Wednesday, January 12, 2011


We begin in 1941 in Switzerland in the residence of famous composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. He is visited by a journalist from "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik" (circa 1939) before his departure for United States and asks him questions about his life and about his exile from Russia.

Switzerland - 1939. As their conversation turns to music, the journalist asks Rachmaninoff how is it possible that he could play such beautiful music, at which point Rachmaninoff goes to the piano and plays the opening chords of his 1st Piano Concerto. "I am simply carrying a torch," he says smiling, ceaselessly and seamlessly surfing the keyboard with his large hands on a magnificent looking piano. "This is where my music comes from," he continues, as deep, penetrating chords of his playing resound in the room. "You want a great story, then listen ..." he says continuing his playing. "This is the story of Paris..."

"It’s the story of Paris," repeats Rachmaninoff reflectively as we pull back to Paris Conservatoire and to Hector Berlioz conducting his Symphony Fantastique leading his enormous orchestra with waltzy opening chords of Un Bal. The spinning, glittering sounds of Symphony Fantastique take us to the Parisian salon where Franz Liszt is sitting at his piano surrounded by his admirers following his every movement.

Behind him stands young Chopin observing Liszt quietly as Liszt is trying to read Chopin's Winter Wind etude with Liszt repeatedly striking the chords having difficulty getting it right for the first time.

Frustrated in the attempt to read it correctly Liszt changes his mind and plays several fast progressions of his Mephisto Waltz that sound like cascades falling from the sky, crystal clear and powerful to the sighs of his admirers. Liszt then stops playing abruptly and returns to reading of Chopin's work.

"I don't think there is anyone in the world who could play this work prima vista", he says impatiently. "Please, you play it for us ... " he asks, and as young Chopin sits at the piano, he begins to play his Winter Wind etude. Camera pans slowly revealing transfixed faces of the listeners. The salon is charged with excitement, quickly erupting into applause.

Paris - 1810. It is 19th Century and Paris is the world capital of music. Romanticism is in its full bloom. The salons of Paris are dominated by dramatis personae such as Berlioz, Rossini, Balzac, Hugo, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Bartholdi, Goethe, Paganini, Dumas and many others.

"At the time when musicians were looking for ways to break new grounds," continues Rachmaninoff, "here this young man who not only stays with classical rules, but by doing it so stringently and so perfectly and with such devotion he becomes the most original and powerful composer since Mozart," he says.

"The year is 1810," Rachmaninoff continues... "and on April 23, a French language teacher from a local school in Warsaw requests in the City Hall that a name be given to a boy who was born in his house from a mother Justine. He asks that two names be given to this effect and signs a document in the presence of two witnesses - Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin", continues Rachmaninoff.

Rachmaninoff stops playing as we move to Warsaw in the year 1810. Chopin family has six members: three daughters and one son, Mother Justine and Father Nicholas who emigrated from France before the French Revolution, and who like all emigrants refers to Napoleon as 'a thief and murderer' is almost sublime in his seriousness.

This is the magical world of 19th Century Europe as if taken from the enchanted world of Tolstoy and the Rostow family in "War and Peace", or an image from "Fanny and Alexander" as we witness this loving and nurturing family with certain detachment from reality, yet totally and wholly dedicated to the cultivation of culture and literary life.

We are at the boarding house that Nicholas runs for young boys, a small, private institution established for the quality of upbringing of their students. There are many children present at the boarding house, but evenings are usually spent on discussions of European history and literature. Usually, but not always...

This time we are in the room full of boys who proceed to tear their room apart in a wild pillow fight, running and screaming around with young Fryderyk among them. Suddenly, Fryderyk hollers at the boys, telling them to stop as he is about to tell them an interesting story.

The commotion of the pillow fight stops for moment as some boys slow down and look at Fryderyk uncertain what to do next.

Fryderyk saunters to the piano blows out the candle and the boys cuddle closer to him. While playing strange, charismatically sounding chords he tells them a story about thieves and robbers, how they enter the house through the window, and then grab everything they can and run to the forest.

He then proceeds to intensify his playing telling them the rest the story with the sounds of the piano. The boys listen in silence as he paints the picture of the forest, the pitch dark, brilliant night, the thieves lying on the ground with their loot on their chest, grasping it and then falling asleep as the eyes of the boys close, and they all fall into deep sleep.

Fryderyk then suddenly gets up from the piano and quietly tiptoes to his mother and his sisters showing them to come quickly with him so they can see an unusual sight.

They tiptoe back with him and see the view of the boys sound asleep in the living room. The mother and sisters break out in smiles as Fryderyk then runs to the piano hitting a loud, striking and dissonant chord which immediately gets all the boys on their feet who do not know what is happening to them and the whole company breaks out in laughter.

Warsaw Pensionate – 1824. In the morning, Chopin's teacher Wojciech Zywny is giving Fryderyk a piano lesson. This teacher is an integral part of the family, a former maestro from the Austrian capella, a large man who's constantly sniffing tobacco getting it all over his beard and tie, jacket and the keyboard.

Zywny also wears a yellow wig, a huge tobacco holder with the engraving of Haydn, and large, red checkered handkerchief with big pencil with which he is correcting the errors in the score Fryderyk plays for him.

Suddenly, his mother Justyna interrupts the lesson and calls everyone to lunch. The teacher takes his seat near the housekeeper with everyone at the table. He puts his meal on the plate in such a hurry and eating so loud that the boys, finding it amusing burst out with garbled, contained explosions of laughter.

”Frederyk only had two teachers," continues Rachmaninoff. "Zywny, who showed him the basics of piano composition, and Josef Elsner who taught him formal harmony and composition at school. At twelve he was progressing so fast that no school was good enough for him as this teenager searched for his ideal. In this way, struggling with his creative forces, and left by his parents on his own he acquired his own style and sound so different from others who played before him."

