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Preface

To a people, always prompt in its recognition of genius, and
ready to sympathize in the joys and woes of a truly great artist,
this work will be one of exceeding interest. It is a short,
glowing, and generous sketch, from the hand of Franz Liszt, (who,
considered in the double light of composer and performer, has no
living equal,) of the original and romantic Chopin; the most
ethereal, subtle, and delicate among our modern tone-poets. It is
a rare thing for a great artist to write on art, to leave the
passionate worlds of sounds or colors for the colder realm of
words; rarer still for him to abdicate, even temporarily, his own
throne, to stand patiently and hold aloft the blazing torch of
his own genius, to illume the gloomy grave of another: yet this
has Liszt done through love for Chopin.

It is a matter of considerable interest to note how the nervous
and agile fingers, accustomed to sovereign rule over the keys,
handle the pen; how the musician feels as a man; how he estimates
art and artists. Liszt is a man of extensive culture, vivid
imagination, and great knowledge of the world; and, in addition
to their high artistic value, his lines glow with poetic fervor,
with impassioned eloquence. His musical criticisms are refined
and acute, but without repulsive technicalities or scientific
terms, ever sparkling with the poetic ardor of the generous soul
through which the discriminating, yet appreciative awards were
poured. Ah! in these days of degenerate rivalries and bitter
jealousies, let us welcome a proof of affection so tender as his
"Life of Chopin"!

It would be impossible for the reader of this book to remain
ignorant of the exactions of art. While, through its eloquence
and subtle analysis of character, it appeals to the cultivated
literary tastes of our people, it opens for them a dazzling
perspective into that strange world of tones, of whose magical
realm they know, comparatively speaking, so little. It is
intelligible to all who think or feel; requiring no knowledge of
music for its comprehension.

The compositions of Chopin are now the mode, the rage. Every one
asks for them, every one tries to play them. We have, however,
but few remarks upon the peculiarities of his style, or the
proper manner of producing his works. His compositions, generally
perfect in form, are never abstract conceptions, but had their
birth in his soul, sprang from the events of his life, and are
full of individual and national idiosyncrasies, of psychological
interest. Liszt knew Chopin both as man and artist; Chopin loved
to hear him interpret his music, and himself taught the great
Pianist the mysteries of his undulating rhythm and original
motifs. The broad and noble criticisms contained in this book are
absolutely essential for the musical culture of the thousands now
laboriously but vainly struggling to perform his elaborate works,
and who, having no key to their multiplied complexities of
expression, frequently fail in rendering them aright.

And the masses in this country, full of vivid perception and
intelligent curiosity, who, not playing themselves, would yet
fain follow with the heart compositions which they are told are
of so much artistic value, will here find a key to guide them
through the tuneful labyrinth. Some of Chopin's best works are
analyzed herein. He wrote for the HEART OF HIS PEOPLE; their
joys, sorrows, and caprices are immortalized by the power of his
art. He was a strictly national tone-poet, and to understand him
fully, something must be known of the brave and haughty, but
unhappy country which he so loved. Liszt felt this, and has been
exceedingly happy in the short sketch given of Poland. We
actually know more of its picturesque and characteristic customs
after a perusal of his graphic pages, than after a long course of
dry historical details. His remarks on the Polonaise and Mazourka
are full of the philosophy and essence of history. These dances
grew directly from the heart of the Polish people; repeating the
martial valor and haughty love of noble exhibition of their men;
the tenderness, devotion, and subtle coquetry of their women--
they were of course favorite forms with Chopin; their national
character made them dear to the national poet. The remarks of
Liszt on these dances are given with a knowledge so acute of the
traits of the nation in which they originated, with such a
gorgeousness of description and correctness of detail, that they
rather resemble a highly finished picture, than a colder work of
words only. They have all the splendor of a brilliant painting.
He seizes the secrets of the nationality of these forms, traces
them through the heart of the Polish people, follows them through
their marvelous transfiguration in the pages of the Polish
artist, and reads by their light much of the sensitive and
exclusive character of Chopin, analyzing it with the skill of
love, while depicting it with romantic eloquence.

To those who can produce the compositions of Chopin in the spirit
of their author, no words are necessary. They follow with the
heart the poetic and palpitating emotions so exquisitely wrought
through the aerial tissue of the tones by this "subtle-souled
Psychologist," this bold and original explorer in the invisible
world of sound;--all honor to their genius:


"Oh, happy! and of many millions, they
The purest chosen, 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:
Ye, the high brotherhood she links, rejoice
In the great rank allotted by her choice!
The loftiest rank the spiritual world sublime,
Rich with its starry thrones, gives to the sons of Time!"

Schiller.


Short but glowing sketches of Heine, Meyerbeer, Adolphe Nourrit,
Hiller, Eugene Delacroix, Niemcevicz, Mickiewicz, and Madame
Sand, occur in the book. The description of the last days of poor
Chopin's melancholy life, with the untiring devotion of those
around him, including the beautiful countess, Delphine Potocka;
his cherished sister, Louise; his devoted friend and pupil, M.
Gutman, with the great Liszt himself, is full of tragic interest.

No pains have been spared by the translator to make the
translation acceptable, for the task was truly a labor of love.
No motives of interest induced the lingering over the careful
rendering of the charmed pages, but an intense desire that our
people should know more of musical art; that while acknowledging
the generosity and eloquence of Liszt, they should learn to
appreciate and love the more subtle fire, the more creative
genius of the unfortunate, but honorable and honored artist,
Chopin.

Perchance Liszt may yet visit us; we may yet hear the matchless
Pianist call from their graves in the white keys, the delicate
arabesques, the undulating and varied melodies, of Chopin. We
should be prepared to appreciate the great Artist in his
enthusiastic rendering of the master-pieces of the man he loved;
prepared to greet him when he electrifies us with his wonderful
Cyclopean harmonies, written for his own Herculean grasp,
sparkling with his own Promethean fire, which no meaner hand can
ever hope to master! "Hear Liszt and die," has been said by some
of his enthusiastic admirers--understand him and live, were the
wiser advice!

In gratitude then to Chopin for the multiplied sources of high
and pure pleasure which he has revealed to humanity in his
creations, that human woe and sorrow become pure beauty when his
magic spell is on them, the translator calls upon all lovers of
the beautiful "to contribute a stone to the pyramid now rapidly
erecting in honor of the great modern composer"--ay, the living
stone of appreciation, crystalized in the enlightened gratitude
of the heart.






"So works this music upon earth
God so admits it, sends it forth.
To add another worth to worth--

A new creation-bloom that rounds
The old creation, and expounds
His Beautiful in tuneful sounds."
Published:
Jan 6, 2016
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