Abbildungen der Seite

in their Pantheon of half-a-dozen divinities, any means of comparison can be much more whereof self is not the smallest.

pregnant with diversion than the connoisseurThe obituaries have alredy told the pub- Ship of Paris : what it adopts, what it repulic that Frederic Chopin was born in the year diates, the "why" of its takings, and the 1810, at Zelazowawola, near Warsaw, that “wherefore" of its leavings. But more of he was taught composition by Herr Elsner, this, perhaps, some other day, when scandal and pianoforte playing by Ń. Zywni, and is in the ascendant. Enough for the moment that in 1831, almost contemporaneously with to state that Parisian taste did itself honor any mention of his name as a musician of and credit in making a home-a position—a original and promising genius, he appeared career for Chopin. I believe that in London in Paris, and established hiirself there. This his Mazurkas, Scherzi, Ballades, Polonoises, was no child's nor lyro's task to accomplish, Nollurni, or Studies, if then put forth, would for the French metropolis was just then in have been wasted on the empty air. In Paris its fullest glory of musical life, competition, they became the high fashion (as distinguishand activity. Liszt was there, with his stu- ed from the rage), and their composer the pendous ten fingers, and that brilliant wit of favorite muster of the most refined and poethis which "cut its bright way through” in ically disposed pianoforte players. Nor did circles where his fantasias and Tarentelles and this merited reputation dwindle on its bestudies were not really cared for. Ferdinand coming known, in the progress of time, that Hiller, too, was there, both as a pianist and Chopin had a history, and that the strangest as a composer, giving promise which he has and most poetical of female authors or resince been tardy of fulfilling. The monotony formers, that “large-brained woman and of Thalberg's magnificence as a persormer large-hearted man" (as Miss Barrett finely had not as yet been found out; and the old, described George Sand), had given the young urbane and sweet-spoken Kalkbrenner (most composer a fauteuil in her singular salon, as courteous of the courteous, and vainest of an intimate and valued family friend. It is the yain) still retained a certain congregation needless to advert to the interpretation which among persons who, as poor Lady was sure to be passed upon such an intimacy once put it, “passed their lives in cultivating by our shrewd and malicious neighbors elegance.” What was more, it became soon save to advert to its probable baselessness. clear that Chopin could not and would not But when I was in Paris, in 1839-40, make his way as a public performer; that Madame Dudevant's mot, describing her inhis health was delicate almost to the point of mate as “mon beau cadavre," was in erery perpetual invalidism,—that his social preten- one's mouth-and, strange though her de. sions (not gifts) were small, that his deli- scription may sound in the ears of English cacy of mind was great. There was every friendship, steady and deep I believe to have chance of his music being thrown by as been their mutual regard; until that hapbaroque and vague. Just then, bowever, it pened, which mostly befalls in such cases happened that Paris was Hoffmann mad- too frequent intercourse becoming in the end Jean Paul mad-Esmeralda mad—mad for i burdensome; and the two separating finally everything that was parcel eccentric, parcel after many years of affectionate counsel. It sentimental-mad with Polish sympathies, was mainly to Chopin's bad health, and tenand for Polish poets. The pallid and frail. dency to pulmonary and asthmatic disorders, looking young artist, too, modest and gentle that we owe one of George Sand's most as he was, had, in addition to quiet polish of charming books of picture-writing - her manners, that boon of irony and humor- “Winter in the South of Europe,” —-otherthat power of placing a mol which then at wise the Island of Majorca. least (Heaven knows what the fashions are Wiiting of the man, rather than of the now!) never failed to command for its owner musician, I will not indulge in any longa hearing and a position in the select coteries drawn or technical analysis of the peculiariof the French metropolis. Further, Chopin ties of Chopin's compositions. Never has resigning all pretensions to the career of a so long a series of works more intensely intraveling virtuoso, pitched his tent and fur- dividual been produced—his Mazurkas, how nished his appartement in Paris, a thing par- rationally, pensively, quaintly freakish !-his ticularly agreeable to our neighbors: who in ballads, Notturni and Preludies, how tenderArt either love to discover what every one ly and melodiously poetical Shis Polonoises, has found out, or else to monopolize that how pompous and stately! There is one in which they assume no one else is worthy to A major, of grandeur as yet unequaled, enjoy. Nothing to a thinker who has had / which I never hear without its calling up some

