His life was brilliant and brief, much like his masterpieces on the piano. This segment tracks Frederic Chopin in Paris. He had left Poland to spend eight inhospitable months in Vienna before making his way to Paris at he time the Polish rebellion was being crushed by the Russians. It was the Paris of 1831…
Chopin’s literary counterpart was the exiled poet Heinrich Heine, also just arrived in Paris:
He did, however, love his homeland, and did not want to spend the rest of his life in exile. However, the July Revolution and the activities in Paris inexorably drew him closer; as early as August 1830, he had written:
Everything is still like a dream to me; in particular the name Lafayette sounds like a legend from my earliest childhood. Is he really now sitting on his horse once again, commanding the national guard? I am almost afraid it isn’t true because it’s in print. I want to go to Paris myself to convince myself with my own blessed eyes…. Lafayette, the tricolor, the Marseillaise! … My longing for peace is gone. I know now what I want to do, what I should do, what I must do … I am the son of the Revolution, and I take up the charmed weapons upon which my mother has pronounced her magic blessing. Read More: http://www.nthuleen.com/papers/141papereng.html …
Heine was a revolutionary of the spirit who had not gone off to the wars, having found sundry good reasons to “keep me here in amorous dalliance/ while others fight the Grand Alliance”. His notes on Chopin show that it was a case of instant recognition:According to Liszt: ‘Chopin and Heine understood one another in mid-word and mid-sound’ [Chopin na obczyźnie, p. 89].
Heine wrote the following about Chopin: ‘he is not only a virtuoso but also a poet; he can reveal to us the poetry that lives in his soul; he is a composer, and nothing can equal the pleasure he gives us when he sits at the piano and improvises. He is then neither Polish nor French nor German: he betrays a much higher origin, from the land of Mozart, of Raffael [sic], of Goethe; his true fatherland is the dream realm of poetry. When he sits improvising at the piano, I feel as though a compatriot from the beloved homeland were visiting me and recounting the most curious things which have taken place there during my absence. […] There is only one pianist I prefer [to Thalberg] Chopin, who, it is true, is more a composer than a virtuoso. In the vicinity of Chopin I completely forget the playing of the past master, and I sink into the soft unfathomed depths of his music, into the sorrowful delights of his creations, as exquisite as they are profound…. Read More: http://kalejdoskop-chopin.pl/persons.php?id=91 a
Shortly before he left for France, Heine published a collection of letters which he had written while on a trip to England in 1827. He added an afterword to this piece, and in it he spoke of the effect of the July Revolution; one scholar has seen this as a reflection of his attitudes while contemplating his move to France:
The state of mind in which Heinrich Heine crossed the Rhine may be seen in the concluding words added to his Letters from England immediately before publication: “Liberty is the new religion, the religion of our day …. The French are the chosen people of that religion, for in their tongue are written its first gospels and its first dogma: Paris is the new Jerusalem, and the Rhine is thedan which separates the holy land of liberty from the country of the Philistines.”
…Soon after arriving in Paris, when the Polish Prince Radziwill had introduced him to Society at the Baron Rothschild’s, Chopin was able to charge fifteen or twenty gold francs- an enormous sum- for an hour’s lesson. He moved to a modish street, bought a carriage, and patronized the best tailors.”I have found my way into the very best society…I have my place among ambassadors, princes, and ministers.”However, it could not have escaped him that his appeal to the society ladies may have had something to do with it. It was Liszt who introduced him to George Sand in 1836, when she was thirty-two and Chopin twenty-six. …
In Paris, Heine found that he was eagerly welcomed into the salons and spoken of highly in the most fashionable circles, all as a result of his being an émigré from Germany, a country which the French saw as suffering under a tyrant regime. In fact, Heine loved life in Paris. In 1832 he wrote to a friend, “if anyone asks you how I am tell him ‘like a fish in water,’ or rather, tell people that when one fish in the sea asks another how he is, he receives the reply: ‘I am like Heine in Paris.'” Read More: http://www.nthuleen.com/papers/141papereng.html
…Already the most talked about woman in France, she was the mother of two half-grown children and of a great many books, mainly about the trials and triumphs of women in love. She had weathered stormy liaisons with Alfred de Musset and other men of talent and now it was Chopin’s turn; one can even come to the conclusion that she decided to make him her lover for his own good. They celebrated their honeymoon in the sight of heaven on the island of Majorca, where they lived for two months in the abandoned monastery of a hillside village.
