Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #26 The Saga of Frederick and Georg

When we last left our couple, they had just met and while it seems that Georg was "warm for Chopin's form", he did not initially return the feeling. However, I need to back up the track a bit, to explain that when Chopin met Sand, he was already engaged to another woman.

13 More Things on the Life of Frederick Chopin (pictured here in 1833)

#1 -- In 1835, while in Dresden trying to find a cure or some relief for his "consumption", Chopin renews his acquaintence with the Wodzinski family, who had lived in his father's boarding house back in Poland years before. Their young daughter Maria is an accomplished pianist in her own right and Chopin falls in love with her. She is 17, he is 25.

#2 -- They maintain a strong relationship by letter and see each other periodically as Chopin criss-crosses Europe giving concerts and teaching the aristocracy. Not long after on September 9, 1936, Chopin proposes marriage during a holiday together, chaparoned by Marie's mother. Marie accepts.

#3 -- Marie's family tells the couple that the engagement will not be "official" until Chopin proves that he is gonna live long enough to take care of their daughter! He gets a one year trial period to improve his failing health or all bets are off. He also needs to prove that he can provide a stable home environment. Due to continual travelling and performing, he has not yet set up a permanent home.

#4 -- So into this milieu marches Georg Sand. They meet approximately October 24, 1836, a month or so after Chopin proposes to Marie. Chopin is ill and realizes he just may be rejected by Marie's family as decent husband material. Sand is separated and soon divorced from her Baron husband and has 2 children, a boy, Maurice and a girl, Solange.

#5 -- As luck would have it, Chopin cannot do what the Wodzinski family requires of him. He becomes very ill over the winter months and eventually meets Marie in Germany the early part of July, 1837 after a series of concerts in England and the Netherlands. Marie's family sees the state of his frail health and instructs her to reject his letter....later. By the time he returns to Paris toward the end of July, he receives word of the broken "unofficial" engagement. He wraps Marie's correspondence and the rejection letter in a bundle and labels it "My Sorrow".

#6 -- From all accounts, Sand is a bold feminist, takes lovers of both sexes, and asserts herself as strongly as possible during the era she lived. She works around the prejudices against women by taking a man's name to publish her novels and write her plays. She divorces and is a directed, strong, single working mother. But she also has a very warm, maternal, loving side. And it is this side she presents to Chopin, who is physically and emotionally at one of the lowest points of his life.

#7 -- By the early part of 1838, Sand and Chopin begin attending parties together and their love affair blooms. By August of 1838, Sand wrote this of Chopin to friend and painter Eugene Delacroix: "If God were to ordain my death in an hour, I would not complain, because three months of undisturbed enchantment have passed." She also wrote to a friend: "He no longer expectorates blood, sleeps well, coughs little...He can sleep in a bed which shall not be burnt just because he used it."

#8 -- Even through illness, a broken love affair, traveling, teaching, performing and a terrible longing for his family and native Poland, Chopin manages to compose consistently. Mazurkas, Etudes, Polonaises, Sonatas, Ballades, Preludes, Nocturnes...often dedicated to those he loved -- Marie, various friends and teachers. These bars of music from his Nocturne in E flat Major were written down in an album of Marie's.

#9 -- From 1838 until approximately 1847, Sand and Chopin are together. By all accounts, they have a warm and loving relationship. Although they never marry, they are treated as a married couple. He gets along fairly well with Sand's son and very well with her daughter, Solange, whom he gives piano lessons to. They spend most of their time at Sand's home in Nohant (pictured here), in central France, returning to Paris only during the winter months. It is stated that Chopin is the happiest in Nohant he's ever been since leaving his family home in Poland. He is very busy composing, and while he has several near-death health scares, he is able to recover under Sand's watchful eye.

#10 -- During one of Chopin's seriously ill periods, Sand writes to a friend: "I know that many people accuse me; some say that I harmed him with my violent sensuality, others that I harmed him with my excesses."

#11 -- By 1845, Chopin's health is beginning to permanently deteriorate. His relationship with Sand is showing signs of strain, partially due to 2 other influences besides his health -- the fact that Chopin had sided with Sand's daughter Solange concerning a romantic involvement and the fact that Sand's son Maurice had begun taking a increasing hostile attitude toward Chopin and the time that Sand spent with him. The final break occurs in July 1847.

