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 dementi'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 Frderic 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 illuded 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 fitudes, 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 nuanciren.
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 genrations 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.
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.
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 under stood 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 llustration 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:
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.