We now move to Fryderyk walking with his father in the country. They're lost in the snowstorm at their nearby Zelazowa Wola residence. It is a cold, winter night as they come near local inn and head on for shelter upon hearing the sound of violin. The boy halts, eager to hear the rest of it, and as the Father goes inside Fryderyk stands by the window oblivious to the oncoming snow storm and listening to the sound of violin.

Warsaw National Theater. Concert Gala. Soiree in the presence of Maria Teodorovna, Tsarina and the mother of Alexander I, the Russian Czar and King of Poland where Fryderyk performs for the first time in his life in public.

A servant hands over to Tsarina young Chopin's Polonaise dedicated to her and announces: "Her Highness, if you permit me. Experts have requested of me to mention that this boy is to replace Mozart..." Count Konstantin who watches Tsarina's reaction immediately invites Chopin to their Royal Belvedere Palace and sends his royal carriage for him to play with his son.

When the carriage arrives at the boarding house Fryderyk goes with his older sister Louise, and at the Count's residence they perform a duet, improvising on popular Military March by Mozart.
As Fryderyk plays he keeps his head and eyes raised high. The Count asks him "why are you looking up so much, are you reading notes up there?" The boy shrugs with a smile and keeps playing to the enjoyment of the Count and his audience.

"So what is the secret.." asks Rachmaninoff as he plays the powerful progression of chords and harmonies on his piano to the astonishment of the journalist.

"What is the secret of this music? Why is it so different from others who played before him?" he asks. "In the second half of eighteenth-century," continues Rachmaninoff, "Vienna was the capital of European music primarily because of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. 

This is why immediately after this young man graduated from his music school in Warsaw the pressure was on to send him out to Vienna to which he went during the summer of eighteen twenty nine Bloss aus Musikliebe- For the love of music," he says.

Vienna 1829. At that time Europe was divided into kingdoms. There was a Kingdom of Piedmont, Bohemia, Saxony and others, and as Frederick travels across each of the kingdoms accompanied by his school friend Titus he visits the Barons, the Princesses and the sovereignty in their castles and they all receive him very affectionately. While recognizing his genius and his intellectual power they also provide him with plenty of good words and letters of introduction for his next stopover.

The trip takes the entire the summer months until beginning of September through Cracow, Brestlau, Prague, Leipzig and Dresden. During this trip which young Fryderyk calls it his grand voyage, we can see how from person to person, acquaintance to acquaintance, recommendation to recommendation young Chopin skillfully increases his circle of influence.

He understands it just as his father understood it and knows it is necessary. He wants it that way and it now seems second nature to him. The old adage of "making contacts" is nowhere more apparent than in this young man's first journey across the kingdoms of Europe on his own to discover the West. His first public concert is in Vienna at Kamtnertortheater and Frederick is still a teenager then.

He-plays Variations for Piano and Orchestra from a theme of Mozart's La Ci Darem La Mano. His style of playing is amazing, as he withholds all the showiness that most pianists try to show in the first bars of this work and plays absolutely mesmerizing, with absolute virtuosity and deep, penetrating sound of the Concert Grand.

Like a true virtuoso he makes us feel as if we were in the presence of an exclusive company where no rhetoric is necessary, as we are in presence of the secret power of music.

In Vienna, after the concert young Chopin is drawn by the creative atmosphere of Europe and its romanticism, away from his great sanctuary in Warsaw. Vienna at that time was a magical city like Venice, and a go-between Florence, and the world of Antiquity during Renaissance. In nineteen century Vienna kept the balance of cultural tradition between East and West and effectively communicated this creative and cultural exchange.

In Vienna Fryderyk is accepted with celebrating crowds. His friends are taking comments from the best-known music critics and Vienna's best musicians at the time -Kreutz, Gyrowetz, Lakner, Schuppanzighem and Lewi all come to pay their respects to this young musician.

They all recognize him as their own, receive him warmly as a friend and wish for him not to return to Poland. After the concert Robert Schumann writes in "Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik" - Hut ab, ihr Herren, ein Genie... "Hats off gentlemen, this is a genius."

In 19th Century world the intensity of classical music performances and the reactions of its fans and audiences were far different than today. The recitals were very long, lasted for many hours of enjoyment, many works were improvised by the composers who themselves were virtuosi and their performances were the main source of entertainment.

Accordingly, the reception that a virtuoso was receiving from audiences was equivalent to contemporary performances of the rock stars of our age, or the best 'pop' stars of today as this was the golden age of pianism, the age of the virtuoso, and given of course of the adjustment of the etiquette of that period, the enthusiasm and the appreciation of audiences for the arts and the amazing art of piano performance were overwhelming.

On his way back to Warsaw as Chopin sits in a stage coach driven by his friend he opens a letter from his father informing him that Nicolo Paganini, the mysterious, great violinist from Genoa famous for his dazzling and devilish violin will be giving a series of concerts in Warsaw. "Paganini", the boys cry out enthusiastically tossing pages of the letter all over the cabin flying off the coach.

Warsaw. The Grand National Theater. The crowd is storming the entrance to the concert hall as Fryderyk with his friend Titus and tremendous amount of excitement and anticipation on their faces rush on to the main door to get to the front seats to witness Paganini's performance.

Pushing their way through the crowd, they notice Konstanze Gladkowski, a very attractive, nineteen-year old soprano, slim, charismatic accompanied by a cavalry officer wearing formal, royal white-and-blue uniform. As they confront each other she recognizes Fryderyk and they quickly they exchange furtive glances.

"Konstanze," says Fryderyk with emotion in his voice. "Konstanze is with her confidant." As they enter the hall, the lights are dimmed and Paganini starts playing. The room is packed, overflowing with people. People are sitting in the alleys, backing all the exits. Frederyk's box is facing Konstanze's side-by-side with her officer. The orchestra keeps playing as Paganini waits his part and and watches Konstanze's profile.

