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painter ; Anton Barcinski, Professor at the Poly-
technic school since 1823, teacher in the host's
pension, and afterwards his son-in-law ; Jawurek, a
talented musician ; and last of all Chopin's two
masters, Zywny and Eisner.

Adalbert Zywny, born in Bohemia, in 1756, came
to Poland in the reign of Stanislas Augustus.
His first appointment was that of music teacher
in the house of Prince Casimir Sapiecha; then he
settled in Warsaw as teacher of the piano. He
died in 3840.

Of Eisner I must speak more particularly, be-
cause, as Chopin's master for counterpoint, he first
discovered his pupil's creative originality, and by



JOSEPH ELSNER. I5

guidance and counsel assisted considerably in the
development of his talent for composition. Frederic,
therefore, not only loved and valued Eisner as a
teacher, but also as an intimate friend. As will be
seen, his name frequently occurs in Chopin's letters.
In Germany Eisner is almost unknown as a composer,
although he rendered good service to church music.

Joseph Xaver Eisner was born June 29th, 1769,
at Grottkau, in Silesia. His father, who was an
instrument maker, wished him to study medicine,
but Joseph preferred to devote himself to music.
Maar, band-master at Breslau, gave him his first
instruction in counterpoint. In 1792, Eisner went
to Poland, holding the post of band-master and com-
poser at the National Theatre, first at Lemberg and
then in Warsaw. In 1816, after the proclamation
of the institution of the new kingdom by the
Congress of Vienna, he was entrusted with the
establishment of a school for organists, and six
years after with the direction of the Conservatoire.

Besides the German operas, " Die Seltenen Brii-
der," " Der Verkleidete Sultan," and " II Flauto
Magico," which Eisner composed at Lemberg, he
wrote twenty-seven Polish operas and melodramas,
a great number of arias, cantatas, string quartets,
and three symphonies, besides several ecclesiastical
works, among which the oratorio, " Das Leiden
Christi " was several times performed in Warsaw,
and very favourably received. Its wealth of melody,
no less than its technical working, renders this one



l6 LIFE OF CHOPIN.

of the chief, and, perhaps, the most successful of
Eisner's compositions. He also rendered great
services to Poland, as teacher and director at the
Conservatoire. He trained a considerable number
of talented young men, who afterwards became
excellent musicians, and otherwise promoted the
cultivation of music in the noblest manner. He
died April i8th, 1854.

A magnificent monument, raised by public sub-
scription, adorns his tomb in Warsaw.

Titled landowners were also included in the circle
of Nicholas Chopin's friends. Most of them had
been his pupils, or had become acquainted with him
through their sons. In later years, when Frederic's
rare and brilliant talents were more fully developed,
his father counted among his guests not only savants,
poets, and artists, but the elite of the aristocracy,
who considered it an honour to become acquainted
with this interesting and highly esteemed family,
and delighted in admiring the young artist for whom
a glorious future was already prophesied. These
were bright and happy days passed by Chopin in
his father's house.




CHAPTER II.



FREDERICS CHILDHOOD. HIS FIRST

APPEARANCE IN PUBLIC.

IMPROVISATIONS. POLISH NATIONAL SONGS.






March ist, 1809, Frederic Frangois Chopin
was born, at Zelazowa Wola, a village six
miles from Warsaw, belonging to Count Skarbek, in
whose house Nicholas Chopin was tutor.*

In his earliest years Frederic was so very sensitive
tly music that he wept whenever he heard it, and
was with difficulty restrained. This powerful in-
fluence was not a painful one ; for Frederic soon
showed such a decided love for the piano, that his
parents obtained instruction for him, selecting as
his master the well-known and excellent teacher,
Albert Zywny, of Warsaw. As Frederic was so
young, his elder sister shared the music lessons.

Zywny was the first and only director of Frederic's
precocious musical talents, for the child began to



^'' All the foreign biographers of Chopin have mistaken the
date of his birth. Even on his monument at Pere la Chaise, in
Paris, 1810 is engraven instead of i8og, an error which ought
to have been rectified long ago.

B



l8 LIFE OF CHOPIN.

compose before he even knew how to commit his
ideas to paper. He would request his master to
write down what he improvised, and these first
thoughts were afterwards frequently altered and
improved by the gifted boy.

