sharp minor study?" That question answered, your digital politics are
known. You are classified, ranged. If you are heterodox you are eagerly
questioned; if you follow Von Bulow and stand by the Czerny fingering,
you are regarded as a curiosity. As the interpretation of the study is
not taxing, let us examine the various fingerings. First, a fingering
given by Leopold Godowsky. It is for double chromatic thirds:

[Musical score excerpt]

You will now be presented with a battalion of authorities, so that you
may see at a glance the various efforts to climb those slippery
chromatic heights. Here is Mikuli:

[Musical score excerpt]

Kullak's is exactly the same as above. It is the so-called Chopin
fingering, as contrasted with the so-called Czerny fingering--though in
reality Clementi's, as Mr. John Kautz contends. "In the latter the
third and fifth fingers fall upon C sharp and E and F sharp and A in
the right hand, and upon C and E flat and G and B flat in the left."
Klindworth also employs the Chopin fingering. Von Bulow makes this
statement: "As the peculiar fingering adopted by Chopin for chromatic
scales in thirds appears to us to render their performance in
legatissimo utterly unattainable on our modern instruments, we have
exchanged it, where necessary, for the older method of Hummel. Two of
the greatest executive artists of modern times, Alexander Dreyschock
and Carl Tausig, were, theoretically and practically, of the same
opinion. It is to be conjectured that Chopin was influenced in his
method of fingering by the piano of his favorite makers, Pleyel and
Wolff, of Paris--who, before they adopted the double echappement,
certainly produced instruments with the most pliant touch possible--and
therefore regarded the use of the thumb in the ascending scale on two
white keys in succession--the semitones EF and BC--as practicable. On
the grand piano of the present day we regard it as irreconcilable with
conditions of crescendo legato." This Chopin fingering in reality
derives directly from Hummel. See his "Piano School."

So he gives this fingering:

[Musical score excerpt]

He also suggests the following phrasing for the left hand. This is
excellent:

[Musical score excerpt]

Riemann not only adopts new fingering for the double note scale, but
also begins the study with the trill on first and third, second and
fourth, instead of the usual first and fourth, second and fifth
fingers, adopted by the rest. This is his notion of the run in
chromatic thirds:

[Musical score excerpt]

For the rest the study must be played like the wind, or, as Kullak
says: "Apart from a few places and some accents, the Etude is to be
played almost throughout in that Chopin whisper. The right hand must
play its thirds, especially the diatonic and chromatic scales, with
such equality that no angularity of motion shall be noticeable where
the fingers pass under or over each other. The left hand, too, must
receive careful attention and special study. The chord passages and all
similar ones must be executed discreetly and legatissimo. Notes with
double stems must be distinguished from notes with single stems by
means of stronger shadings, for they are mutually interconnected."

Von Bulow calls the seventh study, the one in C sharp minor, a
nocturne--a duo for 'cello and flute. He ingeniously smooths out the
unequal rhythmic differences of the two hands, and justly says the
piece does not work out any special technical matter. This study is the
most lauded of all. Yet I cannot help agreeing with Niecks, who writes
of it--he oddly enough places it in the key of E: "A duet between a He
and a She, of whom the former shows himself more talkative and emphatic
than the latter, is, indeed, very sweet, but, perhaps, also somewhat
tiresomely monotonous, as such tete-a-tetes naturally are to third
parties."

For Chopin's contemporaries this was one of his greatest efforts.
Heller wrote: "It engenders the sweetest sadness, the most enviable
torments, and if in playing it one feels oneself insensibly drawn
toward mournful and melancholy ideas, it is a disposition of the soul
which I prefer to all others. Alas! how I love these sombre and
mysterious dreams, and Chopin is the god who creates them." In this
etude Kleczynski thinks there are traces of weariness of life, and
quotes Orlowski, Chopin's friend, "He is only afflicted with
homesickness." Willeby calls this study the most beautiful of them all.
For me it is both morbid and elegiac. There is nostalgia in it, the
nostalgia of a sick, lacerated soul. It contains in solution all the
most objectionable and most endearing qualities of the master. Perhaps
we have heard its sweet, highly perfumed measures too often. Its
interpretation is a matter of taste. Kullak has written the most
ambitious programme for it. Here is a quotation from Albert R. Parsons'
translation in Schirmer's edition of Kullak.

  Throughout the entire piece an elegiac mood prevails. The
  composer paints with psychologic truthfulness a fragment out
  of the life of a deeply clouded soul. He lets a broken heart,
  filled with grief, proclaim its sorrow in a language of pain
  which is incapable of being misunderstood. The heart has
  lost--not something, but everything. The tones, however, do not
  always bear the impress of a quiet, melancholy resignation.
  More passionate impulses awaken, and the still plaint becomes
  a complaint against cruel fate. It seeks the conflict, and
  tries through force of will to burst the fetters of pain, or
  at least to alleviate it through absorption in a happy past.
  But in vain! The heart has not lost something--it has lost
  everything. The musical poem divides into three, or if one
  views the little episode in B major as a special part, into
  four parts (strophes), of which the last is an elaborated
  repetition of the first with a brief closing part appended.
  The whole piece is a song, or, better still, an aria, in which
  two principal voices are to be brought out; the upper one is
  in imitation of a human voice, while the lower one must bear
  the character throughout of an obligato violoncello. It is
  well known that Chopin was very fond of the violoncello and
  that in his piano compositions he imitated the style of
  passages peculiar to that instrument. The two voices
  correspond closely, supplementing and imitating each other
  reciprocally. Between the two a third element exists: an
  accompaniment of eighths in uniform succession without any
  significance beyond that of filling out the harmony. This
  third element is to be kept wholly subordinate. The little,
  one-voiced introduction in recitative style which precedes the
  aria reminds one vividly of the beginning of the Ballade in G
  minor, op. 23.

The D flat study, No. 8, is called by Von Bulow "the most useful
exercise in the whole range of etude literature. It might truly be
called 'l'indispensable du pianiste,' if the term, through misuse, had
not fallen into disrepute. As a remedy for stiff fingers and
preparatory to performing in public, playing it six times through is
recommended, even to the most expert pianist." Only six times! The
separate study of the left hand is recommended. Kullak finds this study
"surprisingly euphonious, but devoid of depth of content." It is an
admirable study for the cultivation of double sixths. It contains a
remarkable passage of consecutive fifths that set the theorists by the
ears. Riemann manages to get some new editorial comment upon it.

The nimble study, No. 9, which bears the title of "The Butterfly," is
in G flat Von Bulow transposes it enharmonically to F sharp, avoiding
numerous double flats. The change is not laudable. He holds anything
but an elevated opinion of the piece, classing it with a composition of
the Charles Mayer order. This is unjust; the study if not deep is
graceful and certainly very effective. It has lately become the
stamping ground for the display of piano athletics. Nearly all modern
virtuosi pull to pieces the wings of this gay little butterfly. They
smash it, they bang it, and, adding insult to cruelty, they finish it
with three chords, mounting an octave each time, thus giving a
conventional character to the close--the very thing the composer
avoids. Much distorted phrasing is also indulged in. The Tellefsen's
edition and Klindworth's give these differences:

[Musical score excerpt]

Mikuli, Von Bulow and Kullak place the legato bow over the first three
notes of the group. Riemann, of course, is different:

[Musical score excerpt]

The metronomic markings are about the same in all editions.

Asiatic wildness, according to Von Bulow, pervades the B minor study,
op. 25, No. 10, although Willeby claims it to be only a study in
octaves "for the left hand"! Von Bulow furthermore compares it, because
of its monophonic character, to the Chorus of Dervishes in Beethoven's
"Ruins of Athens." Niecks says it is "a real pandemonium; for a while
holier sounds intervene, but finally hell prevails." The study is for
Kullak "somewhat far fetched and forced in invention, and leaves one
cold, although it plunges on wildly to the end." Von Bulow has made the
most complete edition. Klindworth strengthens the first and the seventh
eighth notes of the fifth bar before the last by filling in the
harmonics of the left hand. This etude is an important one,
technically; because many pianists make little of it that does not
abate its musical significance, and I am almost inclined to group it
with the last two studies of this opus. The opening is portentous and
soon becomes a driving whirlwind of tone. Chopin has never penned a
lovelier melody than the one in B--the middle section of this etude--it
is only to be compared to the one in the same key in the B minor
Scherzo, while the return to the first subject is managed as
consummately as in the E flat minor Scherzo, from op. 35. I confess to
being stirred by this B minor study, with its tempo at a forced draught
and with its precipitous close. There is a lushness about the octave
melody; the tune may be a little overripe, but it is sweet, sensuous
music, and about it hovers the hush of a rich evening in early autumn.

And now the "Winter Wind"--the study in A minor, op. 25, No. 11. Here
even Von Bulow becomes enthusiastic:

"It must be mentioned as a particular merit of this, the longest and,
in every respect, the grandest of Chopin's studies, that, while
producing the greatest fulness of sound imaginable, it keeps itself so
entirely and utterly unorchestral, and represents piano music in the
most accurate sense of the word. To Chopin is due the honor and credit
of having set fast the boundary between piano and orchestral music,
which through other composers of the romantic school, especially Robert
Schumann, has been defaced and blotted out, to the prejudice and damage
of both species."

Kullak is equally as warm in his praise of it:

  One of the grandest and most ingenious of Chopin's etudes, and
  a companion piece to op. 10, No. 12, which perhaps it even
  surpasses. It is a bravura study of the highest order; and is
  captivating through the boldness and originality of its
  passages, whose rising and falling waves, full of agitation,
  overflow the entire keyboard; captivating through its harmonic
  and modulatory shadings; and captivating, finally, through a
  wonderfully invented little theme which is drawn like a "red
  thread" through all the flashing and glittering waves of tone,
  and which, as it were, prevents them from scattering to all
  quarters of the heavens. This little theme, strictly speaking
  only a phrase of two measures, is, in a certain sense, the
  motto which serves as a superscription for the etude,
  appearing first one voiced, and immediately afterward four
  voiced. The slow time (Lento) shows the great importance which
  is to be attached to it. They who have followed thus far and
  agree with what has been said cannot be in doubt concerning
  the proper artistic delivery. To execute the passages quite in
  the rapid time prescribed one must possess a finished
  technique. Great facility, lightness of touch, equality,
  strength and endurance in the forte passages, together with
  the clearest distinctness in the piano and pianissimo--all of
  this must have been already achieved, for the interpreter must
  devote his whole attention to the poetic contents of the
  composition, especially to the delivery of the march-like
  rhythms, which possess a life of their own, appearing now calm
  and circumspect, and anon bold and challenging. The march-like
  element naturally requires strict playing in time.

This study is magnificent, and moreover it is music.

In bar fifteen Von Bulow makes B natural the second note of the last
group, although all other editions, except Klindworth, use a B flat.
Von Bulow has common sense on his side. The B flat is a misprint. The
same authority recommends slow staccato practice, with the lid of the
piano closed. Then the hurly-burly of tone will not intoxicate the
player and submerge his critical faculty.

Each editor has his notion of the phrasing of the initial sixteenths.
Thus Mikuli's--which is normal:

[Musical score excerpt]

Klindworth fingers this passage more ingeniously, but phrases it about
the same, omitting the sextolet mark. Kullak retains it. Von Bulow
makes his phrase run in this fashion:

[Musical score excerpt]

As regards grouping, Riemann follows Von Bulow, but places his accents
differently.

The canvas is Chopin's largest--for the idea and its treatment are on a
vastly grander scale than any contained in the two concertos. The
latter are after all miniatures, precious ones if you will, joined and
built with cunning artifice; in neither work is there the resistless
overflow of this etude, which has been compared to the screaming of the
winter blasts. Ah, how Chopin puts to flight those modern men who
scheme out a big decorative pattern and then have nothing wherewith to
fill it! He never relaxes his theme, and its fluctuating surprises are
many. The end is notable for the fact that scales appear. Chopin very
seldom uses scale figures in his studies. From Hummel to Thalberg and
Herz the keyboard had glittered with spangled scales. Chopin must have
been sick of them, as sick of them as of the left-hand melody with
arpeggiated accompaniment in the right, a la Thalberg. Scales had been
used too much, hence Chopin's sparing employment of them. In the first
C sharp minor study, op. 10, there is a run for the left hand in the
coda. In the seventh study, same key, op. 25, there are more. The
second study of op. 10, in A minor, is a chromatic scale study; but
there are no other specimens of the form until the mighty run at the
conclusion of this A minor study.

It takes prodigious power and endurance to play this work, prodigious
power, passion and no little poetry. It is open air music, storm music,
and at times moves in processional splendor. Small souled men, no
matter how agile their fingers, should avoid it.

The prime technical difficulty is the management of the thumb. Kullak
has made a variant at the end for concert performance. It is effective.
The average metronomic marking is sixty-nine to the half.

Kullak thinks the twelfth and last study of op. 25 in C minor "a grand,
magnificent composition for practice in broken chord passages for both
hands, which requires no comment." I differ from this worthy teacher.
Rather is Niecks more to my taste: "No. 12, C minor, in which the
emotions rise not less high than the waves of arpeggios which symbolize
them."

Von Bulow is didactic:

  The requisite strength for this grandiose bravura study can
  only be attained by the utmost clearness, and thus only by a
  gradually increasing speed. It is therefore most desirable to
  practise it piano also by way of variety, for otherwise the
  strength of tone might easily degenerate into hardness, and in
  the poetic striving after a realistic portrayal of a storm on
  the piano the instrument, as well as the piece, would come to
  grief.

  The pedal is needful to give the requisite effect, and must
  change with every new harmony; but it should only be used in
  the latter stages of study, when the difficulties are nearly
  mastered.

We have our preferences. Mine in op. 25 is the C minor study, which,
like the prelude in D minor, is "full of the sound of great guns."
Willeby thinks otherwise. On page 81 in his life of Chopin he has the
courage to write: "Had Professor Niecks applied the term monotonous to
No. 12 we should have been more ready to indorse his opinion, as,
although great power is manifested, the very 'sameness' of the form of
the arpeggio figure causes a certain amount of monotony to be felt."
The C minor study is, in a degree, a return to the first study in C.
While the idea in the former is infinitely nobler, more dramatic and
tangible, there is in the latter naked, primeval simplicity, the larger
eloquence, the elemental puissance. Monotonous? A thousand times no!
Monotonous as is the thunder and spray of the sea when it tumbles and
roars on some sullen, savage shore. Beethov-ian, in its ruggedness, the
Chopin of this C minor study is as far removed from the musical
dandyisms of the Parisian drawing rooms as is Beethoven himself. It is
orchestral in intention and a true epic of the piano.

Riemann places half notes at the beginning of each measure, as a
reminder of the necessary clinging of the thumbs. I like Von Bulow's
version the best of all. His directions are most minute. He gives the
Liszt method of working up the climax in octave triplets. How Liszt
must have thundered through this tumultuous work! Before it all
criticism should be silenced that fails to allow Chopin a place among
the greatest creative musicians. We are here in the presence of Chopin
the musician, not Chopin the composer for piano.


III


In 1840, Trois Nouvelles Etudes, by Frederic Chopin, appeared in the
"Methode des Methodes pour le piano," by F. J. Fetis and I. Moscheles.
It was odd company for the Polish composer. "Internal evidence seems to
show," writes Niecks, "that these weakest of the master's
studies--which, however, are by no means uninteresting and certainly
very characteristic--may be regarded more than op. 25 as the outcome of
a gleaning."

The last decade has added much to the artistic stature of these three
supplementary studies. They have something of the concision of the
Preludes. The first is a masterpiece. In F minor the theme in triplet
quarters, broad, sonorous and passionate, is unequally pitted against
four-eight notes in the bass. The technical difficulty to be overcome
is purely rhythmic, and Kullak takes pains to show how it may be
overcome. It is the musical, the emotional content of the study that
fascinates. The worthy editor calls it a companion piece to the F minor
study in op. 25. The comparison is not an apt one. Far deeper is this
new study, and although the doors never swing quite open, we divine the
tragic issues concealed.

Beautiful in a different way is the A flat study which follows. Again
the problem is a rhythmical one, and again the composer demonstrates
his exhaustless invention and his power of evoking a single mood,
viewing all its lovely contours and letting it melt away like dream
magic. Full of gentle sprightliness and lingering sweetness is this
study. Chopin has the hypnotic quality more than any composer of the
century, Richard Wagner excepted. After you have enjoyed playing this
study read Kullak and his "triplicity in biplicity." It may do you
good, and it will not harm the music.

In all the editions save one that I have seen the third study in D flat
begins on A flat, like the famous Valse in D flat. The exception is
Klindworth, who starts with B flat, the note above. The study is full
of sunny, good humor, spiritualized humor, and leaves the most cheering
impression after its performance. Its technical object is a
simultaneous legato and staccato. The result is an idealized Valse in
allegretto tempo, the very incarnation of joy, tempered by aristocratic
reserve. Chopin never romps, but he jests wittily, and always in
supremely good taste. This study fitly closes his extraordinary labors
in this form, and it is as if he had signed it "F. Chopin, et ego in
Arcady."

Among the various editions let me recommend Klindworth for daily usage,
while frequent reference to Von Bulow, Riemann and Kullak cannot fail
to prove valuable, curious and interesting.

Of the making of Chopin editions there is seemingly no end. In 1894 I
saw in manuscript some remarkable versions of the Chopin Studies by
Leopold Godowsky. The study in G sharp minor was the first one
published and played in public by this young pianist Unlike the Brahms
derangements, they are musical but immensely difficult. Topsy-turvied
as are the figures, a Chopin, even if lop-sided, hovers about,
sometimes with eye-brows uplifted, sometimes with angry, knitted
forehead and not seldom amused to the point of smiling. You see his
narrow shoulders, shrugged in the Polish fashion as he examines the
study in double-thirds transposed to the left hand! Curiously enough
this transcription, difficult as it is, does not tax the fingers as
much as a bedevilment of the A minor, op. 25, No. 4, which is extremely
difficult, demanding color discrimination and individuality of finger.

More breath-catching, and a piece at which one must cry out: "Hats off,
gentlemen! A tornado!" is the caprice called "Badinage." But if it is
meant to badinage, it is no sport for the pianist of everyday technical
attainments. This is formed of two studies. In the right hand is the G
flat study, op. 25, No. 9, and in the left the black key study, op. 10,
No. 5. The two go laughing through the world like old friends; brother
and sister they are tonally, trailing behind them a cloud of iridescent
glory. Godowsky has cleverly combined the two, following their melodic
curves as nearly as is possible. In some places he has thickened the
harmonies and shifted the "black key" figures to the right hand. It is
the work of a remarkable pianist. This is the way it looks on paper at
the beginning:

[Musical llustration]

The same study G flat, op. 10, No. 5, is also treated separately, the
melody being transferred to the treble. The Butterfly octaves, in
another study, are made to hop nimbly along in the left hand, and the C
major study, op. 10, No. 7, Chopin's Toccata, is arranged for the left
hand, and seems very practical and valuable. Here the adapter has
displayed great taste and skill, especially on the third page. The
pretty musical idea is not destroyed, but viewed from other points of
vantage. Op. 10, No. 2, is treated like a left hand study, as it should
be. Chopin did not always give enough work to the left hand, and the
first study of this opus in C is planned on brilliant lines for both
hands. Ingenious is the manipulation of the seldom played op. 25, No.
5, in E minor. As a study in rhythms and double notes it is very
welcome. The F minor study, op. 25, No. 2, as considered by the
ambidextrous Godowsky, is put in the bass, where it whirrs along to the
melodic encouragement of a theme of the paraphraser's own, in the
right. This study has suffered the most of all, for Brahms, in his
heavy, Teutonic way, set it grinding double sixths, while Isidor
Philipp, in his "Studies for the Left Hand," has harnessed it to sullen
octaves. This Frenchman, by the way, has also arranged for left hand
alone the G sharp minor, the D flat double sixths, the A minor--"Winter
Wind"--studies, the B flat minor prelude, and, terrible to relate, the
last movement of the Chopin B flat minor Sonata.

Are the Godowsky transcriptions available? Certainly. In ten years--so
rapid is the technical standard advancing--they will be used in the
curriculum of students. Whether he has treated Chopin with reverence I
leave my betters to determine. What has reverence to do with the case,
anyhow? Plato is parsed in the schoolroom, and Beethoven taught in
conservatories! Therefore why worry over the question of Godowsky's
attitude! Besides, he is writing for the next generation--presumably a
generation of Rosenthals.

And now, having passed over the salt and stubbly domain of pedagogics,
what is the dominant impression gleaned from the twenty-seven Chopin
studies? Is it not one of admiration, tinged with wonder at such a
prodigal display of thematic and technical invention? Their variety is
great, the aesthetic side is nowhere neglected for the purely
mechanical, and in the most poetic of them stuff may be found for
delicate fingers. Astounding, canorous, enchanting, alembicated and
dramatic, the Chopin studies are exemplary essays in emotion and
manner. In them is mirrored all of Chopin, the planetary as well as the
secular Chopin. When most of his piano music has gone the way of all
things fashioned by mortal hands, these studies will endure, will stand
for the nineteenth century as Beethoven crystallized the eighteenth,
Bach the seventeenth centuries in piano music. Chopin is a classic.



VII. MOODS IN MINIATURE:--THE PRELUDES.


The Preludes bear the opus number 28 and are dedicated to J. C.
Kessler, a composer of well-known piano studies. It is only the German
edition that bears his name, the French and English being inscribed by
Chopin "a son ami Pleyel." As Pleyel advanced the pianist 2,000 francs
for the Preludes he had a right to say: "These are my Preludes." Niecks
is authority for Chopin's remark: "I sold the Preludes to Pleyel
because he liked them." This was in 1838, when Chopin's health demanded
a change of climate. He wished to go to Majorca with Madame Sand and
her children, and had applied for money to the piano maker and
publisher, Camille Pleyel. He received but five hundred francs in
advance, the balance being paid on delivery of the manuscript.

The Preludes were published in 1839, yet there is internal evidence
which proves that most of them had been composed before the trip to the
Balearic Islands. This will upset the very pretty legend of music
making at the monastery of Valdemosa. Have we not all read with sweet
credulity the eloquent pages in George Sand in which the storm is
described that overtook the novelist and her son Maurice? After
terrible trials, dangers and delays, they reached their home and found
Chopin at the piano. Uttering a cry, he arose and stared at the pair.
"Ah! I knew well that you were dead." It was the sixth prelude, the one
in B minor, that he played, and dreaming, as Sand writes, that "he saw
himself drowned in a lake; heavy, ice cold drops of water fell at
regular intervals upon his breast; and when I called his attention to
those drops of water which were actually falling upon the roof, he
denied having heard them. He was even vexed at what I translated by the
term, imitative harmony. He protested with all his might, and he was
right, against the puerility of these imitations for the ear. His
genius was full of mysterious harmonies of nature."

Yet this prelude was composed previous to the Majorcan episode. "The
Preludes," says Niecks, "consist--to a great extent, at least--of
pickings from the composer's portfolios, of pieces, sketches and
memoranda written at various times and kept to be utilized when
occasion might offer."

Gutmann, Chopin's pupil, who nursed him to the last, declared the
Preludes to have been composed before he went away with Madame Sand,
and to Niecks personally he maintained that he had copied all of them.
Niecks does not credit him altogether, for there are letters in which
several of the Preludes are mentioned as being sent to Paris, so he
reaches the conclusion that "Chopin's labors at Majorca on the Preludes
were confined to selecting, filing and polishing." This seems to be a
sensible solution.

Robert Schumann wrote of these Preludes: "I must signalize them as most
remarkable. I will confess I expected something quite different,
carried out in the grand style of his studies. It is almost the
contrary here; these are sketches, the beginning of studies, or, if you
will, ruins, eagles' feathers, all strangely intermingled. But in every
piece we find in his own hand, 'Frederic Chopin wrote it.' One
recognizes him in his pauses, in his impetuous respiration. He is the
boldest, the proudest poet soul of his time. To be sure the book also
contains some morbid, feverish, repellant traits; but let everyone look
in it for something that will enchant him. Philistines, however, must
keep away."

It was in these Preludes that Ignaz Moscheles first comprehended Chopin
and his methods of execution. The German pianist had found his music
harsh and dilettantish in modulation, but Chopin's originality of
performance--"he glides lightly over the keys in a fairy-like way with
his delicate fingers"--quite reconciled the elder man to this strange
music.

To Liszt the Preludes seem modestly named, but "are not the less types
of perfection in a mode created by himself, and stamped like all his
other works with the high impress of his poetic genius. Written in the
commencement of his career, they are characterized by a youthful vigor
not to be found in some of his subsequent works, even when more
elaborate, finished and richer in combinations; a vigor which is
entirely lost in his latest productions, marked by an overexcited
sensibility, a morbid irritability, and giving painful intimations of
his own state of suffering and exhaustion."

