During October we're commemorating
the 150th anniversary of|
Chopin's death - Paris, Place Vendome 12,
October 17th 1849, around 2am
This week: ALFRED CORTOT on
Chopin's 'secret being'
If we are to understand the real, the immortal Chopin, we must seek the
explanation in the Poland of his childhood. Everything he stood for, everything
that emanated from him was insistently, devotedly Polish. His true friendships,
his true love affairs: Constance [Konstancja Gladkowska, 1810-89] and Marie
[Maria Wodzinska, 1819-96], his beliefs, his superstitions, his habits of
life, his prejudices, even his illness, were formed before he left the banks
of the Vistula [November 2nd 1830].
And, above all, linked mysteriously in an incessant interplay between
nostalgic folksong and the vivid national rhythms which never ceased to
crowd his imagination, towered his musical genius.
He worked to no preconceived artistic creed, but obeyed a vital spiritual
urge. In his inspired outpourings he sought to recreate the atmosphere of
a childhood full of wonder and alive to the promise of the future... His
whole being longed for those places which he endowed with every delight
and surrounded with a regret that he expressed in a letter to his parents:
'I dream constantly that I am on my way to you across the unknown wastes
that separate us. I know that they are the wastes of my imagination and
that our reunion will remain an illusion. But does not the Polish proverb
say: 'The crown is only reached by means of the imagination'? - as for me
I am a pure Mazovian' [Nohant, July 20th 1845] *...
... while his body was in France, his heart was in Poland... the praises
Paris sang in celebration of his triumphs meant very little to him; it was
what Warsaw wrote and thought that really mattered...
... A kind of second Chopin, unheard by those around him, must have co-existed
with the fashionable young artist that appeared in the flesh, a being lost,
as he tells us, amid mysterious and nameless wastes which separate him from
his own people and across which he reaches in vain endeavour to recapture
... it is with that secret being who had no contact with material things,
who was able to escape from himself into the world of unreality, that one
feels oneself to be in a state of complete spiritual affinity.
It is this legendary Chopin that we must cherish. By disregarding the
depreciatory facts of his daily life, but going to the heart of the essential
truth, we preserve the image of a Chopin who answers all our aspirations,
a Chopin who existed in a world created by his imagination, who had no other
existence save that of his dreams, no other desire than to relive the enchantments
of the past, who by the outpourings of his genius was able to immortalise
the dreams and longings of countless human souls.
- copyright © Alfred Cortot
Paris 1949, Aspects de Chopin, translated by Cyril & Rena Clarke
as In Search of Chopin, London/New York 1951
* Ethel LilianVoynich's less fanciful alternative translation (Henryk
Opienski: Chopin's Letters, New York 1931) reads: '... at this moment
I am not with myself, but only as usual in some strange outer space. Granted,
it is only those espaces imaginaires [imaginary spaces]; but I am
not ashamed of that; you know, a proverb has grown up here: - "he went
to the coronation by imagination," and I am a real blind Mazur' AO
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'Chopin liberated rhythm - Stravinsky
liberated the bar-line'
- Charles Camilleri [& Richard England] Octaves
of Reflection, London 1987