Thus early did he indicate his future care in
composition, and his truly artistic nature. In a
few years Frederic made such progress in piano-
forte playing as to excite wonder in all Warsaw
drawing rooms. On the occasion of a public
concert, for the benefit of the poor, February 24th,
1818, Julius U'rsin Miemcewicz, late adjutant to
Kosciuszko, and himself a great statesman, poet,
historian, and political writer, and other high per-
sonages, invited the co-operation of the virtuoso,
who had not quite completed his ninth year. Such
a request could not be refused, and thus Chopin's
first step in his artistic career was for a chari-
table object. A few hours before the performance
(he was to play Gyrowetz's pianoforte Concerto),
*' Fritzchen," as he was called at home, was placed
on a chair to be suitably dressed for his first
appearance before a large assembly. The child
was delighted with his jacket, and especially with
the handsome collar. After the concert, his mother,
who had not been present, asked, as she embraced
him, *' what did the public like best ? " He naively
answered : " Oh, mamma, everybody looked only at
my collar," thus showing that he was not vain of
his playing.



PATRONIZED BY THE CHIEF ARISTOCRACY. ig

From that evening the flower of the aristocracy
vied with each other in p^atronizing the marvellous
boy, whom they regarded as an ornament of their
salons. We merely mention the Princes Czartoryski,
Sapiecha, Czetwertynski, Lubecki, Radziwill, Counts
Skarbek, Wolicki, Pruszak, Hussarzewski, Lempicki.
The Princess Czetwertynski introduced him to the
Princess Lowicka, the unhappy wife of the Grand
Prince Constantin Pawlowicz. Young, bewitchingly
beautiful, full of intelligence and grace, her charms
won the affections of the Grand Prince, who shunned
no sacrifice to make her his own. His passion for
this beautiful woman only temporarily modified his
harshness and violence, and, in her wretched life, the
enjoyment of art was her one solace.

Accustomed in his father's house to good society,
and now having the entree of the first salons in the
capital, refined surroundings became to Frederic a
second nature, and gave him the life-long impress
of a gentleman. He always had an aversion to
coarse people, and avoided anyone who lacked good
manners.

Catalini, when passing through Warsaw, became
acquainted with the youthful virtuoso, and was
delighted with his artistic • pianoforte playing. As
a grateful recognition of the enjoyment he had
afforded her, she presented him with a gold watch,
on the back of which was inscribed : " Donne par
Madame Catalini a Frederic Chopin, age de dix
ans." Frederic's earliest compositions were dances,



20 LIFE OF CHOPIN.

Polonaises, Mazurkas, Waltzes ; then he accom-
plished a March, which he ventured to dedicate
to the Grand Prince Constantine. This violent
man, the terror of those around him, was often
very kind to the little artist ; he accepted the
dedication very graciously, and desired Frederic to
play the piece to him. Fortunately for the young
composer the Prince liked it, and he walked up
and down while it was being played, smiling and
beating time with the utmost complacency. He
had the March * scored, and it was often performed
at the military parade, in the Saxon Square.

Frederic occasionally improvised in the drawing
room of the Grand Princess. Noticing his habit
of casting up his eyes and gazing at the ceiling,
the Prince said to him : " Why do you always
look upwards, boy ? do you see notes up there ? "
Probably Chopin saw nothing around him when
listening to the voice of his genius.

From contemporary observers we learn with what
perseverance he laboured to overcome the technical
difficulties of the pianoforte. Impressed by the good
effect of a chord with the dominant in the higher
octave, but unable to play it with his small hand,
he endeavoured to produce the desired expansion
by a mechanical contrivance of his own manufacture,
which he kept between his fingers even during the



* This March was afterwards pubHshed in Warsaw, but
without the composer's name.



EXTENDED AND DISSEVERED CHORDS. 21

night. He was not led to use this aid by a desire of
fame or of forestalling others, in inventing and sur-
mounting new difficulties, but because he perceived
the difference between a slurred and a detached
chord. These chords became a characteristic featiire
in Chopin's compositions. At first they were thought
almost impossible for systematic use, but players
grew accustomed to them, and now no pianist fiads
them unsuited to the capacities of the hand.