Liszt, as usual, erred on the sentimental side. Chopin, being
essentially a man of moods, like many great men, and not necessarily
feminine in this respect, cannot always be pinned down to any
particular period. Several of the Preludes are very morbid--I purposely
use this word--as is some of his early music, while he seems quite gay
just before his death.

"The Preludes follow out no technical idea, are free creations on a
small basis, and exhibit the musician in all his versatility," says
Louis Ehlert. "No work of Chopin's portrays his inner organization so
faithfully and completely. Much is embryonic. It is as though he turned
the leaves of his fancy without completely reading any page. Still, one
finds in them the thundering power of the Scherzi, the half satirical,
half coquettish elegance of the Mazurkas, and the southern, luxuriously
fragrant breath of the Nocturnes. Often it is as though they were small
falling stars dissolved into tones as they fall."

Jean Kleczynski, who is credited with understanding Chopin, himself a
Pole and a pianist, thinks that "people have gone too far in seeking in
the Preludes for traces of that misanthropy, of that weariness of life
to which he was prey during his stay in the Island of Majorca...Very
few of the Preludes present this character of ennui, and that which is
the most marked, the second one, must have been written, according to
Count Tarnowski, a long time before he went to Majorca. ... What is
there to say concerning the other Preludes, full of good humor and
gaiety--No. 18, in E flat; No. 21, in B flat; No. 23, in F, or the
last, in D minor? Is it not strong and energetic, concluding, as it
does, with three cannon shots?"

Willeby in his "Frederic Francois Chopin" considers at length the
Preludes. He agrees in the main with Niecks, that certain of these
compositions were written at Valdemosa--Nos. 4, 6, 9, 13, 20 and
21--and that "Chopin, having sketches of others with him, completed the
whole there, and published them under one opus number. ... The
atmosphere of those I have named is morbid and azotic; to them there
clings a faint flavor of disease, a something which is overripe in its
lusciousness and febrile in its passion. This in itself inclines me to
believe they were written at the time named."

This is all very well, but Chopin was faint and febrile in his music
before he went to Majorca, and the plain facts adduced by Gutmann and
Niecks cannot be passed over. Henry James, an old admirer of Madame
Sand, admits her utter unreliability, and so we may look upon her
evidence as romantic but by no means infallible. The case now stands:
Chopin may have written a few of the Preludes at Majorca, filed them,
finished them, but the majority of them were in his portfolio in 1837
and 1838. Op. 45, a separate Prelude in C sharp minor, was published in
December, 1841. It was composed at Nohant in August of that year. It is
dedicated to Mme. la Princesse Elizabeth Czernicheff, whose name, as
Chopin confesses in a letter, he knows not how to spell.


II


Theodore Kullak is curt and pedagogic in his preface to the Preludes.
He writes:

  Chopin's genius nowhere reveals itself more charmingly than
  within narrowly bounded musical forms. The Preludes are, in
  their aphoristic brevity, masterpieces of the first rank. Some
  of them appear like briefly sketched mood pictures related to
  the nocturne style, and offer no technical hindrance even to
  the less advanced player. I mean Nos. 4, 6, 7, 9, 15 and 20.
  More difficult are Nos. 17, 25 and 11, without, however,
  demanding eminent virtuosity. The other Preludes belong to a
  species of character-etude. Despite their brevity of outline
  they are on a par with the great collections op. 10 and op.
  25. In so far as it is practicable--special cases of
  individual endowments not being taken into consideration--I
  would propose the following order of succession: Begin with
  Nos. 1, 14, 10, 22, 23, 3 and 18. Very great bravura is
  demanded by Nos. 12, 8, 16 and 24. The difficulty of the other
  Preludes, Nos. 2, 5, 13, 19 and 21, lies in the delicate piano
  and legato technique, which, on account of the extended
  positions, leaps and double notes, presupposes a high degree
  of development.

This is eminently a common sense grouping. The first prelude, which,
like the first etude, begins in C, has all the characteristics of an
impromptu. We know the wonderful Bach Preludes, which grew out of a
free improvisation to the collection of dance forms called a suite, and
the preludes which precede his fugues. In the latter Bach sometimes
exhibits all the objectivity of the study or toccata, and often wears
his heart in full view. Chopin's Preludes--the only preludes to be
compared to Bach's--are largely personal, subjective, and intimate.
This first one is not Bach-ian, yet it could have been written by no
one but a devout Bach student. The pulsating, passionate, agitated,
feverish, hasty qualities of the piece are modern; so is the changeful
modulation. It is a beautiful composition, rising to no dramatic
heights, but questioning and full of life. Klindworth writes in triplet
groups, Kullak in quintolets. Breitkopf & Hartel do not. Dr. Hugo
Riemann, who has edited a few of the Preludes, phrases the first bars
thus:

Desperate and exasperating to the nerves is the second prelude in A
minor. It is an asymmetric tune. Chopin seldom wrote ugly music, but is
this not ugly, forlorn, despairing, almost grotesque, and discordant?
It indicates the deepest depression in its sluggish, snake-like
progression. Willeby finds a resemblance to the theme of the first
nocturne. And such a theme! The tonality is vague, beginning in E
minor. Chopin's method of thematic parallelism is here very clear. A
small figure is repeated in descending keys until hopeless gloom and
depraved melancholy are reached in the closing chords. Chopin now is
morbid, here are all his most antipathetic qualities. There is aversion
to life--in this music he is a true lycanthrope. A self-induced
hypnosis, a mental, an emotional atrophy are all present.

Kullak divides the accompaniment, difficult for small hands, between
the two. Riemann detaches the eighth notes of the bass figures, as is
his wont, for greater clearness. Like Klindworth, he accents heavily
the final chords. He marks his metronome 50 to the half note. All the
editions are lento with alla breve.

That the Preludes are a sheaf of moods, loosely held together by the
rather vague title, is demonstrated by the third, in the key of G. The
rippling, rain-like figure for the left hand is in the nature of a
study. The melody is delicate in sentiment, Gallic in its esprit. A
true salon piece, this prelude has no hint of artificiality. It is a
precise antithesis to the mood of the previous one. Graceful and gay,
the G major prelude is a fair reflex of Chopin's sensitive and
naturally buoyant nature. It requires a light hand and nimble fingers.
The melodic idea requires no special comment. Kullak phrases it
differently from Riemann and Klindworth. The latter is the preferable.
Klindworth gives 72 to the half note as his metronomic marking, Riemann
only 60--which is too slow--while Klindworth contents himself by
marking a simple Vivace. Regarding the fingering one may say that all
tastes are pleased in these three editions. Klindworth's is the
easiest. Riemann breaks up the phrase in the bass figure, but I cannot
see the gain on the musical side.

Niecks truthfully calls the fourth prelude in E minor "a little poem,
the exquisitely sweet, languid pensiveness of which defies description.
The composer seems to be absorbed in the narrow sphere of his ego, from
which the wide, noisy world is for the time shut out." Willeby finds
this prelude to be "one of the most beautiful of these spontaneous
sketches; for they are no more than sketches. The melody seems
literally to wail, and reaches its greatest pitch of intensity at the
stretto." For Karasowski it is a "real gem, and alone would immortalize
the name of Chopin as a poet." It must have been this number that
impelled Rubinstein to assert that the Preludes were the pearls of his
works. In the Klindworth edition, fifth bar from the last, the editor
has filled in the harmonies to the first six notes of the left hand,
added thirds, which is not reprehensible, although uncalled for. Kullak
makes some new dynamic markings and several enharmonic changes. He also
gives as metronome 69 to the quarter. This tiny prelude contains
wonderful music. The grave reiteration of the theme may have suggested
to Peter Cornelius his song "Ein Ton." Chopin expands a melodic unit,
and one singularly pathetic. The whole is like some canvas by
Rembrandt, Rembrandt who first dramatized the shadow in which a single
motif is powerfully handled; some sombre effect of echoing light in the
profound of a Dutch interior. For background Chopin has substituted his
soul; no one in art, except Bach or Rembrandt, could paint as Chopin
did in this composition. Its despair has the antique flavor, and there
is a breadth, nobility and proud submission quite free from the
tortured, whimpering complaint of the second prelude. The picture is
small, but the subject looms large in meanings.

The fifth prelude in D is Chopin at his happiest. Its arabesque pattern
conveys a most charming content; and there is a dewy freshness, a joy
in life, that puts to flight much of the morbid tittle-tattle about
Chopin's sickly soul. The few bars of this prelude, so seldom heard in
public, reveal musicianship of the highest order. The harmonic scheme
is intricate; Klindworth phrases the first four bars so as to bring out
the alternate B and B flat. It is Chopin spinning his finest, his most
iridescent web.

The next prelude, the sixth, in B minor, is doleful, pessimistic. As
George Sand says: "It precipitates the soul into frightful depression."
It is the most frequently played--and oh! how meaninglessly--prelude of
the set; this and the one in D flat. Classical is its repression of
feeling, its pure contour. The echo effect is skilfully managed,
monotony being artfully avoided. Klindworth rightfully slurs the duple
group of eighths; Kullak tries for the same effect by different means.
The duality of the voices should be clearly expressed. The tempo,
marked in both editions, lento assai, is fast. To be precise,
Klindworth gives 66 to the quarter.

The plaintive little mazurka of two lines, the seventh prelude, is a
mere silhouette of the national dance. Yet in its measures is
compressed all Mazovia. Klindworth makes a variant in the fourth bar
from the last, a G sharp instead of an F sharp. It is a more piquant
climax, perhaps not admissible to the Chopin purist. In the F sharp
minor prelude No. 7, Chopin gives us a taste of his grand manner. For
Niecks the piece is jerky and agitated, and doubtless suggests a mental
condition bordering on anxiety; but if frenzy there is, it is kept well
in check by the exemplary taste of the composer. The sadness is rather
elegiac, remote, and less poignant than in the E minor prelude.
Harmonic heights are reached on the second page--surely Wagner knew
these bars when he wrote "Tristan and Isolde"--while the ingenuity of
the figure and avoidance of a rhythmical monotone are evidences of
Chopin's feeling for the decorative. It is a masterly prelude.
Klindworth accents the first of the bass triplets, and makes an
unnecessary enharmonic change at the sixth and seventh lines.

There is a measure of grave content in the ninth prelude in E. It is
rather gnomic, and contains hints of both Brahms and Beethoven. It has
an ethical quality, but that may be because of its churchly rhythm and
color.

The C sharp minor prelude, No. 10, must be the "eagle wings" of
Schumann's critique. There is a flash of steel gray, deepening into
black, and then the vision vanishes as though some huge bird aloft had
plunged down through blazing sunlight, leaving a color-echo in the void
as it passed to its quarry. Or, to be less figurative, this prelude is
a study in arpeggio, with double notes interspersed, and is too short
to make more than a vivid impression.

No. II in B is all too brief. It is vivacious, dolce indeed, and most
cleverly constructed. Klindworth gives a more binding character to the
first double notes. Another gleam of the Chopin sunshine.

Storm clouds gather in the G sharp minor, the twelfth prelude, so
unwittingly imitated by Grieg in his Menuetto of the same key, and in
its driving presto we feel the passionate clench of Chopin's hand. It
is convulsed with woe, but the intellectual grip, the self-command are
never lost in these two pages of perfect writing. The figure is
suggestive, and there is a well defined technical problem, as well as a
psychical character. Disputed territory is here: the editors do not
agree about the twelfth and eleventh bars from the last. According to
Breitkopf & Hartel the bass octaves are E both times. Mikuli gives G
sharp the first time instead of E; Klindworth, G sharp the second time;
Riemann, E, and also Kullak. The G sharp seems more various.

In the thirteenth prelude, F sharp major, here is lovely atmosphere,
pure and peaceful. The composer has found mental rest. Exquisitely
poised are his pinions for flight, and in the piu lento he wheels
significantly and majestically about in the blue. The return to earth
is the signal for some strange modulatory tactics. It is an impressive
close. Then, almost without pause, the blood begins to boil in this
fragile man's veins. His pulse beat increases, and with stifled rage he
rushes into the battle. It is the fourteenth prelude in the sinister
key of E flat minor, and its heavy, sullen-arched triplets recalls for
Niecks the last movement of the B flat minor Sonata; but there is less
interrogation in the prelude, less sophistication, and the heat of
conflict over it all. There is not a break in the clouds until the
beginning of the fifteenth, the familiar prelude in D flat.

This must be George Sand's: "Some of them create such vivid impressions
that the shades of dead monks seem to rise and pass before the hearer
in solemn and gloomy funereal pomp." The work needs no programme. Its
serene beginning, lugubrious interlude, with the dominant pedal never
ceasing, a basso ostinato, gives color to Kleczynski's contention that
the prelude in B minor is a mere sketch of the idea fully elaborated in
No. 15. "The foundation of the picture is the drops of rain falling at
regular intervals"--the echo principle again--"which by their continual
patter bring the mind to a state of sadness; a melody full of tears is
heard through the rush of the rain; then passing to the key of C sharp
minor, it rises from the depths of the bass to a prodigious crescendo,
indicative of the terror which nature in its deathly aspect excites in
the heart of man. Here again the form does not allow the ideas to
become too sombre; notwithstanding the melancholy which seizes you, a
feeling of tranquil grandeur revives you." To Niecks, the C sharp minor
portion affects one as in an oppressive dream: "The re-entrance of the
opening D flat, which dispels the dreadful nightmare, comes upon one
with the smiling freshness of dear, familiar nature."

The prelude has a nocturnal character. It has become slightly banal
from frequent repetition, likewise the C sharp minor study in opus 25.
But of its beauty, balance and exceeding chastity there can be no
doubt. The architecture is at once Greek and Gothic.

The sixteenth prelude in the relative key of B flat minor is the
boldest of the set. Its scale figures, seldom employed by Chopin, boil
and glitter, the thematic thread of the idea never being quite
submerged. Fascinating, full of perilous acclivities and sudden
treacherous descents, this most brilliant of preludes is Chopin in
riotous spirits. He plays with the keyboard: it is an avalanche, anon a
cascade, then a swift stream, which finally, after mounting to the
skies, descends to an abyss. Full of imaginative lift, caprice and
stormy dynamics, this prelude is the darling of the virtuoso. Its
pregnant introduction is like a madly jutting rock from which the eagle
spirit of the composer precipitates itself.

In the twenty-third bar there is curious editorial discrepancy.
Klindworth uses an A natural in the first of the four groups of
sixteenths, Kullak a B natural; Riemann follows Kullak. Nor is this
all. Kullak in the second group, right hand, has an E flat, Klindworth
a D natural. Which is correct? Klindworth's texture is more closely
chromatic and it sounds better, the chromatic parallelism being more
carefully preserved. Yet I fancy that Kullak has tradition on his side.

The seventeenth prelude Niecks finds Mendelssohn-ian. I do not. It is
suave, sweet, well developed, yet Chopin to the core, and its harmonic
life surprisingly rich and novel. The mood is one of tranquillity. The
soul loses itself in early autumnal revery while there is yet splendor
on earth and in the skies. Full of tonal contrasts, this highly
finished composition is grateful to the touch. The eleven booming A
flats on the last page are historical. Klindworth uses a B flat instead
of a G at the beginning of the melody. It is logical, but is it Chopin?

The fiery recitatives of No. 18 in F minor are a glimpse of Chopin,
muscular and not hectic. In these editions you will find three
different groupings of the cadenzas. It is Riemann's opportunity for
pedagogic editing, and he does not miss it. In the first long breathed
group of twenty-two sixteenth notes he phrases as shown on the
following page.

It may be noticed that Riemann even changes the arrangement of the
bars. This prelude is dramatic almost to an operatic degree. Sonorous,
rather grandiloquent, it is a study in declamation, the declamation of
the slow movement in the F minor concerto. Schumann may have had the
first phrase in his mind when he wrote his Aufschwung. This page of
Chopin's, the torso of a larger idea, is nobly rhetorical.

[Musical score excerpt]

What piano music is the nineteenth prelude in E flat! Its widely
dispersed harmonies, its murmuring grace and June-like beauty, are they
not Chopin, the Chopin we best love? He is ever the necromancer, ever
invoking phantoms, but with its whirring melody and furtive caprice
this particular shape is an alluring one. And difficult it is to
interpret with all its plangent lyric freedom.

No. 20 in C minor contains in its thirteen bars the sorrows of a
nation. It is without doubt a sketch for a funeral march, and of it
George Sand must have been thinking when she wrote that one prelude of
Chopin contained more music than all the trumpetings of Meyerbeer.

Of exceeding loveliness is the B flat major prelude, No. 21. It is
superior in content and execution to most of the nocturnes. In feeling
it belongs to that form. The melody is enchanting. The accompaniment
figure shows inventive genius. Klindworth employs a short appoggiatura,
Kullak the long, in the second bar. Judge of what is true editorial
sciolism when I tell you that Riemann--who evidently believes in a
rigid melodic structure--has inserted an E flat at the end of bar four,
thus maiming the tender, elusive quality of Chopin's theme. This is
cruelly pedantic. The prelude arrests one in ecstasy; the fixed period
of contemplation of the saint or the hypnotized sets in, and the
awakening is almost painful. Chopin, adopting the relative minor key as
a pendant to the picture in B flat, thrills the nerves by a bold
dissonance in the next prelude, No. 22. Again, concise paragraphs
filled with the smoke of revolt and conflict The impetuosity of this
largely moulded piece in G minor, its daring harmonics,--read the
seventeenth and eighteenth bars,--and dramatic note make it an
admirable companion to the Prelude in F minor. Technically it serves as
an octave study for the left hand.

In the concluding bar, but one, Chopin has in the F major Prelude
attempted a most audacious feat in harmony. An E flat in the bass of
the third group of sixteenths leaves the whole composition floating
enigmatically in thin air. It deliciously colors the close, leaving a
sense of suspense, of anticipation which is not tonally realized, for
the succeeding number is in a widely divorced key. But it must have
pressed hard the philistines. And this prelude, the twenty-third, is
fashioned out of the most volatile stuff. Aerial, imponderable, and
like a sun-shot spider web oscillating in the breeze of summer, its
hues change at every puff. It is in extended harmonics and must be
delivered with spirituality. The horny hand of the toilsome pianist
would shatter the delicate, swinging fantasy of the poet. Kullak points
out a variant in the fourteenth bar, G instead of B natural being used
by Riemann. Klindworth prefers the latter.

We have reached the last prelude of op. 28. In D minor, it is
sonorously tragic, troubled by fevers and visions, and capricious,
irregular and massive in design. It may be placed among Chopin's
greater works: the two Etudes in C minor, the A minor, and the F sharp
minor Prelude. The bass requires an unusual span, and the suggestion by
Kullak, that the thumb of the right hand may eke out the weakness of
the left is only for the timid and the small of fist. But I do not
counsel following his two variants in the fifth and twenty-third bars.
Chopin's text is more telling. Like the vast reverberation of monstrous
waves on the implacable coast of a remote world is this prelude.
Despite its fatalistic ring, its note of despair is not dispiriting.
Its issues are larger, more impersonal, more elemental than the other
preludes. It is a veritable Appassionata, but its theatre is cosmic and
no longer behind the closed doors of the cabinet of Chopin's soul. The
Seelenschrei of Stanislaw Przybyszewski is here, explosions of wrath
and revolt; not Chopin suffers, but his countrymen. Kleczynski speaks
of the three tones at the close. They are the final clangor of
oppressed, almost overthrown, reason. After the subject reappears in C
minor there is a shift to D flat, and for a moment a point of repose is
gained, but this elusive rest is brief. The theme reappears in the
tonic and in octaves, and the tension becomes too great; the
accumulated passion discharges and dissolves in a fierce gust of double
chromatic thirds and octaves. Powerful, repellant, this prelude is
almost infernal in its pride and scorn. But in it I discern no vestige
of uncontrolled hysteria. It is well-nigh as strong, rank and human as
Beethoven. The various editorial phraseology is not of much moment.
Riemann uses thirty-second notes for the cadenzas, Kullak eighths and
Klindworth sixteenths.

Niecks writes of the Prelude in C sharp minor, op. 45, that it
"deserves its name better than almost any one of the twenty-four; still
I would rather call it improvisata. It seems unpremeditated, a heedless
outpouring, when sitting at the piano in a lonely, dreary hour, perhaps
in the twilight. The quaver figure rises aspiringly, and the sustained
parts swell out proudly. The piquant cadenza forestalls in the
progression of diminished chords favorite effects of some of our more
modern composers. The modulation from C sharp minor to D major and back
again--after the cadenza--is very striking and equally beautiful."

Elsewhere I have called attention to the Brahmsian coloring of this
prelude. Its mood is fugitive and hard to hold after capture. Recondite
it is and not music for the multitude.

Niecks does not think Chopin created a new type in the Preludes. "They
are too unlike each other in form and character." Yet notwithstanding
the fleeting, evanescent moods of the Preludes, there is designedly a
certain unity of feeling and contrasted tonalities, all being grouped
in approved Bach-ian manner. This may be demonstrated by playing them
through at a sitting, which Arthur Friedheim, the Russian virtuoso, did
in a concert with excellent effect. As if wishing to exhibit his genius
in perspective, Chopin carved these cameos with exceeding fineness,
exceeding care. In a few of them the idea overbalances the form, but
the greater number are exquisite examples of a just proportion of
manner and matter, a true blending of voice and vision. Even in the
more microscopic ones the tracery, echoing like the spirals in strange
seashells, is marvellously measured. Much in miniature are these
sculptured Preludes of the Polish poet.



VIII. IMPROMPTUS AND VALSES


To write of the four Impromptus in their own key of unrestrained
feeling and pondered intention would not be as easy as recapturing the
first "careless rapture" of the lark. With all the freedom of an
improvisation the Chopin impromptu has a well defined form. There is
structural impulse, although the patterns are free and original. The
mood-color is not much varied in three, the first, third and fourth,
but in the second there is a ballade-like quality that hints of the
tragic. The A flat Impromptu, op. 29, is, if one is pinned down to the
title, the happiest named of the set. Its seething, prankish, nimble,
bubbling quality is indicated from the start; the D natural in the
treble against the C and E flat--the dominant--in the bass is a most
original effect, and the flowing triplets of the first part of this
piece give a ductile, gracious, high-bred character to it. The
chromatic involutions are many and interesting. When the F minor part
is reached the ear experiences the relief of a strongly contrasted
rhythm. The simple duple measure, so naturally ornamented, is nobly,
broadly melodious. After the return of the first dimpling theme there
is a short coda, a chiaroscura, and then with a few chords the
composition goes to rest. A bird flew that way! Rubato should be
employed, for, as Kleczynski says, "Here everything totters from
foundation to summit, and everything is, nevertheless, so beautiful and
so clear." But only an artist with velvety fingers should play this
sounding arabesque.

There is more limpidezza, more pure grace of line in the first
Impromptu than in the second in F sharp, op. 36. Here symmetry is
abandoned, as Kullak remarks, but the compensation of intenser
emotional issues is offered. There is something sphinx-like in the pose
of this work. Its nocturnal beginning with the carillon-like bass--a
bass that ever recalls to me the faint, buried tones of Hauptmann's
"Sunken Bell," the sweetly grave close of the section, the faint
hoof-beats of an approaching cavalcade, with the swelling thunders of
its passage, surely suggests a narrative, a programme. After the D
major episode there are two bars of anonymous modulation--these bars
creak on their hinges--and the first subject reappears in F, then
climbs to F sharp, thence merges into a glittering melodic organ-point,
exciting, brilliant, the whole subsiding into an echo of earlier
harmonies. The final octaves are marked fortissimo which always seems
brutal. Yet its logic lies in the scheme of the composer. Perhaps he
wished to arouse us harshly from his dreamland, as was his habit while
improvising for friends--a glissando would send them home shivering
after an evening of delicious reverie.

Niecks finds this Impromptu lacking the pith of the first. To me it is
of more moment than the other three. It is irregular and wavering in
outline, the moods are wandering and capricious, yet who dares deny its
power, its beauty? In its use of accessory figures it does not reveal
so much ingenuity, but just because the "figure in the carpet" is not
so varied in pattern, its passion is all the deeper. It is another
Ballade, sadder, more meditative of the tender grace of vanished days.

The third Impromptu in G flat, op. 51, is not often played. It may be
too difficult for the vandal with an average technique, but it is
neither so fresh in feeling nor so spontaneous in utterance as its
companions. There is a touch of the faded, blase, and it is hardly
healthy in sentiment. Here are some ophidian curves in triplets, as in
the first Impromptu, but with interludes of double notes, in coloring
tropical and rich to morbidity. The E flat minor trio is a fine bit of
melodic writing. The absence of simplicity is counterbalanced by
greater freedom of modulation and complexity of pattern. The impromptu
flavor is not missing, and there is allied to delicacy of design a
strangeness of sentiment--that strangeness which Edgar Poe declared
should be a constituent element of all great art.

The Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, op. 66, was published by
Fontana in 1855, and is one of the few posthumous works of Chopin
worthy of consideration. It was composed about 1834. A true Impromptu,
but the title of Fantaisie given by Fontana is superfluous. The piece
presents difficulties, chiefly rhythmical. Its involuted first phrases
suggest the Bellini-an fioriture so dear to Chopin, but the D flat part
is without nobility. Here is the same kind of saccharine melody that
makes mawkish the trio in the "Marche Funebre." There seems no danger
that this Fantaisie-Impromptu will suffer from neglect, for it is the
joy of the piano student, who turns its presto into a slow, blurred
mess of badly related rhythms, and its slower movement into a long
drawn sentimental agony; but in the hands of a master the C sharp minor
Impromptu is charming, though not of great depth.

The first Impromptu, dedicated to Mlle. la Comtesse de Lobau, was
published December, 1837; the second, May, 1840; the third, dedicated
to Madame la Comtesse Esterhazy, February, 1843. Not one of these four
Impromptus is as naive as Schubert's; they are more sophisticated and
do not smell of nature and her simplicities.

Of the Chopin Valses it has been said that they are dances of the soul
and not of the body. Their animated rhythms, insouciant airs and
brilliant, coquettish atmosphere, the true atmosphere of the ballroom,
seem to smile at Ehlert's poetic exaggeration. The valses are the most
objective of the Chopin works, and in few of them is there more than a
hint of the sullen, Sargasson seas of the nocturnes and scherzi.
Nietzsche's la Gaya Scienza--the Gay Science--is beautifully set forth
in the fifteen Chopin valses. They are less intimate, in the psychic
sense, but exquisite exemplars of social intimacy and aristocratic
abandon. As Schumann declared, the dancers of these valses should be at
least countesses. There is a high-bred reserve despite their
intoxication, and never a hint of the brawling peasants of Beethoven,
Grieg, Brahms, Tschaikowsky, and the rest. But little of Vienna is in
Chopin. Around the measures of this most popular of dances he has
thrown mystery, allurement, and in them secret whisperings and the
unconscious sigh. It is going too far not to dance to some of this
music, for it is putting Chopin away from the world he at times loved.
Certain of the valses may be danced: the first, second, fifth, sixth,
and a few others. The dancing would be of necessity more picturesque
and less conventional than required by the average valse, and there
must be fluctuations of tempo, sudden surprises and abrupt languors.
The mazurkas and polonaises are danced to-day in Poland, why not the
valses? Chopin's genius reveals itself in these dance forms, and their
presentation should be not solely a psychic one. Kullak, stern old
pedagogue, divides these dances into two groups, the first dedicated to
"Terpsichore," the second a frame for moods. Chopin admitted that he
was unable to play valses in the Viennese fashion, yet he has contrived
to rival Strauss in his own genre. Some of these valses are trivial,
artificial, most of them are bred of candlelight and the swish of
silken attire, and a few are poetically morbid and stray across the
border into the rhythms of the mazurka. All of them have been edited to
death, reduced to the commonplace by vulgar methods of performance, but
are altogether sprightly, delightful specimens of the composer's
careless, vagrant and happy moods.

Kullak utters words of warning to the "unquiet" sex regarding the
habitual neglect of the bass. It should mean something in valse tempo,
but it usually does not. Nor need it be brutally banged; the
fundamental tone must be cared for, the subsidiary harmonies lightly
indicated. The rubato in the valses need not obtrude itself as in the
mazurkas.

Opus 18, in E flat, was published in June, 1834, and dedicated to Mile.
Laura Harsford. It is a true ballroom picture, spirited and infectious
in rhythms. Schumann wrote rhapsodically of it. The D flat section has
a tang of the later Chopin. There is bustle, even chatter, in this
valse, which in form and content is inferior to op. 34, No. I, A flat.
The three valses of this set were published December, 1838. There are
many editorial differences in the A flat Valse, owing to the careless
way it was copied and pirated. Klindworth and Kullak are the safest for
dynamic markings. This valse may be danced as far as its dithyrhambic
coda. Notice in this coda as in many other places the debt Schumann
owes Chopin for a certain passage in the Preambule of his "Carneval."

The next Valse in A minor has a tinge of Sarmatian melancholy, indeed,
it is one of Chopin's most desponding moods. The episode in C rings of
the mazurka, and the A major section is of exceeding loveliness; Its
coda is characteristic. This valse is a favorite, and who need wonder?
The F major Valse, the last of this series, is a whirling, wild dance
of atoms. It has the perpetuum mobile quality, and older masters would
have prolonged its giddy arabesques into pages of senseless spinning.
It is quite long enough as it is. The second theme is better, but the
appoggiatures are flippant. It buzzes to the finish. Of it is related
that Chopin's cat sprang upon his keyboard and in its feline flight
gave him the idea of the first measures. I suppose as there is a dog
valse, there had to be one for the cat.

But as Rossini would have said, "Ca sent de Scarlatti!"

The A minor Valse was, of the three, Chopin's favorite. When Stephen
Heller told him this too was his beloved valse, Chopin was greatly
pleased, inviting the Hungarian composer, Niecks relates, to luncheon
at the Cafe Riche.

Not improvised in the ballroom as the preceding, yet a marvellous
epitome is the A flat Valse, op. 42, published July, 1840. It is the
best rounded specimen of Chopin's experimenting with the form. The
prolonged trill on E flat, summoning us to the ballroom, the suggestive
intermingling of rhythms, duple and triple, the coquetry, hesitation,
passionate avowal and the superb coda, with its echoes of evening--have
not these episodes a charm beyond compare? Only Schumann in certain
pages of his "Carneval" seizes the secret of young life and love, but
his is not so finished, so glowing a tableau.

Regarding certain phrasing of this valse Moriz Rosenthal wrote to the
London "Musical Standard":

  In Music there is Liberty and Fraternity, but seldom Equality,
  and in music Social Democracy has no voice. Notes have a right
  to the Aftertone (Nachton), and this right depends upon their
  role in the key. The Vorhalt (accented passing note) will
  always have an accent. On this point Riemann must without
  question be considered right. Likewise the feeling player will
  mark those notes that introduce the transition to another key.
  We will consider now our example and set down my accents:

  [Musical score excerpt]

  In the first bar we have the tonic chord of its major key as
  bass, and are thus not forced to any accent. In the second bar
  we have the dominant harmony in the bass, and in the treble,
  C, which falls upon the down beat as Vorhalt to the next tone
  (B flat), so it must be accented. Also in the fourth bar the B
  flat is Vorhalt to the B flat, and likewise requires an
  accent. In bars 6, 7 and 8 the notes, A flat, B flat and C,
  are without doubt the characteristic ones of the passage, and
  the E flat has in each case only a secondary significance.

  That a genius like Chopin did not indicate everything
  accurately is quite explainable. He flew where we merely limp
  after. Moreover, these accents must be felt rather than
  executed, with softest touch, and as tenderly as possible.

The D flat Valse--"le valse du petit chien"--is of George Sand's own
prompting. One evening at her home in the Square d'Orleans, she was
amused by her little pet dog, chasing its tail. She begged Chopin, her
little pet pianist, to set the tail to music. He did so, and behold the
world is richer for this piece. I do not dispute the story. It seems
well grounded, but then it is so ineffably silly! The three valses of
this op. 64 were published September, 1847, and are respectively
dedicated to the Comtesse Delphine Potocka, the Baronne Nathaniel de
Rothschild and the Baronne Bronicka.

I shall not presume to speak of the execution of the D flat Valse; like
the rich, it is always with us. It is usually taken at a meaningless,
rapid gait. I have heard it played by a genuine Chopin pupil, M.
Georges Mathias, and he did not take it prestissimo. He ran up the D
flat scale, ending with a sforzato at the top, and gave a variety of
nuance to the composition. The cantabile is nearly always delivered
with sloppiness of sentiment. This valse has been served up in a highly
indigestible condition for concert purposes by Tausig, Joseffy--whose
arrangement was the first to be heard here--Theodore Ritter, Rosenthal
and Isidor Philipp.

The C sharp minor Valse is the most poetic of all. The first theme has
never been excelled by Chopin for a species of veiled melancholy. It is
a fascinating, lyrical sorrow, and what Kullak calls the psychologic
motivation of the first theme in the curving figure of the second does
not relax the spell. A space of clearer skies, warmer, more consoling
winds are in the D flat interlude, but the spirit of unrest, ennui
returns. The elegiac imprint is unmistakable in this soul dance. The A
flat Valse which follows is charming. It is for superior souls who
dance with intellectual joy, with the joy that comes of making
exquisite patterns and curves. Out of the salon and from its
brilliantly lighted spaces the dancers do not wander, do not dance into
the darkness and churchyard, as Ehlert imagines of certain other valses.

The two valses in op. 69, three valses, op. 70, and the two remaining
valses in E minor and E major, need not detain us. They are posthumous.
The first of op. 69 in F minor was composed in 1836; the B minor in
1829; G flat, op. 70, in 1835; F minor in 1843, and D flat major, 1830.
The E major and E minor were composed in 1829. Fontana gave these
compositions to the world. The F minor Valse, op. 69, No. 1, has a
charm of its own. Kullak prints the Fontana and Klindworth variants.
This valse is suavely melancholy, but not so melancholy as the B minor
of the same opus. It recalls in color the B minor mazurka. Very gay and
sprightly is the G flat Valse, op. 70, No. I. The next in F minor has
no special physiognomy, while the third in D flat contains, as Niecks
points out, germs of the op. 42 and the op. 34 Valses. It recalls to me
the D flat study in the supplementary series. The E minor Valse,
without opus, is beloved. It is very graceful and not without
sentiment. The major part is the early Chopin. The E major Valse is
published in the Mikuli edition. It is commonplace, hinting of its
composer only in places. Thus ends the collection of valses, not
Chopin's most signal success in art, but a success that has dignified
and given beauty to this conventional dance form.



IX. NIGHT AND ITS MELANCHOLY MYSTERIES:--THE NOCTURNES


Here is the chronology of the nocturnes: Op. 9, three nocturnes,
January, 1833; op. 15, three nocturnes, January, 1834; op. 27, two
nocturnes, May, 1836; op. 32, two nocturnes, December, 1837; op. 37,
two nocturnes, May, 1840; op. 48, two nocturnes, November, 1841; op.
55, two nocturnes, August, 1844; op. 62, two nocturnes, September,
1846. In addition there is a nocturne written in 1828 and published by
Fontana, with the opus number 72, No. 2, and the lately discovered one
in C sharp minor, written when Chopin was young and published in 1895.
This completes the nocturne list, but following Niecks' system of
formal grouping I include the Berceuse and Barcarolle as full fledged
specimens of nocturnes.

John Field has been described as the forerunner of Chopin. The limpid
style of this pupil and friend of Clementi, his beautiful touch and
finished execution, were certainly admired and imitated by the Pole.
Field's nocturnes are now neglected--so curious are Time's
caprices--and without warrant, for not only is Field the creator of the
form, but in both his concertos and nocturnes he has written charming,
sweet and sane music. He rather patronized Chopin, for whose melancholy
pose he had no patience. "He has a talent of the hospital," growled
Field in the intervals between his wine drinking, pipe smoking and the
washing of his linen--the latter economical habit he contracted from
Clementi. There is some truth in his stricture. Chopin, seldom
exuberantly cheerful, is morbidly sad and complaining in many of the
nocturnes. The most admired of his compositions, with the exception of
the valses, they are in several instances his weakest. Yet he ennobled
the form originated by Field, giving it dramatic breadth, passion and
even grandeur. Set against Field's naive and idyllic specimens,
Chopin's efforts are often too bejewelled for true simplicity, too
lugubrious, too tropical--Asiatic is a better word--and they have the
exotic savor of the heated conservatory, and not the fresh scent of the
flowers reared in the open by the less poetic Irishman. And, then,
Chopin is so desperately sentimental in some of these compositions.
They are not altogether to the taste of this generation; they seem to
be suffering from anaemia. However, there are a few noble nocturnes;
and methods of performance may have much to answer for the
sentimentalizing of some others. More vigor, a quickening of the
time-pulse, and a less languishing touch will rescue them from lush
sentiment. Chopin loved the night and its soft mysteries as much as did
Robert Louis Stevenson, and his nocturnes are true night pieces, some
with agitated, remorseful countenance, others seen in profile only,
while many are whisperings at dusk. Most of them are called feminine, a
term psychologically false. The poetic side of men of genius is
feminine, and in Chopin the feminine note was over emphasized--at times
it was almost hysterical--particularly in these nocturnes.

The Scotch have a proverb: "She wove her shroud, and wore it in her
lifetime." In the nocturnes the shroud is not far away. Chopin wove his
to the day of his death, and he wore it sometimes but not always, as
many think.

One of the most elegiac of his nocturnes is the first in B flat minor.
It is one of three, op. 9, dedicated to Mme. Camille Pleyel. Of far
more significance than its two companions, it is, for some reason,
neglected. While I am far from agreeing with those who hold that in the
early Chopin all his genius was completely revealed, yet this nocturne
is as striking as the last, for it is at once sensuous and dramatic,
melancholy and lovely. Emphatically a mood, it is best heard on a gray
day of the soul, when the times are out of joint; its silken tones will
bring a triste content as they pour out upon one's hearing. The second
section in octaves is of exceeding charm. As a melody it has all the
lurking voluptuousness and mystic crooning of its composer. There is
flux and reflux throughout, passion peeping out in the coda.

The E flat nocturne is graceful, shallow of content, but if it is
played with purity of touch and freedom from sentimentality it is not
nearly so banal as it usually seems. It is Field-like, therefore play
it as did Rubinstein, in a Field-like fashion.

Hadow calls attention to the "remote and recondite modulations" in the
twelfth bar, the chromatic double notes. For him they only are one real
modulation, "the rest of the passage is an iridescent play of color, an
effect of superficies, not an effect of substance." It was the E flat
nocturne that unloosed Rellstab's critical wrath in the "Iris." Of it
he wrote: "Where Field smiles, Chopin makes a grinning grimace; where
Field sighs, Chopin groans; where Field shrugs his shoulders, Chopin
twists his whole body; where Field puts some seasoning into the food,
Chopin empties a handful of cayenne pepper. In short, if one holds
Field's charming romances before a distorting, concave mirror, so that
every delicate impression becomes a coarse one, one gets Chopin's work.
We implore Mr. Chopin to return to nature."

Rellstab might have added that while Field was often commonplace,
Chopin never was. Rather is to be preferred the sound judgment of J. W.
Davison, the English critic and husband of the pianist, Arabella
Goddard. Of the early works he wrote:

  Commonplace is instinctively avoided in all the works of
  Chopin--a stale cadence or a trite progression--a hum-drum
  subject or a worn-out passage--a vulgar twist of the melody or
  a hackneyed sequence--a meagre harmony or an unskilful
  counterpoint--may in vain be looked for throughout the entire
  range of his compositions, the prevailing characteristics of
  which are a feeling as uncommon as beautiful; a treatment as
  original as felicitous; a melody and a harmony as new, fresh,
  vigorous and striking as they are utterly unexpected and out
  of the original track. In taking up one of the works of Chopin
  you are entering, as it were, a fairyland untrodden by human
  footsteps--a path hitherto unfrequented but by the great
  composer himself.

Gracious, even coquettish, is the first part of the B major Nocturne of
this opus. Well knit, the passionate intermezzo has the true dramatic
Chopin ring. It should be taken alla breve. The ending is quite
effective.

I do not care much for the F major Nocturne, op. 15, No. I. The opus is
dedicated to Ferdinand Hiller. Ehlert speaks of "the ornament in
triplets with which he brushes the theme as with the gentle wings of a
butterfly," and then discusses the artistic value of the ornament which
may be so profitably studied in the Chopin music. "From its nature, the
ornament can only beautify the beautiful." Music like Chopin's, "with
its predominating elegance, could not forego ornament. But he surely
did not purchase it of a jeweller; he designed it himself, with a
delicate hand. He was the first to surround a note with diamond facets
and to weave the rushing floods of his emotions with the silver beams
of the moonlight. In his nocturnes there is a glimmering as of distant
stars. From these dreamy, heavenly gems he has borrowed many a line.
The Chopin nocturne is a dramatized ornament. And why may not Art speak
for once in such symbols? In the much admired F sharp major Nocturne
the principal theme makes its appearance so richly decorated that one
cannot avoid imagining that his fancy confined itself to the Arabesque
form for the expression of its poetical sentiments. Even the middle
part borders upon what I should call the tragic style of ornament. The
ground thought is hidden behind a dense veil, but a veil, too, can be
an ornament."

In another place Ehlert thinks that the F sharp major Nocturne seems
inseparable from champagne and truffles. It is certainly more elegant
and dramatic than the one in F major, which precedes it. That, with the
exception of the middle part in F minor, is weak, although rather
pretty and confiding. The F sharp Nocturne is popular. The "doppio
movemento" is extremely striking and the entire piece is saturated with
young life, love and feelings of good will to men. Read Kleczynski. The
third nocturne of the three is in G minor, and contains some fine,
picturesque writing. Kullak does not find in it aught of the fantastic.
The languid, earth-weary voice of the opening and the churchly refrain
of the chorale, is not this fantastic contrast! This nocturne contains
in solution all that Chopin developed later in a nocturne of the same
key. But I think the first stronger--its lines are simpler, more
primitive, its coloring less complicated, yet quite as rich and gloomy.
Of it Chopin said: "After Hamlet," but changed his mind. "Let them
guess for themselves," was his sensible conclusion. Kullak's programme
has a conventional ring. It is the lament for the beloved one, the lost
Lenore, with the consolation of religion thrown in. The "bell-tones" of
the plain chant bring to my mind little that consoles, although the
piece ends in the major mode. It is like Poe's "Ulalume." A complete
and tiny tone poem, Rubinstein made much of it. In the fourth bar and
for three bars there is a held note F, and I heard the Russian
virtuoso, by some miraculous means, keep this tone prolonged. The tempo
is abnormally slow, and the tone is not in a position where the
sustaining pedal can sensibly help it. Yet under Rubinstein's fingers
it swelled and diminished, and went singing into D, as if the
instrument were an organ. I suspected the inaudible changing of fingers
on the note or a sustaining pedal. It was wonderfully done.

The next nocturne, op. 27, No. I, brings us before a masterpiece. With
the possible exception of the C minor Nocturne, this one in the sombre
key of C sharp minor is the great essay in the form. Kleczynski finds
it "a description of a calm night at Venice, where, after a scene of
murder, the sea closes over a corpse and continues to serve as a mirror
to the moonlight." This is melodramatic. Willeby analyzes it at length
with the scholarly fervor of an English organist. He finds the
accompaniment to be "mostly on a double pedal," and remarks that
"higher art than this one could not have if simplicity of means be a
factor of high art." The wide-meshed figure of the left hand supports a
morbid, persistent melody that grates on the nerves. From the piu mosso
the agitation increases, and here let me call to your notice the
Beethoven-ish quality of these bars, which continue until the change of
signature. There is a surprising climax followed by sunshine and favor
in the D flat part, then after mounting dissonances a bold succession
of octaves returns to the feverish plaint of the opening. Kullak speaks
of a resemblance to Meyerbeer's song, Le Moine. The composition reaches
exalted states. Its psychological tension is so great at times as to
border on a pathological condition. There is unhealthy power in this
nocturne, which is seldom interpreted with sinister subtlety. Henry T.
Finck rightfully thinks it "embodies a greater variety of emotion and
more genuine dramatic spirit on four pages than many operas on four
hundred."

The companion picture in D flat, op. 27, No. 2, has, as Karasowski
writes, "a profusion of delicate fioriture." It really contains but one
subject, and is a song of the sweet summer of two souls, for there is
obvious meaning in the duality of voices. Often heard in the concert
room, this nocturne gives us a surfeit of sixths and thirds of
elaborate ornamentation and monotone of mood. Yet it is a lovely,
imploring melody, and harmonically most interesting. A curious marking,
and usually overlooked by pianists, is the crescendo and con forza of
the cadenza. This is obviously erroneous. The theme, which occurs three
times, should first be piano, then pianissimo, and lastly forte. This
opus is dedicated to the Comtesse d'Appony.

The best part of the next nocturne,--B major, op. 32, No. I, dedicated
to Madame de Billing--is the coda. It is in the minor and is like the
drum-beat of tragedy. The entire ending, a stormy recitative, is in
stern contrast to the dreamy beginning. Kullak in the first bar of the
last line uses a G; Fontana, F sharp, and Klindworth the same as
Kullak. The nocturne that follows in A flat is a reversion to the Field
type, the opening recalling that master's B flat Nocturne. The F minor
section of Chopin's broadens out to dramatic reaches, but as an
entirety this opus is a little tiresome. Nor do I admire inordinately
the Nocturne in G minor, op. 37, No. 1. It has a complaining tone, and
the choral is not noteworthy. This particular part, so Chopin's pupil
Gutmann declared, is taken too slowly, the composer having forgotten to
mark the increased tempo. But the Nocturne in G, op. 37, No. 2, is
charming. Painted with Chopin's most ethereal brush, without the
cloying splendors of the one in D flat, the double sixths, fourths and
thirds are magically euphonious. The second subject, I agree with
Karasowski, is the most beautiful melody Chopin ever wrote. It is in
true barcarolle vein; and most subtle are the shifting harmonic hues.
Pianists usually take the first part too fast, the second too slowly,
transforming this poetic composition into an etude. As Schumann wrote
of this opus:

"The two nocturnes differ from his earlier ones chiefly through greater
simplicity of decoration and more quiet grace. We know Chopin's
fondness in general for spangles, gold trinkets and pearls. He has
already changed and grown older; decoration he still loves, but it is
of a more judicious kind, behind which the nobility of the poetry
shimmers through with all the more loveliness: indeed, taste, the
finest, must be granted him."

Both numbers of this opus are without dedication. They are the
offspring of the trip to Majorca.

Niecks, writing of the G major Nocturne, adjures us "not to tarry too
long in the treacherous atmosphere of this Capua--it bewitches and
unmans." Kleczynski calls the one in G minor "homesickness," while the
celebrated Nocturne in C minor "is the tale of a still greater grief
told in an agitated recitando; celestial harps"--ah! I hear the squeak
of the old romantic machinery--"come to bring one ray of hope, which is
powerless in its endeavor to calm the wounded soul, which...sends forth
to heaven a cry of deepest anguish." It doubtless has its despairing
movement, this same Nocturne in C minor, op. 48, No. I, but Karasowski
is nearer right when he calls it "broad and most imposing with its
powerful intermediate movement, a thorough departure from the nocturne
style." Willeby finds it "sickly and labored," and even Niecks does not
think it should occupy a foremost place among its companions. The
ineluctable fact remains that this is the noblest nocturne of them all.
Biggest in conception it seems a miniature music drama. It requires the
grand manner to read it adequately, and the doppio movemento is
exciting to a dramatic degree. I fully agree with Kullak that too
strict adherence to the marking of this section produces the effect of
an "inartistic precipitation" which robs the movement of clarity.
Kleczynski calls the work The Contrition of a Sinner and devotes
several pages to its elucidation. De Lenz chats most entertainingly
with Tausig about it. Indeed, an imposing march of splendor is the
second subject in C. A fitting pendant is this work to the C sharp
minor Nocturne. Both have the heroic quality, both are free from
mawkishness and are of the greater Chopin, the Chopin of the mode
masculine.

Niecks makes a valuable suggestion: "In playing these nocturnes--op.
48--there occurred to me a remark of Schumann's, when he reviewed some
nocturnes by Count Wielhorski. He said that the quick middle movements
which Chopin frequently introduced into his nocturnes are often weaker
than his first conceptions; meaning the first portions of his
nocturnes. Now, although the middle part in the present instances are,
on the contrary, slower movements, yet the judgment holds good; at
least with respect to the first nocturne, the middle part of which has
nothing to recommend it but a full, sonorous instrumentation, if I may
use this word in speaking of one instrument. The middle part of the
second--D flat, molto piu lento--however, is much finer; in it we meet
again, as we did in some other nocturnes, with soothing, simple chord
progressions. When Gutmann studied the C sharp minor Nocturne with
Chopin, the master told him that the middle section--the molto piu
lento in D flat major--should be played as a recitative. 'A tyrant
commands'--the first two chords--he said, 'and the other asks for
mercy.'"

Of course Niecks means the F sharp minor, not the C sharp minor
Nocturne, op. 48, No. 2, dedicated, with the C minor, to Mlle. L.
Duperre.

