religieuse poésie: a concert review from 1853

© Louise Dubin 2017

On February 16, 1848, Chopin gave his first concert in Paris since 1842, at the Salle Pleyel, nº 22 rue Rochechouart. The cost of tickets was unprecedented:  20 francs for each of the 300 seats available (the best seat at the Opera went for 12 francs).  The program included Chopin’s first public performance of his new sonata for piano and cello, Op. 65, with its dedicatee, Auguste Franchomme.   Little did anyone know that this would be Chopin’s final publication; nor that this concert would be Chopin’s last in Paris, ever.  Less than a week later, the 1848 Revolution erupted, forcing King Louis-Philippe to flee and eventually to abdicate the throne.  Chopin left Paris shortly afterwards, and when he returned he was too ill to perform.

Franchomme and Chopin played only the last three movements of the sonata in 1848 because, according to Frederick Niecks, a misguided listener at a house run-through had criticized the first movement as “too obscure, involved too many ideas.”  After Chopin’s death, Franchomme returned to the Salle Pleyel to perform the complete Op. 65 on April 6, 1853, with Thomas Tellefsen, who’d studied with Chopin for a few years and become his friend.  This time, nobody complained about the first movement.

Léon Kreutzer published his account in the Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris on April 10th, 1853: “Le morceau principal était une sonate de Chopin, pour piano et violoncelle…cette oeuvre a quelque chose d’intime et de mystérieux, c’est que tout en elle est plaintif et mélancolique… Franchomme, sur son eloquent violoncelle, a trouvé des accents admirables, qui donnaient aux belles melodies de Chopin une suavité pénétrante et pleine de religieuse poésie.”

“The main piece was a sonata by Chopin for cello and piano…the piece has something intimate and mysterious, everything in it is plaintive and melancholic… Franchomme, on his eloquent cello, found admirable expression, giving the beautiful melodies of Chopin a penetrating sweetness, full of religious poetry.”

They sure knew how to write about a great concert back then!

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