coronation-festival, so gorgeously regal is its quietly trust in his own genius as sufficient step. His Studies, again, are of the highest for his own success, nor more worthily hold order : and this not solely as finger-exercises, himself remote from the intrigues, and the but also as compositions-in spite of the pe- littleness, and the fevers, with which the inculiar notation adopted, which renders them tercourse betwixt performer and public, the sometimes needlessly difficult to decipher. connection betwixt art and letters, are now Two remarks, however, must be offered — spoiled and mixed up in France-than since they will supply a key to Chopin's pecu- Chopin. There was in his nature a mixture liar manner to those whom Chopin's music of delicacy and pride, which cleared him of in any respect attracts. The left hand of any possible participation in the practices of the player is never to be out of tempo : the Parisian journalism. Traffic he could notright hand may almost always (save in the directly or indirectly. He was loved and case of some distinctly formal instrumental admired as a bon camarıde, but it was said figure) indulge in tempo rubato. Again, of him truly, that "into the shop he would whereas other pianoforte masters insist on not, could not, go.” Hence arose his extreme the equality of the fingers—in spite of the aversion to playing in public, and not altoanatomical lock and key put by Nature on gether, as some have stated it, from his phythe motion of the third digit,-Chopin pro- sical weakness. It was further his fancy that vided for their inequality : wishing, as he the best artists are unequal, and that it is once told me, so far as was possible, to de- only perfect mediocrity which can be perfect velop, not to destroy, the individuality of always—and when the clock strikes. And each member of the band. Hence a system he knew, too, that the wayward, quaint, of fingering, which might possibly have mournful playfulness of his Mazurkas, and made the Clementis and Hummels as irate ballads, and Notturni, ought always to have as such gentlemen are apt to become when not only the air, but, in some degree, the anything in the least new is broached, and reality of improvisation, which few men can the wisdom of which is open to controversy, control. I have never been thoroughly satis—but which is still a system.

fied in the playing of Chopin's more poetical Those, however, who knew and who loved music by any performer, save by Liszt ; when the man (for the two things were one), will Liszt is in his gentler mood, and sits dreambest taste and render the peculiar humor of ing away at the piano,-calling upon his suChopin's music—will best understand how it pernatural memory to give up its treasures will bear a certain dash of private judgment for the delight of one or two intimates and of on the part of the player—but not the himself. But as the best written account of slightest touch of exaggeration. Pianists of playing is about as unsatisfactory as the lesthe hammer-and-longs school-or who can sons for dancing printed in a book, the sodo nothing without a metronome, are warned lemn perusal of which (with illustrative diaoff Chopin's fairy-land. His interpreters grams) once surprised me into a hearty laugh, ought to have hands as long as Perugino's greatly to the offence of its author-let us angels, and as delicately firm as though they come away from the piano." were framed on adamant. The uttermost In his intercourse with his friends, Chopin precision and the most sensitive ease are all had established certain ways and caprices of too little to play Chopin's music as he played his own, against which all remonstrance was it himself. For, though anything but fool fruitless. To write letters, or to answer ish-anything but weak (there is iron in the notes, did not seem to him so much difficult rose)—he was a curious compound of fantasy, as impossible. Neither from his dictation, feeling, and strength—one of the most way- nor from his own pen, was there any means ward, tender, spirituel persons I have ever of extracting a written reply—even when the conversed with. Alike remarkable for his question concerned his own interests. How simplicity and for his self-consciousness—he his pupils managed, I could never imagine ; could be as eagerly irritable as a child about but I know that, save by word of mouth, it some little mistake in a concert-programme, was utterly useless to introduce a pupil to as eagerly entertained over the toys of art him-still more to induce him to make any or luxury, with which his appartement was appointment for an interview. This in one, filled by his friends and pupils. He could the largest portion of whose revenues was divert himself with trifling courtesies and derived from teaching, was, to say the best mysteries—making genial sport, to those who of it, an uncomfortable peculiarity. Chopin were in his confidence, of his own interest in had, however, as many delightfully ingenious such things. Yet never did artist more I reasons in its defence, as most people comVOL XIX. NO. IV.


mand, who, from indolence indulged till it, When Chopin was thus excited his counte

ward called the “ epistolary interchange of gave one's self up to the hopeful fallacy that courtesies.” Had the fates pleased to have his health was less bad than it appeared to allowed him a few years' residence in Eng. be—that other men worse bested than he land, he would possibly have sacrificed so in- had struggled on to old age, and that a deliconvenient and unpolite an eccentricity. For verance from the hot-bed life in which he there is a certain sober high-breeding in our had been enervated, might be followed by a atmosphere, which, let newly-arrived or dis- slow return to a healthier and more manly tant foreigners rail at it as they will, rarely condition of health and strength. Alas! in the end fails to penetrate them as some the wonder was that such shattered fragthing better, more to be relied upon, nay, ments could be made to assume even the and absolutely more conducive to easy enjoy semblance of consistency and volition--that ment, than either the faur brillani of old such a life could be prolonged from evening French politeness, or the laissez aller of moto evening by any spell! Even before he dern French philosophy! It is only the came to our rude climate, Chopin was so mock-genius, and the mock-gentleman, whom weak, and a pulmonary or asthmatic affecour life, and our manners, and our sense of tion had gained such ground, that he was mutual obligation, fail, sooner or later, to compelled to be carried up stairs; and it was impress.