Opus 55, two nocturnes in F minor and E flat major, need not detain us
long. The first is familiar. Kleczynski devotes a page or more to its
execution. He seeks to vary the return of the chief subject with
nuances--as would an artistic singer the couplets of a classic song.
There are "cries of despair" in it, but at last a "feeling of hope."
Kullak writes of the last measures: "Thank God--the goal is reached!"
It is the relief of a major key after prolonged wanderings in the
minor. It is a nice nocturne, neat in its sorrow, yet not epoch-making.
The one following has "the impression of an improvisation." It has also
the merit of being seldom heard. These two nocturnes are dedicated to
Mlle. J. W. Stirling.

Opus 62 brings us to a pair in B major and E major inscribed to Madame
de Konneritz. The first, the Tuberose Nocturne, is faint with a sick,
rich odor. The climbing trellis of notes, that so unexpectedly leads to
the tonic, is charming and the chief tune has charm, a fruity charm. It
is highly ornate, its harmonies dense, the entire surface overrun with
wild ornamentation and a profusion of trills. The piece--the third of
its sort in the key of B--is not easy. Mertke gives the following
explication of the famous chain trills:

[Musical score excerpt]

Although this nocturne is luxuriant in style, it deserves warmer praise
than is accorded it. Irregular as its outline is, its troubled lyrism
is appealing, is melting, and the A flat portion, with its hesitating,
timid accents, has great power of attraction. The E major Nocturne has
a bardic ring. Its song is almost declamatory and not at all
sentimental--unless so distorted--as Niecks would have us imagine. The
intermediate portion is wavering and passionate, like the middle of the
F sharp major Nocturne. It shows no decrease in creative vigor or
lyrical fancy. The Klindworth version differs from the original, as an
examination of the following examples will show, the upper being
Chopin's:

[Musical score excerpt]

The posthumous nocturne in E minor, composed in 1827, is weak and
uninteresting. Moreover, it contains some very un-Chopin-like
modulations. The recently discovered nocturne in C sharp minor is
hardly a treasure trove. It is vague and reminiscent The following note
was issued by its London publishers, Ascherberg & Co.:

  The first question, suggested by the announcement of a new
  posthumous composition of Chopin's, will be "What proof is
  there of its authenticity?" To musicians and amateurs who
  cannot recognize the beautiful Nocturne in C sharp minor as
  indeed the work of Chopin, it may in the first place be
  pointed out that the original manuscript (of which a facsimile
  is given on the title-page) is in Chopin's well-known
  handwriting, and, secondly, that the composition, which is
  strikingly characteristic, was at once accepted as the work of
  Chopin by the distinguished composer and pianist Balakireff,
  who played it for the first time in public at the Chopin
  Commemoration Concert, held in the autumn of 1894 at Zelazowa
  Wola, and afterward at Warsaw. This nocturne was addressed by
  Chopin to his sister Louise, at Warsaw, in a letter from
  Paris, and was written soon after the production of the two
  lovely piano concertos, when Chopin was still a very young
  man. It contains a quotation from his most admired Concerto in
  F minor, and a brief reference to the charming song known as
  the Maiden's Wish, two of his sister's favorite melodies. The
  manuscript of the nocturne was supposed to have been destroyed
  in the sacking of the Zamojski Palace, at Warsaw, toward the
  end of the insurrection of 1863, but it was discovered quite
  recently among papers of various kinds in the possession of a
  Polish gentleman, a great collector, whose son offered Mr.
  Polinski the privilege of selecting from such papers. His
  choice was three manuscripts of Chopin's, one of them being
  this nocturne. A letter from Mr. Polinski on the subject of
  this nocturne is in the possession of Miss Janotha.

Is this the nocturne of which Tausig spoke to his pupil Joseffy as
belonging to the Master's "best period," or did he refer to the one in
E minor?

The Berceuse, op. 57, published June, 1845, and dedicated to Mlle.
Elise Gavard, is the very sophistication of the art of musical
ornamentation. It is built on a tonic and dominant bass--the triad of
the tonic and the chord of the dominant seventh. A rocking theme is set
over this basso ostinato and the most enchanting effects are produced.
The rhythm never alters in the bass, and against this background, the
monotone of a dark, gray sky, the composer arranges an astonishing
variety of fireworks, some florid, some subdued, but all delicate in
tracery and design. Modulations from pigeon egg blue to Nile green,
most misty and subtle modulations, dissolve before one's eyes, and for
a moment the sky is peppered with tiny stars in doubles, each
independently tinted. Within a small segment of the chromatic bow
Chopin has imprisoned new, strangely dissonant colors. It is a miracle;
and after the drawn-out chord of the dominant seventh and the rain of
silvery fire ceases one realizes that the whole piece is a delicious
illusion, but an ululation in the key of D flat, the apotheosis of
pyrotechnical colorature.

Niecks quotes Alexandre Dumas fils, who calls the Berceuse "muted
music," but introduces a Turkish bath comparison, which crushes the
sentiment. Mertke shows the original and Klindworth's reading of a
certain part of the Berceuse, adding a footnote to the examples:

[Two musical score excerpts from Op. 57, one from the original version,
one from Klindworth's edition]

[Footnote:  Das tr (flat) der Originale (Scholtz tr natural-flat)
zeigt, dass Ch. den Triller mit Ganzton und nach Mikuli den
Trilleranfang mit Hauptton wollte.] The Barcarolle, op. 60, published
September, 1846, is another highly elaborated work. Niecks must be
quoted here: "One day Tausig, the great piano virtuoso, promised W. de
Lenz to play him Chopin's Barcarolle, adding, 'That is a performance
which must not be undertaken before more than two persons. I shall play
you my own self. I love the piece, but take it rarely.' Lenz got the
music, but it did not please him--it seemed to him a long movement in
the nocturne style, a Babel of figuration on a lightly laid foundation.
But he found that he had made a mistake, and, after hearing it played
by Tausig, confessed that the virtuoso had infused into the 'nine pages
of enervating music, of one and the same long-breathed rhythm, so much
interest, so much motion, so much action,' that he regretted the long
piece was not longer."

Tausig's conception of the barcarolle was this: "There are two persons
concerned in the affair; it is a love scene in a discrete gondola; let
us say this mise-en-scene is the symbol of a lover's meeting generally."

"This is expressed in thirds and sixths; the dualism of two
notes--persons--is maintained throughout; all is two-voiced,
two-souled. In this modulation in C sharp major--superscribed dolce
sfogato--there are kiss and embrace! This is evident! When, after three
bars of introduction, the theme, 'lightly rocking in the bass solo,'
enters in the fourth, this theme is nevertheless made use of throughout
the whole fabric only as an accompaniment, and ON this the cantilena in
two parts is laid; we have thus a continuous, tender dialogue."

The Barcarolle is a nocturne painted on a large canvas, with larger
brushes. It has Italian color in spots--Schumann said that,
melodically, Chopin sometimes "leans over Germany into Italy"--and is a
masterly one in sentiment, pulsating with amorousness. To me it sounds
like a lament for the splendors, now vanished, of Venice the Queen. In
bars 8, 9, and 10, counting backward, Louis Ehlert finds obscurities in
the middle voices. It is dedicated to the Baronne de Stockhausen.

The nocturnes--including the Berceuse and Barcarolle--should seldom be
played in public and not the public of a large hall. Something of
Chopin's delicate, tender warmth and spiritual voice is lost in larger
spaces. In a small auditorium, and from the fingers of a sympathetic
pianist, the nocturnes should be heard, that their intimate, night side
may be revealed. Many are like the music en sourdine of Paul Verlaine
in his "Chanson D'Automne" or "Le Piano que Baise une Main Frele." They
are essentially for the twilight, for solitary enclosures, where their
still, mysterious tones--"silent thunder in the leaves" as Yeats
sings--become eloquent and disclose the poetry and pain of their
creator.



X. THE BALLADES:--FAERY DRAMAS


W. H. Hadow has said some pertinent things about Chopin in "Studies in
Modern Music." Yet we cannot accept unconditionally his statement that
"in structure Chopin is a child playing with a few simple types, and
almost helpless as soon as he advances beyond them; in phraseology he
is a master whose felicitous perfection of style is one of the abiding
treasures of the art."

Chopin then, according to Hadow, is no "builder of the lofty rhyme,"
but the poet of the single line, the maker of the phrase exquisite.
This is hardly comprehensive. With the more complex, classical types of
the musical organism Chopin had little sympathy, but he contrived
nevertheless to write two movements of a piano sonata that are
excellent--the first half of the B flat minor Sonata. The idealized
dance forms he preferred; the Polonaise, Mazurka and Valse were already
there for him to handle, but the Ballade was not. Here he is not
imitator, but creator. Not loosely-jointed, but compact structures
glowing with genius and presenting definite unity of form and
expression, are the ballades--commonly written in six-eight and
six-four time. "None of Chopin's compositions surpasses in masterliness
of form and beauty and poetry of contents his ballades. In them he
attains the acme of his power as an artist," remarks Niecks.

I am ever reminded of Andrew Lang's lines, "the thunder and surge of
the Odyssey," when listening to the G minor Ballade, op. 23. It is the
Odyssey of Chopin's soul. That 'cello-like largo with its noiseless
suspension stays us for a moment in the courtyard of Chopin's House
Beautiful. Then, told in his most dreamy tones, the legend begins. As
in some fabulous tales of the Genii this Ballade discloses surprising
and delicious things. There is the tall lily in the fountain that nods
to the sun. It drips in cadenced monotone and its song is repeated on
the lips of the slender-hipped girl with the eyes of midnight--and so
might I weave for you a story of what I see in the Ballade and you
would be aghast or puzzled. With such a composition any programme could
be sworn to, even the silly story of the Englishman who haunted Chopin,
beseeching him to teach him this Ballade. That Chopin had a programme,
a definite one, there can be no doubt; but he has, wise artist, left us
no clue beyond Mickiewicz's, the Polish bard Lithuanian poems. In
Leipzig, Karasowski relates, that when Schumann met Chopin, the pianist
confessed having "been incited to the creation of the ballades by the
poetry" of his fellow countryman. The true narrative tone is in this
symmetrically constructed Ballade, the most spirited, most daring work
of Chopin, according to Schumann. Louis Ehlert says of the four
Ballades: "Each one differs entirely from the others, and they have but
one thing in common--their romantic working out and the nobility of
their motives. Chopin relates in them, not like one who communicates
something really experienced; it is as though he told what never took
place, but what has sprung up in his inmost soul, the anticipation of
something longed for. They may contain a strong element of national
woe, much outwardly expressed and inwardly burning rage over the
sufferings of his native land; yet they do not carry with a positive
reality like that which in a Beethoven Sonata will often call words to
our lips." Which means that Chopin was not such a realist as Beethoven?
Ehlert is one of the few sympathetic German Chopin commentators, yet he
did not always indicate the salient outlines of his art. Only the Slav
may hope to understand Chopin thoroughly. But these Ballades are more
truly touched by the universal than any other of his works. They belong
as much to the world as to Poland.

The G minor Ballade after "Konrad Wallenrod," is a logical, well knit
and largely planned composition. The closest parallelism may be
detected in its composition of themes. Its second theme in E flat is
lovely in line, color and sentiment. The return of the first theme in A
minor and the quick answer in E of the second are evidences of Chopin's
feeling for organic unity. Development, as in strict cyclic forms,
there is not a little. After the cadenza, built on a figure of wavering
tonality, a valse-like theme emerges and enjoys a capricious, butterfly
existence. It is fascinating. Passage work of an etherealized character
leads to the second subject, now augmented and treated with a broad
brush. The first questioning theme is heard again, and with a
perpendicular roar the presto comes upon us. For two pages the dynamic
energy displayed by the composer is almost appalling. A whirlwind I
have called it elsewhere. It is a storm of the emotions, muscular in
its virility. I remember de Pachmann--a close interpreter of certain
sides of Chopin--playing this coda piano, pianissimo and prestissimo.
The effect was strangely irritating to the nerves, and reminded me of a
tornado seen from the wrong end of an opera glass. According to his own
lights the Russian virtuoso was right: his strength was not equal to
the task, and so, imitating Chopin, he topsy-turvied the shading. It
recalled Moscheles' description of Chopin's playing: "His piano is so
softly breathed forth that he does not require any strong forte to
produce the wished for contrast."

This G minor Ballade was published in June, 1836, and is dedicated to
Baron Stockhausen. The last bar of the introduction has caused some
controversy. Gutmann, Mikuli and other pupils declare for the E flat;
Klindworth and Kullak use it. Xaver Scharwenka has seen fit to edit
Klindworth, and gives a D natural in the Augener edition. That he is
wrong internal testimony abundantly proves. Even Willeby, who
personally prefers the D natural, thinks Chopin intended the E flat,
and quotes a similar effect twenty-eight bars later. He might have
added that the entire composition contains examples--look at the first
bar of the valse episode in the bass. As Niecks thinks, "This dissonant
E flat may be said to be the emotional keynote of the whole poem. It is
a questioning thought that, like a sudden pain, shoots through mind and
body."

There is other and more confirmatory evidence. Ferdinand Von Inten, a
New York pianist, saw the original Chopin manuscript at Stuttgart. It
was the property of Professor Lebert (Levy), since deceased, and in it,
without any question, stands the much discussed E flat. This testimony
is final. The D natural robs the bar of all meaning. It is insipid,
colorless.

Kullak gives 60 to the half note at the moderato. On the third page,
third bar, he uses F natural in the treble. So does Klindworth,
although F sharp may be found in some editions. On the last page,
second bar, first line, Kullak writes the passage beginning with E flat
in eighth notes, Klindworth in sixteenths. The close is very striking,
full of the splendors of glancing scales and shrill octave
progressions. "It would inspire a poet to write words to it," said
Robert Schumann.

"Perhaps the most touching of all that Chopin has written is the tale
of the F major Ballade. I have witnessed children lay aside their games
to listen thereto. It appears like some fairy tale that has become
music. The four-voiced part has such a clearness withal, it seems as if
warm spring breezes were waving the lithe leaves of the palm tree. How
soft and sweet a breath steals over the senses and the heart!"

And how difficult it seems to be to write of Chopin except in terms of
impassioned prose! Louis Ehlert, a romantic in feeling and a classicist
in theory, is the writer of the foregoing. The second Ballade, although
dedicated to Robert Schumann, did not excite his warmest praise. "A
less artistic work than the first," he wrote, "but equally fantastic
and intellectual. Its impassioned episodes seem to have been afterward
inserted. I recollect very well that when Chopin played this Ballade
for me it finished in F major; it now closes in A minor." Willeby gives
its key as F minor. It is really in the keys of F major--A minor.
Chopin's psychology was seldom at fault. A major ending would have
crushed this extraordinary tone-poem, written, Chopin admits, under the
direct inspiration of Adam Mickiewicz's "Le Lac de Willis." Willeby
accepts Schumann's dictum of the inferiority of this Ballade to its
predecessor. Niecks does not. Niecks is quite justified in asking how
"two such wholly dissimilar things can be compared and weighed in this
fashion."

In truth they cannot. "The second Ballade possesses beauties in no way
inferior to those of the first," he continues. "What can be finer than
the simple strains of the opening section! They sound as if they had
been drawn from the people's store-house of song. The entrance of the
presto surprises, and seems out of keeping with what precedes; but what
we hear after the return of tempo primo--the development of those
simple strains, or rather the cogitations on them--justifies the
presence of the presto. The second appearance of the latter leads to an
urging, restless coda in A minor, which closes in the same key and
pianissimo with a few bars of the simple, serene, now veiled first
strain."

Rubinstein bore great love for this second Ballade. This is what it
meant for him: "Is it possible that the interpreter does not feel the
necessity of representing to his audience--a field flower caught by a
gust of wind, a caressing of the flower by the wind; the resistance of
the flower, the stormy struggle of the wind; the entreaty of the
flower, which at last lies there broken; and paraphrased--the field
flower a rustic maiden, the wind a knight."

I can find "no lack of affinity" between the andantino and presto. The
surprise is a dramatic one, withal rudely vigorous. Chopin's robust
treatment of the first theme results in a strong piece of craftmanship.
The episodical nature of this Ballade is the fruit of the esoteric
moods of its composer. It follows a hidden story, and has the
quality--as the second Impromptu in F sharp--of great, unpremeditated
art. It shocks one by its abrupt but by no means fantastic transitions.
The key color is changeful, and the fluctuating themes are well
contrasted. It was written at Majorca while the composer was only too
noticeably disturbed in body and soul.

Presto con fuoco Chopin marks the second section. Kullak gives 84 to
the quarter, and for the opening 66 to the quarter. He also wisely
marks crescendos in the bass at the first thematic development. He
prefers the E--as does Klindworth--nine bars before the return of the
presto. At the eighth bar, after this return, Kullak adheres to the E
instead of F at the beginning of the bar, treble clef. Klindworth
indicates both. Nor does Kullak follow Mikuli in using a D in the coda.
He prefers a D sharp, instead of a natural. I wish the second Ballade
were played oftener in public. It is quite neglected for the third in A
flat, which, as Ehlert says, has the voice of the people.

This Ballade, the "Undine" of Mickiewicz, published November, 1841, and
dedicated to Mlle. P. de Noailles, is too well known to analyze. It is
the schoolgirls' delight, who familiarly toy with its demon, seeing
only favor and prettiness in its elegant measures. In it "the refined,
gifted Pole, who is accustomed to move in the most distinguished
circles of the French capital, is pre-eminently to be recognized." Thus
Schumann. Forsooth, it is aristocratic, gay, graceful, piquant, and
also something more. Even in its playful moments there is delicate
irony, a spiritual sporting with graver and more passionate emotions.
Those broken octaves which usher in each time the second theme, with
its fascinating, infectious, rhythmical lilt, what an ironically joyous
fillip they give the imagination!

"A coquettish grace--if we accept by this expression that half
unconscious toying with the power that charms and fires, that follows
up confession with reluctance--seems the very essence of Chopin's
being."

"It becomes a difficult task to transcribe the easy transitions, full
of an irresistible charm, with which he portrays Love's game. Who will
not recall the memorable passage in the A flat Ballade, where the right
hand alone takes up the dotted eighths after the sustained chord of the
sixth of A flat? Could a lover's confusion be more deliciously enhanced
by silence and hesitation?" Ehlert above evidently sees a ballroom
picture of brilliancy, with the regulation tender avowal. The episodes
of this Ballade are so attenuated of any grosser elements that none but
psychical meanings should be read into them.

The disputed passage is on the fifth page of the Kullak edition, after
the trills. A measure is missing in Kullak, who, like Klindworth, gives
it in a footnote. To my mind this repetition adds emphasis, although it
is a formal blur. And what an irresistible moment it is, this
delightful territory, before the darker mood of the C sharp minor part
is reached! Niecks becomes enthusiastic over the insinuation and
persuasion of this composition: "the composer showing himself in a
fundamentally caressing mood." The ease with which the entire work is
floated proves that Chopin in mental health was not daunted by larger
forms. There is moonlight in this music, and some sunlight, too. The
prevailing moods are coquetry and sweet contentment.

Contrapuntal skill is shown in the working out section. Chopin always
wears his learning lightly; it does not oppress us. The inverted
dominant pedal in the C sharp minor episode reveals, with the massive
coda, a great master. Kullak suggests some variants. He uses the
transient shake in the third bar, instead of the appoggiatura which
Klindworth prefers. Klindworth attacks the trill on the second page
with the upper tone--A flat. Kullak and Mertke, in the Steingraber
edition, play the passage in this manner:

[Musical score excerpt from the original version of the Op. 47. Ballade]

Here is Klindworth:

[Musical score excerpt of the same passage in Klindworth's edition]

Of the fourth and glorious Ballade in F minor dedicated to Baronne C.
de Rothschild I could write a volume. It is Chopin in his most
reflective, yet lyric mood. Lyrism is the keynote of the work, a
passionate lyrism, with a note of self-absorption, suppressed
feeling--truly Slavic, this shyness!--and a concentration that is
remarkable even for Chopin. The narrative tone is missing after the
first page, a rather moody and melancholic pondering usurping its
place. It is the mood of a man who examines with morbid, curious
insistence the malady that is devouring his soul. This Ballade is the
companion of the Fantaisie-Polonaise, but as a Ballade "fully worthy of
its sisters," to quote Niecks. It was published December, 1843. The
theme in F minor has the elusive charm of a slow, mournful valse, that
returns twice, bejewelled, yet never overladen. Here is the very
apotheosis of the ornament; the figuration sets off the idea in
dazzling relief. There are episodes, transitional passage work,
distinguished by novelty and the finest art. At no place is there
display for display's sake. The cadenza in A is a pause for breath,
rather a sigh, before the rigorously logical imitations which presage
the re-entrance of the theme. How wonderfully the introduction comes in
for its share of thoughtful treatment. What a harmonist! And consider
the D flat scale runs in the left hand; how suave, how satisfying is
this page. I select for especial admiration this modulatory passage:

[Musical score excerpt]

And what could be more evocative of dramatic suspense than the sixteen
bars before the mad, terrifying coda! How the solemn splendors of the
half notes weave an atmosphere of mystic tragedy! This soul-suspension
recalls Maeterlinck. Here is the episode:

[Musical score excerpt]

A story of de Lenz that lends itself to quotation is about this piece:

  Tausig impressed me deeply in his interpretation of Chopin's
  Ballade in F minor. It has three requirements: The
  comprehension of the programme as a whole,--for Chopin writes
  according to a programme, to the situations in life best known
  to, and understood by himself; and in an adequate manner; the
  conquest of the stupendous difficulties in complicated
  figures, winding harmonies and formidable passages.

  Tausig fulfilled these requirements, presenting an embodiment
  of the signification and the feeling of the work. The Ballade--
  andante con moto, six-eighths--begins in the major key of the
  dominant; the seventh measure comes to a stand before a
  fermata on C major. The easy handling of these seven measures
  Tausig interpreted thus: 'The piece has not yet begun;' in his
  firmer, nobly expressive exposition of the principal theme,
  free from sentimentality--to which one might easily yield--the
  grand style found due scope. An essential requirement in an
  instrumental virtuoso is that he should understand how to
  breathe, and how to allow his hearers to take breath--giving
  them opportunity to arrive at a better understanding. By this
  I mean a well chosen incision--the cesura, and a lingering--
  "letting in air," Tausig cleverly called it--which in no way
  impairs rhythm and time, but rather brings them into stronger
  relief; a LINGERING which our signs of notation cannot
  adequately express, because it is made up of atomic time
  values. Rub the bloom from a peach or from a butterfly--what
  remains will belong to the kitchen, to natural history! It is
  not otherwise with Chopin; the bloom consisted in Tausig's
  treatment of the Ballade.

  He came to the first passage--the motive among blossoms and
  leaves--a figurated recurrence to the principal theme is in
  the inner parts--its polyphonic variant. A little thread
  connects this with the chorale-like introduction of the second
  theme. The theme is strongly and abruptly modulated, perhaps a
  little too much so. Tausig tied the little thread to a doppio
  movimento in two-four time, but thereby resulted sextolets,
  which threw the chorale into still bolder relief. Then
  followed a passage a tempo, in which the principal theme
  played hide and seek. How clear it all became as Tausig played
  it! Of technical difficulties he knew literally nothing; the
  intricate and evasive parts were as easy as the easiest--I
  might say easier!

  I admired the short trills in the left hand, which were
  trilled out quite independently, as if by a second player; the
  gliding ease of the cadence marked dolcissimo. It swung itself
  into the higher register, where it came to a stop before A
  major, just as the introduction stopped before C major. Then,
  after the theme has once more presented itself in a modified
  form--variant--it comes under the pestle of an extremely
  figurate coda, which demands the study of an artist, the
  strength of a robust man--the most vigorous pianistic health,
  in a word! Tausig overcame this threatening group of terrific
  difficulties, whose appearance in the piece is well explained
  by the programme, without the slightest effect. The coda, in
  modulated harp tones, came to a stop before a fermata which
  corresponded to those before mentioned, in order to cast
  anchor in the haven of the dominant, finishing with a witches'
  dance of triplets, doubled in thirds. This piece winds up with
  extreme bravura.

The "lingering" mentioned by de Lenz is tempo rubato, so fatally
misunderstood by most Chopin players. De Lenz in a note quotes
Meyerbeer as saying--Meyerbeer, who quarrelled with Chopin about the
rhythm of a mazurka--"Can one reduce women to notation? They would
breed mischief, were they emancipated from the measure."