#12 -- The devasting blow compromises Chopin both physically and emotionally although he does maintain a close relationship with Sand's daughter Solange. He composes very little music after the break up and becomes increasingly ill. He gives his last public performance in London on November 16, 1848 and returns to Paris several days later. His pronounced tuberculosis makes tutoring impossible. Eventually, his sister comes from Poland to help nurse him as he is no longer able to care for or even support himself. Pictured is the last piano he used.

Frederick Chopin dies in Paris on October 17, 1849 at approximately 2am. It is rumored that Sand's daughter Solange is with him at the time of his death.

#13 -- Chopin's will is followed to the letter. He requested that after death, his heart be removed from his body and returned to Poland. His sister brings Frederick's heart back in an urn, where it is interred in a pillar of the Holy Cross Church in Krakowskie Przedmiescie. His body is buried in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Chopin's hand notation of the Sonata in G minor, Op 65:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #25

We were big faves of Frederick Chopin as I was growing up and I've carried that love into my adult life. My mother and I would watch "A Song To Remember" (Cornel Wilde played a robust Frederick and Merle Oberon played a beautiful Georg Sand, which right there tells you it's a movie...because he wasn't robust and she wasn't THAT beautiful) but we'd get all weepy about his love for his native Poland, the gal he left behind (maybe fact, maybe fiction) and his slow, horrid death from tuberculosis at 39. The relationship between and Chopin and Georg Sand really is the stuff of romance novels...the tortured pianist and the feminist writer...and his short life was certainly filled with love and music, pain and loss.

So here are 13 Things About Frederick Chopin

#1 -- He was born here as Fryderyk [Franciszek] Chopin on March 1, 1810 in the village of Żelazowa Wola, near Warsaw Poland. There is some confusion over when he was actually born. There is no known birth certificate, and his mother filled out the birth date on his baptismal certificate as February 22, 1810. So in other words, he was born March 1, give or take.

#2 -- His father Nicolas (translated into Polish as Mikołaj) was a French expatriot originally from Lorraine. He emigrated to Poland in 1787 at the age of 16 and served in the Polish National Guard. He eventually went to Żelazowa Wola and secured a post as a tutor to some aristocratic families. He met and fell in love with Tekla Justyna Krzyżanowska, whom he married.

#3 Fryderyk (Frederick) Chopin was the couple's third child, the first boy. He inherited his mother's blue eyes and fair hair and skin, but his small frame and frail health from his father.

#4 -- The Chopins were by no means destitute. In 1817 Mikołaj Chopin became a teacher of French at the Warsaw Lyceum, housed in Warsaw University. The family lived in a spacious second-floor apartment in an adjacent building. Even though Chopin's father was French and taught the language, Polish was spoken exclusively in the family home and Chopin never did master the French language, even after living in Paris for many years.

#5 -- Chopin's parents were both musical (his father played the flute and his mother taught piano) but Frederick showed remarkable ability and was known as a child prodigy. He did have formal piano training, but quickly outgrew his teachers. He composed his first works, 2 polonaises (which are basically Polish dances) at the age of 7 and began giving recitals in public. He remained fiercely loyal to his Polish heritage through music his entire life.

#6 -- Chopin had an incredibly stable home life and was reported to be extremely bright and funny. He studied piano with various teachers, most notably Jozef Elsner at the Warsaw Conservatory from the ages of 16-20 (and possibly even when Frederick was younger). From the age of 7 months until he left Warsaw at the age of 20 in 1830, Chopin always lived with his family in very comfortable surroundings.

#7 -- Notable before his leaving Warsaw was that his sister Emilia died from "consumption" or tuberculosis in 1827. Comments about Frederick's physical appearance before he left Poland suggest that he too had contracted the disease. His father died in 1844 from TB also.

#8 -- Chopin, now a seasoned pianist and composer, traveled to Paris by way of Vienna, arriving in 1831. He became an accomplished teacher and composed etudes for his students, which were melodies that taught specific fingering and positioning on the piano. It is rumored that Chopin's hand span on the piano was 2 octaves, or a full 16 keys.

#9 -- The cast of his left hand.

#10 -- While Chopin enjoyed teaching (performing was becoming increasingly difficult for him because of his health. He needed to play small venues or salons because he frequently did not have the strength to play the piano forcefully enough to full a huge room with sound) he was also exceptionally proud. During a lesson, Chopin would reportedly stand after a time and walk to look out his window. That was the cue that the lesson was over and a "donation" was to be placed on the mantel. He maintained he never asked for money to teach his students.