"I wish I could have her in my arms, if only once," he whispers to Titus. Suddenly the orchestra stops and Paganini performs a long coda to Marveille that comes out like a streak of lightning. 

Paganini then suddenly changes his tone from deep adagio to unthinkable high notes on his Amati violin. The audience is spellbound.

Fryderyk scribbles a note and hands it to Titus who passes it on to Konstanze. She is reading it silently registering its contents. The orchestra resumes playing as Konstanze gets up and walks out to the hallway. She faces Fryderyk who already is waiting for her outside. Partly because she is shocked and partly because she does not want to be seen she gives in when Titus walks right in. Fryderyk embraces and kisses her, and Konstanze suddenly faints to obvious desperation of the boys.

Quick thinking Titus picks her up and takes her back to the officer who upon seeing Konstanze instantly searches for his weapon. "C'est ne pas la peine Monsieur," says Titus. "The lady needs some rest," he continues as he lays her down. "Enchante," he saluts skillfully and proceeds to the exit.

Backstage young Frederick is already taking advice from Paganini . "If your left hand can span four A-flats on each string this is what you get," he chuckles while playing an amazingly, fast progression on his violin.
Fryderyk trembles as he hears the powerful, deep, melodic notes coming out of Paganini's violin. 
"True artist's tone should never be forced, or excessively loud," says Paganini.

"Your playing should always be lighter than that of an amateur," he says. "This seventeen-forty-three Amati," he says, "was given to me by someone who appreciated music like all those folks out there," he nods with a raspy voice, "and this man was an amateur who saved me ... ," he says. "Just listen", he says as he strokes several powerful chords with his bow. "Listen and you'll know the secret..." he looks at him straight, "you'll know the key to the secret power of music" he says.

Warsaw Conservatory. Professor Soliwa is auditioning Konstanze. "You are straining your voice," he says impatiently. "At this rate you will have nothing left in two years." The lesson is almost finished as he is about to leave and turns back at the door. "And don't be so secretive about young Chopin," he smiles. "We all know he's in love with you. I must say he has made a fine choice," he says pensively looking at the slender, blushing, blue-eyed Konstanze.

Warsaw National Theater – 1830. Twenty-year-old Fryderyk is performing his first piano concerto in F-minor written by him for the occasion. He plays the first part Maestoso and as Prof. Soliwa raises his baton and the orchestra begins the second part Larghetto camera follows Konstanze in the audience and Fryderyk looking up and turning his head towards her from the Concert Grand piano.

The concert is a huge success. Long into the night the city of Warsaw celebrates young Chopin's appearance in traditional feast-like atmosphere.

Carriages cross the streets and are filled with happy spectators, crowds of people pour out on the square of the National Theatre, singing and dancing in joyful celebration.

Back at the boarding house as father Nicholas is entertaining their guests is Maria Wodzinska, a very pretty girl about eleven. Fryderyk chats with her, then quickly runs over to his room and makes his way back through the crowd of teenagers. He hands his score to Maria. "I wrote this for you," he says modestly as she takes the score, opens it and then holds it on her heart with her hand, and elated kisses him on the mouth tip-toeing.

“Why don't you play something for us Fryderyk" exclaims excited Prof. Soliwa. Your music is the music of Poland," he proclaims to the applause of the guests, at which point having no choice with Maria standing by the piano Fryderyk performs his Grande Polonaise.

Konstanze by now is standing in the crowd and well-aware of Fryderyk's advance and event at Grand National Theater as she prepares to sing The Maiden's Wish dedicated to the little girl with enchanting text... "Oh, if I were sunshine in the sky, I would not shine but only for you," she sings with stunning soprano voice while Fryderyk accompanies her with amazing improvisational skills. Prof. Elsner raises his toast and formally announces Fryderyk's departure from Warsaw to the West.

His school friends lower their heads and sing a choir piece written especially for him at the Conservatory. Prof. Elsner is conducting. It is a magical moment. Fryderyk then gets into very sad and somber mood and tells Titus, "I am leaving my country, my home so I could forget about it forever... I feel like I am going to die there. How terrible it must be to die where one has never lived." He says goodbye to his family and friends as if sensing that this truly is his last farewell. He walks outside with Konstanze, and they exchange rings and say goodbye to each other.

He then sobs, hugs his mother, and then sobs and kisses his father. Prof. Elsner tries to cheer him up, although with tears streaming down his cheeks he has difficulty controlling himself.

It is a truly moving scene, even though upon his return to his family in Warsaw, the city of Warsaw has became "second in command" in favor of the great, pulsating city of Vienna. It was in Warsaw where the family experiences were key to the formation of Chopin's character that were so crucial to his intellect and his talent just as the second-half of his life was so strongly influenced by the elaborate cultural, intellectual life of Paris with its unique, incomparable and ubiquitous Parisian spirit.

However, now from the bucolic, hermetic life surrounded by family and friends in Warsaw Fryderyk sets out to enter the real world, into the cold night, a world full of strangers and suitors from whom he would never be able to free himself again.

Warsaw - 1831. An exploding cannon ball rips through the belly of a horse. Screams, tumult, shots being fired, crowds dispersing against garrisons of soldiers with troops lining up their muskets.

Over that scenery we hear the amazing sounds of Chopin's Revolutionary Etude as camera superimposes on the battlefield and Fryderyk playing at the concert hall in Munich with his head up finishing the final chords. The audience is on its feet.

"Bravo, bravo, bravo. More ... Hurrah... Bravo..." the crowds cry out ecstatically with men throwing up their hats in the air. "We want more... Bravo... Bravo".

