Saturday, August 1, 2015


All the same it is being said everywhere
that I played too softly, or rather, too
delicately for people used to the piano-
pounding of the artists here.

Every difficulty slurred over will be a
ghost to disturb your repose later on.

I am not fitted to give concerts. The audience
intimidates me, I feel choked by its breath,
paralyzed by its curious glances, struck
dumb by all those strange faces.

I wish I could throw off the thoughts which
poison my happiness. And yet I take a
kind of pleasure in indulging them.

Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable
when you have overcome all difficulties.

Simplicity is the final achievement. After
one has played a vast quantity of notes
and more notes, it is simplicity that
emerges as the crowning reward of art.

(Dying of tuberculosis)
The earth is suffocating... As this cough will
choke me, I implore you to have my body
opened, so that I may not be buried alive.

When one does a thing, it appears good,
otherwise one would not write it. Only later
comes reflection, and one discards or accepts
the thing. Time is the best censor, and
patience a most excellent teacher.

Sometimes I can only groan, suffer,
and pour out my despair at the piano!
Put all your soul into it, play the way you feel!

It is dreadful when something weighs on
your mind, not to have a soul to unburden
yourself to. You know what I mean. I tell
my piano the things I used to tell you.

If I were still stupider than I am, I should think
myself at the apex of my career; yet I know
how much I still lack, to reach perfection; I see
it the more clearly now that I live only
among first-rank artists and know
what each one of them lacks.

I'm a revolutionary,
money means nothing to me.
They want me to give another concert but I
have no desire to do so. You cannot imagine
what a torture the three days before
a public appearance are to me.
But when he asked Chopin whether he was
still in pain, we quite distinctly heard the
answer: 'No more.' These were the
last words heard from his lips.
The three most celebrated doctors on the island
have been to see me. One sniffed at what I spat,
the second tapped where I spat from, and the
third sounded me and listened as I spat.
The first said I was dead, the second that I was
dying and the third that I’m going to die.
(About his Op. 11 Piano Concerto)
Here you doubtless observe my tendency to do
wrong against my will. As something has
involuntarily crept into my head through my eyes,
I love to indulge it, even though it may be all wrong.
They want me to be everything in one; a Polish
Rossini and a Mozart and a Beethoven. But I just
laugh under my breath and think to myself that
one must start from small things. I'm only a pianist,
and, if I’m worth anything, that is good, too.
The Official Bulletin declared that the Poles
should be as proud of me as the German
are of Mozart; obvious nonsense.
My manuscripts sleep, while I cannot,
for I am covered with poultices.
(Writing to his father at 8 years old)
I could express my feelings more easily
if they could be put into notes of music.
I don't know how it is, but the Germans are
amazed at me and I am amazed at them for
finding anything to be amazed about.
Here, waltzes are called works! And Strauss and
Lanner, who play them for dancing, are called
Kapellmeistern. This does not mean that everyone
thinks like that; indeed, nearly everyone laughs
about it; but only waltzes get printed.
There are certain times when I feel more inspired,
filled with a strong power that forces me to
listen to my inner voice, and when I feel more
need than ever for a Pleyel piano.
I have met a great celebrity, Madame Dudevant,
known as George Sand… Her appearance is not
to my liking. Indeed there is something about
her which positively repels me… What an
unattractive person La Sand is… she really
a woman? I'm inclined to doubt it.
Yesterday's concert was a success. I hasten to let
you know. I inform your Lordship that I was not a
bit nervous and played as I play when I am
alone. It went well… and I had to come
back and bow four times.
I feel like a novice, just as I felt before I knew
anything of the keyboard. It is far too
original, and I shall end up not
being able to learn it myself.

Among the numerous pleasures of Vienna the
hotel evenings are famous. During supper
Strauss or Lanner play waltzes... After every
waltz they get huge applause; and if they play
a Quodlibet, or jumble of opera, song and dance,
the hearers are so overjoyed that they don't
know what to do with themselves. It shows
the corrupt taste of the Viennese public.
I am gay on the outside, especially among my own
folk (I count Poles my own); but inside something
gnaws at me; some presentiment, anxiety,
dreams - or sleeplessness - melancholy,
indifference - desire for life, and the next instant,
desire for death; some kind of sweet peace,
some kind of numbness, absent-mindedness...
They're all cousins here, male and female,
belonging to great families with great names which
no one on the continent has ever heard of. The
whole conversation is conducted along genealogical
lines; it's just like the Gospel - such a one begat so
and-so, and he begat another who begat still others
and so on for two pages, up to Jesus Christ.

