Chopin, Frederic François

After finishing his studies at Warsaw, Chopin's t father decided it would be well for his son to see a bit of the world, and therefore, in 1828, he was sent with a friend of the family to Berlin. There he met Mendelssohn, Spontini and Zelter, among other musicians. His letters, some of which are preserved in Karasowski's book, The Life and Letters of Chopin, give interesting glimpses of the life he led in the German capital, the music he heard and the people whom he met. He   next visited Vienna, where he was induced to give a concert in 1829, at which he improvised and made a great impression upon the musical critics and the nobility. From Vienna he journeyed to Prague and then on to Dresden and to Posen, where he was entertained by Prince Radziwill, a patron of the arts and a warm friend of the Chopin family, then he returned to Warsaw, but for only a short time. Chopin had grown restless and wished to see more of the world. He set out again from Warsaw in 1830 and was never to return. It is related that just before his departure, Eisner, his old teacher, and the pupils of the Conservatory sang a cantata, composed for the occasion, and presented him with a silver cup filled with Polish earth, which was destined to be sprinkled upon the coffin of the composer eighteen years later as he was laid to rest in a Paris cemetery.

Chopin went to Vienna from Warsaw, but his former successes had by this time been forgotten (" there were no newspaper articles or press agents to keep him before the public," says one biographer), and he was so discouraged and disheartened by the cold reception he received and the fact that the music publishers would have none of his music, that he thought seriously of going to Italy and friends even gave him letters of introduction which he was fated never to use. In Vienna he played at two concerts, but his reception was not warranted to encourage him, so he wrote to his father for the necessary funds, and started for Paris, stopping off at Munich, where he made his first and last appearance before a German audience. In 1831, Chopin reached the French capital, at a time when opera was in its glory, when literature as well as art was at full flower and also at a time of revolution. In Paris, Chopin's artistic career may be said to have begun, and there he spent his happiest as well as his most miserable days. One of the first things he did was to seek out Kalkbrenner, who was then the most famous pianist in Paris. He found fault with Chopin's playing and would consent to become his teacher only on condition that Chopin would remain with him three years. The young musician hesitated, feeling that this was too long a time to give to his studies and finally wrote to Eisner, who urged him not to become a pupil of Kalkbrenner's lest he destroy his individuality, in which Eisner, at least, had the greatest faith. Chopin gave his first concert, in Paris, in 1832, but it was a failure financially, although many of the prominent musicians, including Mendelssohn, were present and praised him. The following May he gave his second concert, but it was not successful, and as Chopin was deplorably in need of money, he grew greatly discouraged. In letters to friends he confessed that he was deeply dejected, because he felt himself to be a burden to his father. He talked about emigrating to America and was prevented from so doing only by a chance meeting with Prince Radziwill who took him to the house of the wealthy Rothschilds in Paris, where his playing captivated his auditors, and secured for him several paying pupils. From that time on it was to be plain sailing so far as recognition of his talents was concerned. Pupils flocked 10 him, among them many noble ladies and gentlemen; he was besieged with offers from managers of concerts and invitations without number found their way to him from his wealthy patrons. He was heard much in public and at private houses. In jhort, Chopin was the vogue, and threatened to dislodge even Liszt, who was then the idol of Parisian society. He took part that year with Hiller and Liszt in a performance of Bach's concerto for three harpsichords, played on piano, and his appearances were frequent and successful. He was gradually winning his way with his compositions and by 1835 was teaching, making many friends, and enjoying life in his quiet way. During the summer of 1835 he visited his parents, who were staying at Carlsbad, and then went to Dresden and to Leipsic with Hiller, where he renewed his acquaintance with Mendelssohn, and through him met Robert Schumann, and Clara Wieck, who was later to become Schumann's wife. Schumann was the first of the Germans to estimate Chopin at his true worth. He called attention to the compositions of the Pole, and to their excellence in the since oft-quoted words: "Hats off, gentlemen; a genius." In that year Chopin made the acquaintance of John, usually known as " Russian " Field, whose invention, the nocturne, Chopin so elaborated and improved upon as to make his own. Field disliked Chopin and belittled his talents. In later years the latter was often asked if he had been a pupil of Field, because of their similarity of style.