Chopin suffered a severe attack of consumption, which drove them back to France just as his piano finally caught up with them, and from then on they left Paris only to spend the summers at Nohant, Sand’s family estate near Chateauroux: He might well have been carried off before the 39 years allotted to him had George not taken him into her care at Nohant and in Paris. She gave him the right conditions in which to compose.
Like her or loathe her, George Sand was a remarkable woman – a prodigious novelist, dramatist and campaigner for all manner of political reform. ‘The first modern liberated woman’ to quote Noel Gerson, one of her biographers. She successfully divorced her husband and kept control of her children at a time when such a course of action by a woman was almost unheard of. ( Michael Lunts ) Read More: http://www.michael-lunts.co.uk/georgesand.htm
Understandably, then, as Heine himself said, his conversion was “the ticket of admission into European culture.” He continued to publish, writing both poems and novels, but he met increasing resistance, both from members of the Romantic school, who criticized his writing as too harsh and cynical, and from the Poetic Realism school, who objected to his sarcasm and to what they considered obscenity (i.e., sensuality) in his works. He contemplated moving to another country in order to write more successfully, but none was particularly appealing to him. In 1830, when he heard the news of the July Revolution, he was overjoyed; he truly believed in the cause of the revolution, and thought that it would succeed. At the same time, seeing the newfound liberty in France made Heine sadly aware of the oppressive conditions in his homeland; he realized, however, that the German people simply did not have the strength or the impetus to accomplish such an action themselves, and that maybe they never would. In a letter dated November 29, 1830, Heine wrote the following:
Ah! the great week of Paris! The spirit of freedom which spread from thence to Germany has upset the bedroom candles here and there so that the red curtains of certain thrones have caught fire and golden crowns have grown hot under blazing night-caps; but the old bailiffs, on whom the Imperial Government rely, bring along fire-buckets and spy all the more warily and bind the faster the secret chains, and already I perceive that yet a closer prison wall is rising invisibly about the German people. Poor captive people! despair not in your need! O that I could speak catapults! O that I could blaze forth firebolts from my heart! The coating of ice about my heart melts and a strange sorrow creeps over me. Is it love? Love for the German people? Or is it sickness? Read More: http://www.nthuleen.com/papers/141papereng.html a
Heine became so caught up in the July Revolution, and indeed in French ideals, that, especially in later years, he often used French subjects in metaphors while speaking of German topics. Thus, for instance, did he characterize Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, as “the Marseillaise Hymn of the Reformation.” Also, although Heine in general did not advocate a violent revolution in Germany, he nonetheless seemed to believe that if such a revolution could be accomplished, it would do good to the nation. Speaking metaphorically in his essay entitled The Romantic School (1833), he compares inhumane practices and restrictions on liberty to goblins and ghosts, noting that France is “a country where there are no ghosts”; he then proceeds to describe Germany:
O how I would like to stand on top of the Strassburg cathedral with a tricolored flag in my hands that would stretch to Frankfurt! I believe that if I could wave that sacred flag over my dear fatherland and at the same time recite the proper incantation, then the old witches would fly off on their broom sticks; the cold sluggards would crawl back into their graves; the golem would again disintegrate into mere clay; the fieldmarshal Cornelius Nepos would return to wherever he came from; and this entire spoof would come to an end. Read More: http://www.nthuleen.com/papers/141papereng.html