CHOPIN’s Letter from Vienna
Vienna, Wednesday, August 12th, 1829,
You know of my intention, my beloved ones, from my last letter. Yesterday (Tuesday) at seven o’clock in the evening, I appeared before a Viennese public for the first time, at the Imperial Opera House. Here, an evening concert in the theatre is called a musical academy. As I played gratuitously, Count Gallenberg expedited the ar- rangements for my appearance.
The following was the programme :
Overture, by Beethoven.
Song, by Fraulein Veltheim.
A Ballet, in conclusion.
The orchestra accompanied so badly at the rehearsal that I was obliged to substitute a “Free Fantasia ” for the Rondo. Directly I appeared I was greeted with cries of “Bravo,” and, after each variation, the audience shouted this welcome word so lustily that I could not hear the tutti of the orchestra. I had such a hearty recall, that I was obliged to come forward twice to bow my acknowledgements. I must confess that I was not quite satisfied myself with the Free Fantasia; but the public must have been pleased, for I was overwhelmed with applause. One reason for this may have been that the Germans know how to appreciate free improvisation. I am now doubly obliged to Wtirfel, for without his support and encouragement I should never have accomplished the daring enterprise which has succeeded so well. I shall be able to relate my experiences and impressions by word of mouth better than I can now. I was not hissed, so don’t be uneasy about my artistic reputation.
The newspapers have been very favourable to me; if some of them should pick holes in me I am prepared for it. My compositions have received Count Gallenberg’s undivided approbation. The theatrical manager, Herr Demar, was very kind and pleasant; he did his best to encourage me before I appeared, so I went to my piano without much anxiety.
My friends were scattered about the house that they might hear the observations of the critics, and the various opinions of the public. Celinski can tell you that he heard nothing unfavourable. Hube reports the most severe criticism, and that, too, from a lady : ” A pity the youth has so little presence.” If this is the only sort of blame I am . to receive, I cannot complain.
I improvised on a subject from “La Dame Blanche,” and, that I might have a Polish theme, chose ” Chmiel.” The public, to whom this kind of national melody is quite unknown, seemed electrified. My friends in the pit say the people began a regular dance on the benches.
….There is an almost unanimous opinion that I play too softly, or rather, too delicately, for the public here. That is because they are accustomed to the drum-beating of their own piano virtuosi. I am afraid the newspapers will say the same thing, especially as the daughter of one of the editors drums dreadfully; but never mind, if it is to be so, I would much rather they said I played too gently than too roughly.
… The orchestra execrated my badly written score, and were not at all favourable to me up to the moment of my improvisation ; then, in concert with the public, they applauded heartily, which showed their good opinion of me. I do not yet know what the other artists think; but what can they have against me? They see that I do not play for pecuniary advantage.
So my first performance, unexpected as it was, has passed off successfully. Hube thinks that one never succeeds in anything by ordinary means and according to preconceived plans, but must trust somewhat to chance. So I trusted to my good fortune and allowed myself to be persuaded to give the concert. If the newspapers cut me up so much that I shall not venture before the world again, I have resolved to become a house painter; that would be as easy as anything else, and I should, at any rate, still be an artist !
Nidecki was particularly friendly to me yesterday; he looked through and corrected the orchestral parts, and was sincerely pleased at the applause I received. I played on one of Graff’s pianos. I feel at least four years wiser and more experienced.
You must, indeed, have wondered at my sealing my last letter with a strange seal. I was absent-minded and took the first and best that came to hand.
Your fondly loving,