As the gruesome images of war continue Fryderyk's carriage leaves the outskirts of Vienna he opens up a letter and reads about the news of Warsaw uprising quickly deciding upon immediately returning to Poland to fight along his friend Titus. "Titus is already back, and enrolled," he says to his companion while reading the letter with tremendous anxiety. "I must immediately return, enroll in the army and fight, as every man would in my place."

Traveling across the scenic overpasses of Austrian Alps toward Salzburg Frederick reaches the mystical looking castle of Johannus Malfatti, a well-known doctor at the Royal Palace for whom he had a recommendation to visit and arrives at his door.

After a brief meal with their family Malfatti confronts Fryderyk - "I hear you wish to return and enroll in the army to fight for the Polish cause," says Malfatti. "But why ..." he says looking at him very seriously. "Every man fights... but don't you understand who you are? Your music is also the fight, but it's more than that," he says. "because it comes from a source so deeply felt and common to us all and it's so personal," he confides to young Chopin.

So Chopin leaves and heads on to Paris arriving in Montmartre via Stuttgart after an exhausting journey for nearly two-weeks. Armed letters of introduction from Malfatti he is at the residence of Friedrich Kalkbrenner, the celebrated virtuoso pianist who reads the recommendation very carefully and is almost disturbed by its contents.

"Sit down and let me hear you play, " he says nonchalantly as if not believing what he's reading. When Chopin plays the expression on Kalkbrenner's face changes from amazement to consternation. "Where does it all come from?" he begins to mumble with incomprehension. "How can one play like this... oh, my God, I cannot believe my ears, could you... could you, please, could you do this again, play something else," he commands and as Frederyk plays his Aeolian Harp etude the reality finally sets in.

"I could arrange a concert for us," he exalts jumping off the chair. "I will teach you my secrets of the piano - free of charge!"

"Your offer is very generous," Fryderyk smiles knowingly. "While I accept your invitation to play at the concert, I'll have to think about taking lessons," he says, but Kalkbrenner does not listen. They begin to play a duet improving as two lifelong friends having the best time of their lives.

Paris. Salle de Pleyel – 1832. The billboard announces "Grand Concert for Six Pianos" Two grand pianos are at the center stage. Behind them there are four other grand pianos all six positioned like an orchestra. The six performing concert pianists walk in and bow to the audience.

Besides Kalkbrenner, there are three other pianists and there is also Hiller and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. They begin to play and camera moves closer to Liszt and Berlioz sitting in the audience. We also see faces of Rossini and Schumann for the first time as Chopin plays his solo part with Kalkbrenner leading the musicians. They both play brilliantly.

"Who is this young man," asks Rossini. "He's the next Paganini and my biggest worry," Liszt says coldly. "The good news is he doesn't know it yet," Liszt chuckles. "Are you ready for this?" says Liszt. "He thinks Kalkbrenner is his superior."

"Hmm... " ponders Rossini. "Have you played anything that he's written yet."

"Oh... Yes. I did. It's magnificent," says Liszt. "He composes just like he plays. Absolutely unbelievably" says Liszt.

The first part of the concert is over. The audience leaps to their feet. Backstage Fryderyk and Kalkbrenner rush to take their final bows.

"You don't need piano lessons from anyone my friend," says Kalkbrenner standing next to Chopin, as they take another bow. When Liszt and Rossini leave their seats Kalkbrenner and Frederick sign autographs for hundreds of admirers crowding around them and fighting to get a closer look at the performers.

As Liszt enters backstage suddenly the scenery changes with all the young women surrounding Kalkbrenner and Fryderyk leaving, some fainting, others screaming at the sight of Liszt appearing in front of them. It is an odd sight because the amount of young women dropping on the floor is so excessive that within seconds it looks like a battlefield.

As Liszt keeps walking across the stage he is the god of the piano. In his early twenties, unimaginably handsome with very long, blonde-hair falling over his shoulders facing Chopin with young women screaming and falling on the floor around they are both mesmerizing.

Mendelssohn who is standing right next Chopin decides for a polite exit and taps on Fryderyk's shoulder. "Forgive me, but I must leave you now ... " as we realize he is suddenly discomforted by the sight and sounds of screaming young women. "I've got to leave this now.. Anyway, that's Franz Liszt in public...," he says. "Franz, Monsieur Chopin. Please, don't forget to visit me when you are both so disposed. I would be delighted to see you in my quarters," he says and leaves.

Rossini's Villa. Passy – 1832. Frederyk and Liszt are speeding the carriage to Rossini's mansion outside Paris. Laughing joyfully they quickly stop the carriage turning into the entrance to stunning-looking Mediterranean looking villa lit by hundreds of gas lamps outside. Suddenly, as we pass through the golden gates we enter the magical world of opera of the great Gioachino Rossini rehearsing his new work.

Inside, Villa Rossini there's a huge crowd of dancers, singers with Maestro Rossini entertaining his house guests and friends. A small orchestra is rehearsing with the dancers. Notable guests and music critics are observing the rehearsal. In the crowd we can spot Meyebeer conversing with Heine, Delacroix and Mickiewicz. Among them strolls a beautiful, twenty-something Marie-Catherine, daughter of Vicomte de Flavigny and the eyes of all men are on her.

As camera browses through the crowd and Liszt enters with Chopin all eyes turn from Marie-Catherine de Flavigny to two virtuosos walking in, on Liszt's flamboyant clothes, his incredibly long hair and good looks and Frederyk's impeccable clothes in the best of fashion, as well as his charismatic looks, with both Liszt and Chopin making very strong impression with their entrance.

Seeing them enter Rossini stops the rehearsal half-way, greets them enthusiastically and introduces other guests to them. Marie-Catherine Flavigny nods politely as Liszt introduces himself to her. Liszt sits down at the piano and begins to play. Immediately, as if with a magical wand everyone gathers around the piano, including Marie-Catherine and listen to a musical story being told by true master storyteller. Chopin then takes his turn and plays his Ballade, then finishes with an encore, a short, but indescribably beautiful Prelude.

