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Nohant

Nohant, George Sand’s manor house

Nohant, manor house of George Sand seen from the garden side, woodcut by Pierre Blanchard, in L’Illustration, no. 1409 (1870), 149. Collection: Photographic collection of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw [F.6623].

 

Six months after setting off from Paris for Majorca, Chopin and George Sand arrived in Nohant. Their plan of spending the winter and spring in Palma had been scotched by the sudden bout of Fryderyk’s illness and the decision to leave the island. After three months’ convalescence in Marseilles, they decided to leave for Nohant. Fryderyk first saw this beautiful estate, situated close to La Châtre, some 300 km south of Paris, in the late spring of 1839. ‘I am home, happy […] after six months wandering across land and sea’, wrote George Sand the day after their arrival. ‘Chopin is better, only thinner, more delicate and more nervous. […] I am placing great hopes on the months that he will be spending at Nohant, and he wishes to stay here as long as possible […] We eat dinner in the open air, our friends are beginning slowly to appear, we smoke, discuss, and in the evening, when they depart, at nightfall Chopin plays the piano.

 

The stay at Nohant seems to have brought solace to Fryderyk after the rather unfortunate travels. The idyllic atmosphere of peace, the ‘beautiful countryside, nightingales and larks’—Chopin needed all of this in order to finally regain his health, and it inspired him to work on his new compositions. George Sand also ensured him of the best conditions in which to compose, having an excellent Pleyel piano brought to Nohant from Paris as a surprise. ‘Chopin continues to feel now better, now worse, never decidedly good or bad […] As soon as he feels a little strength inside him, he is cheerful, but whenever he is gripped by melancholy he throws himself at the piano and composes beautiful pages’, related George Sand in her correspondence.

 

Chopin’s first stay at Nohant, lasting over three months, ended in October 1839. He then travelled to Paris via Orleans and moved into his new apartment at 5 rue Tronchet.

 

In subsequent years, he returned to Nohant six times, each summer between 1841 and 1846. Besides George Sand and her children, Maurice and Solange, in the summer holidays the estate was full of guests. The company spent their time on numerous amusements, discussions, feasts, and also playing music together (Chopin gave piano lessons to Solange), long hours devoted to literature and dabbling in the fine arts. Among the particularly favoured guests of George Sand were the outstanding singer Pauline Viardot-Garcia and the artist Eugène Delacroix. ‘Nohant became [Chopin’s] second home, a place in which he was surrounded by warmth and solicitude. The six successive summers spent in the countryside were undoubtedly the happiest moments in the composer’s life since he had left Poland. Moments which he devoted to intense and extremely fruitful work. Moments which brought a series of masterpieces to the piano literature. During his second summer at Nohant (1841), he wrote the Ballade in A flat major, the mature Nocturnes, Op. 48 and the Fantasy in F minor. In the summer months of 1842 and 1843, he composed the Impromptu in G flat major, Ballade in F minor, Polonaise in A flat major, Scherzo in E major, Nocturnes, Op. 52 and Mazurkas, Op. 56. A year later, the Berceuse and B minor Sonata. In 1845, he worked on what are formally speaking his most elaborate works: the Barcarolle, Polonaise-Fantasy and Nocturnes, Op. 62; finally, in the year 1846 he completed the opus 62 Nocturnes and worked on the Cello Sonata—his last opused work. This time, the country sojourn was not so idyllic as in previous years. The growing conflict, the seeds of which were probably sown by the antipathy towards Chopin displayed by George Sand’s son, became gradually more acute, and the situation became hard to bear. It was increasingly difficult to concentrate on work. Finally, Chopin left for Paris. As it turned out, he would never return to Nohant again.’ [Szklener].