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Valldemosa

Valldemosa, Carthusian monastery

Valldemosa, Carthusian monastery, hand-coloured lithograph by Gustave Segur after a drawing by Francisco Xavier Parceris, 19th c. Collection: Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina, Warsaw [M/2209].

 

In mid December, while staying on Majorca, George Sand and Chopin were forced to move from a villa near Palma into the Carthusian monastery in Valldemosa, as the islanders feared catching Fryderyk’s illness. Chopin wrote to Fontana at this time: ‘my manuscripts sleep, and I myself cannot, I only cough and, long since covered with plasters, I wait for the spring, or for something else… Tomorrow I am going to that most wonderful cloister to write in the cell of an old monk, who may have had in his soul more fervour that I.’ In spite of everything, he continues to work: ‘I am planning to send you my preludes and a ballade quite soon’. And this is how he described the location after settling into the monastery: ‘Between the rocks and the sea, the huge abandoned Carthusian monastery, where in one of the cells, behind doors like no gates Paris has ever seen, you can imagine me dishevelled, without my white gloves, pale as always. The cell has the form of a high coffin, with a vast vault […] outside the window oranges, palms, cypresses […] a square little table that barely serves me for writing, upon which stands a lead candlestick […] with a candle, Bach, my scribblings […] quiet… one could shout… quiet. In a word, I am writing to you from a strange place.

 

In spite of his illness, Chopin worked intensively on preludes from his opus 28, but he was further hindered in composing by the lack of a decent instrument. The piano sent by Pleyel to Majorca from Paris did not reach Chopin until the second week in January. Barely a month later, on 12 February 1839, the decision was taken to leave at once. Chopin and George Sand, with her children Maurice and Solange, left Valldemosa, and on 13 February, Majorca. George Sand (do Charlotte Marliani): ‘On Majorca we were pariahs, due to Chopin’s cough, and also because we did not attend Mass. Stones were thrown at my children. They said we were pagans, and I don’t know what else’. On the return journey, George Sand wrote about Chopin that ‘while at death’s door from illness, on Majorca, he composed music evocative of paradise. Yet I have become so used to seeing him in the clouds, that I have the impression that his life or death mean nothing to him. He himself is not well aware on what planet he is living.’