Frederick Chopin, as a Man and Musician — Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 812 pages of information about Frederick Chopin, as a Man and Musician Complete.
trouble by means of a little sheet of paper.  His handwriting remained almost unknown to most of his friends.  It is said that he sometimes deviated from this habit in favour of his fair compatriots settled at Paris, of whom some are in possession of charming autographs of his, all written in Polish.  This breach of what one might have taken as a rule may be explained by the pleasure he took in speaking his language, which he employed in preference, and whose most expressive idioms he delighted in translating to others.  Like the Slaves generally, he mastered the French language very well; moreover, owing to his French origin, it had been taught him with particular care.  But he accommodated himself badly to it, reproaching it with having little sonority and being of a cold genius.
[Footnote:  Notwithstanding his French origin, Chopin spoke French with a foreign accent, some say even with a strong foreign accent.  Of his manner of writing French I spoke when quoting his letters to Franchomme (see Vol.  I., p. 258).]

Liszt’s account of Chopin’s bizarrerie is in the main correct, although we have, of course, to make some deduction for exaggeration.  In fact, Gutmann told me that his master sometimes began a letter twenty times, and finally flung down the pen and said:  “I’ll go and tell her [or “him,” as the case might be] myself.”

CHAPTER XXVIII.

Chopin as A teacher:  His success or want of success as such; his pupils, amateur and professional; method of teaching; and teaching repertoire.

As Chopin rarely played in public and could not make a comfortable living by his compositions, there remained nothing for him but to teach, which, indeed, he did till his strength forsook him.  But so far from regarding teaching as a burden, says his pupil Mikuli, he devoted himself to it with real pleasure.  Of course, a teacher can only take pleasure in teaching when he has pupils of the right sort.  This advantage, however, Chopin may have enjoyed to a greater extent than most masters, for according to all accounts it was difficult to be received as a pupil—­he by no means gave lessons to anyone who asked for them.  As long as he was in fair health, he taught during the season from four to five hours a day, in later years only, or almost only, at home.  His fee for a lesson was twenty francs, which were deposited by the pupil on the mantelpiece.

Was Chopin a good teacher?  His pupils without exception most positively affirm it.  But outsiders ask:  How is it, then, that so great a virtuoso has not trained players who have made the world ring with their fame?  Mr. Halle, whilst pointing out the fact that Chopin’s pupils have not distinguished themselves, did not wish to decide whether this was owing to a deficiency in the master or to some other cause.  Liszt, in speaking to me on this subject,

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