Chopin through His Contemporaries: Friends, Lovers, and Rivals

Chopin through His Contemporaries: Friends, Lovers, and Rivals

Chopin through His Contemporaries: Friends, Lovers, and Rivals

Chopin through His Contemporaries: Friends, Lovers, and Rivals

Synopsis

Dual natures comprised Chopin's personality. On one hand, he was a highly creative romantic idealist and on the other, a realist trying to cope with the world at large. Documentary evidence illustrates the disparities in his personality as a reflection of these two diverse aspects of his psyche. Of special interest are five previously unpublished letters in English and the unfolding of Chopin's controversial relationships with Tytus Woyciechowski, Julian Fontana, George Sand, and Solange Sand. This critical portrayal of Chopin's personality traces his journeys and experiences from Warsaw to Paris and reveals, among other characteristics and traits, Chopin's developmental problems during his adolescence, his unattractive behavior in his relationship with Julian Fontana, and George Sand's unrequited love for Chopin. The culture of the time and the atmosphere surrounding Chopin's relationships emerge in the detailed evidence presented.

Excerpt

In writing about Chopin's early years, we are faced with the problem of authenticity of the memoirs, souvenirs, and impressions provided by various writers. It is unfortunate that no record dating to that period was left by the Chopin family, particularly by Ludwika and Izabela, Chopin's elder sisters, who survived him. However, there are a number of reminiscences provided by contemporaries who were close to the composer or his family, or both. These recollections may be regarded as the most trustworthy. Nevertheless, it is best to treat them with caution, for one can never discount the possibility of idealization and fantasticism. It is with this proviso that they are included here. Among such reminiscences are those of Eustachy Marylski, a onetime boarder in the Chopin household; of Eugeniusz Skrodzki, one of Chopin's schoolfriends; of Kazimierz Wójcicki, a writer and historian who was well acquainted with the Chopin family; and of Józefa Kołcielska (née Wodzińska), sister of Maria Wodzińska, Chopin's so-called second love.

By all accounts, the Chopin household was equable, sober, patriarchal, tightly knit, orderly, and of middle-class morality. Nicolas (Mikołaj), the father, came from a family of wheelwrights and vine growers, played the flute and the violin a little but was not particularly artistic in temperament, was a good but uninspiring teacher of French, a great disciplinarian, thrifty, conscientious, ambitious, cautious, practical-minded, and self-possessed. (Are there some echoes here of Leopold Mozart?) Justyna, the mother, was a distant and impoverished offshoot of the noble Skarbeks of Żelazowa Wola, a family of landowners in whose household she was brought up and was employed as a housekeeper before she married Nicolas in 1806. She was gentle, warm-hearted, well organized, efficient, homely, motherly, sub-

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