Franz Liszt, in characterizing Chopin as a composer, furnishes an admirable study: “We meet with beauties of a high order, expressions entirely new, and a harmonic tissue as original as erudite. In his compositions boldness is always justified; richness, often exuberance, never interferes with clearness; singularity never degenerates into the uncouth and fantastic; the sculpturing is never disordered; the luxury of ornament never overloads the chaste eloquence of the principal lines. His best works abound in combinations which may be said to be an epoch in the handling of musical style. Daring, brilliant, and attractive, they disguise their profundity under so much grace, their science under so many charms, that it is with difficulty we free ourselves sufficiently from their magical inthrallment, to judge coldly of their theoretical value.”
As a romance composer Chopin struck out his own path, and has no rival. Full of originality, his works display the utmost dignity and refinement. He revolted from the bizarre and eccentric, though the peculiar influences which governed his development might well have betrayed one less finely organized.
As a musical poet, embodying the feelings and tendencies of a people, Chopin advances his chief claim to his place in art. He did not task himself to be a national musician; for he is utterly without pretense and affectation, and sings spontaneously without design or choice, from the fullness of a rich nature. He collected “in luminous sheaves the impressions felt everywhere through his country—vaguely felt, it is true, yet in fragments pervading all hearts.”
Chopin was repelled by the lusty and almost coarse humor sometimes displayed by Schubert, for he was painfully fastidious. He could not fully understand nor appreciate Beethoven, whose works are full of lion-marrow, robust and masculine alike in conception and treatment. He did not admire Shakespeare, because his great delineations are too vivid and realistic. Our musician was essentially a dreamer and idealist. His range was limited, but within it he reached perfection of finish and originality never surpassed. But, with all his limitations, the art-judgment of the world places him high among those
“.... whom Art’s service pure Hallows and claims, whose hearts are made her throne, “Whose lips her oracle, ordained secure To lead a priestly life and feed the ray Of her eternal shrine; to them alone Her glorious countenance unveiled is shown.”