Chopin by LisztAuthor(s): Edward N. WatersReviewed work(s):Source: The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Apr., 1961), pp. 170-194Published by: Oxford University PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/740730 .Accessed: 24/10/2012 06:01
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CHOPIN BY LISZT
By EDWARD N. WATERS
EARLY in 1852 a book appeared in Paris that, in the next hundred
years, became one of the best-known and least read volumes in all musical literature. It was from the press of M. Escudier, it had been issued serially the year before in the same publisher's magazine, La France musicale (beginning February 9, ending August 17), it was eagerly anticipated by the musical public and profession. The title-page was simplicity itself: "F. Chopin par F. Liszt." Today it could easily be called "the book nobody knows," in spite of the fame of subject and author.
In the past hundred years, to be sure, the book has had its readers, but most of these indulged themselves in the 19th century, when turgid, hifalutin prose was the order of the day. They took it at its face value
(which is still proper to do, though values do change), and complacently accepted it as a loving tribute paid by one great musician to another. The handful of more recent readers, impatient and bored with its romantic bombast, have castigated it severely and have claimed it is neither reliable biography nor reasonable criticism. Since the sesquicen- tennials of both Chopin and Liszt are at hand, 1960 and 1961 respect- ively, this is a propitious moment to take a critical look at the volume and to judge author and content anew. Much harshness of recent criticism may have to be tempered, just as the book's earlier acceptance may have to be viewed with charitable understanding. One thing is certain - the work stands as a great curiosity in musical literature, and the story back of its gestation only adds to its uniqueness.
First a word on the book's bibliographic history, for in its early days the United States played a specially honorable role. Chopin died in Paris on October 17, 1849. Liszt, in his second year as Weimar Kapellmeister, determined at once to draw a literary portrait of his old friend and
colleague. Progress was rapid, and on January 14, 1850, he offered it
Chopin by Liszt 171 for publication to Breitkopf & Hiirtel in Leipzig.' Apparently the German publisher could not handle it at the moment, and Liszt turned to the brothers Escudier (Leon and Marie), who accepted the manuscript in spite of its stylistic faults and mannerisms. In January of 1851 Liszt began to receive proofs, which were read by himself and the Princess Carolyne von Sayn Wittgenstein, his peculiar and formidable "com- panion." It is to be feared, perhaps hoped, that most of this chore fell to her.
Publication ensued immediately in La France musicale (in seventeen, but not consecutive, issues), and the 206-page book appeared at the beginning of 1852. It is interesting to note that, though declining to act as publisher, Breitkopf & Hairtel shared the imprint with M. Escudier, and so did the Schott firm of Brussels. This particular volume, it must be remarked, seems to be excessively rare, a fact emphasized in the title and introduction of Hans Kiihner's recent German translation.2 The text of the book was substantially the same as in the magazine, but the third chapter was somewhat expanded, and a few extra pages extended the conclusion.
Europe soon forgot about the book, but a flurry of interest in the United States deserves more than passing notice. A large portion of the text was published in the spring of 1852 by Dwight's Journal of Music (April 24-June 19), "translated by the editor," and in these selections Dwight was quite judicious in choosing passages of meaning and rele- vance.
Then in 1863 the first complete translation into any language ap. peared in Philadelphia, the English being done by Martha Walker Cook, and a second, revised edition appeared that same year.3 Dwight's Journal hailed it gladly, the more so perhaps because it was forced to apologize (April 4, 1863) for representing that its own presentation of Chopin was
'1Franz Liszt, Chopin. Avant-propos d'Alfred Cortot, introduction par J. G. Prod'homme. Paris, 1948, p. 47.
2 Franz Liszt, Frideric Chopin. Nach der neuaufgefundenen Urfassung von 1852 iibersetzt von Hans Kiihner. Basel, 1948.
3 Philadelphia: F. Leypoldt; New York: F. W. Christern, 1863. Martha Elizabeth Duncan Walker Cook (1806-74) was the daughter of a well-known jurist and wife of an engineer and military man. From her father, Judge Jonathan H. Walker, she received her intellectual bent and passion for justice. She was particularly attracted by Poland's political misfortunes, hence her interest in Chopin. She wrote, in a some- what pedestrian style, stories, poems, and essays.
172 The Musical Quarterly
complete. Nevertheless, its opinion of the book (April 18, 1863) is worth noting:
Liszt has given us a most loving, subtle, just appreciation of the composer and his music. He has written the inner life of him as well as the outward. Especially has he illustrated the influence of his Polish nationality, which so pervades his music. More brilliantly imaginative chapters than those in which he describes the Polish dances (Polonaise, Mazurka, &c.) are hardly to be found in any novel . .. The translation . . . reads admirably well, being true to the sense, if somewhat free in style; in this "labor of love" she has entered into the spirit of the book. Every lover of Chopin's music should possess it.
This was a generous comment, for Dwight's own translation was some- what better than Mrs. Cook's.
Fourteen years later (1877) William Reeves in London issued Mrs. Cook's translation, then some twenty-two years afterward (1899?) brought out a new text "translated in full for the first time by John Broadhouse." This was a curious statement, to say the least, for Mrs. Cook's version was just as complete as and superior to her British rival's.
In Europe, meanwhile, the book caused no great stir, but in 1879
Breitkopf & H~irtel brought out a "nouvelle edition." This was not a
translation, the text being still in French; but the original 206 pages had been expanded to 312, and the expansion for the most part was only a continuation of the worst features of the parent edition. It has been
assumed, and no doubt correctly, that Liszt blindly entrusted the new edition to Princess Carolyne and she had herself a field day. There were some slight changes of no great importance, and a fantastic augmentation of nationalism and pseudo-philosophy. As if the first edition were not
already overloaded with such nonsense! But the Princess was Polish and
had certain literary habits. Even an admirer said of her: "she corrected
the proofs of her books rapidly, always adding and hardly ever sub-
La Mara's German translation, in Liszt's Gesammelte Schriften
(1880), is based upon the bloated version prepared by the Princess and of little use in restoring the author's original thoughts. But in 1941
J. G. Prod'homme discovered a copy of the 1852 imprint, and Corr6a of Paris published it in 1948 (again in 1957). Prod'homme supplied a
long and illuminating introduction, and Alfred Cortot wrote a rather
glamorous foreword. Readers could consult the original text again.
D. Melegari, Une Amie de Liszt, la Princesse de Sayn Wittgenstein, in La
Revue de Paris, Sept. 1, 1897, pp. 154-97.
Chopin by Liszt 173
Is there more than meets the eye in this tribute of one great artist to another? Probably, but the extent of hidden motives is difficult to deter- mine.