There is passion, refined and swelling, in the curves of this most
eloquent composition. It is Chopin at the supreme summit of his art, an
art alembicated, personal and intoxicating. I know of nothing in music
like the F minor Ballade. Bach in the Chromatic Fantasia--be not
deceived by its classical contours, it is music hot from the
soul--Beethoven in the first movement of the C sharp minor Sonata, the
arioso of the Sonata op. 110, and possibly Schumann in the opening of
his C major Fantaisie, are as intimate, as personal as the F minor
Ballade, which is as subtly distinctive as the hands and smile of Lisa
Gioconda. Its inaccessible position preserves it from rude and
irreverent treatment. Its witchery is irresistible.



XI. CLASSICAL CURRENTS


Guy de Maupassant put before us a widely diverse number of novels in a
famous essay attached to the definitive edition of his masterpiece,
"Pierre et Jean," and puzzlingly demanded the real form of the novel.
If "Don Quixote" is one, how can "Madame Bovary" be another? If "Les
Miserables" is included in the list, what are we to say to Huysmans'
"La Bas"?

Just such a question I should like to propound, substituting sonata for
novel. If Scarlatti wrote sonatas, what is the Appassionata? If the A
flat Weber is one, can the F minor Brahms be called a sonata? Is the
Haydn form orthodox and the Schumann heterodox? These be enigmas to
make weary the formalists. Come, let us confess, and in the open air:
there is a great amount of hypocrisy and cant in this matter. We can,
as can any conservatory student, give the recipe for turning out a smug
specimen of the form, but when we study the great examples, it is just
the subtle eluding of hard and fast rules that distinguishes the
efforts of the masters from the machine work of apprentices and
academic monsters. Because it is no servile copy of the Mozart Sonata,
the F sharp minor of Brahms is a piece of original art. Beethoven at
first trod in the well blazed path of Haydn, but study his second
period, and it sounds the big Beethoven note. There is no final court
of appeal in the matter of musical form, and there is none in the
matter of literary style. The history of the sonata is the history of
musical evolution. Every great composer, Schubert included, added to
the form, filed here, chipped away there, introduced lawlessness where
reigned prim order--witness the Schumann F sharp minor Sonata--and then
came Chopin.

The Chopin sonata has caused almost as much warfare as the Wagner music
drama. It is all the more ludicrous, for Chopin never wrote but one
piano sonata that has a classical complexion: in C minor, op. 4, and it
was composed as early as 1828. Not published until July, 1851, it
demonstrates without a possibility of doubt that the composer had no
sympathy with the form. He tried so hard and failed so dismally that it
is a relief when the second and third sonatas are reached, for in them
there are only traces of formal beauty and organic unity. But then
there is much Chopin, while little of his precious essence is to be
tasted in the first sonata.

Chopin wrote of the C minor Sonata: "As a pupil I dedicated it to
Elsner," and--oh, the irony of criticism!--it was praised by the
critics because not so revolutionary as the Variations, op. 2. This,
too, despite the larghetto in five-four time. The first movement is
wheezing and all but lifeless. One asks in astonishment what Chopin is
doing in this gallery. And it is technically difficult. The menuetto is
excellent, its trio being a faint approach to Beethoven in color. The
unaccustomed rhythm of the slow movement is irritating. Our young
Chopin does not move about as freely as Benjamin Godard in the scherzo
of his violin and piano sonata in the same bizarre rhythm. Niecks sees
naught but barren waste in the finale. I disagree with him. There is
the breath of a stirring spirit, an imitative attempt that is more
diverting than the other movements. Above all there is movement, and
the close is vigorous, though banal. The sonata is the dullest music
penned by Chopin, but as a whole it hangs together as a sonata better
than its two successors. So much for an attempt at strict devotion to
scholastic form.

From this schoolroom we are transported in op. 35 to the theatre of
larger life and passion. The B flat minor Sonata was published May,
1840. Two movements are masterpieces; the funeral march that forms the
third movement is one of the Pole's most popular compositions, while
the finale has no parallel in piano music. Schumann says that Chopin
here "bound together four of his maddest children," and he is not
astray. He thinks the march does not belong to the work. It certainly
was written before its companion movements. As much as Hadow admires
the first two movements, he groans at the last pair, though they are
admirable when considered separately.

These four movements have no common life. Chopin says he intended the
strange finale as a gossiping commentary on the march. "The left hand
unisono with the right hand are gossiping after the march." Perhaps the
last two movements do hold together, but what have they in common with
the first two? Tonality proves nothing. Notwithstanding the grandeur
and beauty of the grave, the power and passion of the scherzo, this
Sonata in B flat minor is not more a sonata than it is a sequence of
ballades and scherzi. And again we are at the de Maupassant crux. The
work never could be spared; it is Chopin mounted for action and in the
thick of the fight. The doppio movimento is pulse-stirring--a strong,
curt and characteristic theme for treatment. Here is power, and in the
expanding prologue flashes more than a hint of the tragic. The D flat
Melody is soothing, charged with magnetism, and urged to a splendid
fever of climax. The working out section is too short and dissonantal,
but there is development, perhaps more technical than logical--I mean
by this more pianistic than intellectually musical--and we mount with
the composer until the B flat version of the second subject is reached,
for the first subject, strange to say, does not return. From that on to
the firm chords of the close there is no misstep, no faltering or
obscurity. Noble pages have been read, and the scherzo is approached
with eagerness. Again there is no disappointment. On numerous occasions
I have testified my regard for this movement in warm and uncritical
terms. It is simply unapproachable, and has no equal for lucidity,
brevity and polish among the works of Chopin, except the Scherzo in C
sharp minor; but there is less irony, more muscularity, and more native
sweetness in this E flat minor Scherzo. I like the way Kullak marks the
first B flat octave. It is a pregnant beginning. The second bar I have
never heard from any pianist save Rubinstein given with the proper
crescendo. No one else seems to get it explosive enough within the
walls of one bar. It is a true Rossin-ian crescendo. And in what a wild
country we are landed when the F sharp minor is crashed out! Stormy
chromatic double notes, chords of the sixth, rush on with incredible
fury, and the scherzo ends on the very apex of passion. A Trio in G
flat is the song of songs, its swaying rhythms and phrase-echoings
investing a melody at once sensuous and chaste. The second part and the
return to the scherzo are proofs of the composer's sense of balance and
knowledge of the mysteries of anticipation. The closest parallelisms
are noticeable, the technique so admirable that the scherzo floats in
mid-air--Flaubert's ideal of a miraculous style.

And then follows that deadly Marche Funebre! Ernest Newman, in his
remarkable "Study of Wagner," speaks of the fundamental difference
between the two orders of imagination, as exemplified by Beethoven and
Chopin on the one side, Wagner on the other. This regarding the funeral
marches of the three. Newman finds Wagner's the more concrete
imagination; the "inward picture" of Beethoven, and Chopin "much vaguer
and more diffused." Yet Chopin is seldom so realistic; here are the
bell-like basses, the morbid coloring. Schumann found "it contained
much that is repulsive," and Liszt raves rhapsodically over it; for
Karasowski it was the "pain and grief of an entire nation," while
Ehlert thinks "it owes its renown to the wonderful effect of two
triads, which in their combination possess a highly tragical element.
The middle movement is not at all characteristic. Why could it not at
least have worn second mourning? After so much black crepe drapery one
should not at least at once display white lingerie!" This is cruel.

The D flat Trio is a logical relief after the booming and glooming of
the opening. That it is "a rapturous gaze into the beatific regions of
a beyond," as Niecks writes, I am not prepared to say. We do know,
however, that the march, when isolated, has a much more profound effect
than in its normal sequence. The presto is too wonderful for words.
Rubinstein, or was it originally Tausig who named it "Night winds
sweeping over the churchyard graves"? Its agitated, whirring,
unharmonized triplets are strangely disquieting, and can never be
mistaken for mere etude passage work. The movement is too sombre, its
curves too full of half-suppressed meanings, its rush and sub-human
growling too expressive of something that defies definition. Schumann
compares it to a "sphinx with a mocking smile." To Henri Barbadette
"C'est Lazare grattant de ses ongles la pierre de son tombeau," or,
like Mendelssohn, one may abhor it, yet it cannot be ignored. It has
Asiatic coloring, and to me seems like the wavering outlines of
light-tipped hills seen sharply en silhouette, behind which rises and
falls a faint, infernal glow. This art paints as many differing
pictures as there are imaginations for its sonorous background; not
alone the universal solvent, as Henry James thinks, it bridges the
vast, silent gulfs between human souls with its humming eloquence. This
sonata is not dedicated.

The third Sonata in B minor, op. 58, has more of that undefinable
"organic unity," yet, withal, it is not so powerful, so pathos-breeding
or so compact of thematic interest as its forerunner. The first page,
to the chromatic chords of the sixth, promises much. There is a clear
statement, a sound theme for developing purposes, the crisp march of
chord progressions, and then--the edifice goes up in smoke. After
wreathings and curlings of passage work, and on the rim of despair, we
witness the exquisite budding of the melody in D. It is an aubade, a
nocturne of the morn--if the contradictory phrase be allowed. There is
morning freshness in its hue and scent, and, when it bursts, a parterre
of roses. The close of the section is inimitable. All the more sorrow
at what follows: wild disorder and the luxuriance called tropical. When
B major is compassed we sigh, for it augurs us a return of delight. The
ending is not that of a sonata, but a love lyric. For Chopin is not the
cool breadth and marmoreal majesty of blank verse. He sonnets to
perfection, but the epical air does not fill his nostrils.

Vivacious, charming, light as a harebell in the soft breeze is the
Scherzo in E flat. It has a clear ring of the scherzo and harks back to
Weber in its impersonal, amiable hurry. The largo is tranquilly
beautiful, rich in its reverie, lovely in its tune. The trio is
reserved and hypnotic. The last movement, with its brilliancy and
force, is a favorite, but it lacks weight, and the entire sonata is, as
Niecks writes, "affiliated, but not cognate." It was published June,
1845, and is dedicated to Comtesse E. de Perthuis.

So these sonatas of Chopin are not sonatas at all, but, throwing titles
to the dogs, would we forego the sensations that two of them evoke?
There is still another, the Sonata in G minor, op. 65, for piano and
'cello. It is dedicated to Chopin's friend, August Franchomme, the
violoncellist. Now, while I by no means share Finck's exalted
impression of this work, yet I fancy the critics have dealt too harshly
with it. Robbed of its title of sonata--though sedulously aping this
form--it contains much pretty music. And it is grateful for the 'cello.
There is not an abundant literature for this kingly instrument, in
conjunction with the piano, so why flaunt Chopin's contribution? I will
admit that he walks stiffly, encased in his borrowed garb, but there is
the andante, short as it is, an effective scherzo and a carefully made
allegro and finale. Tonal monotony is the worst charge to be brought
against this work.

The trio, also in G minor, op. 8, is more alluring. It was published
March, 1833, and dedicated to Prince Anton Radziwill. Chopin later, in
speaking of it to a pupil, admitted that he saw things he would like to
change. He regretted not making it for viola, instead of violin, 'cello
and piano.

It was worked over a long time, the first movement being ready in 1833.
When it appeared it won philistine praise, for its form more nearly
approximates the sonata than any of his efforts in the cyclical order,
excepting op. 4. In it the piano receives better treatment than the
other instruments; there are many virtuoso passages, but again key
changes are not frequent or disparate enough to avoid a monotone.
Chopin's imagination refuses to become excited when working in the open
spaces of the sonata form. Like creatures that remain drab of hue in
unsympathetic or dangerous environment, his music is transformed to a
bewildering bouquet of color when he breathes native air. Compare the
wildly modulating Chopin of the ballades to the tame-pacing Chopin of
the sonatas, trio and concertos! The trio opens with fire, the scherzo
is fanciful, and the adagio charming, while the finale is cheerful to
loveliness. It might figure occasionally on the programmes of our
chamber music concerts, despite its youthful puerility.

There remain the two concertos, which I do not intend discussing fully.
Not Chopin at his very best, the E minor and F minor concertos are
frequently heard because of the chances afforded the solo player. I
have written elsewhere at length of the Klindworth, Tausig and
Burmeister versions of the two concertos. As time passes I see no
reason for amending my views on this troublous subject. Edgar S. Kelly
holds a potent brief for the original orchestration, contending that it
suits the character of the piano part. Rosenthal puts this belief into
practice by playing the older version of the E minor with the first
long tutti curtailed. But he is not consistent, for he uses the Tausig
octaves at the close of the rondo. While I admire the Tausig
orchestration, these particlar octaves are hideously cacaphonic. The
original triplet unisons are so much more graceful and musical.

The chronology of the concertos has given rise to controversy. The
trouble arose from the F minor Concerto, it being numbered op. 21,
although composed before the one in E minor. The former was published
April, 1836; the latter September, 1833. The slow movement of the F
minor Concerto was composed by Chopin during his passion for Constantia
Gladowska. She was "the ideal" he mentions in his letters, the adagio
of this concerto. This larghetto in A flat is a trifle too ornamental
for my taste, mellifluous and serene as it is. The recitative is finely
outlined. I think I like best the romanze of the E minor Concerto. It
is less flowery. The C sharp minor part is imperious in its beauty,
while the murmuring mystery of the close mounts to the imagination. The
rondo is frolicksome, tricky, genial and genuine piano music. It is
true the first movement is too long, too much in one set of keys, and
the working-out section too much in the nature of a technical study.
The first movement of the F minor far transcends it in breadth, passion
and musical feeling, but it is short and there is no coda. Richard
Burmeister has supplied the latter deficiency in a capitally made
cadenza, which Paderewski plays. It is a complete summing up of the
movement. The mazurka-like finale is very graceful and full of pure,
sweet melody. This concerto is altogether more human than the E minor.

Both derive from Hummel and Field. The passage work is superior in
design to that of the earlier masters, the general character
episodical,--but episodes of rare worth and originality. As Ehlert
says, "Noblesse oblige--and thus Chopin felt himself compelled to
satisfy all demands exacted of a pianist, and wrote the unavoidable
piano concerto. It was not consistent with his nature to express
himself in broad terms. His lungs were too weak for the pace in seven
league boots, so often required in a score. The trio and 'cello sonata
were also tasks for whose accomplishment Nature did not design him. He
must touch the keys by himself without being called upon to heed the
players sitting next him. He is at his best when without formal
restraint, he can create out of his inmost soul."

"He must touch the keys by himself!" There you have summed up in a
phrase the reason Chopin never succeeded in impressing his
individuality upon the sonata form and his playing upon the masses. His
was the lonely soul. George Sand knew this when she wrote, "He made an
instrument speak the language of the infinite. Often in ten lines that
a child might play he has introduced poems of unequalled elevation,
dramas unrivalled in force and energy. He did not need the great
material methods to find expression for his genius. Neither saxophone
nor ophicleide was necessary for him to fill the soul with awe. Without
church organ or human voice he inspired faith and enthusiasm."

It might be remarked here that Beethoven, too, aroused a wondering and
worshipping world without the aid of saxophone or ophicleide. But it is
needless cruelty to pick at Madame Sand's criticisms. She had no
technical education, and so little appreciation of Chopin's peculiar
genius for the piano that she could write, "The day will come when his
music will be arranged for orchestra without change of the piano
score;" which is disaster-breeding nonsense. We have sounded Chopin's
weakness when writing for any instrument but his own, when writing in
any form but his own.

The E minor Concerto is dedicated to Frederick Kalkbrenner, the F minor
to the Comtesse Deiphine Potocka. The latter dedication demonstrates
that he could forget his only "ideal" in the presence of the charming
Potocka! Ah! these vibratile and versatile Poles!

Robert Schumann, it is related, shook his head wearily when his early
work was mentioned. "Dreary stuff," said the composer, whose critical
sense did not fail him even in so personal a question. What Chopin
thought of his youthful music may be discovered in his scanty
correspondence. To suppose that the young Chopin sprang into the arena
a fully equipped warrior is one of those nonsensical notions which
gains currency among persons unfamiliar with the law of musical
evolution. Chopin's musical ancestry is easily traced; as Poe had his
Holley Chivers, Chopin had his Field. The germs of his second period
are all there; from op. 1 to opus 22 virtuosity for virtuosity's sake
is very evident. Liszt has said that in every young artist there is the
virtuoso fever, and Chopin being a pianist did not escape the fever of
the footlights. He was composing, too, at a time when piano music was
well nigh strangled by excess of ornament, when acrobats were kings,
when the Bach Fugue and Beethoven Sonata lurked neglected and dusty in
the memories of the few. Little wonder, then, we find this individual,
youthful Pole, not timidly treading in the path of popular composition,
but bravely carrying his banner, spangled, glittering and fanciful, and
outstripping at their own game all the virtuosi of Europe. His
originality in this bejewelled work caused Hummel to admire and
Kalkbrenner to wonder. The supple fingers of the young man from Warsaw
made quick work of existing technical difficulties. He needs must
invent some of his own, and when Schumann saw the pages of op. 2 he
uttered his historical cry. Today we wonder somewhat at his enthusiasm.
It is the old story--a generation seeks to know, a generation
comprehends and enjoys, and a generation discards.

Opus 1, a Rondo in C minor, dedicated to Madame de Linde, saw the light
in 1825, but it was preceded by two polonaises, a set of variations,
and two mazurkas in G and B flat major. Schumann declared that Chopin's
first published work was his tenth, and that between op. 1 and 2 there
lay two years and twenty works. Be this as it may, one cannot help
liking the C minor Rondo. In the A flat section we detect traces of his
F minor Concerto. There is lightness, joy in creation, which contrast
with the heavy, dour quality of the C minor Sonata, op. 4. Loosely
constructed, in a formal sense, and too exuberant for his strict
confines, this op. 1 is remarkable, much more remarkable, than
Schumann's Abegg variations.

The Rondo a la Mazur, in F, is a further advance. It is dedicated to
Comtesse Moriolles, and was published in 1827 (?). Schumann reviewed it
in 1836. It is sprightly, Polish in feeling and rhythmic life, and a
glance at any of its pages gives us the familiar Chopin
impression--florid passage work, chords in extensions and chromatic
progressions. The Concert Rondo, op. 14, in F, called Krakowiak, is
built on a national dance in two-four time, which originated in
Cracovia. It is, to quote Niecks, a modified polonaise, danced by the
peasants with lusty abandon. Its accentual life is usually manifested
on an unaccented part of the bar, especially at the end of a section or
phrase. Chopin's very Slavic version is spirited, but the virtuoso
predominates. There is lushness in ornamentation, and a bold, merry
spirit informs every page. The orchestral accompaniment is thin.
Dedicated to the Princesse Czartoryska, it was published June, 1834.
The Rondo, op. 16, with an Introduction, is in great favor at the
conservatories, and is neat rather than poetical, although the
introduction has dramatic touches. It is to this brilliant piece, with
its Weber-ish affinities, that Richard Burmeister has supplied an
orchestral accompaniment.

The remaining Rondo, posthumously published as op. 73, and composed in
1828, was originally intended, so Chopin writes in 1828, for one piano.
It is full of fire, but the ornamentation runs mad, and no traces of
the poetical Chopin are present. He is preoccupied with the brilliant
surfaces of the life about him. His youthful expansiveness finds a fair
field in these variations, rondos and fantasias.

Schumann's enthusiasm over the variations on "La ci darem la mano"
seems to us a little overdone. Chopin had not much gift for variation
in the sense that we now understand variation. Beethoven, Schumann and
Brahms--one must include Mendelssohn's Serious Variations--are masters
of a form that is by no means structurally simple or a reversion to
mere spielerei, as Finck fancies. Chopin plays with his themes
prettily, but it is all surface display, all heat lightning. He never
smites, as does Brahms with his Thor hammer, the subject full in the
middle, cleaving it to its core. Chopin is slightly effeminate in his
variations, and they are true specimens of spielerei, despite the
cleverness of design in the arabesques, their brilliancy and euphony.
Op. 2 has its dazzling moments, but its musical worth is inferior. It
is written to split the ears of the groundlings, or rather to astonish
and confuse them, for the Chopin dynamics in the early music are never
very rude. The indisputable superiority to Herz and the rest of the
shallow-pated variationists caused Schumann's passionate admiration. It
has, however, given us an interesting page of music criticism.
Rellstab, grumpy old fellow, was near right when he wrote of these
variations that "the composer runs down the theme with roulades, and
throttles and hangs it with chains of shakes." The skip makes its
appearance in the fourth variation, and there is no gainsaying the
brilliancy and piquant spirit of the Alla Polacca. Op. 2 is
orchestrally accompanied, an accompaniment that may be gladly dispensed
with, and dedicated by Chopin to the friend of his youth, Titus
Woyciechowski.

Je Vends des Scapulaires is a tune in Herold and Halevy's "Ludovic."
Chopin varied it in his op. 12. This rondo in B flat is the weakest of
Chopin's muse. It is Chopin and water, and Gallic eau sucree at that.
The piece is written tastefully, is not difficult, but woefully
artificial. Published in 1833, it was dedicated to Miss Emma Horsford.
In May, 1851, appeared the Variations in E, without an opus number.
They are not worth the trouble. Evidently composed before Chopin's op.
1 and before 1830, they are musically light waisted, although written
by one who already knew the keyboard. The last, a valse, is the
brightest of the set. The theme is German.

The Fantaisie, op 13, in A, on Polish airs, preceded by an introduction
in F sharp minor, is dedicated to the pianist J. P. Pixis. It was
published in April, 1834. It is Chopin brilliant. Its orchestral
background does not count for much, but the energy, the color and
Polish character of the piece endeared it to the composer. He played it
often, and as Kleczynski asks, "Are these brilliant passages, these
cascades of pearly notes, these bold leaps the sadness and the despair
of which we hear? Is it not rather youth exuberant with intensity and
life? Is it not happiness, gayety, love for the world and men? The
melancholy notes are there to bring out, to enforce the principal
ideas. For instance, in the Fantaisie, op. 13, the theme of Kurpinski
moves and saddens us; but the composer does not give time for this
impression to become durable; he suspends it by means of a long trill,
and then suddenly by a few chords and with a brilliant prelude leads us
to a popular dance, which makes us mingle with the peasant couples of
Mazovia. Does the finale indicate by its minor key the gayety of a man
devoid of hope--as the Germans say?" Kleczynski then tells us that a
Polish proverb, "A fig for misery," is the keynote of a nation that
dances furiously to music in the minor key. "Elevated beauty, not
sepulchral gayety," is the character of Polish, of Chopin's music. This
is a valuable hint. There are variations in the Fantaisie which end
with a merry and vivacious Kujawiak.

The F minor Fantaisie will be considered later. Neither by its
magnificent content, construction nor opus number (49) does it fall
into this chapter.

The Allegro de Concert in A, op. 46, was published in November, 1841,
and dedicated to Mlle. Friederike Muller, a pupil of Chopin. It has all
the characteristics of a concerto, and is indeed a truncated one--much
more so than Schumann's F minor Sonata, called Concert Sans Orchestre.
There are tutti in the Chopin work, the solo part not really beginning
until the eighty-seventh bar. But it must not be supposed that these
long introductory passages are ineffective for the player. The Allegro
is one of Chopin's most difficult works. It abounds in risky skips,
ambuscades of dangerous double notes, and the principal themes are bold
and expressive. The color note is strikingly adapted for public
performance, and perhaps Schumann was correct in believing that Chopin
had originally sketched this for piano and orchestra. Niecks asks if
this is not the fragment of a concerto for two pianos, which Chopin, in
a letter written at Vienna, December 21, 1830, said he would play in
public with his friend Nidecki, if he succeeded in writing it to his
satisfaction. And is there any significance in the fact that Chopin,
when sending this manuscript to Fontana, probably in the summer of
1841, calls it a concerto?

While it adds little to Chopin's reputation, it has the potentialities
of a powerful and more manly composition than either of the two
concertos. Jean Louis Nicode has given it an orchestral garb, besides
arranging it for two pianos. He has added a developing section of
seventy bars. This version was first played in New York a decade ago by
Marie Geselschap, a Dutch pianist, under the direction of the late
Anton Seidl. The original, it must be acknowledged, is preferable.

The Bolero, op. 19, has a Polonaise flavor. There is but little Spanish
in its ingredients. It is merely a memorandum of Chopin's early essays
in dance forms. It was published in 1834, four years before Chopin's
visit to Spain. Niecks thinks it an early work. That it can be made
effective was proven by Emil Sauer. It is for fleet-fingered pianists,
and the principal theme has the rhythmical ring of the Polonaise,
although the most Iberian in character. It is dedicated to Comtesse E.
de Flahault. In the key of A minor, its coda ends in A major. Willeby
says it is in C major!

The Tarantella is in A flat, and is numbered op. 43. It was published
in 1841 (?), and bears no dedication. Composed at Nohant, it is as
little Italian as the Bolero is Spanish. Chopin's visit to Italy was of
too short a duration to affect him, at least in the style of dance. It
is without the necessary ophidian tang, and far inferior to Heller and
Liszt's efforts in the constricted form. One finds little of the frenzy
ascribed to it by Schumann in his review. It breathes of the North, not
the South, and ranks far below the A flat Impromptu in geniality and
grace.

