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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

Chopin returned from Majorca broken in health


Death of Chopin]

[Sidenote: The pianist's career]

In the midst of these stirring events in Paris, Frederick Chopin, the piano composer, died on October 17. Born at Jelisovaya-Volia in Poland, he received his early musical education at Warsaw. At the age of nine he played a pianoforte concerto with improvisations in public. His first compositions were Polish dances. In his fifteenth year he published a rondo and a fantasie. Having perfected himself as a pianist, he set out on a concert tour through Vienna, Munich, Paris and London. After his first appearance in Vienna, the foremost musical critic there wrote of him: "From the outset Chopin took place in the front rank of masters. The perfect delicacy of his touch, his indescribable mechanical dexterity, the melancholy tints in his style of shading, and the rare clearness of his delivery are in him qualities which bear the stamp of genius. He must be regarded as one of the most remarkable meteors blazing on the musical horizon." In Paris he gave a concert at Pleyel's house. His reception was such that he gave up all idea of proceeding further and made Paris his home for life. He was welcomed to the intimacy of men like Liszt, Berlioz, Meyerbeer, Bellini, Balzac and Heine. As one after another of his unique compositions for the piano appeared, he took rank as the foremost composer for that instrument. On the publication of his preludes and new Polish dances, Schumann

wrote of Chopin: "He is and ever will be the most daring and proud poetic spirit of the time."

[Sidenote: Chopin and Georges Sand]

In 1836, Chopin met Madame Dudevant, better known as the celebrated novelist Georges Sand. Their attachment was mutual. For her he wrote some of his most inspired pieces. They spent the winter of 1838-39 together on the Island of Majorca, where Georges Sand nursed Chopin through a severe attack of bronchitis. Of this episode, which had its profound effect on Chopin's music, Georges Sand has left an unengaging record in the novel "Lucreticia Floriani," published shortly afterward, and another in her "Histoire de ma Vie." Chopin returned from Majorca broken in health. He was supplanted in Georges Sand's affections by Alfred de Musset. During the season of 1848-49 he gave concerts in London, whence he returned to Paris only to die. He was buried at Pere la Chaise, between Bellini and Cherubini's graves.

[Sidenote: Sicilian elections]

[Sidenote: King of Sardinia wary]

In Italy, after the armistice between the Austrians and the Piedmontese, matters went from bad to worse. In Sicily, a National Parliament had met and put Ruggiero Settimo at the head of affairs by a unanimous vote. King Ferdinand and the House of Bourbon were declared to have forfeited the crown of Sicily forever. Elections were ordered to call another Prince to the vacant throne. England, interested as ever in Sicilian affairs, impressed upon the Sicilian leaders the urgency of an early settlement. The elections were held in haste. On July 12, at two in the morning, the vote was announced in Parliament. The Duke of Genoa, Albert Amadeus of Savoy, Charles Albert's second son, was elected King. The British and French warships in Sicilian waters fired a royal salute. For Charles Albert this only meant fresh embarrassment. In case of acceptance, he was sure to be involved in war with Naples in the south, as well as with Austria in the north. When the Sicilian deputies submitted their proposition in Piedmont, on August 27, they obtained no definite reply.

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