Much has been written of the friendship of Chopin and Liszt. Older writers maintained they were bosom companions. Later authors, how- ever, claim their intimacy has been grossly exaggerated, that they were
jealous of each other, that their contrasting natures precluded the form-
ing of a close relationship. Both views are doubtless supportable, but the older one seems more acceptable. To complicate matters more, some
interesting women were involved.
Chopin arrived in Paris in the fall of 1831. He was first heard there as a pianist on February 26, 1832, and Liszt was enraptured by his
playing. The two became fast friends and mutual admirers. A number of notes5 from Liszt to Chopin attest the warmth of their relations, and the famous letter' that Liszt and Chopin wrote jointly to Hiller, on
June 20, 1833, shows that the feeling was mutual. Here, by the way, will be found Chopin's wish that he could steal Liszt's secret of playing his own (Chopin's) 6tudes. Berlioz was also in this intimate circle, and there seems to be no room for doubting the close association of these
youthful men of genius.
The lovely Countess Marie d'Agoult was also in Paris, and Liszt knew her at least as early as the spring of 1833. Whether she aspired to a liaison with a great musician in those early days is unrevealed, but she must have regarded both Liszt and Chopin as possibilities. In a little- known letter she begged Chopin to visit her, said she had told her mother much about him, announced she had been ill and was not yet well, and that "one of your nocturnes should complete my cure." She was so
eager that her postscript was: "If you can't make it tomorrow, Saturday, if not Saturday, Sunday, etc."' A few weeks afterward, Marie learns from Liszt that Chopin has been seriously ill, and she invites him to recuperate at her summer estate. It will make a fine maison de sante, with fresh
air, delicious milk, and nightingale music; besides, she admires his
amazing 6tudes and hopes to see him soon again.8
5F. F. Chopin, Correspondance. Recueillie, revisee, annotee et traduite par Bronislas Edouard Sydow en collaboration avec Suzanne et Denise Chainaye. Paris, 1953-54.
6 Franz Liszt, Briefe, ed. La Mara, Vol. I, Leipzig, 1893, No. 6.
7 Chopin, Correspondance, II, 87.
a Ibid., II, 94-95.
174 The Musical Quarterly
Even years later (November 9, 1838) Marie could write to a friend and say of Chopin: "He is the only pianist I can listen to not only free of boredom, but with a deep composure."' Liszt, it is safe to say, never saw this passage.
Then there was Aurore Dudevant, better known as George Sand, that extraordinary, formidable, but unforgettable woman whose pas- sionate yearnings spread havoc around her. Liszt introduced her to Chopin, in the fall of 1836, at a literary gathering (including some musicians) in Liszt's own quarters. The Pole did not like her and said so in no uncertain terms. Walking home with Hiller after the party, Chopin remarked: "What an antipathetic woman that Sand is! Is it
really a woman? I am ready to doubt it." Shortly after, he wrote home to Warsaw and gave his family this impression: "I have met a great celebrity: Madame Dudevant, known by the name of George Sand; but her face is not sympathetic and did not please me at all. There is even something about her that repels me."10
But social conventions make strange demands, and on December 13, 1836, Chopin entertained a few friends, including Liszt, and invited the
lady from Nohant. The host still did not like his guest, but it was obvious that she was decidedly interested in him. Her costume of the
evening bespoke this interest, for she wore a gown that flaunted the colors of Poland, white and red."
It is well known, of course, that Chopin's resistance finally was over- come, that the Chopin-Sand affair flourished for some years. Far less known is the probability, not unattested, that its development annoyed Marie d'Agoult exceedingly. Wanting at least the homage of Chopin, feeling a certain triumph in receiving the dedication of the Ltudes, Op. 25 (published in 1837), she must have been dismayed seeing Chopin and George Sand advance their relations to a point that removed all doubt of their significance. Marie was, moreover, in the position of
having to maintain an attitude of indifference. She herself was bracketed with Liszt, and she was supposed to be a warm friend of Sand. But in her letters to George, Marie could not resist making sly and malicious remarks about Chopin that reveal a hurt pride and a degree of spite.
Unfortunately the two ladies had a mutual friend, a Countess Carlotta Marliani, whose greatest pleasure seems to have been in passing
9 Ibid., II, 262. 'o Ibid., II, 208. 11 Ibid., II, 209.
Chopin by Liszt 175
on to George what Marie had written and vice versa. It was not long before George knew what Marie thought of her, and the novelist retorted, finally placing Marie in Horace (published 1841) as the Vicomtesse de Chailly. It was hardly a flattering portrait: "she had, indeed, a nobility as artificial as everything else, her teeth, her bosom, and her heart."" In a reasonably short time George and Marie were completely estranged; a subsequent reconciliation did not recapture the warmth of former days.
Chopin was an innocent victim in this peculiar situation. Seeing Marie and Sand becoming ever more embroiled, and sensing that Chopin was somehow involved (even if unwittingly), Liszt could hardly main- tain with his friend relations as of old. Furthermore, his constant travel- ing posed a physical handicap to any resumption of ordinary social intercourse. It may also be significant that for almost five years no letter from Liszt to Marie mentions Chopin in any way. The Pole was ignored if not forgotten - yet not quite ignored, as we shall see.
Were Chopin and Liszt jealous of each other? Probably, and why not? Each was uniquely gifted, each knew he could do things the other couldn't, each probably aspired to accomplishments reserved only for the other. In 1840 a letter to Liszt from Ernest Legouv6, French critic and litterateur, casts some light on the question. It reads in part:
Schoelcher told me that an article of mine on Chopin, in which I placed him above you, had been painful to you. Since my musical opinion has only an indi- vidual value, I cannot attribute to vanity the slight resentment you expressed to Schoelcher; it can only be the sorrow of a friend seeing himself attacked, so to speak, through a friend, and this is so touching that I feel the need of
explaining and justifying myself.
I shall not affront you by retracting and saying: I let that sentence escape in the first reaction to an unguarded admiration; no, since I wrote it I thought it. But here is why. In the arts, it seems to me, first place belongs to unity, to that which is complete. I believe Chopin to be complete; performance and com-
position, everything in him is in harmony and of equal value . . . Chopin has reached the realization of his ideal. You, on the contrary, and I have heard you say this, are only half-way in your development . .. the pianist has arrived, but the composer is perhaps delayed ... I tell you this, and I sincerely believe it, the day when the inward Liszt comes out, the day when that amazing power of execution has its counterpart and its complement equally in composition (and that day is perhaps not far off, for men like you grow), on that day you will not be called the first pianist of Europe; you will be called by another name!
So bear me no grudge! If you still do not satisfy me completely, it is because
12 Andr6 Maurois, Lilia, Paris, 1952, p. 341.
176 The Musical Quarterly I see more in you than in others --that is what I wait for, what I hope for, what I believe . . .13
If it is obvious that Liszt had his moments of pique, Chopin was no less frail. Legouv6 again draws the scene:
He [Chopin] had asked me to review [his public concert], Liszt claimed that honor. I hastened to give this good news to Chopin, who said to me quietly:
"I should have preferred that it be you."