The C minor Funeral March, composed, according to Fontana, in 1829,
sounds like Mendelssohn. The trio has the processional quality of a
Parisian funeral cortege. It is modest and in no wise remarkable. The
three Ecossaises, published as op. 73, No. 3, are little dances,
schottisches, nothing more. No. 2 in G is highly popular in girls'
boarding schools.

The Grand Duo Concertant for 'cello and piano is jointly composed by
Chopin and Franchomme on themes from "Robert le Diable." It begins in E
and ends in A major, and is without opus number. Schumann thinks
"Chopin sketched the whole of it, and that Franchomme said 'Yes' to
everything." It is for the salon of 1833, when it was published. It is
empty, tiresome and only slightly superior to compositions of the same
sort by De Beriot and Osborne. Full of rapid elegancies and shallow
passage work, this duo is certainly a piece d'occasion--the occasion
probably being the need of ready money.

The seventeen Polish songs were composed between 1824 and 1844. In the
psychology of the Lied Chopin was not happy. Karasowski writes that
many of the songs were lost and some of them are still sung in Poland,
their origin being hazy. The Third of May is cited as one of these.
Chopin had a habit of playing songs for his friends, but neglected
putting some of them on paper. The collected songs are under the opus
head 74. The words are by his friends, Stephen Witwicki, Adam
Mickiewicz, Bogdan Zaleski and Sigismond Krasinski. The first in the
key of A, the familiar Maiden's Wish, has been brilliantly paraphrased
by Liszt. This pretty mazurka is charmingly sung and played by Marcella
Sembrich in the singing lesson of "The Barber of Seville." There are
several mazurkas in the list. Most of these songs are mediocre.
Poland's Dirge is an exception, and so is Horsemen Before the Battle.
"Was ein junges Madchen liebt" has a short introduction, in which the
reminiscence hunter may find a true bit of "Meistersinger" color.
Simple in structure and sentiment, the Chopin lieder seem almost
rudimentary compared to essays in this form by Schubert, Schumann,
Franz, Brahms and Tschaikowsky.

A word of recommendation may not be amiss here regarding the technical
study of Chopin. Kleczynski, in his two books, gives many valuable
hints, and Isidor Philipp has published a set of Exercises Quotidiens,
made up of specimens in double notes, octaves and passages taken from
the works. Here skeletonized are the special technical problems. In
these Daily Studies, and his edition of the Etudes, are numerous
examples dealt with practically. For a study of Chopin's ornaments,
Mertke has discussed at length the various editorial procedure in the
matter of attacking the trill in single and double notes, also the
easiest method of executing the flying scud and vapors of the
fioriture. This may be found in No. 179 of the Edition Steingraber.
Philipp's collection is published in Paris by J. Hamelle, and is
prefixed by some interesting remarks of Georges Mathias. Chopin's
portrait in 1833, after Vigneron, is included.

One composition more is to be considered. In 1837 Chopin contributed
the sixth variation of the march from "I Puritani." These variations
were published under the title: "Hexameron: Morceau de Concert. Grandes
Variations de bravoure sur la marche des Puritans de Bellini, composees
pour le concert de Madame la Princesse Belgiojoso au benefice des
pauvres, par MM. Liszt, Thalberg, Pixis, H. Herz, Czerny et Chopin."
Liszt wrote an orchestral accompaniment, never published. His pupil,
Moriz Rosenthal, is the only modern virtuoso who plays the Hexameron in
his concerts, and play it he does with overwhelming splendor. Chopin's
contribution in E major is in his sentimental, salon mood. Musically,
it is the most impressive of this extraordinary mastodonic survival of
the "pianistic" past.

The newly published Fugue--or fugato--in A minor, in two voices, is
from a manuscript in the possession of Natalie Janotha, who probably
got it from the late Princess Czartoryska, a pupil of the composer. The
composition is ineffective, and in spots ugly--particularly in the
stretta--and is no doubt an exercise during the working years with
Elsner. The fact that in the coda the very suspicious octave
pedal-point and trills may be omitted--so the editorial note
urns--leads one to suspect that out of a fragment Janotha has evolved,
Cuvier-like, an entire composition. Chopin as fugue-maker does not
appear in a brilliant light. Is the Polish composer to become a musical
Hugh Conway? Why all these disjecta membra of a sketch-book?

In these youthful works may be found the beginnings of the greater
Chopin, but not his vast subjugation of the purely technical to the
poetic and spiritual. That came later. To the devout Chopinist the
first compositions are so many proofs of the joyful, victorious spirit
of the man whose spleen and pessimism have been wrongfully compared to
Leopardi's and Baudelaire's. Chopin was gay, fairly healthy and
bubbling over with a pretty malice. His first period shows this; it
also shows how thorough and painful the processes by which he evolved
his final style.



XII. THE POLONAISES:--HEROIC HYMNS OF BATTLE.


How is one to reconcile "the want of manliness, moral and
intellectual," which Hadow asserts is "the one great limitation of
Chopin's province," with the power, splendor and courage of the
Polonaises? Here are the cannon buried in flowers of Robert Schumann,
here overwhelming evidences of versatility, virility and passion.
Chopin blinded his critics and admirers alike; a delicate, puny fellow,
he could play the piano on occasion like a devil incarnate. He, too,
had his demon as well as Liszt, and only, as Ehlert puts it,
"theoretical fear" of this spirit driving him over the cliffs of reason
made him curb its antics. After all the couleur de rose portraits and
lollipop miniatures made of him by pensive, poetic persons it is not
possible to conceive Chopin as being irascible and almost brutal. Yet
he was at times even this. "Beethoven was scarce more vehement and
irritable," writes Ehlert. And we remember the stories of friends and
pupils who have seen this slender, refined Pole wrestling with his
wrath as one under the obsession of a fiend. It is no desire to
exaggerate this side of his nature that impels this plain writing.
Chopin left compositions that bear witness to his masculine side.
Diminutive in person, bad-temper became him ill; besides, his whole
education and tastes were opposed to scenes of violence. So this
energy, spleen and raging at fortune found escape in some of his music,
became psychical in its manifestations.

But, you may say, this is feminine hysteria, the impotent cries of an
unmanly, weak nature. Read the E flat minor, the C minor, the A major,
the F sharp minor and the two A flat major Polonaises! Ballades,
Scherzi, Studies, Preludes and the great F minor Fantaisie are
purposely omitted from this awing scheme. Chopin was weak in physique,
but he had the soul of a lion. Allied to the most exquisite poetic
sensibilities--one is reminded here of Balzac's "Ce beau genie est
moins un musicien qu'une dine qui se rend sensible"--there was another
nature, fiery, implacable. He loved Poland, he hated her oppressors.
There is no doubt he idealized his country and her wrongs until the
theme grew out of all proportion. Politically the Poles and Celts rub
shoulders. Niecks points out that if Chopin was "a flattering idealist
as a national poet, as a personal poet he was an uncompromising
realist." So in the polonaises we find two distinct groups: in one the
objective, martial side predominates, in the other is Chopin the moody,
mournful and morose. But in all the Polish element pervades. Barring
the mazurkas, these dances are the most Polish of his works.
Appreciation of Chopin's wide diversity of temperament would have
sparedthe world the false, silly, distorted portraits of him. He had
the warrior in him, even if his mailed fist was seldom used. There are
moments when he discards gloves and soft phrases and deals blows that
reverberate with formidable clangor.

By all means read Liszt's gorgeous description of the Polonaise.
Originating during the last half of the sixteenth century, it was at
first a measured procession of nobles and their womankind to the sound
of music. In the court of Henry of Anjou, in 1574, after his election
to the Polish throne, the Polonaise was born, and throve in the hardy,
warlike atmosphere. It became a dance political, and had words set to
it. Thus came the Kosciuszko, the Oginski, the Moniuszko, the
Kurpinski, and a long list written by composers with names ending in
"ski." It is really a march, a processional dance, grave, moderate,
flowing, and by no means stereotyped. Liszt tells of the capricious
life infused into its courtly measures by the Polish aristocracy. It is
at once the symbol of war and love, a vivid pageant of martial
splendor, a weaving, cadenced, voluptuous dance, the pursuit of shy,
coquettish woman by the fierce warrior.

The Polonaise is in three-four time, with the accent on the second beat
of the bar. In simple binary form--ternary if a trio is added--this
dance has feminine endings to all the principal cadences. The
rhythmical cast of the bass is seldom changed. Despite its essentially
masculine mould, it is given a feminine title; formerly it was called
Polonais. Liszt wrote of it:

"In this form the noblest traditional feelings of ancient Poland are
represented. The Polonaise is the true and purest type of Polish
national character, as in the course of centuries it was developed,
partly through the political position of the kingdom toward east and
west, partly through an undefinable, peculiar, inborn disposition of
the entire race. In the development of the Polonaise everything
co-operated which specifically distinguished the nation from others. In
the Poles of departed times manly resolution was united with glowing
devotion to the object of their love. Their knightly heroism was
sanctioned by high-soaring dignity, and even the laws of gallantry and
the national costume exerted an influence over the turns of this dance.
The Polonaises are the keystone in the development of this form. They
belong to the most beautiful of Chopin inspirations. With their
energetic rhythm they electrify, to the point of excited demonstration,
even the sleepiest indifferentism. Chopin was born too late, and left
his native hearth too early, to be initiated into the original
character of the Polonaise as danced through his own observation. But
what others imparted to him in regard to it was supplemented by his
fancy and his nationality."

Chopin wrote fifteen Polonaises, the authenticity of one in G flat
major being doubted by Niecks. This list includes the Polonaise for
violoncello and piano, op. 3, and the Polonaise, op. 22, for piano and
orchestra. This latter Polonaise is preceded by an andante spianato in
G in six-eight time, and unaccompanied. It is a charming, liquid-toned,
nocturne-like composition, Chopin in his most suave, his most placid
mood: a barcarolle, scarcely a ripple of emotion, disturbs the mirrored
calm of this lake. After sixteen bars of a crudely harmonized tutti
comes the Polonaise in the widely remote key of E flat; it is
brilliant, every note telling, the figuration rich and novel, the
movement spirited and flowing. Perhaps it is too long and lacks relief.
The theme on each re-entrance is varied ornamentally. The second theme,
in C minor, has a Polish and poetic ring, while the coda is effective.
This opus is vivacious, but not characterized by great depth.
Crystalline, gracious, and refined, the piece is stamped "Paris," the
elegant Paris of 1830. Composed in that year and published in July,
1836, it is dedicated to the Baronne D'Est. Chopin introduced it at a
Conservatoire concert for the benefit of Habeneck, April 26, 1835.
This, according to Niecks, was the only time he played the Polonaise
with orchestral accompaniment. It was practically a novelty to New York
when Rafael Joseffy played it here, superlatively well, in 1879.

The orchestral part seems wholly superfluous, for the scoring is not
particularly effective, and there is a rumor that Chopin cannot be held
responsible for it. Xaver Scharwenka made a new instrumentation that is
discreet and extremely well sounding. With excellent tact he has
managed the added accompaniment to the introduction, giving some
thematic work of the slightest texture to the strings, and in the
pretty coda to the wood-wind. A delicately managed allusion is made by
the horns to the second theme of the nocturne in G. There are even five
faint taps of the triangle, and the idyllic atmosphere is never
disturbed. Scharwenka first played this arrangement at a Seidl memorial
concert, in Chickering Hall, New York, April, 1898. Yet I cannot
truthfully say the Polonaise sounds so characteristic as when played
solo.

The C sharp minor Polonaise, op. 26, has had the misfortune of being
sentimentalized to death. What can be more "appassionata" than the
opening with its "grand rhythmical swing"? It is usually played by
timid persons in a sugar-sweet fashion, although fff stares them in the
face. The first three lines are hugely heroic, but the indignation soon
melts away, leaving an apathetic humor; after the theme returns and is
repeated we get a genuine love motif tender enough in all faith
wherewith to woo a princess. On this the Polonaise closes, an odd
ending for such a fiery opening.

In no such mood does No. 2 begin. In E flat minor it is variously known
as the Siberian, the Revolt Polonaise. It breathes defiance and rancor
from the start. What suppressed and threatening rumblings are there!
Volcanic mutterings these:

[Musical score excerpt]

It is a sinister page, and all the more so because of the injunction to
open with pianissimo. One wishes that the shrill, high G flat had been
written in full chords as the theme suffers from a want of massiveness.
Then follows a subsidiary, but the principal subject returns
relentlessly. The episode in B major gives pause for breathing. It has
a hint of Meyerbeer. But again with smothered explosions the Polonaise
proper appears, and all ends in gloom and the impotent clanking of
chains. It is an awe-provoking work, this terrible Polonaise in E flat
minor, op. 26; it was published July, 1836, and is dedicated to M. J.
Dessauer.

Not so the celebrated A major Polonaise, op. 40, Le Militaire. To
Rubinstein this seemed a picture of Poland's greatness, as its
companion in C minor is of Poland's downfall. Although Karasowski and
Kleczynski give to the A flat major Polonaise the honor of suggesting a
well-known story, it is really the A major that provoked it--so the
Polish portrait painter Kwiatowski informed Niecks. The story runs,
that after composing it, Chopin in the dreary watches of the night was
surprised--terrified is a better word--by the opening of his door and
the entrance of a long train of Polish nobles and ladies, richly robed,
who moved slowly by him. Troubled by the ghosts of the past he had
raised, the composer, hollow eyed, fled the apartment. All this must
have been at Majorca, for op. 40 was composed or finished there.
Ailing, weak and unhappy as he was, Chopin had grit enough to file and
polish this brilliant and striking composition into its present shape.
It is the best known and, though the most muscular of his compositions,
it is the most played. It is dedicated to J. Fontana, and was published
November, 1840. This Polonaise has the festive glitter of Weber.

The C minor Polonaise of the same set is a noble, troubled composition,
large in accents and deeply felt. Can anything be more impressive than
this opening?

[Musical score excerpt]

It is indeed Poland's downfall. The Trio in A flat, with its
kaleidoscopic modulations, produces an impression of vague unrest and
suppressed sorrow. There is loftiness of spirit and daring in it.

What can one say new of the tremendous F sharp minor Polonaise? Willeby
calls it noisy! And Stanislaw Przybyszewski--whom Vance Thompson
christened a prestidigious noctambulist-has literally stormed over it.
It is barbaric, it is perhaps pathologic, and of it Liszt has said most
eloquent things. It is for him a dream poem, the "lurid hour that
precedes a hurricane" with a "convulsive shudder at the close." The
opening is very impressive, the nerve-pulp being harassed by the
gradually swelling prelude. There is defiant power in the first theme,
and the constant reference to it betrays the composer's exasperated
mental condition. This tendency to return upon himself, a tormenting
introspection, certainly signifies a grave state. But consider the
musical weight of the work, the recklessly bold outpourings of a mind
almost distraught! There is no greater test for the poet-pianist than
the F sharp minor Polonaise. It is profoundly ironical--what else means
the introduction of that lovely mazurka, "a flower between two
abysses"? This strange dance is ushered in by two of the most enigmatic
pages of Chopin. The A major intermezzo, with its booming cannons and
reverberating overtones, is not easily defensible on the score of form,
yet it unmistakably fits in the picture. The mazurka is full of
interrogation and emotional nuanciren. The return of the tempest is not
long delayed. It bursts, wanes, and with the coda comes sad yearning,
then the savage drama passes tremblingly into the night after fluid and
wavering affirmations; a roar in F sharp and finally a silence that
marks the cessation of an agitating nightmare. No "sabre dance" this,
but a confession from the dark depths of a self-tortured soul. Op. 44
was published November, 1841, and is dedicated to Princesse de Beauvau.
There are few editorial differences. In the eighteenth bar from the
beginning, Kullak, in the second beat, fills out an octave. Not so in
Klindworth nor in the original. At the twentieth bar Klindworth differs
from the original as follows. The Chopin text is the upper one:

[Musical score excerpts]

The A flat Polonaise, op. 53, was published December, 1843, and is said
by Karasowski to have been composed in 1840, after Chopin's return from
Majorca. It is dedicated to A. Leo. This is the one Karasowski calls
the story of Chopin's vision of the antique dead in an isolated tower
of Madame Sand's chateau at Nohant. We have seen this legend disproved
by one who knows. This Polonaise is not as feverish and as exalted as
the previous one. It is, as Kleczynski writes, "the type of a war
song." Named the Heroique, one hears in it Ehlert's "ring of damascene
blade and silver spur." There is imaginative splendor in this thrilling
work, with its thunder of horses' hoofs and fierce challengings. What
fire, what sword thrusts and smoke and clash of mortal conflict! Here
is no psychical presentation, but an objective picture of battle, of
concrete contours, and with a cleaving brilliancy that excites the
blood to boiling pitch. That Chopin ever played it as intended is
incredible; none but the heroes of the keyboard may grasp its dense
chordal masses, its fiery projectiles of tone. But there is something
disturbing, even ghostly, in the strange intermezzo that separates the
trio from the polonaise. Both mist and starlight are in it. Yet the
work is played too fast, and has been nicknamed the "Drum" Polonaise,
losing in majesty and force because of the vanity of virtuosi. The
octaves in E major are spun out as if speed were the sole idea of this
episode. Follow Kleczynski's advice and do not sacrifice the Polonaise
to the octaves. Karl Tausig, so Joseffy and de Lenz assert, played this
Polonaise in an unapproachable manner. Powerful battle tableau as it
is, it may still be presented so as not to shock one's sense of the
euphonious, of the limitations of the instrument. This work becomes
vapid and unheroic when transferred to the orchestra.

The Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat, op. 61, given to the world
September, 1846, is dedicated to Madame A. Veyret. One of three great
Polonaises, it is just beginning to be understood, having been derided
as amorphous, febrile, of little musical moment, even Liszt declaring
that "such pictures possess but little real value to art. ...
Deplorable visions which the artist should admit with extreme
circumspection within the graceful circle of his charmed realm." This
was written in the old-fashioned days, when art was aristocratic and
excluded the "baser" and more painful emotions. For a generation
accustomed to the realism of Richard Strauss, the Fantaisie-Polonaise
seems vaporous and idealistic, withal new. It recalls one of those
enchanted flasks of the magii from which on opening smoke exhales that
gradually shapes itself into fantastic and fearsome figures. This
Polonaise at no time exhibits the solidity of its two predecessors; its
plasticity defies the imprint of the conventional Polonaise, though we
ever feel its rhythms. It may be full of monologues, interspersed
cadenzas, improvised preludes and short phrases, as Kullak suggests,
yet there is unity in the composition, the units of structure and
style. It was music of the future when Chopin composed; it is now music
of the present, as much as Richard Wagner's. But the realism is a
trifle clouded. Here is the duality of Chopin the suffering man and
Chopin the prophet of Poland. Undimmed is his poetic vision--Poland
will be free!--undaunted his soul, though oppressed by a suffering
body. There are in the work throes of agony blended with the trumpet
notes of triumph. And what puzzled our fathers--the shifting lights and
shadows, the restless tonalities--are welcome, for at the beginning of
this new century the chromatic is king. The ending of this Polonaise is
triumphant, recalling in key and climaxing the A flat Ballade. Chopin
is still the captain of his soul--and Poland will be free! Are Celt and
Slav doomed to follow ever the phosphorescent lights of patriotism?
Liszt acknowledges the beauty and grandeur of this last Polonaise,
which unites the characteristics of superb and original manipulation of
the form, the martial and the melancholic.

Opus 71, three posthumous Polonaises, given to the world by Julius
Fontana, are in D minor, published in 1827, B flat major, 1828, and F
minor, 1829. They are interesting to Chopinists. The influence of
Weber, a past master in this form, is felt. Of the three the last in F
minor is the strongest, although if Chopin's age is taken into
consideration, the first, in D minor, is a feat for a lad of eighteen.
I agree with Niecks that the posthumous Polonaise, without opus number,
in G sharp minor, was composed later than 1822--the date given in the
Breitkopf & Hartel edition. It is an artistic conception, and in "light
winged figuration" far more mature than the Chopin of op. 71. Really a
graceful and effective little composition of the florid order, but like
his early music without poetic depth. The Warsaw "Echo Musicale," to
commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Chopin's death, published a
special number in October, 1899, with the picture of a farmer named
Krysiak, born in 1810, the year after the composer. Thereat Finck
remarked that it is not a case of survival of the fittest! A fac-simile
reproduction of a hitherto unpublished Polonaise in A flat, written at
the age of eleven, is also included in this unique number. This tiny
dance shows, it is said, the "characteristic physiognomy" of the
composer. In reality this polacca is thin, a tentative groping after a
form that later was mastered so magnificently by the composer. Here is
the way it begins--the autograph is Chopin's:

[Musical score excerpt]

The Alla Polacca for piano and 'cello, op. 3, was composed in 1829,
while Chopin was on a visit to Prince Radziwill. It is preceded by an
introduction, and is dedicated to Joseph Merk, the 'cellist. Chopin
himself pronounced it a brilliant salon piece. It is now not even that,
for it sounds antiquated and threadbare. The passage work at times
smacks of Chopin and Weber--a hint of the Mouvement Perpetuel--and the
'cello has the better of the bargain. Evidently written for my lady's
chamber.

Two Polonaises remain. One, in B flat minor, was composed in 1826, on
the occasion of the composer's departure for Reinerz. A footnote to the
edition of this rather elegiac piece tells this. Adieu to Guillaume
Kolberg, is the title, and the Trio in D flat is accredited to an air
of "Gazza Ladra," with a sentimental Au Revoir inscribed. Kleczynski
has revised the Gebethner & Wolff edition. The little cadenza in
chromatic double notes on the last page is of a certainty Chopin. But
the Polonaise in G flat major, published by Schott, is doubtful. It has
a shallow ring, a brilliant superficiality that warrants Niecks in
stamping it as a possible compilation. There are traces of the master
throughout, particularly in the E flat minor Trio, but there are some
vile progressions and an air of vulgarity surely not Chopin's. This
dance form, since the death of the great composer, has been chiefly
developed on the virtuoso side. Beethoven, Schubert, Weber, and even
Bach--in his B minor suite for strings and flute--also indulged in this
form. Wagner, as a student, wrote a Polonaise for four hands, in D, and
in Schumann's Papillons there is a charming specimen. Rubinstein
composed a most brilliant and dramatic example in E flat in Le Bal. The
Liszt Polonaises, all said and done, are the most remarkable in design
and execution since Chopin. But they are more Hungarian than Polish.



XIII. MAZURKAS:--DANCES OF THE SOUL


I

"Coquetries, vanities, fantasies, inclinations, elegies, vague
emotions, passions, conquests, struggles upon which the safety or
favors of others depend, all, all meet in this dance."

Thus Liszt. De Lenz further quotes him: "Of the Mazurkas, one must
harness a new pianist of the first rank to each of them." Yet Liszt
told Niecks he did not care much for Chopin's Mazurkas. "One often
meets in them with bars which might just as well be in another place.
But as Chopin puts them perhaps nobody could have put them." Liszt,
despite the rhapsodical praise of his friend, is not always to be
relied upon. Capricious as Chopin, he had days when he disliked not
only the Mazurkas, but all music. He confessed to Niecks that when he
played a half hour for amusement it was Chopin he took up.

There is no more brilliant chapter than this Hungarian's on the dancing
of the Mazurka by the Poles. It is a companion to his equally
sensational description of the Polonaise. He gives a wild, whirling,
highly-colored narrative of the Mazurka, with a coda of extravagant
praise of the beauty and fascination of Polish women. "Angel through
love, demon through fantasy," as Balzac called her. In none of the
piano rhapsodies are there such striking passages to be met as in
Liszt's overwrought, cadenced prose, prose modelled after
Chateaubriand. Niema iak Polki--"nothing equals the Polish women" and
their "divine coquetries;" the Mazurka is their dance--it is the
feminine complement to the heroic and masculine Polonaise.

