The newly published Fugue—or fugato—in A minor, in two voices, is from a manuscript in the possession of Natalie Janotha, who probably got it from the late Princess Czartoryska, a pupil of the composer. The composition is ineffective, and in spots ugly— particularly in the stretta—and is no doubt an exercise during the working years with Elsner. The fact that in the coda the very suspicious octave pedal-point and trills may be omitted—so the editorial note urns—leads one to suspect that out of a fragment Janotha has evolved, Cuvier-like, an entire composition. Chopin as fugue-maker does not appear in a brilliant light. Is the Polish composer to become a musical Hugh Conway? Why all these disjecta membra of a sketch-book?
In these youthful works may be found the beginnings of the greater Chopin, but not his vast subjugation of the purely technical to the poetic and spiritual. That came later. To the devout Chopinist the first compositions are so many proofs of the joyful, victorious spirit of the man whose spleen and pessimism have been wrongfully compared to Leopardi’s and Baudelaire’s. Chopin was gay, fairly healthy and bubbling over with a pretty malice. His first period shows this; it also shows how thorough and painful the processes by which he evolved his final style.
XII. THE POLONAISES:—HEROIC HYMNS OF BATTLE.
How is one to reconcile “the want of manliness, moral and intellectual,” which Hadow asserts is “the one great limitation of Chopin’s province,” with the power, splendor and courage of the Polonaises? Here are the cannon buried in flowers of Robert Schumann, here overwhelming evidences of versatility, virility and passion. Chopin blinded his critics and admirers alike; a delicate, puny fellow, he could play the piano on occasion like a devil incarnate. He, too, had his demon as well as Liszt, and only, as Ehlert puts it, “theoretical fear” of this spirit driving him over the cliffs of reason made him curb its antics. After all the couleur de rose portraits and lollipop miniatures made of him by pensive, poetic persons it is not possible to conceive Chopin as being irascible and almost brutal. Yet he was at times even this. “Beethoven was scarce more vehement and irritable,” writes Ehlert. And we remember the stories of friends and pupils who have seen this slender, refined Pole wrestling with his wrath as one under the obsession of a fiend. It is no desire to exaggerate this side of his nature that impels this plain writing. Chopin left compositions that bear witness to his masculine side. Diminutive in person, bad-temper became him ill; besides, his whole education and tastes were opposed to scenes of violence. So this energy, spleen and raging at fortune found escape in some of his music, became psychical in its manifestations.