"You cannot think that, my dear friend! An article by Liszt is a stroke of good fortune for the public and for you. Believe in his admiration for your talent. I promise you that he'll make you a beautiful kingdom."
"Yes," he replied, smiling, "within his own empire." 14
The Chopin concert reviewed by Liszt (for the Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris, May 2, 1841) took place on April 26, 1841. Chopin admirers and Liszt detractors have often cited it as illustrating Liszt's
pique or jealousy of his Polish colleague. It is difficult to see why. Legouve was quite right in saying that the article was charming and
sympathetic. The event was important socially as well as musically, and Liszt was journalistically justified in stressing both aspects.
Naturally Chopin played only his own compositions, including several
Preludes, Mazurkas, two Polonaises (Op. 40), the second Ballade and the third Scherzo.15 It is true that Liszt's review concentrates on Chopin's position and uniqueness in art rather than on the single performance of a particular evening, but such an approach is a guest critic's privilege. A few quotations are in order:
Last Monday evening at eight o'clock the salons of M. Pleyel were brilliantly lighted; a ceaseless stream of carriages deposit at the foot of the steps, carpeted and decked with fragrant flowers, the most elegant ladies, the most fashionable
young men, the most famous artists, the richest financiers, the most illustrious
lords, the elite of society--a complete aristocracy of birth, wealth, talent, and
An open grand piano was on a platform; crowding around, people vied for the nearest seats. Composing themselves in anticipation, they would not miss a
chord, a note, an intention, a thought of him who was about to sit there. And
they were right to be so greedy, attentive, religiously wrought up, for the one
13 La Mara, Briefe hervorragender Zeitgenossen an Franz Liszt, Vol. I, Leipzig, 1895, pp. 12-14.
14 Ernest Legouve, Soixante ans de souvenirs, Vol. II, Paris, 1888, pp. 161-62. 15 Chopin, Correspondance, I, xliv; Edouard Ganche, Frdedric Chopin, Paris,
1926, p. 255.
Chopin by Liszt 177
they waited for, the one they wanted to see, hear, admire, and applaud was not only a skilled virtuoso, a pianist expert in the playing of notes--he was not only an artist of great renown - he was all this and much more: he was Chopin.
. As with that other great poet, Mickiewicz, his friend and countryman, the muse of the fatherland inspired his songs, and the laments of Poland lent to his tones a strange and mysterious poesy which, for those who have truly felt it, is like nothing else at all. If his name is less brilliant, if the aureole around his head less bright, it was not that the same energy of thought perhaps was wanting or the same depth of feeling shown by the gifted author of Konrad Wallenrod and the Pelerins; but his means of expression were too limited, his instrument too imperfect; with the piano he could not be completely self-revealed. Hence, if we mistake not, a numb and constant suffering, a certain reluctance to outward communication, a sadness concealed beneath a show of gaiety - a complete individuality, indeed, remarkable and engaging to the last degree .
We shall not undertake here a detailed analysis of Chopin's compositions. Without artificial striving for originality, he has been himself, both in style and conception. To new thought he has been able to give new form. The wild and rugged elements of his country have found expression in bold dissonance, in strange harmonies, while the delicacy and grace of his nature are revealed in a thousand turns of phrase, in a thousand ornaments of inimitable fancy.
In Monday's concert Chopin had chosen by preference those of his works farthest removed from the classical forms. He played neither concerto, nor sonata, nor fantasy, nor variations, but preludes, etudes, nocturnes, and mazurkas. Speak- ing to a society rather than to a public, he could safely show himself as what he is - a poet, elegiac, profound, chaste, and dreaming. He had no need to astonish or to shock; he sought delicate sympathy rather than noisy acclaim. Let us say at once that this sympathy was not wanting. With the very first chords he established between himself and his audience an intimate communication. Two etudes and a ballade had to be repeated, and but for fear of increasing the fatigue already obviously betrayed in his pale countenance, the crowd would have demanded again every piece on the program.
The Preludes of Chopin are quite special compositions. They are riot merely pieces, as the title might suggest, intended to be played as an introduction to other pieces; they are poetic preludes, like those of a great contemporary poet, which lull the soul in golden dreams and raise it to ideal realms. Admirable in their variety, they contain a skill and a substance that are appreciated only after careful study. The music is spontaneous, brilliant, fresh. They have the freedom and spaciousness characteristic of works of genius.
What can be said of the mazurkas, those little masterpieces so whimsical yet so highly finished?
A faultless sonnet equals a long poem, said a man who wielded authority in the finest century of French letters. We are tempted to apply the exaggeration of this axiom to the mazurkas and to say that we, at least, find many of them the equal of very long operas.
178 The Musical Quarterly
In spite of the praise, not indiscriminate, in this review, Chopin did not like it; their friendship cooled, apparently much to Liszt's distress. In Posen on February 26, 1843, Liszt wrote a letter to Chopin that the critic Rellstab would carry to Paris. After introducing the bearer Liszt continued the note to his "cher ancien ami" (and addressing him with the informal tu): "I am especially anxious to send greetings and to seize this occasion to repeat again, at the risk of appearing monotonous, that my affection and admiration for you will always be the same, and that you can always make use of me in any way whatever .. ."'s There seems to be no record that Chopin responded to this approach, and for all practical purposes the two artists had no further relations.
As the decade progressed, the lives of both were radically altered.
Chopin's health steadily declined, he broke with George Sand, and he died on October 17, 1849. Liszt became ever more glamorous as he
developed indisputably into history's greatest pianist. His strange romance with Marie d'Agoult ended, he voluntarily abandoned giving concerts, he met his second woman of destiny (the Polish Princess Carolyne von
Sayn Wittgenstein), and he settled at Weimar as court Kapellmeister. But he retained a keen interest in Chopin and clamored for news of any changes in his existence. Even from Woronince, Carolyne's eastern home near Kiev, Liszt wrote to Marie (on February 10, 1847) asking if the
rupture between Chopin and Sand was permanent and requesting all the details.7 Nothing could be more natural.
When Chopin died, Liszt, in his second year at Weimar and with
Carolyne at his side, was profoundly affected. How could he feel other- wise? He and Chopin had been intimately associated, he thoroughly appreciated Chopin's artistic and musical genius; it is not unreasonable to suppose that he deeply regretted any incidents that forced them apart. Why not write a book as a tribute to a friend who was also a genius? Three considerations possibly encouraged this idea. To the musical world Liszt was already well known as an interesting author; Carolyne was Polish and would stimulate a literary tribute to a famous compatriot; it was rumored that Grzymala (a close friend of Chopin) was about to write his biography-. Circumstances and feelings were irresistible: the book had to be done.
