Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)

Chopin, steel engraving (StadtMuseum Bonn, SMB 2004/121)
Chopin, steel engraving (StadtMuseum Bonn, SMB 2004/121)

Frédéric Chopin and Clara Wieck met for the first time in Paris in 1832. Clara went to see the composer during her concert tour in Paris on 21st February 1832 and heard him at a concert of Frédéric Kalkbrenner on 25th February 1832, probably on the premises of the Pleyel piano factory (and on 14th March at a concert of Abbé Bertin). There, Chopin performed his Variations on La ci darem la mano, Op. 2, which Clara had studied in 1831, and his Piano Concerto in E minor, Op. 11, on which Clara commented in her diary: “[Chopin’s Concerto in E minor is incredibly beautiful and original and is even well suited for a quartet].” Clara Wieck probably also played in front of Chopin or asked for permission to have a look at the manuscript of the Piano Concerto, or Chopin sent her the manuscript out of appreciation. This is because there is an undated note, presumably of February 1832, where Chopin wrote: “[Young lady, I am very pleased to send you the manuscript of the concerto I had promised you. I very much look forward to having it executed by such an admirable talent. Please be assured, young lady, of my highest esteem].” Clara Wieck eventually performed the Concerto at the Leipzig Gewandhaus concert hall on 5th May 1834.

On 27th/28th September 1835, Chopin stayed briefly in Leipzig and went to see the Wiecks a few hours before his departure. There, Clara performed for him Schumann’s Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 11, the last movement of her Piano Concerto, Op. 7, and two Études by Chopin “[whereupon he literally showered me with compliments […]. He also played one of his Nocturnes, with the finest pianissimo possible …, [FW:] but too haphazardly. [CW:] He is very frail and seriously ill].”, Clara noted in her diary on 27th September 1835.

On 12th September 1836, when Chopin was staying again in Leipzig for one day, he went to see Robert Schumann, to whom he presented some new pieces, and Clara Wieck. Friedrich Wieck gave the following account of this meeting: “[On 12th, Chopin came to see us unexpectedly and Clara Wieck performed for him her entire Opus 5, two mazurkas and a ballad from her Opus 6, and the Concerto, Opus 7. He was really delighted and expressed his great enthusiasm, and very moved when leaving us. He was not well at all; he had not contacted anyone in Dresden and only seen Schumann here; he took Opus 5 with him and left a page from the family album for Clara].” On 14th September 1836, Robert Schumann wrote to his former teacher, Heinrich Dorn: “[It is moving to watch him sitting at the piano. You would really love him. But Clara is a better virtuoso and almost gives his compositions more importance than he does himself. Think of the perfect, a mastership, which apparently is not aware of itself at all].”

Cf. Ernst Burger: Robert Schumann. Eine Lebenschronik in Bildern und Dokumenten. Unter Mitarbeit von Gerd Nauhaus und mit Unterstützung des Robert-Schumann-Hauses Zwickau, Mainz et al., 1999, pp. 110–111, 143, 151.

Cf. Clara Wieck, Jugendtagebücher 1827‒1840, edited by Gerd Nauhaus and Nancy B. Reich, with the collaboration of Kristin R.M. Krahe, Hildesheim, 2019, pp. 90-91, 109-112, 408 Note 100.

(Theresa Schlegel, 2020, translated by Th. Henninger)

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