An English writer describes the dancing of the Mazurka in contemporary
Russia:

  In the salons of St. Petersburg, for instance, the guests
  actually dance; they do not merely shamble to and fro in a
  crowd, crumpling their clothes and ruffling their tempers, and
  call it a set of quadrilles. They have ample space for the
  sweeping movements and complicated figures of all the orthodox
  ball dances, and are generally gifted with sufficient plastic
  grace to carry them out in style. They carefully cultivate
  dances calling for a kind of grace which is almost beyond the
  reach of art. The mazurka is one of the finest of these, and
  it is quite a favorite at balls on the banks of the Neva. It
  needs a good deal of room, one or more spurred officers, and
  grace, grace and grace. The dash with which the partners rush
  forward, the clinking and clattering of spurs as heel clashes
  with heel in mid air, punctuating the staccato of the music,
  the loud thud of boots striking the ground, followed by their
  sibilant slide along the polished floor, then the swift
  springs and sudden bounds, the whirling gyrations and dizzy
  evolutions, the graceful genuflections and quick embraces, and
  all the other intricate and maddening movements to the
  accompaniment of one of Glinka's or Tschaikowsky's
  masterpieces, awaken and mobilize all the antique heroism,
  mediaeval chivalry and wild romance that lie dormant in the
  depths of men's being. There is more genuine pleasure in being
  the spectator of a soul thrilling dance like that than in
  taking an active part in the lifeless make-believes performed
  at society balls in many of the more Western countries of
  Europe.

Absolutely Slavonic, though a local dance of the province of Mazovia,
the Mazurek or Mazurka, is written in three-four time, with the usual
displaced accent in music of Eastern origin. Brodzinski is quoted as
saying that in its primitive form the Mazurek is only a kind of
Krakowiak, "less lively, less sautillant." At its best it is a dancing
anecdote, a story told in a charming variety of steps and gestures. It
is intoxicating, rude, humorous, poetic, above all melancholy. When he
is happiest he sings his saddest, does the Pole. Hence his predilection
for minor modes. The Mazurka is in three-four or three-eight time.
Sometimes the accent is dotted, but this is by no means absolute. Here
is the rhythm most frequently encountered, although Chopin employs
variants and modifications. The first part of the bar has usually the
quicker notes.

The scale is a mixture of major and minor--melodies are encountered
that grew out of a scale shorn of a degree. Occasionally the augmented
second, the Hungarian, is encountered, and skips of a third are of
frequent occurrence. This, with progressions of augmented fourths and
major sevenths, gives to the Mazurkas of Chopin an exotic character
apart from their novel and original content. As was the case with the
Polonaise, Chopin took the framework of the national dance, developed
it, enlarged it and hung upon it his choicest melodies, his most
piquant harmonies. He breaks and varies the conventionalized rhythm in
a half hundred ways, lifting to the plane of a poem the heavy hoofed
peasant dance. But in this idealization he never robs it altogether of
the flavor of the soil. It is, in all its wayward disguises, the Polish
Mazurka, and is with the Polonaise, according to Rubinstein, the only
Polish-reflective music he has made, although "in all of his
compositions we hear him relate rejoicingly of Poland's vanished
greatness, singing, mourning, weeping over Poland's downfall and all
that, in the most beautiful, the most musical, way." Besides the "hard,
inartistic modulations, the startling progressions and abrupt changes
of mood" that jarred on the old-fashioned Moscheles, and dipped in
vitriol the pen of Rellstab, there is in the Mazurkas the greatest
stumbling block of all, the much exploited rubato. Berlioz swore that
Chopin could not play in time--which was not true--and later we shall
see that Meyerbeer thought the same. What to the sensitive critic is a
charming wavering and swaying in the measure--"Chopin leans about
freely within his bars," wrote an English critic--for the classicists
was a rank departure from the time beat. According to Liszt's
description of the rubato "a wind plays in the leaves, Life unfolds and
develops beneath them, but the tree remains the same--that is the
Chopin rubato." Elsewhere, "a tempo agitated, broken, interrupted, a
movement flexible, yet at the same time abrupt and languishing, and
vacillating as the fluctuating breath by which it is agitated." Chopin
was more commonplace in his definition: "Supposing," he explained,
"that a piece lasts a given number of minutes; it may take just so long
to perform the whole, but in detail deviations may differ."

The tempo rubato is probably as old as music itself. It is in Bach, it
was practised by the old Italian singers. Mikuli says that no matter
how free Chopin was in his treatment of the right hand in melody or
arabesque, the left kept strict time. Mozart and not Chopin it was who
first said: "Let your left hand be your conductor and always keep
time." Halle, the pianist, once asserted that he proved Chopin to be
playing four-four instead of three-four measure in a mazurka. Chopin
laughingly admitted that it was a national trait. Halle was bewildered
when he first heard Chopin play, for he did not believe such music
could be represented by musical signs. Still he holds that this style
has been woefully exaggerated by pupils and imitators. If a Beethoven
symphony or a Bach fugue be played with metronomical rigidity it loses
its quintessential flavor. Is it not time the ridiculous falsehoods
about the Chopin rubato be exposed? Naturally abhorring anything that
would do violence to the structural part of his compositions, Chopin
was a very martinet with his pupils if too much license of tempo was
taken. His music needs the greatest lucidity in presentation, and
naturally a certain elasticity of phrasing. Rhythms need not be
distorted, nor need there be absurd and vulgar haltings, silly and
explosive dynamics. Chopin sentimentalized is Chopin butchered. He
loathed false sentiment, and a man whose taste was formed by Bach and
Mozart, who was nurtured by the music of these two giants, could never
have indulged in exaggerated, jerky tempi, in meaningless expression.
Come, let us be done with this fetish of stolen time, of the wonderful
and so seldom comprehended rubato. If you wish to play Chopin, play him
in curves; let there be no angularities of surface, of measure, but in
the name of the Beautiful do not deliver his exquisitely balanced
phrases with the jolting, balky eloquence of a cafe chantant singer.
The very balance and symmetry of the Chopin phraseology are internal;
it must be delivered in a flowing, waving manner, never square or hard,
yet with every accent showing like the supple muscles of an athlete
beneath his skin. Without the skeleton a musical composition is
flaccid, shapeless, weak and without character. Chopin's music needs a
rhythmic sense that to us, fed upon the few simple forms of the West,
seems almost abnormal. The Chopin rubato is rhythm liberated from its
scholastic bonds, but it does not mean anarchy, disorder. What makes
this popular misconception all the more singular is the freedom with
which the classics are now being interpreted. A Beethoven, and even a
Mozart symphony, no longer means a rigorous execution, in which the
measure is ruthlessly hammered out by the conductor, but the melodic
and emotional curve is followed and the tempo fluctuates. Why then is
Chopin singled out as the evil and solitary representative of a vicious
time-beat? Play him as you play Mendelssohn and your Chopin has
evaporated. Again play him lawlessly, with his accentual life
topsy-turvied, and he is no longer Chopin--his caricature only.
Pianists of Slavic descent alone understand the secret of the tempo
rubato.

  I have read in a recently started German periodical that to
  make the performance of Chopin's works pleasing it is
  sufficient to play them with less precision of rhythm than the
  music of other composers. I, on the contrary, do not know a
  single phrase of Chopin's works--including even the freest
  among them--in which the balloon of inspiration, as it moves
  through the air, is not checked by an anchor of rhythm and
  symmetry. Such passages as occur in the F minor Ballade, the B
  flat minor Scherzo--the middle part--the F minor Prelude, and
  even the A flat Impromptu, are not devoid of rhythm. The most
  crooked recitative of the F minor Concerto, as can be easily
  proved, has a fundamental rhythm not at all fantastic, and
  which cannot be dispensed with when playing with orchestra.
  ... Chopin never overdoes fantasy, and is always restrained by
  a pronounced aesthetical instinct. ... Everywhere the
  simplicity of his poetical inspiration and his sobriety saves
  us from extravagance and false pathos.

Kleczynski has this in his second volume, for he enjoyed the invaluable
prompting of Chopin's pupil, the late Princess Marceline Czartoryska.

Niecks quotes Mme. Friederike Stretcher, nee Muller, a pupil, who wrote
of her master: "He required adherence to the strictest rhythm, hated
all lingering and lagging, misplaced rubatos, as well as exaggerated
ritardandos. 'Je vous prie de vous asseoir,' he said, on such an
occasion, with gentle mockery. And it is just in this respect that
people make such terrible mistakes in the execution of his works."

And now to the Mazurkas, which de Lenz said were Heinrich Heine's songs
on the piano. "Chopin was a phoenix of intimacy with the piano. In his
nocturnes and mazurkas he is unrivalled, downright fabulous."

No compositions are so Chopin-ish as the Mazurkas. Ironical, sad,
sweet, joyous, morbid, sour, sane and dreamy, they illustrate what was
said of their composer--"his heart is sad, his mind is gay." That
subtle quality, for an Occidental, enigmatic, which the Poles call Zal,
is in some of them; in others the fun is almost rough and roaring. Zal,
a poisonous word, is a baleful compound of pain, sadness, secret
rancor, revolt. It is a Polish quality and is in the Celtic peoples.
Oppressed nations with a tendency to mad lyrism develop this mental
secretion of the spleen. Liszt writes that "the Zal colors with a
reflection now argent, now ardent the whole of Chopin's works." This
sorrow is the very soil of Chopin's nature. He so confessed when
questioned by Comtesse d'Agoult. Liszt further explains that the
strange word includes in its meanings--for it seems packed with
them--"all the tenderness, all the humility of a regret borne with
resignation and without a murmur;" it also signifies "excitement,
agitation, rancor, revolt full of reproach, premeditated vengeance,
menace never ceasing to threaten if retaliation should ever become
possible, feeding itself meanwhile with a bitter if sterile hatred."

Sterile indeed must be such a consuming passion. Even where his
patriotism became a lyric cry, this Zal tainted the source of Chopin's
joy. It made him irascible, and with his powers of repression, this
smouldering, smothered rage must have well nigh suffocated him, and in
the end proved harmful alike to his person and to his art. As in
certain phases of disease it heightened the beauty of his later work,
unhealthy, feverish, yet beauty without doubt. The pearl is said to be
a morbid secretion, so the spiritual ferment called Zal gave to
Chopin's music its morbid beauty. It is in the B minor Scherzo but not
in the A flat Ballade. The F minor Ballade overflows with it, and so
does the F sharp minor Polonaise, but not the first Impromptu. Its dark
introspection colors many of the preludes and mazurkas, and in the C
sharp minor Scherzo it is in acrid flowering--truly fleurs du mal.
Heine and Baudelaire, two poets far removed from the Slavic, show
traces of the terrible drowsy Zal in their poetry. It is the collective
sorrow and tribal wrath of a down-trodden nation, and the mazurkas for
that reason have ethnic value. As concise, even as curt as the
Preludes, they are for the most part highly polished. They are dancing
preludes, and often tiny single poems of great poetic intensity and
passionate plaint.

Chopin published during his lifetime forty-one Mazurkas in eleven
cahiers of three, four and five numbers. Op. 6, four Mazurkas, and op.
7, five Mazurkas, were published December, 1832. Op. 6 is dedicated to
Comtesse Pauline Plater; op. 7 to Mr. Johns. Op. 17, four Mazurkas, May
4, dedicated to Madame Lina Freppa; op. 24, four Mazurkas, November,
1835, dedicated to Comte de Perthuis; op. 30, four Mazurkas, December,
1837, dedicated to Princesse Czartoryska; op. 33, four Mazurkas,
October, 1838, dedicated to Comtesse Mostowska; op. 41, four Mazurkas,
December, 1840, dedicated to E. Witwicki; op. 50, three Mazurkas,
November, 1841, dedicated to Leon Szmitkowski; op. 56, three Mazurkas,
August, 1844, dedicated to Mile. C. Maberly; op. 59, three Mazurkas,
April, 1846, no dedication, and op. 63, three Mazurkas, September,
1847, dedicated to Comtesse Czosnowska.

Besides there are op. 67 and 68 published by Fontana after Chopin's
death, consisting of eight Mazurkas, and there are a miscellaneous
number, two in A minor, both in the Kullak, Klindworth and Mikuli
editions, one in F sharp major, said to be written by Charles Mayer--in
Klindworth's--and four others, in G, B flat, D and C major. This makes
in all fifty-six to be grouped and analyzed. Niecks thinks there is a
well-defined difference between the Mazurkas as far as op. 41 and those
that follow. In the latter he misses "savage beauties" and spontaneity.
As Chopin gripped the form, as he felt more, suffered more and knew
more, his Mazurkas grew broader, revealed more Weltschmerz, became
elaborate and at times impersonal, but seldom lost the racial "snap"
and hue. They are sonnets in their well-rounded mecanisme, and, as
Schumann says, something new is to be found in each. Toward the last, a
few are blithe and jocund, but they are the exceptions. In the larger
ones the universal quality is felt, but to the detriment of the
intimate, Polish characteristics. These Mazurkas are just what they are
called, only some dance with the heart, others with the heels.
Comprising a large and original portion of Chopin's compositions, they
are the least known. Perhaps when they wander from the map of Poland
they lose some of their native fragrance. Like hardy, simple wild
flowers, they are mostly for the open air, the only out-of-doors music
Chopin ever made. But even in the open, under the moon, the note of
self-torture, of sophisticated sadness is not absent. Do not accuse
Chopin, for this is the sign-manual of his race. The Pole suffers in
song the joy of his sorrow.


II

The F sharp minor Mazurka of op. 6 begins with the characteristic
triplet that plays such a role in the dance. Here we find a Chopin
fuller fledged than in the nocturnes and variations, and probably
because of the form. This Mazurka, first in publication, is melodious,
slightly mournful but of a delightful freshness. The third section with
the appoggiaturas realizes a vivid vision of country couples dancing
determinedly. Who plays No. 2 of this set? It, too, has the "native
wood note wild," with its dominant pedal bass, its slight twang and its
sweet-sad melody in C sharp minor. There is hearty delight in the
major, and how natural it seems. No. 3 in E is still on the village
green, and the boys and girls are romping in the dance. We hear a drone
bass--a favorite device of Chopin--and the chatter of the gossips, the
bustle of a rural festival. The harmonization is rich, the rhythmic
life vital. But in the following one in E flat minor a different note
is sounded. Its harmonies are closer and there is sorrow abroad. The
incessant circling around one idea, as if obsessed by fixed grief, is
used here for the first, but not for the last time, by the composer.

Opus 7 drew attention to Chopin. It was the set that brought down the
thunders of Rellstab, who wrote: "If Mr. Chopin had shown this
composition to a master the latter would, it is to be hoped, have torn
it and thrown it at his feet, which we hereby do symbolically."
Criticism had its amenities in 1833. In a later number of "The Iris,"
in which a caustic notice appeared of the studies, op. 10, Rellstab
printed a letter, signed Chopin, the authenticity of which is extremely
doubtful. In it Chopin is made to call the critic "really a very bad
man." Niecks demonstrates that the Polish pianist was not the writer.
It reads like the effusion of some indignant, well meaning female
friend.

The B flat major Mazurka which opens op. 7 is the best known of these
dances. There is an expansive swing, a laissez-aller to this piece,
with its air of elegance, that are very alluring. The rubato
flourishes, and at the close we hear the footing of the peasant. A
jolly, reckless composition that makes one happy to be alive and
dancing. The next, which begins in A minor, is as if one danced upon
one's grave; a change to major does not deceive, it is too
heavy-hearted. No. 3, in F minor, with its rhythmic pronouncement at
the start, brings us back to earth. The triplet that sets off the
phrase has great significance. Guitar-like is the bass in its snapping
resolution. The section that begins on the dominant of D flat is full
of vigor and imagination; the left hand is given a solo. This Mazurka
has the true ring.

The following one, in A flat, is a sequence of moods. Its assertiveness
soon melts into tenderer hues, and in an episode in A we find much to
ponder. No. 5, in C, consists of three lines. It is a sort of coda to
the opus and full of the echoes of lusty happiness. A silhouette with a
marked profile.

Opus 17, No. 1, in B flat, is bold, chivalric, and I fancy I hear the
swish of the warrior's sabre. The peasant has vanished or else gapes
through the open window while his master goes through the paces of a
courtlier dance. We encounter sequential chords of the seventh, and
their use, rhythmically framed as they are, gives a line of sternness
to the dance. Niecks thinks that the second Mazurka might be called The
Request, so pathetic, playful and persuasive is it. It is in E minor
and has a plaintive, appealing quality. The G major part is very
pretty. In the last lines the passion mounts, but is never shrill.
Kullak notes that in the fifth and sixth bars there is no slur in
certain editions. Klindworth employs it, but marks the B sforzando. A
slur on two notes of the same pitch with Chopin does not always mean a
tie. The A flat Mazurka, No. 3, is pessimistic, threatening and
irritable. Though in the key of E major the trio displays a relentless
sort of humor. The return does not mend matters. A dark page! In A
minor the fourth is called by Szulc the Little Jew. Szulc, who wrote
anecdotes of Chopin and collected them with the title of "Fryderyk
Szopen," told the story to Kleczynski. It is this:

  Chopin did not care for programme music, though more than one
  of his compositions, full of expression and character, may be
  included under that name. Who does not know the A minor
  Mazurka of op. 17, dedicated to Lena Freppa? Itwas already
  known in our country as the "Little Jew" before the departure
  of our artist abroad. It is one of the works of Chopin which
  are characterized by distinct humor. A Jew in slippers and a
  long robe comes out of his inn, and seeing an unfortunate
  peasant, his customer, intoxicated, tumbling about the road
  and uttering complaints, exclaims from his threshold, "What is
  this?" Then, as if by way of contrast to this scene, the gay
  wedding party of a rich burgess comes along on its way from
  church, with shouts of various kinds, accompanied in a lively
  manner by violins and bagpipes. The train passes by, the tipsy
  peasant renews his complaints--the complaints of a man who had
  tried to drown his misery in the glass. The Jew returns
  indoors, shaking his head and again asking, "What was this?"

The story strikes one as being both childish and commonplace. The
Mazurka is rather doleful and there is a little triplet of
interrogation standing sentinel at the fourth bar. It is also the last
phrase. But what of that? I, too, can build you a programme as lofty or
lowly as you please, but it will not be Chopin's. Niecks, for example,
finds this very dance bleak and joyless, of intimate emotional
experience, and with "jarring tones that strike in and pitilessly wake
the dreamer." So there is no predicating the content of music except in
a general way; the mood key may be struck, but in Chopin's case this is
by no means infallible. If I write with confidence it is that begot of
desperation, for I know full well that my version of the story will not
be yours. The A minor Mazurka for me is full of hectic despair,
whatever that may mean, and its serpentining chromatics and apparently
suspended close--on the chord of the sixth--gives an impression of
morbid irresolution modulating into a sort of desperate gayety. Its
tonality accounts for the moods evoked, being indeterminate and
restless.

Opus 24 begins with the G minor Mazurka, a favorite because of its
comparative freedom from technical difficulties. Although in the minor
mode there is mental strength in the piece, with its exotic scale of
the augmented second, and its trio is hearty. In the next, in C, we
find, besides the curious content, a mixture of tonalities--Lydian and
mediaeval church modes. Here the trio is occidental. The entire piece
leaves a vague impression of discontent, and the refrain recalls the
Russian bargemen's songs utilized at various times by Tschaikowsky.
Klindworth uses variants. There is also some editorial differences in
the metronomic markings, Mikuli being, according to Kullak, too slow.
Mention has not been made, as in the studies and preludes, of the tempi
of the Mazurkas. These compositions are so capricious, so varied, that
Chopin, I am sure, did not play any one of them twice alike. They are
creatures of moods, melodic air plants, swinging to the rhythms of any
vagrant breeze. The metronome is for the student, but metronome and
rubato are, as de Lenz would have said, mutually exclusive.

The third Mazurka of op. 24 is in A flat. It is pleasing, not deep, a
real dance with an ornamental coda. But the next! Ah! here is a gem, a
beautiful and exquisitely colored poem. In B flat minor, it sends out
prehensile filaments that entwine and draw us into the centre of a
wondrous melody, laden with rich odors, odors that almost intoxicate.
The figuration is tropical, and when the major is reached and those
glancing thirty-seconds so coyly assail us we realize the seductive
charm of Chopin. The reprise is still more festooned, and it is almost
a relief when the little, tender unison begins with its positive chord
assertions closing the period. Then follows a fascinating, cadenced
step, with lights and shades, sweet melancholy driving before it joy
and being routed itself, until the annunciation of the first theme and
the dying away of the dance, dancers and the solid globe itself, as if
earth had committed suicide for loss of the sun. The last two bars
could have been written only by Chopin. They are ineffable sighs.

And now the chorus of praise begins to mount in burning octaves. The C
minor Mazurka, op. 30, is another of those wonderful, heartfelt
melodies of the master. What can I say of the deepening feeling at the
con anima! It stabs with its pathos. Here is the poet Chopin, the poet
who, with Burns, interprets the simple strains of the folk, who blinds
us with color and rich romanticism like Keats and lifts us Shelley-wise
to transcendental azure. And his only apparatus a keyboard. As Schumann
wrote: "Chopin did not make his appearance by an orchestral army, as a
great genius is accustomed to do; he only possesses a small cohort, but
every soul belongs to him to the last hero."

Eight lines is this dance, yet its meanings are almost endless. No. 2,
in B minor, is called The Cuckoo by Kleczynski. It is sprightly and
with the lilt, notwithstanding its subtle progressions, of Mazovia. No.
3 in D flat is all animation, brightness and a determination to stay
out the dance. The alternate major-minor of the theme is truly Polish.
The graceful trio and canorous brilliancy of this dance make it a
favored number. The ending is epigrammatic. It comes so suddenly upon
us, our cortical cells pealing with the minor, that its very abruptness
is witty. One can see Chopin making a mocking moue as he wrote it.
Tschaikowsky borrowed the effect for the conclusion of the Chinoise in
a miniature orchestral suite. The fourth of this opus is in C sharp
minor. Again I feel like letting loose the dogs of enthusiasm. The
sharp rhythms and solid build of this ample work give it a massive
character. It is one of the big Mazurkas, and the ending, raw as it
is--consecutive, bare-faced fifths and sevenths--compasses its intended
meaning.

Opus 33 is a popular set. It begins with one in G sharp minor, which is
curt and rather depressing. The relief in B major is less real than it
seems--on paper. Moody, withal a tender-hearted Mazurka. No. 2, in D,
is bustling, graceful and full of unrestrained vitality. Bright and not
particularly profound, it was successfully arranged for voice by
Viardot-Garcia. The third of the opus, in C, is the one described by de
Lenz as almost precipitating a violent row between Chopin and
Meyerbeer. He had christened it the Epitaph of the Idea.

"Two-four," said Meyerbeer, after de Lenz played it. "Three-four,"
answered Chopin, flushing angrily. "Let me have it for a ballet in my
new opera and I'll show you," retorted Meyerbeer. "It's three-four,"
scolded Chopin, and played it himself. De Lenz says they parted coolly,
each holding to his opinion. Later, in St. Petersburg, Meyerbeer met
this gossip and told him that he loved Chopin. "I know no pianist, no
composer for the piano like him." Meyerbeer was wrong in his idea of
the tempo. Though Chopin slurs the last beat, it is there,
nevertheless. This Mazurka is only four lines long and is charming, as
charming as the brief specimen in the Preludes. The next Mazurka is
another famous warhorse. In B minor, it is full of veiled coquetries,
hazardous mood transitions, growling recitatives and smothered plaints.
The continual return to the theme gives rise to all manner of fanciful
programmes. One of the most characteristic is by the Polish poet
Zelenski, who, so Kleczynski relates, wrote a humorous poem on this
mazurka. For him it is a domestic comedy in which a drunken peasant and
his much abused wife enact a little scene. Returning home the worse for
wear he sings "Oj ta dana"--"Oh dear me"--and rumbles in the bass in a
figure that answers the treble. His wife reproaching him, he strikes
her. Here we are in B flat. She laments her fate in B major. Then her
husband shouts: "Be quiet, old vixen." This is given in the octaves, a
genuine dialogue, the wife tartly answering: "Shan't be quiet." The
gruff grumbling in the bass is heard, an imitation of the above, when
suddenly the man cries out, the last eight bars of the composition:
"Kitty, Kitty come--do come here, I forgive you," which is decidedly
masculine in its magnanimity.

If one does not care for the rather coarse realism of this reading
Kleczynski offers the poem of Ujejeski, called The Dragoon. A soldier
flatters a girl at the inn. She flies from him, and her lover,
believing she has deceived him, despairingly drowns himself. The
ending, with its "Ring, ring, ring the bell there! Horses carry me to
the depths," has more poetic contour than the other. Without grafting
any libretto on it, this Mazurka is a beautiful tone-piece in itself.
Its theme is delicately mournful and the subject, in B major, simply
entrancing in its broad, flowing melody.

