The G minor Ballade [op. 23 by Chopin], after "Konrad Wallenrod,"
is a logical, well-knit, and largely planned composition. . . .
p.157 . . .
The first questioning theme is heard again,
and with a perpendicular roar the presto comes upon us.
For two pages the dynamic energy displayed by the composer is almost appalling.
A whirlwind I have called it elsewhere.
It is a storm of the emotions, muscular in its virility.
I remember de Pachmann — a close interpreter of certain sides of Chopin
— playing this coda piano, pianissimo and prestissimo.
The effect was strangely irritating to the nerves,
and reminded me of a tornado seen from the wrong end of an opera glass.
According to his own lights the Russian virtuoso was right:
his strength was not equal to the task, and so, imitating Chopin,
he topsy-turveyed the shading.
It recalled Moscheles' description of Chopin's playing:
"His piano is so softly breathed forth that he does not require any strong
forte to produce the wished for contrast."
[Huneker gives his own idea of the programme
of Chopin's Fantasie op. 49.]
. . . p.216 . . .
Alas! for the validity of subjective criticism.
Franz Liszt told Vladimir de Pachmann the programme of the Fantasie,
as related to him by Chopin.
At the close of one desperate, immemorial day,
the pianist was crooning at the piano, his spirits vastly depressed.
Suddenly came a knocking at his door, a Poe-like, sinister tapping,
which he at once rhythmically echoed upon the keyboard,
his phono-motor centre being unusually sensitive.
The first two bars of the Fantasie describe these rappings,
just as the third and fourth stand for Chopin's musical invitation,
This is all repeated until the doors wide open swinging admit Liszt,
George Sand, Madame Camille Pleyel née Mock, and others.
To the solemn measures of the march they enter,
and range themselves about Chopin,
who after the agitated triplets begins his complaint
in the mysterious song in F minor.
But Sand, with whom he has quarrelled, falls before him on her knees
and pleads for pardon.
Straightway the chant merges into the appealing A flat section —
this sends skyward my theory of its interpretation —
and from C minor the current becomes more tempestuous until the climax
is reached and to the second march the intruders rapidly vanish.
The remainder of the work, with the exception of the Lento
p.217 sostenuto in B —
where it is to be hoped Chopin's perturbed soul finds momentary peace —
is largely repetition and development.
This far from ideal reading is an authoritative one,
coming as it does from Chopin by way of Liszt.
I console myself for its rather commonplace character with the notion that
perhaps in the re-telling the story has caught some personal cadenzas
of the two historians.
In any case I shall cling to my own version.