Rossini and his company become very excited as they never heard piano technique like this before. "How do you play the rubato, " says Rossini. "It's like a passing breeze, so soft and gentle and yet it's so steady and pure. And the singing manner of your legato... it's like an opera. Where and how did you learn to compose like this," he asks.

"Very simple," smiles Frederyk. "I don't listen to pianists. I listen to singers of operas like yours who teach me how to phrase."

"Excellent " exclaims Rossini obviously delighted to hear this. "Ce l'abbiamo fatta per miracolo," he says nonchalantly as Liszt sits down at the piano again and plays several loud passages up and down the keyboard. He begins with Chopin's own Black Keys etude and then gracefully exits with Chopin's Chanson de l'Adieu followed by his own spectacular God Save the Queen improvisation.

"Bravo, bravo, " says Rossini. "It is so original. The purest and highest art. It's music from heaven," he exclaims. After Liszt performs several more excerpts ending with Un Sospiro etude to everyone applauds with absolute astonishment.

Liszt then gets up and kisses Marie-Catherine Flavigny's hand. He invites her to a night out with Chopin, and the Countess separated from her husband Count Charles d'Agoult agrees to a night out with Chopin accompanied by a stunning looking companion Delfine Potocka.

They leave in separate carriages, Liszt with Marie-Catherine, Chopin with Delfine Potocka. Inside the carriage, Liszt and Marie-Catherine kiss passionately.

As the carriages arrive on Rue de la Chaussée-d'Antin we realize that we are in the center of busy Parisian nightlife as camera focuses on a night club Circle des Etrangers, a plush and aristocratic establishment and very busy casino. All tables seem to be taken and after a brief stay they decide to walk over to Palais Royal on the same street.

Facing the same situation with all tables being taken Liszt suggests they visit Frascatti's while the ladies complain of being cold and tired. Then Liszt suggest they go to Casino Paganini. After a short walk they come across a sign displaying in bold letters - Casino Paganini above the door. "Ah... here we are Casino Paganini," Liszt exclaims with excitement. The biggest secret in town," he says with enthusiasm while everyone smiles in agreement.

Paris. Casino Paganini. Inside the casino we encounter Niccolo Paganini himself carefully counting the receipts from previous performance. The crowd inside is so large that it is impossible to move. "Keep moving, or we won't get in..." Liszt urges them as they squeeze among throngs of people making a way for them. "He's going to shut the door soon", he says. The excitement is growing bigger as they squeeze towards main gaming room. "Paganini won't start until everyone's accounted for," says Liszt.

Soon enough, Paganini stops at their table assisted by Paganini's ten-year old son Achillino collects their admission one-by-one and drops the coins in metal container. Paganini recognizes Liszt and greets him as well as greets his companions. The Countess, obviously familiar with the club and without being too formal asks Paganini to play something for them to which he responds with a smile and immediately few improvisational codas in front of them and as he plays they hear the most amazing progression of sounds with Paganini looking straight at Delfine's eyes.

When he stops Delfine asks him "Maestro Paganini. Is it true what some people say about you that you were in jail, and learned to play like this while you were serving your sentence?" Paganini smiles, his gaunt figure hovering over them, his eyes giving her a piercing look.

"Not really Madam..." he says with a raspy voice. "Only lazy people don't understand that one can work hard and become great at one's liberty and in one's own room then under lock and key," he answers.

In a moment the lights are dimmed, the doors are closed and Paganini enters the stage lead by his son Achillino. Paganini's performance, his brilliance and the expressive power of his Amati are inexplicable.
After another coda from Paganini as encore the smoke-filled room goes wild instantly. 

An overexcited woman in the audience rushes over to him nearly tripping onto the stage. "Maestro, if you're that good why don't you play the whole thing on one string," she says.

Paganini smiles, and then cuts the strings of his Amati on- by-one while he keeps playing, and then plays everything on one string. The woman faints and disappears into the cheering him crowd.

Hotel Lambert. Ile Saint-Louis. The meeting place for nobility and intellectuals in exile after Warsaw uprising that Fryderyk wanted to fight for and was advised not to. There in the salons of this elegant hotel a society called Polskie Towarzystwo Literackie - Polish Literary Society is having a meeting with young Chopin and other iconic figures participating. In as much as Fryderyk wants to avoid these meetings he participates in them wholeheartedly for patriotic reasons.

The evening is conducted no differently than like the rest of Parisian salons - a city dominated by heated discussions on politics, literature, philosophy and music attended by the best of Parisian literati mainly Mickiewicz, Slowacki, Hoffman, Norwid and many others who fled to Paris after the failure of November uprising. Among the guests is also strikingly beautiful Countess Delfine Potocka and German poet Heine reciting verses of his poetry to her.

Chopin talks about music and describes his passion for the opera. He also talks about the recent evening he spent with Liszt at Rossini's mansion. "If you are so ecstatic about opera," says Mickiewicz, "why don't you write one for Poland." "He won't write operas," says Delfine abruptly, "and asking him to do that because Poland needs one is brutal and inconsiderate," she says. "We should instead concentrate on arranging a worthy performance for Chopin in front of real audience, and not with Kalkbrenner," she says. She gets up and leaves suddenly with Chopin dragging after her like a child behind his mother.

In the hallway when they are alone Delfine stops and kisses him passionately. It is a long kiss with plenty of touching. "Don't worry about what they say, " she says pulling his face towards her. "We'll get you there. Europe needs it and Poland must have it," she says.

Salle de Pleyel. Enormous crystal chandeliers in the performance hall glimmer with millions of kaleidoscopic colors, the concert hall is packed wall-to-wall resounding with the chatter of crowd. The air is so tense that it reminds of a matador fight than of a piano recital.