16 Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, Souvenirs inedits de Frdddric Chopin, Paris, 1904, p. 174.
17 Liszt, Chopin, ed. Prod'homme, p. 40.
1s Ibid., p. 43.
Chopin by Liszt 179
Although the book appeared under Liszt's name, the extent of his contribution is unknown. In fact, the extent of his authorship of any literary work is unknown, for there seems to be good reason for doubting that he wrote a single book or essay to which his name was attached'." Thus we have the phenomenal situation, or possibility, of a great musician issuing reams of material not a word of which came from his own pen! Marie d'Agoult is charged with being his first ghost writer, Princess Carolyne the second. Both women became prolific authors in their own right after serving this apprenticeship, but why they were will-
ing to work in such obscurity remains an unsolved riddle. Truly Liszt's
mastery over them (at the time) was complete !
Haraszti indicates that with Carolyne, at least, Liszt consulted and collaborated. If this be true, he probably acted in self-defense. "Her"
Chopin is written for the most part in execrable French, turgid, long- winded, and bombastic - and the second edition was no better. Liszt was worried about the literary style and had reason to be. Years later
Carolyne's writing was criticized as a "literary tower of Babel ... German written in French ... indeed a translation by a Pole who really did not understand the original."20 These literary defects may have aroused
suspicion, during her lifetime, about the authorship of the Chopin book. When questioned on this point she merely smiled and replied: "When two beings have completely merged, can it ever be said where the work of one begins or of the other ends?"21 Nevertheless, the responsibility for the book remains Liszt's.
Determined to produce a book, if not to write it, Liszt set about his task in the most approved way - he sent an elaborate questionnaire to Louise Iedrzeiewicz (Chopin's sister, still in Paris following her brother's
funeral), begging her to jot down her replies in the margin. He wrote Louise less than a month after Chopin's death:
Madame, My long friendship with your brother, my deep and sincere admiration for
him as for one of the noblest glories of our art, oblige me in some way to publish a few pages to honor his memory. They will probably form a brochure of 3 or 4 leaves. In order to give this work all desirable accuracy, allow me to justify
19 Emile Haraszti, Die Autorschaft der literarischen Werke Franz Liszts, in
Ungarische Jahrbiicher, XXI (Nov. 1941), 173-236, and Franz Liszt - Author
Despite Himself, in The Musical Quarterly, XXXIII (1947), 490-516. Prod'homme, in his edition of the Liszt Chopin, seems to accept Haraszti's conclusions willingly.
20 Melegari, op. cit., p. 179. 21 Ibid., p. 168.
180 The Musical Quarterly
myself to you by my intimate relations with the illustrious deceased, and to submit several questions about his biography. I should be extremely grateful if you will place the answers in the margin.
My secretary Bellini [read Belloni], who has the honor of bearing these lines to you, is likewise charged to bring me your answer as promptly as possible.
Please accept, Madame, the expression of my most respectful and devoted sentiments.
F. Liszt. Pilsen, November 14, 1849. 2
As far as can be ascertained Liszt received no reply to his question- naire,23 although the contrary has been assumed. Louise may have been
prejudiced against Liszt --by her brother's earlier discomfiture, by Liszt's haste in sending the questions, by some of the questions themselves. She handed the queries to Jane Stirling, Chopin's Scottish pupil, who wrote down answers that presumably satisfied Louise. Evidently Liszt never saw them.
The questionnaire, in twelve sections subdivided into several queries each, is a curious document. Liszt asked for the date and place of
Chopin's birth and for a description of his childhood. Miss Stirling wrote that only the memories of Chopin's mother could furnish this informa-
tion. Liszt asked how early Chopin's musical talent showed itself, what
were his first studies, were they difficult, and did he improvise at an early
age. His first studies, said Miss Stirling, revealed his extraordinary musical aptitude: learning the principles of harmony, he seemed to re-
member a science known and already forgotten; because of physical weakness, improvisation seemed to be less fatiguing than written com-
Then Liszt wanted to know about Chopin's early schooling, his
popularity with schoolmates, and the popularity resulting from his
musical gifts, to which the Scotswoman replied that Chopin's father (a learned man) was responsible for the boy's first training and asserted
that he was greatly loved by all his school companions, besides which his
precocious talent opened to him the finest homes in Warsaw. Was there
any connection, asked Liszt, between the Polish revolution of 1830 and
Chopin's departure from Warsaw; how many concerts did he give in Vienna and Munich, and why? He was never embroiled politically, wrote the informant, and he left Poland before the uprising; he had
2 Karlowicz, op. cit., p. 200 ff. (includes questionnaire and answers).
2sHaraszti, Die Autorschaft . . ., p. 227.
Chopin by Liszt 181
given concerts in Warsaw as well as in Vienna, but their success could not overcome his dislike of exploiting his talent in this fashion; moreover, the intimate character of his music and playing would not bear the harsh light of these halls of exhibition.
Prompted by a justifiable but perhaps imprudent curiosity, Liszt asked several questions about Chopin and George Sand, claiming that his own intimacy with the composer gave him the right to pose them: what happened on the trip to Majorca and what impression did Chopin retain therefrom; what was the happiest period of his life; what were his final relations with Mme. Sand; was the romance of Lucrezia Floriani (a person in the like-named novel by Sand) with the prince (allegedly and assuredly Chopin) a truthful account; did Chopin share the ultra- democratic views of Sand, and what were his relations with her asso- ciates such as Louis Blanc, Ledru-Rollin (liberal French socialists), et al.? The cautious Scot ignored the first query completely, then said that his intimate life was too sacred to be probed for a biography; she admitted his illness on the Majorcan expedition and that it depleted his normal good humor; with his elevated mind and taste he could not recognize himself in Lucrezia Floriani; and his political opinions had nothing in common with the persons mentioned by name; he made no
propaganda, was impervious to it, and had better judgment than to mix into political agitation of any kind.
Had he broken with Sand by February 1848, Liszt wanted to know - why? - was she violent or friendly, was he depressed or complacent? When did he last see Sand? did he ask to see her again? how did he
speak of her before his death? The reply to all of this was skimpy: the
marriage of Mme. Sand's daughter (Solange) made further visits to Nohant unwise, the daughter was piously present at Chopin's death, Sand was not in Paris at that time, he did not speak of her in his final hours.
Why, asked Liszt, did Chopin go to London in 1848 and how long did he stay there? Why did he return? Was it true, as related by Schle-
singer, that the Queen went to his lodgings for lessons since he was too weak to come to her? When did his chest infection begin? How was his
spirit towards the end? Was he bitter towards life? Was he frightened by the approach of death? When did he stop composing? Did he wish to write more when he no longer could? Did he leave any unfinished works, and of what kind? How were his last moments? Is it true, as reported by the musical journals, that he asked to be dressed in his concert
182 The Musical Quarterly
costume when he felt death near? Did he receive the last sacraments and did he ask for or refuse them? And what priest attended him?