The refinement and elegance of Chopin's musical
ideas, and his obvious desire for the frequent use of
extended chords, already reveal his pQculisiV pe7ichani
for new, dissevered chords. Perceiving Frederic's
uncommon talent for composition, his father had
him instructed in , counterpoint, as far as was com-
patible with his preparation for the Warsaw JLyceum,
not having as yet entertained the idea of making
him an artist. Nicholas Chopin made a most
fortunate choice in asking his friend, Eisner, to
become Frederic's instructor. Teacher and pupil
were united till death, in a pure and faithful friend-
ship, such as only the noblest minds can feel.
When people remarked to Eisner, as they frequently
did, that Frederic under-rated and set aside the
customary rules and universal laws of music, and
listened only to the dictates of his own fancy, the
worthy director of the Conservatoire would reply :
*' Leave him alone, he does not follow the common
way because his talents are unqommon ; he does not
adhere to the old method because he has one of his



22 LIFE OF CHOPIN.

own, and his works will reveal an originality hitherto
unknown." This prophecy has been fully fulfilled.
A less discerning teacher might have hindered and
repressed his pupil's efforts, and so quenched the
desire for loftier flights. To the astonishment of
his friends, Frederic excelled in everything he
undertook, and they formed the most brilliant
expectations of his future. Extraordinary vivacity of
temperament prompted him to incessant activity,
and sharpened his innate, irrepressible, and ver-
satile humour. What innumerable tricks he was
continually playing on his sisters, schoolfellows,
and even on persons of riper years ! His youngest
sister, Emily, was an active assistant in these
merry pranks.

The birthdays of his parents and intimate friends
were frequently celebrated by theatrical representa-
tions, in which Frederic usually took the most
active part. The eminent dramatic artist of that
time, Albert Piasecki, who acted as manager at
these representations, considered that Chopin, on
account of his presence of mind, excellent decla-
mation, and capacity for rapid facial changes, was
born to be a great actor. Frederic's acting, indeed,
often astonished the best connoisseurs. He fre-
quently saved a piece by improvising his own and
other parts, when one of the players forgot his roUf
or the prompter failed to assist. It is well known
that his talent for musical improvisation contri-
buted in no small degree in after years to his fame.



HIS ONE-ACT COMEDY IN VERSE. 23

Having, under the excellent guidance of Eisner,
mastered the technicalities of music, Chopin could
improvise to an unlimited extent on any given
theme, producing the most graceful changes, and
drawing the most marvellous effects from the key-
board. In these improvisations, and particularly
in those of a later period, Chopin showed himself
a true poet, and this explains why poets admired
him so ardently and felt inspired by his playing.
Those who heard Chopin at such times say that
his finest compositions are but a reflex and echo
of his improvisations. When Frederic was fifteen,
and Emily eleven, they wrote in honour of their
father's birthday, a one-act comedy, in verse, en-
titled : " The Mistake ; or, the Imaginary Rogue."
Frederic, Isabella, and Emily took the principal
parts, the others were divided among the boarders.
The comedy is too ephemeral and naive for quota-
tion, but it displayed the intelligence of the youthful
authors, and their command of language. In the
same year (1824) Frederic entered the fourth class
^t the Lyceum, and although he frequently indulged
in his harmless and always witty pranks, he was
one of the best and most talented pupils. He used
to make his fellow students laugh by caricaturing the
professor of history discoursing on great celebrities.
In a lucky moment, he caricatured the director,
Mons. Linde, to the life, but unfortunately the draw-
ing fell into the director's hands. This worthy man,
who was indulgent to everyone, and especially to the



24 LIFE OF CHOPIN.

young, returned the paper to Chopin, without a
word, having written on it, "the likeness is well
drawn." For a long time Frederic took a delight in
catching the ludicrous side of a characteristic figure,
and caricaturing it.

He spent his first holidays in Mazovia, at the
village of Szafarnia, which belonged to the Dziewa-
nowski estate, where he soon formed a warm and
lasting friendship with the children of this dis-
tinguished family. To any boy brought up in a
city, a stay of several weeks in the country is a
time full of freedom and delight ; and how infinitely
greater would be the enjoyment of a gifted boy like
Chopin when, unburdened by school exercises, he
can wander through wood and meadow, dreaming of
fairies and wood-nymphs. Frederic, who was not
at all fond of long, fatiguing walks, loved to lie
under a tree, and indulge in beautiful day-dreams.
Instead of an ordinary correspondence it occurred to
him to bring out a little periodical under the title of
the Kurjer Szafarshi, on the model of the Warsaw
Courier, a paper then published in the capital.
Among the memorials of Frederic, collected by the
family are two numbers of this little journal, for
the year 1824. At the beginning of the first number
we read: ''On July 15th, M. Pichon (a name
Frederic assumed) appeared at the musical ass^kgbly
at Szafarnia, at which were present several pepons,
big and little : he played Kalkbrenner's Concerto,
but this did not produce such a ficrore, especially