#11 -- In Paris, Chopin met many other artists -- composers, painters, writers. He was extremely popular and was sought out as a teacher, composer, and salon pianist. It was there in 1836, at a party hosted by the mistress of fellow-composer and friend Franz Liszt, that Chopin met Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, Baroness Dudevant, better known by her pseudonym, Georg(e) Sand. He was 26, she 32.

#12 -- Georg Sand was a French Romantic writer noted for her numerous love affairs, and the fact she dressed in men's clothing, which she found more comfortable than women's garb. She also chain smoked a pipe. As women were not allowed to be published, she took a man's name in order to do so. Her first published novel, Rose et Blanche (1831) was written in collaboration with one of her lovers, Jules Sandeau, from whom she allegedly took her pen name, Sand.

#13 -- It was not "love at first sight" for Frederick and Georg. "Something about her repels me," he wrote his family. Sand, however, in a letter to a friend in June, 1837, debated whether she should end a current affair to begin one with Chopin -- repelled be damned! -- even though she knew he was reportedly engaged to a woman named Maria Wodzińska.

#14 -- Portait of Chopin by Georg Sand.

Now you say....what happened to Frederick and Georg? Did they have an affair or just stay mildly interested in each other's lives? And how did Sand's husband (the Baron) feel about all this? Or Sand's 2 children? What's the scoop on Georg and her affairs and her writing career? What happened to the woman Chopin was "engaged" to? Did he ever get back to Poland? How did he die? Is it true that Sand actually hastened his death? And what eventually happened to Georg Sand?

Well, 13 facts (plus Sand's portrait of Frederick) just weren't enough to tell the whole exciting, sad, painful, story of their love affair and his death. I guess I'll just have to finish next Thursday!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #24

13 Things for your To-Do List (according to an "Oprah-like" magazine):

This sort of cracked me up. I mean NONE of this crap is on my to-do list. I have stuff like, for instance: #3: Clean the litter pans; #5: get the green, gloopy, gooey old laundry soap out of the washer dispenser; #8: Change the vacuum cleaner bag; and #10: remember to feed the kids.

But here is the list from a magazine which hints that following its lead will result in a life to be lived:

#1 -- Dare to Dream. (I do dare, but I still end up having nightmares.)
#2 -- Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier and go for a walk. (Very good idea. Especially when there's 15 feet of snow, it's -2 degrees and the wind chill is about 40 below zero. That'll wake you up...or kill you.)
#3 -- Take a new way home from work. (I do this anyway to avoid the car accidents. Even though the roads are covered in snow and black ice, people still drive like it's June.)
#4 -- Go dancing. (um....hahahahahah! Ever see what happens to an ankle in stilettos on a nice ice-slide?)
#5 -- Turn off the TV (Another good idea except that the TV generates heat and my gas bill is lower if I keep it on.)
#6 -- Deliver cookies to your neighbors. (I would except between December and April, I'm not sure I have any neighbors.)
#7 -- Choose happiness. (Ok)
#8 -- Reward yourself for something you haven't done (I haven't mowed the lawn since October. Of course, I haven't HAD a lawn since October. So does that count?)
#9 -- Get away for the weekend. (These people don't have teenagers....)
#10 -- Rearrange your living room. (Why? To expose all the places covered in cat hair that I haven't vacuumed?)
#11 -- Stand up straight. (They haven't seen my post about sciatica apparently).
#12 -- Go scuba diving. Star in a play. Write a book. (All at once? Aren't I under enough pressure?)
#13 -- In a small notebook, write out 5 things you are grateful for. (I'm grateful for alot of things in winter...but mainly having a warm house, enough food and my kids and cats to keep me company as we slowly go insane from lack of sunlight.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

So This is SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder. And I've got it BAD. The kids and I are suffering from cabin fever to the point that Mayo Clinic may want to do a study on us. Even the cats seem exceptionally crabby.

We've had snow on top of more snow...on top of freezing rain...on top of cold temperatures and even more snow. I've thrown my back out out (sciatica??) and am to lay flat on my back with heavy duty pain meds and a steroid pack running through my veins. Unfortunately, there's work and kids and shopping and laundry and and and. So I'm just struggling along and my brain is just fried.

Dear TT'ers -- sorry I'm skipping this week. Just can't seem to fire up the synapses to write anything worth reading. As my fanny is pasted to the sofa though, I'll stop by and read yours!

Have a good week!! And please send some warmer weather our way!