Miss Stirling was no more inclined to give expansive answers here. He was drawn to England by some friends and stayed there eight months. The climate was fatal. There was nothing unusual to report about his relations with high personages. The autopsy revealed no basic cause of
Chopin's death, although the heart seemed to be more affected than the chest. He died a pure soul, believing and resigned, with no fear at all of the life beyond. His features showed the confidence of his faith and love. To have seen Chopin only once was enough to know him incapable of
asking for a costume to die in. He died a good Catholic, making his devotions under the guidance of his old friend, the Abb5 Jelowicki.
If Liszt never saw Miss Stirling's comments, they were of no use to
him, but his queries are still important. They show where he wished to
place emphasis in the book. Some critics have maintained that they reveal a great ignorance of Chopin the man, thus contradicting Liszt's claims of close intimacy. This can hardly be supported. When they were
friendliest, both were youths - in their twenties - and youths of that
age do not waste time talking of families, childhood, and schooling. Per-
haps Liszt was indiscreet in asking so many questions about George Sand, but he had brought Sand and Chopin together; who had a better right to know? Again, Liszt has been castigated as naive and credulous for
believing that Queen Victoria went to Chopin for piano lessons, but the
questionnaire proves just the opposite. He did not believe Schlesinger's story, yet he had to try to find the truth (it was not an unimportant point); no such anecdote appears in the biography.
So the book was written without help from Chopin's family. But Liszt was obviously disturbed by its form or style or both. He needed
help and reassurance. He sent the manuscript (his or Carolyne's?) to
Joseph d'Ortigue, French musicologist, and asked for criticism. When he received it he wrote his thanks (April 24, 1850): "The welcome
judgment you offer on three fourths of my work is highly flattering
encouragement, and I thank you warmly for the observations you make on the fourth fourth. I shall not fail to profit from them
Far from satisfied, Liszt also sent the manuscript to the great critic
Sainte-Beuve, asking for similar assistance, but this time he was turned
Liszt, Chopin, ed. Prod'homme, pp. 47-48.
Chopin by Liszt 183
down. The letter was friendly enough, although there was no doubt about Sainte-Beuve's opinion of the writing:
Paris, March 31, 1850.
You cannot doubt that I would have done the little revision you requested with the greatest alacrity if it had been physically possible. But since my return from Belgium to Paris, I have been living here in working conditions so con- stricting and demanding that it is impossible for me to steal a single moment. From a glance over your interesting and generous appreciation it would be neces- sary, it seems to me, in order to cast it into French as I understand it, to begin again and recopy the entire work, and I am in no condition at the moment to undertake this. Believe, dear friend, in my sincere regret, in the memory I keep of all your kind feelings for me, and in the feelings with which I should like to prove to you that I am ever your
Ste. Beuve. 25
Whatever were Liszt's feelings about the book, he could not disavow it. With its faults and virtues it stood as his opinion of Chopin, and this fact was mightily important. It is now time to look at the book itself.
Its faults are surely and primarily those of the Princess. Its wordiness, its obfuscations, its ramblings on Polish nobility, on national traits, on the glories of the aristocratic spirit, on the value of Polish dances in their
original vigor: all of these excursions away from Chopin and his music must be laid at her door. Page after page after page are devoted to fanciful verbiage, and the reader (far from being entertained) wonders when he will again encounter the composer hidden behind this flood of words. Prod'homme was certainly right in suggesting that Carolyne, an
indefatigable talker, wrote as she spoke and that some of these pages were her monologue alone." Haraszti was equally right in declaring that the book was often "indigestible." Yet the book contains many sensible
things, and we can hope that these are the sentiments that Liszt insisted be included. Let us find them.
It is regrettable, says Liszt (in 1852), that the time has not yet come for him "whom we so keenly lament" to occupy the high position the future will probably assign to him. And if no man is hailed as prophet in his own country, is it not also true that the man of the future is not hailed as a prophet in his own time?27 Posterity will regard Chopin's
25 La Mara, op. cit., I, No. 94. 26 Liszt, Chopin, ed. Prod'homme, p. 59. 27 All quotations and paraphrases from Franz Liszt, F. Chopin, Paris: M. Escu-
dier; Leipzig: Breitkopf et Hartel; Bruxelles: Chez Schott, 1852.
184 The Musical Quarterly music more seriously than the present, history will elevate him who had "such rare melodic genius," who "so happily and remarkably expanded harmony." His achievements "will rightly be preferred to many larger works played repeatedly by a multitude of instruments or sung repeatedly by a flock of prime donne."
Writing for piano alone, Liszt goes on, Chopin evinced an essential trait of an author - proper appreciation of the form (or medium) best suited to himself. This has hindered his fame. His restraint must have been based on intuition and long-pondered conviction. Orchestral and ensemble effects did not attract him; he preferred his own delicate
pencil to the brush of the decorator. Today  we are too prone to
recognize as worthy only those composers who have written a half-dozen
operas, a half-dozen oratorios, and a few symphonies. But music should be measured as the other arts are: a painting twenty inches square by Ruysdael can be placed on a par with a huge canvas by Rubens or Tintoretto. "In literature is BIranger less a great poet for having com-
pressed his thought within the narrow limits of the song? Does not Petrarch owe his success to his sonnets, and of those who know them best, are many aware of his poem on Africa?"
An intelligent analysis of Chopin's works [continues Liszt] could not be made without discovering beauties of a high order, a completely new expression, and a harmonic texture as original as it is accomplished. His boldness is always jus- tified; the richness, even exuberance, obscures none of the clarity; strangeness does not become bizarre; the figures are orderly, and the luxurious ornamentation
preserves the elegance of the principal lines. His best works abound in combina- tions that herald an epoch, so to speak, in the treatment of musical style. Daring, brilliant, fascinating, they hide their real depth under so much grace, their skill under so much charm that it is difficult to escape their compelling attraction in order to judge them co.:ly and technically . . .
To Chopin we owe that extension of chords . . . those chromatic and enhar- monic twisting lines . . . those little clusters of added notes above the melody dropping like iridescent dew ... He invented those admirable harmonic progres- sions which lend a seriousness even to pages with a subject of no great pretension. But what matters the subject? Is it not the idea that comes from it, the vibrant emotion which lifts and ennobles and magnifies it? What sadness, delicacy, wisdom, abbve all what art are in the masterpieces of La Fontaine whose subjects are so familiar and the titles so modest. Similarly with the etudes and Preludes, which will remain types of perfection within a genre of his own creation, a
genre stamped with the character of his poetic genius. Early compositions, they possess a youthful verve that is dulled in some of the later works (more elaborate, more finished, more complicated) and which completely vanishes from the last, produced by an over-excited nature and the result of exhaustion.