The whole of Paris seems to be present watching, breathing, waiting for every part of this magical musical moment as camera moves to Camille Pleyel, the wealthy piano manufacturer and owner of the hall is with his stunning wife Marie-Moke Pleyel. It is a black-tie, gala performance with a full turnout.

The orchestra begins, delicately playing the sweet opening passages of Chopin's Piano Concerto in e-minor, then the sound of the concert grand enters, bold, rich, powerful, full of flavor, with Chopin's precise, magical touch and melody sounding as if it came from heaven, with the audience absorbing every note as if this was the last grasp of air left for them breathe with Chopin sitting at the piano performing at this best. 

He is twenty-one years old and knows that everything depends on this concert. He has waited all his life for this performance.

Finally, when it is over the entire Paris is on their feet. Nothing compares to the reception he receives at this concert, not Kalkbrenner's concerts, not even the concert in Vienna, not even Schumann's, or Berlioz or even Liszt's, nothing comes even close that could compare to the reception and the avalanche of applause he receives that sweeps and shakes the entire building.

Paris. Chopin's Residence. Next morning a loud knock on the door awakens him. It is Camille Pleyel and his wife Marie at the door. "What you have done was absolutely magnificent.... For Paris and for the entire humanity," says Pleyel and hardly able to contain his enthusiasm. "Here is your money," he says handing him an envelope with 2,000 francs. "I also came to offer you to be your manager," he says.

“I accept" says Chopin smiling at his sudden change of fortune. "If my f-minor Concerto is acceptable." But of course," smiles Pleyel. "Yes ... the entire repertoire, not just the concerto. You'll be playing to full house again, and by the way," he adds as they are about to leave. "Wagner is here. He'd like to meet you. 
There will be a reception at my house tomorrow. Be there...." he says as Pleyel and his wife leave Chopin's residence.

House of Camille Pleyel. Expensive and opulent, well-lit villa with gas lamps and enough room for hundreds of people with more than a dozen of randomly parked carriages outside. Camera focuses on Liszt as he arrives among the throng of admirers and followers already waiting for him outside.

Women attempt throw themselves on Liszt in a state of trance as he walks holding Marie-Catherine Flavigny's hand. Richard Wagner also arrives surrounded by an entourage of personal lieutenants and admirers while Chopin quietly enters the salon with Delfine.

Servants take their coats and Pleyel bows politely in front of Wagner and Chopin. "Maestro," he says. "Frederic Chopin." "I am delighted to meet you... " says Wagner shaking Chopin's hands vigorously.
Chopin sits at the piano and after playing few brief, stunning passages, suddenly Liszt accompanies him and they both proceed to improvise together, but after a moment Chopin suddenly stops and annoyed gets up and storms out of the room. "I cannot be challenged to this kind of thing," says angrily, pacing the hallway. "I am not a Liszt. I am not even a performer," he breaks down surrounded the guest trying to comfort him with Delfine leading to console him.

Liszt, realizing his faux pas storms out of the room to apologize followed by Pleyel. "My friend, forgive me," he says cordially. "Please accept my deepest apologies ... Here in our Paris, this sort of dueling is quite common," he says. "You should participate in them and promise not to take it personally."

Chopin nods and seems to calm down, but returns to the salon heartbroken, however, apparently Liszt is prepared to fight a duel with somebody. 

It is the great Swiss piano legend and virtuoso in his own right from Geneva - the one and only Sigismond Thalberg. Like Liszt and Chopin he is also in his twenties, very handsome and charismatic, famous for his unparalleled three-thumb technique in which both thumbs bring out the melody in the middle register while supplying an endless stream of chromatic arpeggios at the same time making an effect as if three hands playing at the same time. Thalberg of course accepts Liszt's invitation and they proceed to a duel without hesitation.

He plays his Fantasia and then Liszt takes his turn with heavily improvised Hungarian Rhapsody. When they are finished the audience votes and Pleyel announces the score. It is decided unanimously that both pianists have no equal. For encore the Italian Princes Cristina Trivulzio-Belgiojoso invites them her quarters to a charity event sponsoring Italian revolutionaries. "I hope Chopin comes too..." says Liszt looking at young Chopin having a casual conversation with Delfine in the background.

Paris. Montmartre. Chopin walks down the Parisian boulevard depressed, his state of mind clearly showing in his gait. He meets with Valentine Radziwill, his close friend and son of Prince Radziwil. "I am not going to stay in Paris," he says resolutely to his friend Valentie as they sit down at a cafe.

Valentin gives him a curious look. "What do you mean? You are such a hit here..." he says shocked by what he hears.

"You don't understand," says Chopin. "I don't belong here. Paris is not really for me... Everybody wants me to perform and improvise and I am not even a performer. I don't even like to perform. Besides, the choice of music they are playing is completely detestable to me. Paris is just not the place for me. I am leaving. I can't stand it here. I'm going to Vienna, or Dresden and then back to Poland when things clear up." Valentin listens and looks at Chopin carefully. He understands immediately. "Give yourself some time," he says. 

"These things take time. This takes time," he says. "Because things always seem to be in the present you tend to feel that what happens now is the reality, but you must look at the big picture. "Please, let's have un demi, he says. "Like in good old days," he smiles.

They order another cafe and Chopin does not seem to calm down. "What you don't understand is that I don't have that much time... My father hasn't sent me any money lately, and everything I've made from the concert is gone. I have no way of supporting myself and this whole thing of me being here in Paris is just a big misunderstanding," he says.