a distressing sight to see him (as I have more At all events, no two things could be than once done) shivering and trembling more entirely different than Madame Dude with eagerness among the arriving or departvant's intimate circle, with its eccentric ordi- ing guests of a London rout, arrested by the nances and artificial usages-parcel savage, apparition of so very peculiar a shadow, unparcel super-civilized—and its intensely ex- til some friend came by, who could explain citing conversation, in which every feverish or provide for his infirmity. opinion and false principle found its most elo- Chopin's death was probably hastened by quent and refined representative-from the a visit to Scotland, which be was induced to matter-of-fact, bustling, unsympathetic draw- make at the close of the London musical ing-rooms of London; where Mrs. Leo season of 1848. The climate, he said, Hunters may be found by the score eager “pierced him through like a spear;" but his alike to stare at a Bastardella or a Prince enjoyment of our vie de cháleau, and his Lee Boo, and into which refined, and intelli- wonderful power of endurance, carried him gent, and appreciating admirers of instru- through. He himself, on his return to Lonmental music rarely enter. Yet so far from don, described with sad humor the utter bearing the change badly-or from making amazement testified by a party of sportsmen a sulky, or cynical, or mournful “ lion ”- in rude health, on stumbling over him as he Chopin (in spite of his being driven hither-lay gasping for breath on the deck of a ward by no choice of his own, but simply by steamer, covered with warm wrappings, the total destruction of Art in Paris by the and their doubt (he said) " as to his species.” Revolution) seemed heartily to be amused in It became too evident to every one that his London—and to enjoy his power of appre- decay had been cruelly accelerated by his ciating the good qualities of our fine ladies lingering too late in the North ; and, for a and our plain gentlemen. He was neither fortnight, in November, he lay in that state touchy in with holding nor tiresome in giving of prostration from which some of us contoo much of his playing. If a good listener ceived he could never rally. Will it be beor two was near the pianoforte he was easily lieved that, in this state of death-in-lise, prevailed upon to begin, and always ended Chopin was solicited by the charity-mongers

Over himself his art exercised a and philanthropical patriots (well acquainted great charm. I have seen him look fifty with the intensity of bis national affections) when he took his place, and twenty-five when to appear at Guildhall on the night of the he quitted it-sit down a meagre, worn, livid, Polish Ball, and to perform at the concert, panting man (his face, as some one described which on such occasions must be hurried it, "seamed with pain and anxiety'), and through before the dancing begins? Some as he proceeded, shadow after shadow gra- of his friends interfered, by pointing out the dually dissolve, and fold after fold soften,- peril of such exposure to the dying man, and the flush of health come back into the and by advancing the harder and more selcheek, and the dim glassy eyes brighten fish argument that his playing would prowith a cheerful and living intelligence !- duce not the slightest effect, heard under

such circumstances, nor his name in the lity dropped away from the invalid and utbill attract, his celebrity as a musician being terly disappeared ; and an affectionate and select rather than universal. It was of no touching patience (the real nature of the avail, -remonstance was unheeded by the man) to the end sustained him, and made the enthusiastic promoters of the scheme, whose task of watching his death-bed easy. Somecallous disregard of everything save the thing of the poet, too, broke out in Chopin's contents of the begging box to be filled at last hours. Among the friends who attended other people's cost is laid by for “the rainy upon him were M. Franchomme, the admiraday," on which the charity extorted from ble violoncellist, and M. Guttmann, a favormusicians by mendicant persons of quality is ite pupil. On the eve of his death, the 16th to be repaid by the critic and historian. Choof October, he turned to them and entreated pin was got out of bed and patched up, and them “never to play anything save good blistered, and drugged,—and carried off to music," adding earnestly, “Pray give me the City ; and after all this, as another mu- this pleasure—I am sure I shall hear you." sician who was present on the occasion de- About five o'clock in the morning of the 17th, scribed it, “hardly one of the audience a Polish lady, with whom he had long maincared when he began, or knew when he tained an intimate friendship, arrived. Choended.” But the Polish cause was served, pin smiled when he saw her enter, and and the thing made a show in the morning though then almost inarticulate, said, “Ever papers !

