Paris, panorama

Paris, panorama of the city, lithograph, 19th c. Collection: Photographic collection of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw [F.6023].


On 2 November 1830, Fryderyk Chopin left Warsaw forever, making his way first to Dresden, then via Prague to Vienna (where he spent eight months), then via Linz, Salzburg, Munich and Stuttgart to Paris, where he settled for good, for the second half of his life. From 11 September 1831 until his death, on 17 October 1849, Paris was his home. He left many times, often for several weeks or months, but he always returned to his Paris apartments. He wrote about his impressions and the atmosphere of Paris in his correspondence: ‘“There is here the greatest splendour, the greatest shabbiness, the greatest virtue, the greatest vice, posters warning of ven. diseases everywhere you walk – more shouting, screaming, rumbling and mud than one could possibly imagine – one melts into this paradise and it is convenient in this respect, that nobody asks how anyone lives”. Euphoria following his first musical contacts: “I am content with what I have encountered here; I have the foremost musicians in the world and the foremost opera in the world. I know Rossini, Cherubini, Paer, etc. etc. and perhaps I shall stay here longer than I had thought”.’ [Tomaszewski, Chopin…]. In spite of his initial disappointments, Fryderyk tried to develop to an equal extent his compositional work and his concert work, whilst at the same time being drawn into the whirlwind of Parisian salon life. ‘I was blown here by the wind; breathing is sweet here – but perhaps one sighs more here because it is easy. Paris is everything one could wish for – you can amuse yourself, become bored, laugh, cry, do whatever you please, and nobody looks at you, for here there are thousands doing just the same as you and each in his own way. Somehow, I don’t know if anywhere there are more pianists than in Paris – I don’t know if anywhere there are more asses and more virtuosos than here.’ Having arrived in Paris, he soon realised that it was not only talent and ability that would determine his success, since considerable weight was attached here to individuality, to originality in style. So Fryderyk began to consciously ‘create his personality and image’, and since he had a solid intellectual foundation, education and sense of his own worth brought from home, he happily succeeded in ‘launching himself as an individual talent’ with no detriment to his own views and character, and he soon consolidated his position among the artistic milieu. ‘I am launching myself slowly into the world, but I have only a ducat in my pocket’, confessed Chopin to only a few.