"How about another concert," says Valentin seeing Fryderyk recoil in anger. "I just can't give another concert, don't you understand? The second concert I gave was a disaster. People could not even hear me. The whole orchestra was out of tune, you could barely hear them as well, and it was just impossible," he says with resignation.
Valentin picks up the newspaper laying on the table and shows him the picture of Schumann. "Look," he says showing him the paper. "Let me read it to you." It is a copy of Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik.
"This is what your friend Robert Schumann writes about you," says Valenti. "Glory to Chopin who took his genius straight to the capital of the world where he can freely create and get angry. If the current shrewd and powerful monarch of Poland knew whom he had as opponent, he would not allow playing of his music in public because the works of Chopin are guns disguised in flowers."

Frederyk is taken back. Prince Valentin is thinking fast. "Before you do anything promise me that you will give me the opportunity to go with you to this very special place tonight," as Frederyk reluctantly agrees.

Baron Jacob Rothschild Residence. The candle-lit salons of the Rothschild family are frequented by the richest of Paris - Princess de Vaudemont, Prince Tulleyrand-Perigord, Count and Countess Beauveau, Princess Wurtemberg, Countess Emilia Perthuis, Prince Adam Czartoryski along with the pleiades of titled diplomats, bankers, dignitaries, artists, poets, renowned musicians and literary figures that Baroness de Rothschild, a passionate amateur pianist herself invited for the evening.

The soiree is exceptional and Prince Valentin loses no time whispering the right words to everyone about Chopin and about his material and mental disposition. When he is invited to play everyone knows that from this moment his future will be assured because he will be helped and his recital is magnificent. He plays with such grace and such range of emotions and expressiveness, with so much pain, sorrow, sadness and happiness at the same time, with such indescribable range of expression, with music is so brilliant and so powerful that the listeners are on their knees, listening in a trance.

While playing Chopin occasionally glances at Delfine. The reaction of the audience is equivalent to a hypnotic seance, even with servants normally preoccupied with serving snacks and champagne standing completely stunned all unable to move in this timeless moment.

"Bravo .... bravo," applaud the guests while standing up. "Please, more... we want more," they clap with enthusiasm as the salon is dimmed more and Frederyk plays a long encore.

By the sighs and sobs in the audience it is impossible to express the pleasure and astonishment going on in the hearts and minds of audience listening to his playing, and by now everyone knows now he has won their hearts.

After another loud ovation as Baroness de Rothschild is so ecstatic she can hardly contain her enthusiasm. "The exquisite poetry of your music Monsieur Chopin is beyond this world. One cannot compare it to anything existing today..." she says while Baron Rothschild is equally enthused. "Your melody and harmonies Monsieur Chopin deeply touch the soul of Paris and our souls in the most profound and deepest meaning to the point that one doesn't know whether one should cry, be sad, be happy, or simply surrender to the incomparable beauty of your improvisations" he says.

"Will you be willing to teach our daughters Monsieur Chopin?" the Baroness proposes, and as Frederyk consents Mme. de Rothschild scribbles names and addresses of his many new pupils on her notepad.
Paris. Chopin's Residence. Now, Chopin's troubles are over, while in the waiting room to Frederyk's salon there is a very long line of students waiting for their master class.

Frederyk soon moves to a new, spacious and expensive apartment on Rue de la Chaussée-d'Antin in the center of Paris, near Casino Paganini that they visited so many times with Liszt. In the morning there are lessons, in the evening are concerts and private soirees that all of a sudden everyone in Paris is suddenly vying to get invited to hear Chopin's playing.

In fact, all the salons of Paris are now open to him. He is enormously popular and liked for his looks, manners, his elegant style of dress and his sense of humor, and as he begins to frequent the company of princesses, ministers and ambassadors in the highest social circles of Paris his father writes him - "You have no idea how lucky you are..."

There are plenty of piano teachers giving lessons in Poland, and you would not find anything even close here that would meet your expectations. At last you have found the conditions to build and cultivate your enormous art. We are all very happy for you."

He also learns that Konstanze married a wealthy landowner and that Delfine left for Nice. "Konstanze is already married," he says to his companion Jan Matuszynski in a beautiful Parisian restaurant, "and Delfine is off to Nice to a better climate. I think I'm going to need a change of pace," he says.

Karlove Vary. Karlsbad. Chopin meets his parents at the inn called Under The Golden Rose and it is the most amazing event of his life. The memories of his childhood come back as they stay together crying and hugging, kissing and talking, eating and sleeping together, as this is the last time they will ever see each other.
After this incredible reunion with his parents he travels to the castle of Thun-Hohenstein and there in the Bavarian forest as if straight from Grimm's fairy tale he the tells the story of his life through one of his Ballades for Thun-Hohenstein daughters sitting at the piano listening.

His playing is so magnificent that the Hohensteins are completely mesmerized and one of the daughter kneels at the piano and kisses his hands. "Is there anyone or anything in your life that can make you happy?" they ask. "You, Mademoiselle," Chopin smiles kissing and hugging her, as he signs his dedication of Waltz A-flat Major to then gives her another kiss for a promise.

Germany. Leipzig. We are in the music publishing capital of the world as Chopin is on his way to visit Felix Mendelssohn remembering his invitation at Salle de Pleyel. The Germans are fascinated by Chopin, and as they talk about music and politics Mendelssohn takes him on the tour of Leipzig. "There is something in your playing that is so completely masterful my dear Frederic. I can tell you that one can easily and absolutely in your music and can call you a perfect virtuoso," he says with the tone of sincere admiration. 

They visit the publishers Breitkopf & Hartel and Frederic hands them copies of his latest, finished work. "Gentlemen," he says. "I have to offer you Scherzo for six hundred francs, Ballade for six hundred and a Polonaise for five hundred".

The publishers accept unconditionally. In Dresden, at the home of Robert Schumann he meets Klara Wieck-Schumann. Klara looks stunning as she plays Chopin's own Grand Polonaise and tears come to his face, while he listens to his own work performed with such subtlety, harmony and delicacy that has never been heard by any pianist before. "You never thought that a woman could play your work like this," Klara gets up from the piano with a smile while Schumann looks at him for an answer. Chopin agrees and congratulates both Klara and Robert Schumann.