In C sharp minor, op. 41, is a Mazurka that is beloved of me. Its scale
is exotic, its rhythm convincing, its tune a little saddened by life,
but courage never fails. This theme sounds persistently, in the middle
voices, in the bass, and at the close in full harmonies, unisons,
giving it a startling effect. Octaves take it up in profile until it
vanishes. Here is the very apotheosis of rhythm. No. 2, in E minor, is
not very resolute of heart. It was composed, so Niecks avers, at Palma,
when Chopin's health fully accounts for the depressed character of the
piece, for it is sad to the point of tears. Of op. 41 he wrote to
Fontana from Nohant in 1839, "You know I have four new Mazurkas, one
from Palma, in E minor; three from here, in B major, A flat major and C
sharp minor. They seem to me pretty, as the youngest children usually
do when the parents grow old." No. 3 is a vigorous, sonorous dance. No.
4, over which the editors deviate on the serious matter of text, in A
flat, is for the concert room, and is allied to several of his gracious
Valses. Playful and decorative, but not profound in feeling.

Opus 50, the first in G major, is healthy and vivacious. Good humor
predominates. Kullak notes that in some editions it closes pianissimo,
which seems a little out of drawing. No. 2 is charming. In A flat, it
is a perfect specimen of the aristocratic Mazurka. The D flat Trio, the
answering episode in B flat minor, and the grace of the return make
this one to be studied and treasured. De Lenz finds Bach-ian influences
in the following, in C sharp minor: "It begins as though written for
the organ, and ends in an exclusive salon; it does him credit and is
worked out more fully than the others. Chopin was much pleased when I
told him that in the construction of this Mazurka the passage from E
major to F major was the same as that in the Agatha aria in
'Freischutz.'" De Lenz refers to the opening Bach-like mutations. The
texture of this dance is closer and finer spun than any we have
encountered. Perhaps spontaneity is impaired, mais que voulez vous?
Chopin was bound to develop, and his Mazurkas, fragile and constricted
as is the form, were sure to show a like record of spiritual and
intellectual growth.

Opus 56, in B major, is elaborate, even in its beginning. There is
decoration in the ritornelle in E flat and one feels the absence of a
compensating emotion, despite the display of contrapuntal skill. Very
virtuoso-like, but not so intimate as some of the others. Karasowski
selects No. 2 in C as an illustration. "It is as though the composer
had sought for the moment to divert himself with narcotic intoxication
only to fall back the more deeply into his original gloom." There is
the peasant in the first bars in C, but the A minor and what follows
soon disturb the air of bonhomie. Theoretical ease is in the imitative
passages; Chopin is now master of his tools. The third Mazurka of op.
56 is in C minor. It is quite long and does not give the impression of
a whole. With the exception of a short break in B major, it is composed
with the head, not the heart, nor yet the heels.

Not unlike, in its sturdy affirmation, the one in C sharp minor, op.
41, is the next Mazurka, in A minor, op. 59. That Chopin did not repeat
himself is an artistic miracle. A subtle turn takes us off the familiar
road to some strange glade, wherein the flowers are rare in scent and
odor. This Mazurka, like the one that follows, has a dim resemblance to
others, yet there is always a novel point of departure, a fresh
harmony, a sudden melody or an unexpected ending. Hadow, for example,
thinks the A flat of this opus the most beautiful of them all. In it he
finds legitimately used the repetition in various shapes of a single
phrase. To me this Mazurka seems but an amplification, an elaboration
of the lovely one in the same key, op. 50, No. 2. The double sixths and
more complicated phraseology do not render the later superior to the
early Mazurka, yet there is no gainsaying the fact that this is a noble
composition. But the next, in F sharp minor, despite its rather
saturnine gaze, is stronger in interest, if not in workmanship. While
it lacks Niecks' beautes sauvages, is it not far loftier in conception
and execution than op. 6, in F sharp minor? The inevitable triplet
appears in the third bar, and is a hero throughout. Oh, here is charm
for you! Read the close of the section in F sharp major. In the major
it ends, the triplet fading away at last, a mere shadow, a turn on D
sharp, but victor to the last. Chopin is at the summit of his
invention. Time and tune, that wait for no man, are now his bond
slaves. Pathos, delicacy, boldness, a measured melancholy and the art
of euphonious presentiment of all these, and many factors more, stamp
this Mazurka a masterpiece.

Niecks believes there is a return of the early freshness and poetry in
the last three Mazurkas, op. 63. "They are, indeed, teeming with
interesting matter," he writes. "Looked at from the musician's point of
view, how much do we not see novel and strange, beautiful and
fascinating withal? Sharp dissonances, chromatic passing notes,
suspensions and anticipations, displacement of accent, progressions of
perfect fifths--the horror of schoolmen--sudden turns and unexpected
digressions that are so unaccountable, so out of the line of logical
sequence, that one's following the composer is beset with difficulties.
But all this is a means to an end, the expression of an individuality
with its intimate experiences. The emotional content of many of these
trifles--trifles if considered only by their size--is really
stupendous." Spoken like a brave man and not a pedant!

Full of vitality is the first number of op. 63. In B major, it is
sufficiently various in figuration and rhythmical life to single it
from its fellows. The next, in F minor, has a more elegiac ring. Brief
and not difficult of matter or manner is this dance. The third, of
winning beauty, is in C sharp minor--surely a pendant to the C sharp
minor Valse. I defy anyone to withstand the pleading, eloquent voice of
this Mazurka. Slender in technical configuration, yet it impressed
Louis Ehlert so much that he was impelled to write: "A more perfect
canon in the octave could not have been written by one who had grown
gray in the learned arts."

The four Mazurkas, published posthumously in 1855, that comprise op. 67
were composed by Chopin at various dates. To the first, in G,
Klindworth affixes 1849 as the year of composition. Niecks gives a much
earlier date, 1835. I fancy the latter is correct, as the piece sounds
like one of Chopin's more youthful efforts. It is jolly and rather
superficial. The next, in G minor, is familiar. It is very pretty, and
its date is set down by Niecks as 1849, while Klindworth gives 1835.
Here again Niecks is correct, although I suspect that Klindworth
transposed his figures accidentally. No. 3, in C, was composed in 1835.
On this both biographer and editor agree. It is certainly an early
effusion of no great value, although a good dancing tune. No. 4 A
minor, of this opus, composed in 1846, is more mature, but in no wise
remarkable.

Opus 68, the second of the Fontana set, was composed in 1830. The
first, in C, is commonplace; the one in A minor, composed in 1827, is
much better, being lighter and well made; the third, in F major, 1830,
weak and trivial, and the fourth, in F minor, 1849, interesting because
it is said by Julius Fontana to be Chopin's last composition. He put it
on paper a short time before his death, but was too ill to try it at
the piano. It is certainly morbid in its sick insistence in phrase
repetition, close harmonies and wild departure--in A--from the first
figure. But it completes the gloomy and sardonic loop, and we wish,
after playing this veritable song of the tomb, that we had parted from
Chopin in health, not disease. This page is full of the premonitions of
decay. Too weak and faltering to be febrile, Chopin is here a debile,
prematurely exhausted young man. There are a few accents of a forced
gayety, but they are swallowed up in the mists of dissolution--the
dissolution of one of the most sensitive brains ever wrought by nature.
Here we may echo, without any savor of Liszt's condescension or de
Lenz's irony: "Pauvre Frederic!"

Klindworth and Kullak have different ideas concerning the end of this
Mazurka. Both are correct. Kullak, Klindworth and Mikuli include in
their editions two Mazurkas in A minor. Neither is impressive. One, the
date of composition unknown, is dedicated "a son ami Emile Gaillard;"
the other first appeared in a musical publication of Schotts' about
1842 or 1843--according to Niecks. Of this set I prefer the former; it
abounds in octaves and ends with a long trill There is in the
Klindworth edition a Mazurka, the last in the set, in the key of F
sharp. It is so un-Chopinish and artificial that the doubts of the
pianist Ernst Pauer were aroused as to its authenticity. On
inquiry--Niecks quotes from the London monthly "Musical Record," July
1, 1882--Pauer discovered that the piece was identical with a Mazurka
by Charles Mayer. Gotthard being the publisher of the alleged Chopin
Mazurka, declared he bought the manuscript from a Polish
countess--possibly one of the fifty in whose arms Chopin died--and that
the lady parted with Chopin's autograph because of her dire poverty. It
is, of course, a clear case of forgery.

Of the four early Mazurkas, in G major and B flat major--dating from
1825--D major--composed in 1829-30, but remodelled in 1832--and C
major--of 1833--the latter is the most characteristic. The G major is
of slight worth. As Niecks remarks, it contains a harmonic error. The
one in B flat starts out with a phrase that recalls the A minor
Mazurka, numbered 45 in the Breitkopf & Hartel edition. This B flat
Mazurka, early as it was composed, is, nevertheless, pretty. There are
breadth and decision in the C major Mazurka. The recasting improves the
D major Mazurka. Its trio is lifted an octave and the doubling of notes
throughout gives more weight and richness.

"In the minor key laughs and cries, dances and mourns the Slav," says
Dr. J. Schucht in his monograph on Chopin. Chopin here reveals not only
his nationality, but his own fascinating and enigmatic individuality.
Within the tremulous spaces of this immature dance is enacted the play
of a human soul, a soul that voices the sorrow and revolt of a dying
race, of a dying poet. They are epigrammatic, fluctuating, crazy, and
tender, these Mazurkas, and some of them have a soft, melancholy light,
as if shining through alabaster--true corpse light leading to a morass
of doubt and terror. But a fantastic, dishevelled, debonair spirit is
the guide, and to him we abandon ourselves in these precise and
vertiginous dances.



XIV. CHOPIN THE CONQUEROR


The Scherzi of Chopin are of his own creation; the type as illustrated
by Beethoven and Mendelssohn had no meaning for him. Whether in earnest
or serious jest, Chopin pitched on a title that is widely misleading
when the content is considered. The Beethoven Scherzo is full of a
robust sort of humor. In it he is seldom poetical, frequently given to
gossip, and at times he hints at the mystery of life. The demoniacal
element, the fierce jollity that mocks itself, the almost titanic anger
of Chopin would not have been regarded by the composer of the Eroica
Symphony as adapted to the form. The Pole practically built up a new
musical structure, boldly called it a Scherzo, and, as in the case of
the Ballades, poured into its elastic mould most disturbing and
incomparable music.

Chopin seldom compasses sublimity. His arrows are tipped with fire, yet
they do not fly far. But in some of his music he skirts the regions
where abide the gods. In at least one Scherzo, in one Ballade, in the F
minor Fantaisie, in the first two movements of the B flat minor Sonata,
in several of the Eludes, and in one of the Preludes, he compasses
grandeur. Individuality of utterance, beauty of utterance, and the
eloquence we call divine are his; criticism then bows its questioning
brows before this anointed one. In the Scherzi Chopin is often prophet
as well as poet. He fumes and frets, but upon his countenance is the
precious fury of the sibyls. We see the soul that suffers from secret
convulsions, but forgive the writhing for the music made. These four
Scherzi are psychical records, confessions committed to paper of
outpourings that never could have passed the lips. From these alone we
may almost reconstruct the real Chopin, the inner Chopin, whose
conventional exterior so ill prepared the world for the tragic issues
of his music.

The first Scherzo is a fair model. There are a few bars of
introduction--the porch, as Niecks would call it--a principal subject,
a trio, a short working-out section, a skilful return to the opening
theme, and an elaborate coda. This edifice, not architecturally
flawless, is better adapted to the florid beauties of Byzantine
treatment than to the severe Hellenic line. Yet Chopin gave it dignity,
largeness and a classic massiveness. The interior is romantic, is
modern, personal, but the facade shows gleaming minarets, the strangely
builded shapes of the Orient. This B minor Scherzo has the acid note of
sorrow and revolt, yet the complex figuration never wavers. The walls
stand firm despite the hurricane blowing through and around them.
Ehlert finds this Scherzo tornadic. It is gusty, and the hurry and
over-emphasis do not endear it to the pianist. The first pages are
filled with wrathful sounds, there is much tossing of hands and cries
to heaven, calling down its fire and brimstone. A climax mounts to a
fine frenzy until the lyric intermezzo in B is reached. Here love
chants with honeyed tongues. The widely dispersed figure of the melody
has an entrancing tenderness. But peace does not long prevail against
the powers of Eblis, and infernal is the Wilde Jagd of the finale.
After shrillest of dissonances, a chromatic uproar pilots the doomed
one across this desperate Styx.

What Chopin's programme was we can but guess. He may have outlined the
composition in a moment of great ebullition, a time of soul laceration
arising from a cat scratch or a quarrel with Maurice Sand in the garden
over the possession of the goat cart.

The Klindworth edition is preferable. Kullak follows his example in
using the double note stems in the B major part. He gives the A sharp
in the bass six bars before the return of the first motif. Klindworth,
and other editions, prescribe A natural, which is not so effective.
This Scherzo might profit by being played without the repeats. The
chromatic interlocked octaves at the close are very striking.

I find at times--as my mood changes--something almost repellant in the
B minor Scherzo. It does not present the frank physiognomy of the
second Scherzo, op. 31, in B flat minor. Ehlert cries that it was
composed in a blessed hour, although de Lenz quotes Chopin as saying of
the opening, "It must be a charnel house." The defiant challenge of the
beginning has no savor of the scorn and drastic mockery of its
fore-runner. We are conscious that tragedy impends, that after the
prologue may follow fast catastrophe. Yet it is not feared with all the
portentous thunder of its index. Nor are we deceived. A melody of
winning distinction unrolls before us. It has a noble tone, is of a
noble type. Without relaxing pace it passes and drops like a
thunderbolt into the bowels of the earth. Again the story is told, and
tarrying not at all we are led to a most delectable spot in the key of
A major. This trio is marked by genius. Can anything be more bewitching
than the episode in C sharp minor merging into E major, with the
overflow at the close? The fantasy is notable for variety of tonality,
freedom in rhythmical incidents and genuine power. The coda is dizzy
and overwhelming. For Schumann this Scherzo is Byronic in tenderness
and boldness. Karasowski speaks of its Shakespearian humor, and indeed
it is a very human and lovable piece of art. It holds richer, warmer,
redder blood than the other three and like the A flat Ballade, is
beloved of the public. But then it is easier to understand.

Opus 39, the third Scherzo in C sharp minor, was composed or finished
at Majorca and is the most dramatic of the set. I confess to see no
littleness in the polished phrases, though irony lurks in its bars and
there is fever in its glance--a glance full of enigmatic and luring
scorn. I heartily agree with Hadow, who finds the work clear cut and of
exact balance. And noting that Chopin founded whole paragraphs "either
on a single phrase repeated in similar shapes or on two phrases in
alternation"--a primitive practice in Polish folksongs--he asserts that
"Beethoven does not attain the lucidity of his style by such
parallelism of phraseology," but admits that Chopin's methods made for
"clearness and precision...may be regarded as characteristic of the
national manner." A thoroughly personal characteristic too.

There is virile clangor in the firmly struck octaves of the opening
pages. No hesitating, morbid view of life, but rank, harsh
assertiveness, not untinged with splenetic anger. The chorale of the
trio is admirably devised and carried out. Its piety is a bit of
liturgical make-believe. The contrasts here are most artistic--sonorous
harmonies set off by broken chords that deliciously tinkle. There is a
coda of frenetic movement and the end is in major, a surprising
conclusion when considering all that has gone before. Never to become
the property of the profane, the C sharp minor Scherzo, notwithstanding
its marked asperities and agitated moments, is a great work of art.
Without the inner freedom of its predecessor, it is more sober and
self-contained than the B minor Scherzo.

The fourth Scherzo, op. 54, is in the key of E. Built up by a series of
cunning touches and climaxes and without the mood depth or variety of
its brethren, it is more truly a Scherzo than any of them. It has
tripping lightness and there is sunshine imprisoned behind its open
bars. Of it Schumann could not ask, "How is gravity to clothe itself if
jest goes about in dark veils?" Here, then, is intellectual refinement
and jesting of a superior sort. Niecks thinks it fragmentary. I find
the fairy-like measures delightful after the doleful mutterings of some
of the other Scherzi. There is the same "spirit of opposition," but of
arrogance none. The C sharp minor theme is of lyric beauty, the coda
with its scales, brilliant. It seems to be banned by classicists and
Chopin worshippers alike. The agnostic attitude is not yet dead in the
piano playing world.

Rubinstein most admired the first two Scherzi. The B minor has been
criticised for being too much in the etude vein. But with all their
shortcomings these compositions are without peer in the literature of
the piano.

They were published and dedicated as follows: Op. 20, February, 1835,
to M. T. Albrecht; op. 31, December, 1837, Comtesse de Furstenstein;
op. 39, October, 1840, Adolph Gutmann, and op. 54, December, 1843,
Mile, de Caraman. De Lenz relates that Chopin dedicated the C sharp
minor Scherzo to his pupil Gutmann, because this giant, with a prize
fighter's fist, could "knock a hole in the table" with a certain chord
for the left hand--sixth measure from the beginning--and adds quite
naively: "Nothing more was ever heard of this Gutmann--he was a
discovery of Chopin's." Chopin died in this same Gutmann's arms, and,
despite de Lenz, Gutmann was in evidence until his death as a "favorite
pupil."

And now we have reached the grandest--oh, banal and abused word--of
Chopin's compositions, the Fantaisie in F minor, op. 49. Robert
Schumann, after remarking that the cosmopolitan must "sacrifice the
small interests of the soil on which he was born," notices that
Chopin's later works "begin to lose something of their especial
Sarmatian physiognomy, to approach partly more nearly the universal
ideal cultivated by the divine Greeks which we find again in Mozart."
The F minor Fantaisie has hardly the Mozartian serenity, but parades a
formal beauty--not disfigured by an excess of violence, either personal
or patriotic, and its melodies, if restless by melancholy, are of
surprising nobility and dramatic grandeur. Without including the
Beethoven Sonatas, not strictly born of the instrument, I do not fear
to maintain that this Fantaisie is one of the greatest of piano pieces.
Never properly appreciated by pianists, critics, or public, it is,
after more than a half century of neglect, being understood at last. It
was published November, 1843, and probably composed at Nohant, as a
letter of the composer indicates. The dedication is to Princesse C. de
Souzzo--these interminable countesses and princesses of Chopin! For
Niecks, who could not at first discern its worth, it suggests a Titan
in commotion. It is Titanic; the torso of some Faust-like dream, it is
Chopin's Faust. A macabre march, containing some dangerous dissonances,
gravely ushers us to ascending staircases of triplets, only to
precipitate us to the very abysses of the piano. That first subject, is
it not almost as ethically puissant and passionate as Beethoven in his
F minor Sonata? Chopin's lack of tenaciousness is visible here.
Beethoven would have built a cathedral on such a foundational scheme,
but Chopin, ever prodigal in his melody making, dashes impetuously to
the A flat episode, that heroic love chant, erroneously marked dolce
and played with the effeminacies of a salon. Three times does it
resound in this strange Hall of Glancing Mirrors, yet not once should
it be caressed. The bronze fingers of a Tausig are needed. Now are
arching the triplets to the great, thrilling song, beginning in C
minor, and then the octaves, in contrary motion, split wide asunder the
very earth. After terrific chordal reverberations there is the rapid
retreat of vague armies, and once again is begun the ascent of the
rolling triplets to inaccessible heights, and the first theme sounds in
C minor. The modulation lifts to G flat, only to drop to abysmal
depths. What mighty, desperate cause is being espoused? When peace is
presaged in the key of B, is this the prize for which strive these
agonized hosts? Is some forlorn princess locked behind these solemn,
inaccessible bars? For a few moments there is contentment beyond all
price. Then the warring tribe of triplets recommence, after clamorous G
flat octaves reeling from the stars to the sea of the first theme.
Another rush into D flat ensues, the song of C minor reappears in F
minor, and the miracle is repeated. Oracular octaves quake the
cellarage of the palace, the warriors hurry by, their measured tramp is
audible after they vanish, and the triplets obscure their retreat with
chromatic vapors. Then an adagio in this fantastic old world tale--the
curtain prepares to descend--a faint, sweet voice sings a short,
appealing cadenza, and after billowing A flat arpeggios, soft, great
hummocks of tone, two giant chords are sounded, and the Ballade of Love
and War is over. Who conquers? Is the Lady with the Green Eyes and Moon
White Face rescued? Or is all this a De Quincey's Dream Fugue
translated into tone--a sonorous, awesome vision? Like De Quincey, it
suggests the apparition of the empire of fear, the fear that is
secretly felt with dreams, wherein the spirit expands to the drummings
of infinite space.

Alas! for the validity of subjective criticism. Franz Liszt told
Vladimir de Pachmann the programme of the Fantaisie, as related to him
by Chopin. At the close of one desperate, immemorial day, the pianist
was crooning at the piano, his spirits vastly depressed. Suddenly came
a knocking at his door, a Poe-like, sinister tapping, which he at once
rhythmically echoed upon the keyboard, his phono-motor centre being
unusually sensitive. The first two bars of the Fantaisie describe these
rappings, just as the third and fourth stand for Chopin's musical
invitation, entrez, entrez! This is all repeated until the doors wide
open swinging admit Liszt, George Sand, Madame Camille Pleyel nee Mock,
and others. To the solemn measures of the march they enter, and range
themselves about Chopin, who after the agitated triplets begins his
complaint in the mysterious song in F minor. But Sand, with whom he has
quarrelled, falls before him on her knees and pleads for pardon.
Straightway the chant merges into the appealing A flat section--this
sends skyward my theory of its interpretation--and from C minor the
current becomes more tempestuous until the climax is reached and to the
second march the intruders rapidly vanish. The remainder of the work,
with the exception of the Lento Sostenuto in B--where it is to be hoped
Chopin's perturbed soul finds momentary peace--is largely repetition
and development. This far from ideal reading is an authoritative one,
coming as it does from Chopin by way of Liszt. I console myself for its
rather commonplace character with the notion that perhaps in the
re-telling the story has caught some personal cadenzas of the two
historians. In any case I shall cling to my own version.

The F minor Fantaisie will mean many things to many people. Chopin has
never before maintained so artistically, so free from delirium, such a
level of strong passion, mental power and exalted euphony. It is his
largest canvas, and though there are no long-breathed periods such as
in the B flat minor Scherzo, the phraseology is amply broad, without
padding of paragraphs. The rapt interest is not relaxed until the final
bar. This transcendental work more nearly approaches Beethoven in its
unity, its formal rectitude and its brave economy of thematic material.

While few men have dared to unlock their hearts thus, Chopin is not so
intimate here as in the mazurkas. But the pulse beats ardently in the
tissues of this composition. As art for art, it is less perfect; the
gain is on the human side. Nearing his end Chopin discerned, with ever
widening, ever brighter vision, the great heart throb of the universe.
Master of his material, if not of his mortal tenement, he passionately
strove to shape his dreams into abiding sounds. He did not always
succeed, but his victories are the precious prizes of mankind. One is
loath to believe that the echo of Chopin's magic music can ever fall
upon unheeding ears. He may become old-fashioned, but, like Mozart, he
will remain eternally beautiful.



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  Chopin, in A History of the Pianoforte and Pianoforte Players,
  by Oscar Bie. New York, E. P. Dutton & Co.

  Chopin, in Rubinstein's Die Meister des Klaviers. New York,
  Schuberth.

  Chopin, in Berliner Tageblatt, by Dr. Leopold Schmidt.

  Chopin Juzgada por Schumann, in Gaceta Musical, City of
  Mexico.

  The Chopin Rubato and so-called Chopin Fingering, by John
  Kautz, in The Musical Record, Boston, 1898.

  Franz Liszt, by Lina Ramann. Breitkopf & Hartel.

  Preface to Mikuli Edition by Carl Mikuli.

  The AEsthetics of Pianoforte Playing, by Adolf Kullak. New
  York, G. Schirmer.

  Chopin und die Frauen, by Eugen Isolani. Berliner Courier,
  October 17, 1899.

  Chopin, by W. J. Henderson in The New York Times, October 29,
  1899.

  A Note on Chopin, by L. A. Corbeille, and Chopin, An
  Irresponsibility, by "Israfel," in The Dome, October, 1899,
  London, Unicorn Press.

  Chopin and the Romantics, by John F. Runciman in The Saturday
  Review (London), February 10,1900.

  Chopiniana: in the February, 1900, issue of the London Monthly
  Musical Record, including some new letters of Chopin's.

  La maladie de Chopin (d'apres des documents inedits), par
  Cabanes. Chronique medicale, Paris, 1899, vi., No. 21, 673-685.

  Also recollections in letters and diaries of Moscheles,
  Hiller, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Henselt, Schumann, Rubinstein,
  Mathias, Legouve, Tarnowski, Grenier and others.

  The author begs to acknowledge the kind suggestions and
  assistance of Rafael Joseffy, Vladimir de Pachmann, Moriz
  Rosenthal, Jaraslow de Zielinski, Edwin W. Morse, Edward E.
  Ziegler and Ignace Jan Paderewski.



BOOKS BY JAMES HUNEKER


What Maeterlinck wrote:

  Maurice Maeterlinck wrote thus of James Huneker: "Do you know
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