A strange adventure befell me while I was
playing my Sonata in B flat minor before
some English friends. I had played the
Allegro and the Scherzo more or less
correctly. I was about to attack the March
when suddenly I saw arising from the body
of my piano those cursed creatures which
had appeared to me one lugubrious night at
the Chartreuse [Majorca]. I had to leave for
one instant to pull myself together after
which I continued without saying anything.

(On the British) surrounded by the boredom of
conventionalities, that it is all one to them
whether music is good or bad, since they
have to hear it from morning till night. For
here they have flower-shows with music,
dinners with music, sales with music...
(On England)
Art, here, means painting, sculpture and
architecture. Music is not art and is not
called art... Music is a profession, not an art,
and no one speaks or writes of any musician
as an artist... These queer folk play for
the sake of beauty, but to teach
them decent things is a joke.
Having nothing to do, I am correcting the
Paris edition of Bach; not only the engraver's
mistakes, but also the mistakes hallowed by
those who are supposed to understand Bach
(I have no pretensions to understand better,
but I do think that sometimes I can guess).
Here, whatever is not boring is not English.
(On Scotland)
The population here is ugly, but apparently
good-natured. On the other hand the
cows are magnificent, but apparently
inclined to gore people.
"After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had
been weeping over sins that I had
never committed, and mourning over
tragedies that were not my own."
--Oscar Wilde, 1891
"Deeply regretted as he may be by the
whole body of artists, lamented by all
who have ever known him, we must still
be permitted to doubt if the time has
even yet arrived in which he, whose loss
is so peculiarly deplored by ourselves,
can be appreciated in accordance
with his just value, or occupy that high
rank which in all probability will be
assigned him in the future."
--Franz Liszt
"Incomparable genius whom
the heavens envied the Earth."
We may be sure that a genius
like Mozart, were he born
today, would write concertos
like Chopin and not like Mozart.
- Robert Schumann
He would lock himself up in his room
for whole days, weeping, pacing back
and forth, breaking his pens, repeating
or changing one bar a hundred times,
writing and erasing as many times,
and beginning again the next day with
an infinite and desperate perseverance.
He sometimes spent six weeks on one
page, only in the end to write it exactly
as he had sketched at the first draft.
--George Sand
There is something fundamentally
personal and at the same time
so very masterly in his playing
that he may be called a really
perfect virtuoso.
- Mendelssohn
Chopin is a pianist of conviction.
He composes for himself, plays
for himself… and everyone listens
with interest, with delight, with infinite
pleasure… Nothing indeed equals
the lightness and sweetness of his
preluding on the piano, nothing
compares with his works in
originality, distinction and grace.
Chopin is unique as a pianist; he
should not and cannot be
compared with anyone.
--La France Musicale
The marvelous charm, the poetry
and originality, the perfect freedom
and absolute lucidity of Chopin’s
playing cannot be described. It is
perfection in every sense.
--C.E. and M. Halle
Chopin is full of health and strength; all
the French women are after him, and
all the French men are jealous. He is
the rage; the world will soon see people
wearing new-fashioned gloves—
gloves à la Chopin.
Here is a young man, abandoning
himself to his natural impressions and
without taking a model, has found, if
not a complete renewal of pianoforte
music, at least a part of what has been
sought in vain for a long time; namely
an abundance of original ideas of which
the type is to be found nowhere.
--Revue Musicale, March 3, 1832
Chopin’s rubato possessed an unshakable
emotional logic. It always justified itself
by a strengthening or weakening melodic
line, by exaggeration or affectation.
--Karol Mikuli, pupil of Chopin
It was an unforgettable picture to see Chopin
sitting at the piano like a clairvoyant,
lost in his dreams.
--Robert Schumann
Chopin is so dear to us precisely because, with
his music, he enters the artistic atmosphere
which surrounds us as our contemporary; as
a close, well-understood and beloved friend.
--Kabalevsky Dmitri
His character was indeed not easily understood.
A thousand subtle shades, mingling, crossing,
contradicting and disguising each other,
rendered it almost undecipherable
at a first view.
--Liszt Franz
What makes Chopin great is the fact that no
matter how simple he is he never becomes
common, while his most complicated works
never become overly sophisticated.
--Tolstoy Leo
Portrait Chopin