<c



HE PLAYS LIKE A BORN JEW." 25



among the youthful hearers, as the song which the
same gentleman rendered." It happened that a
great many Jews were at that time in the neigh-
bouring village of Oborow (the property of M.
Romocki) to buy grain. Frederic invited some of
them to his room, and played to them a kind of
Jewish wedding March, called " Majufes." His
performance excited such enthusiasm among his
guests that they not only began to dance, but
earnestly begged him to come to an approaching
Jewish marriage, and give them some more of his
exquisite music. " He plays," said the delighted
Israelites, '' like a born Jew." *

The remainder of the news of the Kurjer Szfarski
consisted of humorous descriptions of the daily
events of the village. A strange glimpse of the
condition of Poland is afforded by the fact, that
according^ to a custom, which even now prevails in
Warsaw, each issue of this journal was examined
by the government censor, whose business it was to
write on every number, "lawful for transmission."
The office was at that time held by Mile. Louise
Dziewanowska, daughter of the proprietor of Sza-
farnia.

It would be impossible to enumerate all the jokes
and harmless mysteries which this famous man
indulged in during the happy days of boyhood, but



'■' This story is given by Wladislaus Casimir Wocicki in his
work entitled " Cmentarz Powazkowski."



26 LIFE OF CHOPIN.

I will mention a few of his merry tricks, for the sake
of those who linger with affectionate interest over
his early years.

Mons. Romocki, the proprietor of Oborow, once
sold his wheat to a Jewish merchant. Hearing of
the pmxhase, Frederic wrote a letter in the Polo-
Jewish style, purporting to come from the buyer,
and stating that, after mature consideration, he
found he should be a loser by the bargain, and,
therefore, declined it. The writing was abominable,
the spelling full of blunders, but the deception suc-
ceeded so well that Romocki was in a frightful rage.
He sent for the Jew instantly, and would probably
have soundly belaboured the unfortunate merchant
"had not Frederic confessed his mischievous trick
in time. Romocki laughed at the joke, and was
on his guard against being taken in again by
Frederic. The deeper meaning underlying all the
acts of this accomplished man in later years showed
itself even here. Romocki was ashamed of his fury,
and it is said from that day he very rarely, and only
from necessity, took a whip in his hand.

Between 1820 and 1830 there was an Evangelical
pastor in Warsaw, named Tetzner, who preached
every Sunday in German and Polish alternately, and
from his defective knowledge of the language, pro-
claimed the truths of the gospel in very broken
Polish. Being led into his church from curiosity,
Frederic was at once struck by the droll speech of
the preacher, and carefully noticed every wrongly



CHILDREN SPELL-BOUND BY HIS PLAYING. 27

pronounced word. When he reached home, he
constructed a kind of pulpit with tables and chairs,
put on a whig, and, summoning the family, delivered
a discourse in imitation of the pastor's broken
Polish, which was so ludicrous that his hearers -
burst into roars of laughter.

If his father's pupils made too much noise in the
house, Frederic had only to place himself at the
piano to produce instant and perfect quiet. One day
when Professor Chopin was out there was a,frio^ht-
ful scene. Barcinski, the master present, was at
his wits' end, when Frederic, happily, entered the
room.* Without deliberation he requested the rois-
terers to sit down, called in those who were making
a noise outside, and promised to improvise an in-
teresting story on the piano, if they would be quite
quiet. All were instantly as still as death, and
Frederic sat down to the instrument and extin-
guished the lights. t He described how robbers
approached a house, mounted by ladders to the
windows, but were frightened away by a noise
within. Without delay they fled on the wings of
the wind into a deep, dark wood, where they fell



* One of these pupils, Casimir Wodzynski, a property
owner, who is still living, often tells this story.

f Chopin generally improvised in the dark, frequently at
night, as then the mind is undisturbed by outward impressions.
Then he would bury himself in the theme heart and soul, and
develope from it tone-pictures full of lofty inspiration and fairy-
like poetry.