since yesterday evening I have been asking, I saw Chopin once again in Paris in April why God was so long in calling me to him. last, a stage or two further down the hill ; But now I know it was that I might have the then so feeble as to converse with difficulty, pleasure of seeing you once again. He having been for many weeks compelled to then entreated Madame de P to sing, give up playing. Nevertheless, he managed and while she was singing sunk away and to rally under the spell of the strong in- expired. terest of Meyerbeer's “Prophète," and in It had always been Chopin's wish that order to be present at the first appearance of “the Requiem” of Mozart should be perMadame Viardot Garcia, for whom he enter- formed over his remains. This was done in tained a deep friendship. I think this must La Mudeleine with as much musical splenhave been the last music he ever heard, for dor as was attainable ; and more real sorshortly afterward we learned that his dis- row and sympathy than is common (dare I ease had made such progress that he was re- say it ?) at Parisian ceremonials. The choir moved to Chaillot for the sake of the better was led by Madame Castellan, Madame Viarair. Once or twice he might be seen driving dot Garcia, M. Alexis Dupont, and Signor in the Bois de Boulogne by the side of Mlle. Lablache. The funeral march from Chopin's Jenny Lind; but soon came the time when own first pianoforte Sonata, and one of his his own carriage came to the door every day Preludes, were played ;-and after this the by his orders, to be sent away after an hour's remains were transferred to that strangest waiting. He was always to be better-to and most theatrical of Golgothas, the cemedrive out “to-morrow!" Before this period tery of Pere la Chaise. A monument to his sister had arrived from Warsaw to attend his memory is projected ; but do what sculpupon him, and it became evident soon that tor or epitaph-monger will, they will not bether detention in Paris would not be a ter the old adage, that Chopin's best monulong one. New symptoms of disease ap- ment is in his music. His death leaves us peared; new pains had to be suffered—but almost without a composer for his instruas death approached and agony deepened, all ment meriting the name. little whimsies and manifestations of irritabi

From Sharpe's Magazine.




MORE than three hundred and twenty the close of the seventeenth century, obtainyears have elapsed since Hernan Cortez dis- ed permission to colonize a territory whose covered that song narrow peninsula which value was still unknown to the world, but outlies the coast of Mexico, and forms the which to their subtle discernment appeared Gulf, then known as the Purple or Vermilion to teem with the ready materials of wealth. Sea. He was more attracted by its position A hardy band of seamen or soldiers, comthan its aspect; for it appeared a situation missioned to this adventure, would have where he could concentrate his forces and landed, sword in hand, upon the coast, built spread his power over the golden continent. a fortress, planted cannon on the heights, It presented few attractions to the eye, but and at once built up their dominion on the the voyager's experience taught him to ex- adamantine basis of superior power; but the pect that, where the plains and hills seemed Jesuits infused the character of their order seast verdant, the concealed treasures of the into the prosecution of their enterprise. earth abounded most. Cortez at once at- Theirs was a bloodless conquest. They cartempted to subdue what he considered an ried gifts, not arms, into California. They island of moderate fertility. In those times subdued the natives with luring promises, national right was little more than a fiction ; not with the sabre or the arquebuss; and and with this ambitious explorer discovery their sway—unseen, unrecognized at first, conferred the privilege of dominion. But he

But he spread in a rapidly widening circle over the failed, and it was not until 1679 that a region. Having destroyed the independence, Spanish admiral planted a flag in that soil, they sought to develop the resources of their a flag destined to Aourish there through many acquisition; they planted missions; they generations, until the mother country, lan- stimulated labor; they industriously wrought guishing under a long decline, lay prostrate the land; and their energies soon piled up amid the rising powers of Europe. Mean. stores of wealth. Crafty in this, as in every while, New California was in 1542 discovered other project, they feared jealousy, and asby Cabrillo, explored by Drake, and survey- siduously scattered through Christendom aced by Spain sixty years later. Considerable counts of the sterility, the baneful climate, uncertainty hangs round the exact order of the unwilling people of California. Meanevents connected with this wealthy region ; while the pearl-fishers brought up riches from but its early history is associated with the the bed of the ocean ; the lands were covered names of those adventurous navigators who with plenty, and the Jesuits dispatched many sought to conquer by the sword what they a rich galleon, to the various markets of the had through chance discovered. It forms a world. map of events too intricate to be delineated Ships with costly cargoes left the harbors, in the present sketch.

Drake saw the coun- bearing in their holds the riches of the virgin try, named it New Albion, and called it Brit- soil ; but in the mouths of their crews, reish territory. Our claim, however, was never ports of the wretched country they had left! asserted. Sebastian Visconio, in 1602, was still these crafty fathers labored not wholly led by accident to Monterey, and established for themselves; with them it was an axiom the Spanish authority there; but finally, that the enthralled mind is the heaviest fetwhen the first heat of enterprise had cooled, ter for the body; and whilst they reaped the and the enthusiasm of many contending ready crops of California,—whilst they ranged elaimants was exhausted, the Jesuits, toward its forests in search of gums, and bored its

« ZurückWeiter »