Chopin by Liszt 185
Chopin, said Liszt, was not entirely satisfied with the forms that he himself invented. "He wrote beautiful concertos and beautiful sonatas, but in these works it is not difficult to trace more effort than imagina- tion. His spirit was commanding, fanciful, unreflective. His manner could only be free, and we believe that he violated his genius every time he sought to force it into a scheme, the rules, the classifications, that were not his."
Nevertheless, some of Chopin's attempts to write in Classical forms achieved a rare distinction, for instance the Adagio of the second con- certo: "all of this piece is of an ideal perfection" - "it brings to mind a magnificent, light-drenched landscape, a favored vale of Tempe ready to serve for a tale of woe or some grievous event." And the Funeral March of the first [sic] sonata must be mentioned also. It is heartbreak- ing, an utterance of deepest mourning. "One day we heard a young man from his country say: 'Those pages could have been written by no one except a Pole!' "
"Simmering anger, stifled rage are met in many passages of his works, and several of his Ltudes as well as his Scherzos paint an exasperation, concentrated and dominated by despair, which is sometimes ironic, some- times proud. These dark apostrophes of his music have been less noticed and less understood than his more tenderly colored poems, a situation to which the personal character of Chopin has contributed. Kind, friendly, easygoing, equable, and gay, he gave small occasion to suspect the tur- moil that boiled within him." His character was not easy to grasp; beneath the surface were concealed a thousand nuances intermingling and entwining - it was easy to misjudge the depth of his spirit.
Chopin was frail and sickly, and rarely showed his friends violent
passions. But to his intimates he occasionally exposed feelings of im-
patience, vexation for being taken too literally. In his own playing he was too weak to voice resentment; instead, he sought relief in writing music that must be played with a vigor he did not have.28
Chopin's Polonaises are not studied as much as they deserve to be, wrote Liszt, and this neglect stems from their difficulties. Far from being mincing, painted dances ai la Pompadour played by salon musicians, they are energetic and powerful; they startle and galvanize to action. They harbor the noble sentiments and traditions of ancient Poland, mirroring the firm determination and purposefulness of great men of former times.
2 Ibid., p. 16.
186 The Musical Quarterly Martial in spirit, they are brave and valorous, at the same time showing strength in calmness and reflection.
In recent times the Polonaise has deteriorated, has followed a degrad- ing path, has been "more occupied with pleasures than splendors," but a man of genius brought back its ancient glory - Weber. Chopin, how- ever, excelled the German and surpassed him in harmonic novelty, in emotional power, in variety, and in quantity.29
One of Chopin's boldest conceptions is the Polonaise in F-sharp minor with an interpolated mazurka, a bizarre caprice that was frighten- ing to the world of fashion. It is like the tale of a dream after a sleepless night, in the first glimmer of a gray winter dawn; impressions and pic- tures commingle with strange incoherencies and transitions like those in Byron's A Dream:
... Dreams in their development have breath, And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy; They have a weight upon our waking thoughts,
And look like heralds of Eternity.
The sinister oppressiveness of the first part and the scone champitre of the second offer a contrast that only makes the listener more tense. When the first theme returns, there is a feeling of relief, a sense of being freed from a naive and self-deluding happiness. This piece has effects that are without parallel in the works of all the great masters.30
Liszt was convinced that Chopin's mazurkas were the opposite pole of his art. These miniature masterpieces were so many highly individual, personal utterances, bewildering in their variety. They were the feminine
counterpart to the masculinity of the polonaise. And, as with the polo- naise, to grasp the full extent of Chopin's accomplishment, it was neces-
sary to see the old dance itself in order to understand the pride and tenderness and teasing quality of the music. Chopin's mazurka melodies are rooted in Polish soil, but the composer brought to them an indefinable
poetic quality that the original songs only hinted at.
Then Liszt in the rapture of his enthusiasm (or was it Carolyne's?) 2 Liszt was particularly well acquainted with Weber's Grande Polonaise, Op. 21,
and Polacca Brillante, Op. 72, both important piano solos composed respectively in
1808 and 1819. He prefixed the slow introduction of the earlier work to the later in making his version of Weber's "Polonaise brillante" for piano and orchestra.
30 Liszt, Chopin, 1852, pp. 43-44.
Chopin by Liszt 187
began to rhapsodize, and a sample must be given. Slavic femininity reared its lovely head.
So --what emotions mingle in the fortuitous associations brought about by the mazurka. They enchantingly enfold the slightest caprices of the heart and give the most fleeting, trivial, and superficial encounters an appeal to the imagina- tion. And how could it be otherwise, with the women who endow the mazurka with a matchless grace that other countries vainly try to attain. For are not Slavic women incomparable? Some there are whose qualities and virtues are so perfect that they belong to all times and all climes, but such paragons are always and everywhere few. These women are chiefly distinguished by a highly varied originality. Half Oriental, half Parisian, perhaps inheriting from their mothers the secret of inflaming philtres prevalent in harems, they attract by Asiatic languor, by the glowing eyes of houris, by a sultaness' ease, by wondrous tenderness, by caressing gestures that are never bold, by languid movements that intoxicate, by quiet attitudes that are magnetic. They attract by suppleness of body that knows no constraint and is free of effort imposed by ceremony . . . And yet many of them - we say this with devout respect - mysteriously sublime, practice their holiest virtues and make their finest sacrifices anonymously.
Yes, Liszt repeated, it is necessary to know Polish women to appreci- ate intuitively Chopin's mazurkas or, for that matter, his preludes, nocturnes, and impromptus. In their pages will be found all aspects of passion. Similar poetic visions supply inspiration for most of his ballades, waltzes, and etudes, so finely and ideally textured that they seem to belong to another world.
But there is also wit and banter in Chopin's music, and in pieces with these qualities "only the black keys of the piano are used, bringing to mind Chopin's gaiety, which addressed only the upper reaches of the
Once, relates Liszt, a very distinguished Parisienne asked Chopin why she reacted so sadly to his music, and the composer replied that his music was filled with Zal. And he repeated the word several times.31
In his playing Chopin produced a peculiar rocking, undulating effect. The melody was "like a skiff on the crest of a rolling surf." Famous as tempo rubato, it was "time stolen, interrupted ... at once lingering and rushing, wavering like a draft-disturbed flame." At first Chopin indicated this in his writing, but "later he ceased to insert the term,... convinced
31 Zal is a Polish word difficult to translate. Polish-English dictionaries agree on these possible meanings: regret, grief, compassion, pity; in certain idioms it takes on the color of resentment, complaint, grudge.
188 The Musical Quarterly
that, with any intelligence, a player could not fail to understand this rule of irregularity.""3
But his playing was not heard often. "I am not suited to give con- certs," Liszt quotes him as saying to an artist friend (doubtless Liszt himself), "the public frightens me. I am stifled by its breath, paralyzed by its staring; I am dumb before the strange faces. But you - you are destined for it, for when you do not win the public you have the power to overwhelm it."
