is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties.
After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is
simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art."
does a thing, it appears good, otherwise one would not write it. Only later
comes reflection, and one discards or accepts the thing. Time is the best
censor, and patience a most excellent teacher."
difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on."
"I wish I
could throw off the thoughts which poison my happiness. And yet I take a
kind of pleasure in indulging them."
can only groan, suffer, and pour out my despair at the piano!"
"Put all your
soul into it, play the way you feel!"
dreadful when something weighs on your mind, not to have a soul to unburden
yourself to. You know what I mean. I tell my piano the things I used to tell
"I feel like
a novice, just as I felt before I knew anything of the keyboard. It is far
too original, and I shall end up not being able to learn it myself."
"I am gay on
the outside, especially among my own folk (I count Poles my own); but inside
something gnaws at me; some presentiment, anxiety, dreams - or sleeplessness
- melancholy, indifference - desire for life, and the next instant, desire
for death; some kind of sweet peace, some kind of numbness,
"If I were
still stupider than I am, I should think myself at the apex of my career;
yet I know how much I still lack, to reach perfection; I see it the more
clearly now that I live only among first-rank artists and know what each one
of them lacks."
nothing to do, I am correcting the Paris edition of Bach; not only the
engraver's mistakes, but also the mistakes hallowed by those who are
supposed to understand Bach (I have no pretensions to understand better, but
I do think that sometimes I can guess)."
revolutionary, money means nothing to me."
concerts and performance
concert was a success. I hasten to let you know. I inform your Lordship that
I was not a bit nervous and played as I play when I am alone. It went
well... and I had to come back and bow four times."
"All the same
it is being said everywhere that I played too softly, or rather, too
delicately for people used to the piano-pounding of the artists here."
"They want me
to give another concert but I have no desire to do so. You cannot imagine
what a torture the three days before a public appearance are to me."
certain times when I feel more inspired, filled with a strong power that
forces me to listen to my inner voice, and when I feel more need than ever
for a Pleyel piano."
adventure befell me while I was playing my Sonata in B flat minor before
some English friends. I had played the Allegro and the Scherzo more or less
correctly. I was about to attack the March when suddenly I saw arising from
the body of my piano those cursed creatures which had appeared to me one
lugubrious night at the Chartreuse. I had to leave for one instant to pull
myself together after which I continued without saying anything."
only to study a certain positioning of the hand in relation to the keys to
obtain with ease the most beautiful sounds, to know how to play long notes
and short notes and to achieve certain unlimited dexterity. A well formed
technique, it seems to me, can control and vary a beautiful sound quality."
places and people
"I don't know
where there can be so many pianists as in Paris, so many asses and so many
heard anything so great for a long time; Beethoven snaps his fingers at the
"I have met a
great celebrity, Madame Dudevant, known as George Sand... Her appearance is
not to my liking. Indeed there is something about her which positively
repels me... What an unattractive person La Sand is... Is she really a
woman? I'm inclined to doubt it."
Bulletin declared that the Poles should be as proud of me as the Germans are
of Mozart; obvious nonsense."
"I don't know
how it is, but the Germans are amazed at me and I am amazed at them for
finding anything to be amazed about."
numerous pleasures of Vienna the hotel evenings are famous. During supper
Strauss or Lanner play waltzes...After every waltz they get huge applause;
and if they play a Quodlibet, or jumble of opera, song and dance, the
hearers are so overjoyed that they don't know what to do with themselves. It
shows the corrupt taste of the Viennese public."
waltzes are called works! And Strauss and Lanner, who play them for dancing,
are called Kapellmeistern. This does not mean that everyone thinks like
that; indeed, nearly everyone laughs about it; but only waltzes get
has made me an offer; that I should study with him for three years, and he
will make something really - really out of me. I answered that I know how
much I lack; but that I cannot exploit him, and three years is too much. But
he has convinced me that I can play admirably when I am in the mood, and
badly when I am not; a thing which never happens to him. After close
examination he told me that I have no school; that I am on an excellent
road, but can slip off the track. That after his death, or when he finally
stops playing, there will be no representative of the great piano-forte
school. That even if I wish it, I cannot build up a new school without
knowing the old one; in a word : that I am not a perfected machine, and that
this hampers the flow of my thoughts. That I have a mark in composition;
that it would be a pity not to become what I have the promise of being..."
"It's a huge
Carthusian monastery, stuck down between rocks and sea, where you may
imagine me, without white gloves or hair curling, as pale as ever, in a cell
with such doors as Paris never had for gates. The cell is the shape of a
tall coffin, with an enormous dusty vaulting, a small window... Bach, my
scrawls and waste paper - silence - you could scream - there would still be
silence. Indeed, I write to you from a strange place."
"After a rest
in Edinburgh, where, passing a music-shop, I heard some blind man playing a
mazurka of mine..."
"England is a
country of pianos, they are everywhere."
whatever is not boring is not English."
"My piano has
not yet arrived. How did you send it? By Marseilles or by Perpignan? I dream
music but I cannot make any because here there are not any pianos . . . in
this respect this is a savage country."
so surrounded by the boredom of conventionalities, that it is all one to
them whether music is good or bad, since they have to hear it from morning
till night. For here they have flower-shows with music, dinners with music,
sales with music..."
health and death
manuscripts sleep, while I cannot, for I am covered with poultices."
This bed on which I shall lie has been slept on by more than one dying man,
but today it does not repel me! Who knows what corpses have lain on it and
for how long? But is a corpse any worse than I? A corpse too knows nothing
of its father, mother or sisters or Titus. Nor has a corpse a sweetheart. A
corpse, too, is pale, like me. A corpse is cold, just as I am cold and
indifferent to everything. A corpse has ceased to live, and I too have had
enough of life.... Why do we live on through this wretched life which only
devours us and serves to turn us into corpses? The clocks in the Stuttgart
belfries strike the midnight hour. Oh how many people have become corpses at
this moment! Mothers have been torn from their children, children from their
mothers - how many plans have come to nothing, how much sorrow has sprung
from these depths, and how much relief!... Virtue and vice have come in the
end to the same thing! It seems that to die is man's finest action - and
what might be his worst? To be born, since that is the exact opposite of his
best deed. It is therefore right of me to be angry that I was ever born into
this world! Why was I not prevented from remaining in a world where I am
utterly useless? What good can my existence bring to anyone? ... But wait,
wait! What's this? Tears? How long it is since they flowed! How is this,
seeing that an arid melancholy has held me for so long in its grip? How good
it feels - and sorrowful. Sad but kindly tears! What a strange emotion! Sad
but blessed. It is not good for one to be sad, and yet how pleasant it is -
a strange state..."
most celebrated doctors on the island have been to see me. One sniffed at
what I spat, the second tapped where I spat from, and the third sounded me
and listened as I spat. The first said I was dead, the second that I was
dying and the third that I'm going to die."
earth is suffocating... As this
cough will choke me, I implore you to have my body opened, so that I may not
be buried alive."
in memory of me."