28 LIFE OF CHOPIN.

asleep under the starry sky. He played more and
more softly, as if trying to lull children to rest,
till he found that his hearers had actually fallen
asleep. The young artist noiselessly crept out of
the room, to his parents and sisters, and asked
them to follow him with a light. When the family
had amused themselves with the various postures
of the sleepers, Frederic sat down again to the
piano, and struck a thrilling chord, at which they all
sprang up in a fright. A hearty laugh was the
finale of this musical joke.

Further on in his life we meet with a companion
picture to this story, which affords us an excellent
example of Frederic's talent for improvisation, pro-
found knowledge of counterpoint., and mastery over
all technical difficulties. Like all gifted and accom-
plished musicians, he showed an especial preference
for the organ as offering wide scope for the freest
improvisation. It was customary for the students of
the Warsaw University to assemble about eleven in
the morning for service at the Wizytek Church, at
which artists and dilettanti performed vocal masses
with and without orchestral accompaniments.

Chopin somtimes sat in the choir and played the
organ. One day when the celebrant had sUng the
** Oremus," Frederic improvised, in a highly in-
genious manner, on the motive of the portion of
the mass already performed, working out the fun-
damental thought with the most interesting com-
binations and contrapuntal devices. The choristers



HIS REVERIE IN CHURCH. 29

and band, spell-bound by the magic power of his
fancy, left their desks, and surrounded the player,
listening with rapt attention, as if they had been
in the concert room rather than the church. The
priest, at the altar, patiently awaited the conclusion,
but the sacristan rushed angrily into the choir, ex-
claiming : "what the d are you doing? The

priest has twice intoned, Per omnia scBcula scBculorum,
the ministrant has rung repeatedly, and still you
keep on playing. The superior who sent me is out
of all patience." Chopin awoke from his reverie,
and his hands lay motionless on the keys. Although
his wonderful improvisations generally cost him but
little trouble, he spared no pains when preparing a
work for publication. When absorbed by a thought
he would brood over it for hours and days in perfect
silence and solitude. What passed in the soul of
the tone-poet at these seasons cannot be described ;
with such psychological conditions the imaginative
can sympathise, and all who are sensible to the
influences of poetry and art may in some measure
understand.

Chopin had an instrument in his bed-room, and
often worked far on into the night ; sometimes when
the rest of the household were asleep, he would
spring out of bed, rush to his piano, and strike a
few chords, developing some immatured thought, or
resolving some imperfect harmony. Then he would
lie down, but only to rise and do the same thing
again, daylight frequently finding him thus occupied.



30 LIFE OF CHOPIN.

The servants, by whom Frederic was much beloved,
but who could not understand such proceedings,
shook their heads compassionately, and said, *' The
poor young gentleman's mind is affected."

When on an excursion with his father to the
suburbs, or spending his holidays in the country, he
always listened attentively to the song of the reaper,
and the tune of the peasant fiddler, fixing in his
memory and delighting to idealise these frequently
original and expressive melodies. He often wondered
who was the creator of the beautiful melodies inter-
woven in the Mazurkas, Cracoviennes, and Polo-
naises, and how the Polish peasants learnt to sing
and play the violin with such purity. No one could
give him any information. Indeed both the words
and melodies of these songs are the creation of
several minds. An artless, spontaneous melody,
poured forth by one person, is altered, and perhaps
improved, by another, and so passes from mouth
to mouth till finally it becomes a possession of all
the people. Slavonic folk-songs differ greatly from
the Romance and Germanic ; they are historical
records of the feelings, customs, and character of
the people.*

Chopin was born and bred in Mazovia, a peculi-



* Another kind of national song is the product of the trained
musician, and being, from its original, majestic, war-like or
sentimental character, easily understandable, it is readily
remembered and rapidly diffused. Everyone sings it to the



MAZOVIAN MUSICIANS. 3I

arly music-loving province. A distinguished Polish
writer t says: *' The love of song characterizes the
Slavonic above all other races ; the rudest peasant
could be allured to the end of the world by his
national songs." The Mazovians have such an
intense love for music that they sing about the
commonest affairs of life, readily perceiving their
pleasing and touching phases. The predilection of
the Poles for these songs is often a matter of pecu-
niary profit, for a beggar, with some talent in singing
and playing the violin, has no difficulty in obtaining
alms. During the great festivals — Easter, Whit-
suntide, and Christmas — men and women walk
about the Mazovian villages, singing and playing
appropriate dances, and everywhere they are warmly
received, gladly listened to, and not sparingly re-
warded. Nearly all these songs originated in the


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