Liszt was of the opinion - and it was not unreasonable - that the few concerts in which Chopin played fatigued his artistic more than his
physical sensibility. Failing to win wide popular acclaim he felt unap- preciated, and his willingness to forgo popular success covered a hidden vexation. He was conscious of his haute superiorite' and hurt when it was not fully acknowledged. He was even suspicious of the praise of indivi-
duals, preferring to harbor his ill-feeling alone. Yet he did not pose as a misunderstood genius; for that he was too perceptive. The belief that he avoided public playing because of physical weakness was refuted by long hours of playing at home and of teaching.
The people who met at Chopin's dwelling were distinguished and
exceptional. It was pleasant to go there, for he was charming and
hospitable, immediately putting his guests at ease. This was natural, of
course, since the Slavic lord and Slavic laborer follow the same tradi- tion of hospitality. But gaining access to Chopin was a different matter; he opened his door and his piano reluctantly, even misanthropically. "More than one of us, surely, remembers that first improvised evening with him, in spite of his refusal, when he lived in the Chauss&e d'Antin." Gathered around the Pleyel piano (his favorite because of its veiled,
silvery tone and easy action) in the candle-lit but corner-darkened room were Heine, "saddest of the humorists"; Meyerbeer, "harmonist of cyclo-
pean structures"; Nourrit, noble and ascetic; Hiller; Delacroix; the
elderly Niemcewicz; Mickiewicz, the "Dante of the North." Deep in an arm chair was George Sand, leaning on a table and listening with a
strange attention, able to seize the beautiful in whatever form it was
presented. Sand it was whose "dynamic personality and flashing genius inspired in the frail and delicate nature of Chopin an admiration that
consumed him, as a too heady wine destroys its too fragile vase."33
32 Liszt, Chopin, 1852, pp. 69-70. 33 Ibid., pp. 82-84, 88, 90, 92.
Chopin by Liszt 189
Chopin's character and every impulse were based upon the finest sense of honor, yet never was there a being who might more justifiably have yielded to whim and caprice. He proudly resigned himself to his sufferings and never revealed them. He disciplined his life by eliminating the excrescences. In a way he was unapproachable. "Ready to give all, he never gave of himself." He appeared untroubled, was ordinarily gay, perceived the ridiculous to a far greater degree than is usual. Adept in comic pantomime, he imitated (in gesture, movement, and expression) the fatuities of certain virtuosos in capital fashion. But he permitted no conversation about himself, with the result that his intimate personality was always distant and elusive.
His patriotism was obvious and unquestioned. His creative activity reflected this and so did his choice of friends and pupils (largely Polish). But he took no pleasure in talking about it, and limited his interest in politics to exposing the errors of others. In religion, too, he was (though a devout Catholic) extremely reticent. What he did discuss with relish was art, for, being a great artist, he felt this subject was within his province.
In 1832, shortly after his arrival in Paris, in music as in literature, a new school was forming...
Those who saw the flames of talent steadily devouring the old worm-eaten frames attached themselves to that school of music of which Berlioz was the most gifted, the most courageous, the most daring representative. Chopin rallied completely to this school and was one of those who fought most persistently to free himself from the servile forms of conventional style, at the same time
repudiating that which would only replace old abuses by new ones.
Chopin was not gregarious, but he maintained the closest relations with his family and the friends of his youth. His sister Louise was espe- cially dear to him. He corresponded regularly with his family, but with no one else. In fact, he hated letter writing and would walk the width of Paris to avoid penning a note.
Elegant in mind, he also wanted physical elegance around him. He had a passion for flowers, but was never ostentatious. He knew the dividing line between le trop et le trop peu, and his instinct directed him comme il faut.
According to Liszt, Chopin was born in Zelazowa-Wola, near War-
190 The Musical Quarterly
saw, in 1810, but did not remember the exact date.34 As a child he was frail and sickly.35 His family lavished on him attention and care, taught him to conceal suffering, and inculcated the virtues of religion, charity, and modesty. His early years gave no sign of his genius or of his future distinction of mind and soul.30 First a pupil of Ziwna (i.e. Zwyny), he was thoroughly grounded in the classics, particularly Bach. Financial assistance for later education came indirectly from Prince Anton Radzi- will, himself a composer of no mean ability.37
Liszt used liberal quotations from George Sand's Lucrezia Floriani to describe Chopin as a man and mature (?) personality. In the novel Chopin is Prince Karol de Roswald, while Sand herself is the actress in the title role.38
"Many a time," wrote Liszt, "a poet or an artist appears who sums up in himself a whole people, a whole era, presenting absolutely in his creations the types they produce or strive for. Chopin was that poet for his country and for the period into which he was born." He individual- ized in himself the poetic sense of an entire nation, not merely because of the rhythms of polonaises, mazurkas, and krakowiaki, but because he
expressed the mode of feeling peculiar to his land. In his preludes, etudes, nocturnes, scherzos, concertos, etc., the same sensibility is found in varying degrees; modified a thousand ways, it remains one and the same. "Thus all his works are bound in a single unity whence result their beauties and their faults, the product of one emotion, one manner of feeling - an essential requisite of a poet with whose songs all the hearts of a nation beat in unison."
Chopin was critical of the music he heard. Some of Beethoven's work was too rough for him, "trop athlktique"; he was charmed by some of
34 Here Liszt erred, but not inexcusably. Sydow (see note 5), II, 86, publishes a letter in which Chopin declared he was born on March 1, 1810. Within the last seven years, however, three standard reference works have given three different dates for this event: Grove (5th ed.) - March 1; Baker (1958) - February 22 (this date is based on the baptismal certificate); Encyclope'die de la Musique (1958) - April 23.
35 Recent biographers, especially Hedley, have disputed this, but even Miss Stirling referred to his youthful faiblesse physique.
36 This would seem to confirm Liszt's failure to receive Miss Stirling's answers. 37 Prod'homme (see note 1), 82, and others mention sister Louise's stout denial
of such help, but family pride and a dislike of Liszt may have been responsible. 38Miss Stirling denied the impersonation, and so did Sand - cf. Dwight's
Journal of Music, Sept. 29, 1855 - but there is little question about it today; her accuracy, of course, raises an entirely different question.
Chopin by Liszt 191
Schubert's songs, but his ear found others too harsh. "Italian music, open, light, devoid of thought and science, [and] German art exuding vulgar force, even though powerful, had little appeal for him." He liked Hummel's piano music, but his ideal was Mozart."s
"At this time  Mme. Sand often heard Chopin, exceptional artist, spoken of by one of his musician friends [Liszt himself?], one who had welcomed him to Paris with the greatest joy. More than his talent, she heard his poetic genius vaunted; she knew his works and admired their lovely sweetness. She was impressed by the wealth of feeling in these poetic effusions." She wanted to know him.
Chopin seemed to fear Sand above all other women, and he avoided and delayed their meeting. Of this she was unaware. But when they did meet, "she quickly dissipated his obstinately held prejudices against female authors."
In the fall of 1837 Chopin and Sand went to Majorca, where Sand took wonderful care of the ailing composer. "The memory of the
Majorcan days remained in Chopin's heart as a delight, an ecstasy, which fate grants only once to the most
favored."' From 1840 on Chopin's health declined steadily. For several years
the summers at Nohant (Sand's country estate in central France) were his happiest periods. Winters were agonizing, however, for then his suf-
fering increased. With strength failing and the breach with Sand a fait accompli Chopin was in bad condition. In the spring of 1848 he decided to go to England where an admiring public awaited him. "Il quitta la France dans cette disposition d'esprit que les Anglais appellent low
spirits." Well received, mingling with the aristocracy, and even meeting
Queen Victoria, he continued to suffer. Finally he was ordered to leave the English climate and return to Paris. Here he was unable to concen- trate on work, though he wanted to produce a piano method that would sum up the theory and technique of his art. Much talk and a few pages were all that resulted, for he was neither strong enough nor interested
enough to complete the project. 39 Liszt, Chopin, 1852, pp. 150-53. While Chopin may have found some Italian
music too thin, he did admire Bellini, whose music had shapely contour and on occasion extraordinary fervor.
40 Ibid., pp. 170, 172, 176. Here Liszt erred and was ill informed. The trip to
Majorca was made in 1838-39, and the sojourn there had its nightmarish qualities.
192 The Musical Quarterly His health worsened and he calmly awaited the end.
He wished to be buried beside Bellini with whom he had had relations, as intimate as they were frequent, during the latter's stay in Paris. Bellini's tomb in the cemetery of Pire Lachaise is next to Cherubini's. The desire to know this great master, in admiration of whom he had been raised, was one of the motives that determined his passing through Paris in 1831 as he was going from Vienna to London. He lies now between Bellini and Cherubini, such contrasting geniuses, whom Chopin approaches equally, valuing the science of one as much as he was drawn to the other; breathing out the melodic expressiveness of the author of Norma, breathing in the essence, the harmonic depth of the learned elder; wishing to join, in a great and lofty manner, the misty lightness of spontaneous emotion to the attainments of consummate masters. 41
By October, says Liszt, the end was in sight. Learning of the crisis, the Countess Delphine Potocka rushed back to Paris to be near her friend. On the 15th Chopin saw her and asked her to sing, and after one song he exclaimed: "Que c'est beau! mon Dieu, que c'est beau! Encore - encore !" - and she had to sing again. During the night the Abb6 Alexandre Jelowicki was sent for. Death came on October 17, with his sister Louise and Gutmann by the bedside. Chopin practically died in Gutmann's arms.42
Chopin's holy admiration for Mozart's genius underlay the request that the Requiem be performed at his funeral. This wish was fulfilled. The ceremony took place in the church of the Madeleine, October 30, 1849, deferred this long so that the performance of this great work would be worthy of master and disciple. The leading artists of Paris wanted to participate. Chopin's Marche funkbre, orchestrated for the occasion by M. Reber, served as Introit; for Offertory his admirable Preludes in B minor and E minor were played on the organ by M. Lefebure VWly [sic]. The solo parts of the Requiem were claimed by Mmes. Viardot and Castellan, and M. Lablache, who had sung the Tuba mirum from this same Requiem in 1827 at Beethoven's burial, now sang it again. M. Meyer- beer, who on that occasion had played the drums, led the mourning procession with Prince Adam Czartoryski. The pall bearers were Prince Alexandre Czartory- ski and MM. Delacroix, Franchomme, and Gutmann.
It must be confessed that Liszt's account of Chopin's last days and
obsequies is full of glaring inaccuracies. Our author was not strong on research! But biographers still disagree on even important details, and an exact narrative may never be available. A comparison of the same
41 Ibid., pp. 193-94. 42 Adolph Gutmann (1819-82), a German pianist and composer, lived chiefly in
Paris, where he was a student and intimate friend of Chopin. He acquired a consider- able following through his salon pieces and finished technique.
Chopin by Liszt 193
events as related in Sydow's edition of the Correspondance, in Ganche's Fre'deric Chopin, in Hedley's Chopin shows how irrecoverable the truth may be. (A factual account of Beethoven's funeral would also be illu- minating.)
Liszt closed his book by appending a few pages of general, grief- expressing sentiment, and in reiterating the high place in musical history destined for the Polish genius. Knowing that agitation for a monument was in the air, he claimed "the privileges of friendship and comradeship" in proffering "a more special testimony of our living grief and our unshakeable admiration" for him whose death left "an irreparable loss."
So the tribute of one great artist to another was given to the public. It did not pass unnoticed, but on the other hand it certainly made no indelible impression. Chopin's family disliked it, probably because they were doubtful of Liszt's sincerity and perhaps because of a desire for a
complete panegyric. Families are known to have such weaknesses, and
Chopin's was no exception. Then of course there were the interminable
perorations coming from Princess Carolyne, who energetically and care-
lessly invaded the fields of history, esthetics, sociology, and even linguis- tics; page after page of her verbosity must have repelled as many readers as the title of the book attracted. Even for its time it was "indigestible," and a hundred years later it is still more so.
Yet it has merits and an authority that present-day detractors have no right to deny. Those passages on which Liszt "collaborated" with
Carolyne, the evocation of the Paris days, Liszt's reactions to Chopin's art and personality, have an element of truth (if not the whole truth) that students of the period cannot afford to overlook.
It must be remembered, too, that even though Liszt referred to the book more than once as a biography, it is not a biography in the ordinary sense of the word. Nor should it be read as such. It is an appreciation and, literally, a memoir - Liszt's reflections on Chopin's life and music, and his recollections of some of their encounters and associations. To
say that many of Liszt's statements about his friend's life "have wilted in the glare of scholarly examination" and to denigrate it as "wholly unreliable"43 shows a complete lack of understanding of the book's
purpose, essence, and even organization. Surely the book has enough
3 Herbert Weinstock, Chopin, the Man and His Music, New York, 1949, pp. 9, 334.
194 The Musical Quarterly
faults and Liszt has enough to be embarrassed about without heaping irrelevant condemnation on it and on him.
Chopin, by Liszt, remains a unique tribute by a man who knew what and whom he was talking about. That the author exaggerated or was led into exaggeration, that he digressed or was led into digression should not blind present-day readers and students of history to its real substance - the testimony of a highly imaginative artist who willingly and volun-
tarily, unselfishly and generously (and characteristically), lauded the friend and comrade whose death was indeed an irreparable loss.