Prussia 1834. Frederick learns that the parents of Maria Wodzinska, his childhood friend who was eleven years when he left Warsaw invited him to meet them at Marianskie Laznie, a resort near Karlove Vary. Encouraged he sets out enthusiastically on a journey to meet them and finds Maria, now sixteen years old, and very beautiful woman. Quickly their childhood friendship into romance and memories from Warsaw turns into a passionate love affair.

There the beautiful simmering streams and picturesque Tatra mountains, hiding from the prying and suspecting eyes of Maria's parents, their love from ardent passion turns to obsession, and on the day of their departure Chopin now nearly twenty-five years old proposes a marriage to her and asks her mother for the blessing. Maria's mother politely turns him down asking him to keep their love a secret suggesting that when time comes she would discuss this with her husband.

For consolation she offers him another meeting in Dresden and makes him promise to visit them in Poland in the event he decides to come to Poland to see his parents again. Chopin then decides to sets on a journey back to Paris with his hopes quite high. "Goodbye mio carissimo maestro," Maria kisses him goodbye. "Don't forget about Dresden, and soon about Poland. Soon we'll see one another," she kisses him passionately.

Paris - 1834. In Paris Chopin is continually obsessed with Maria. He is in love. Camille Pleyel seeing his suffering offers him a trip to London, and Chopin goes on the trip with him secretly hoping and believing that he can see her in Dresden while travelling with Pleyel. "For two weeks," writes Frederic's companion, "Chopin is here totally incognito with Pleyel who's famous for his pianos and the scandal with his wife. They are staying in the best hotels, they keep an extra carriage with them and are looking for excuse to spend money. One day they are in Windsor, next day in Blackwell, another day in Richmond. "

Paris 1835. Back from London and after his engagement with Maria never comes to fruition, a setback he calls his "gray hour" Frederic attends Franz Liszt's soiree at Hotel de France that Liszt kept as his main residence in Paris. During the course of the evening with many literary and musical celebrities attending Chopin is introduced to George Sand by Countess Marie-Catherine Flavigny d'Agoult, the same and even more beautiful Marie-Catherine, formally Countess d'Agoult with whom they spent such amusing evening at Casino Paganini and at Villa Rossini.

Marie-Catherine officially introduces Chopin to Sand and Sand blindly plunges into the affair.
The Countess in turn is one of the best friends with Sand and shares similar fate with Sand as the marriages for both of them fall apart and turn out to be complete fiasco -Sand's to Baron Dudevant and Marie-Catherine's to Count d' Agoult. Now, both Sand and Marie seem to share similar fate - legally separated from their husbands and desperately falling in love with two of the greatest virtuosos of all time, Sand with Chopin and Countess d'Agoult with Liszt.

At Hotel de France soiree George Sand, at forty, with long dark hair, impeccably dressed and dignified takes her place on the sofa near the fireplace blowing clouds of smoke from her cigarette holder. "Monsieur Chopin, " she says nonchalantly after Chopin stops playing. "With your composition you have revived dreams of men and women who for long have forgotten how to dream."

From the very beginning the love affair between Chopin and Sand is clearly the attraction of opposites with Chopin being a conservative and Catholic, and Sand, a liberal minded atheist and ardent supporter of the Revolution - without doubt totally and completely opposite personalities.

Paris. Versailles 1837. Chopin is invited to perform at the Royal Palace of King Louis Philippe in the Tuileries. The announcement is printed in newspapers and in Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris. The announcement states that the Royal Court has invited Monsieur Chopin to play for a small circle of chosen and lucky ones. Liszt, Marie-Catherine and Sand are in attendance and Chopin's performance is a huge success.

After the recital, Frederic's name becomes a calling card along with such names as Dumas, Hugo and Balzac. He becomes the most popular, and yet the most illusive, coveted and greatest artist in Paris spoken with the utmost reverence and mystique in the finest homes and literary circles in Europe.

George Sand after learning about Chopin's failed marriage proposal to Maria suddenly writes to Frederic's sister Louise in Poland. "Please, listen to me clearly, categorically and carefully. Is this the person whom he wants, or should, or thinks he should love her actually going to give him happiness, or rather increase his suffering and sadness?" As Chopin's older sister Louise reads the letter to herself in Warsaw the dramatic chords of Chopin's Prelude in F-Sharp Minor enter the soundtrack and we hear the voice of Sand narrating her plea for love for Chopin.

"I am not asking," continues Sand, "if he loves her, or if she loves him. I'm not asking if she loves him less than me, or more, but judging from what's happening in me, I know more or less what's happening in him. I'm asking, so that I know, which one of us he should abandon for his own peace, for his own happiness, for his own life which seems too fragile and too weak to resist great suffering. 

I do not want to play an evil spirit if his soul cannot love two different persons, in two different ways, and if the eight days I spent with him are to take away his happiness for the rest of his life, in this case I swear to you I will try to forget him now and forever, " writes Sand.

France. Nohant. They are alone. Suddenly Sand gets up, walks to Chopin's piano and places her hands on the soundboard. "This is not love," she says. "It's a release," she says. "A release..." she repeats, hitting the soundboard to cacophony of sounds coming from her fists. "Play please, play real harmony, something you that you know so well and do this to this dead piece of wood" she makes her plea.

 "Please, " Sands pleads and as Chopin strikes the keys he plays very romantically. "This is making love," she cries. "Why can't you do this for me, " she pleads with him banging the soundboard with her fists.

France. Perpignan. The ancient Moorish city in the Pyrenees offers Sand and Chopin first glimpse of solitude and privacy which they both desire and look forward to. Feeling new spirit of adventure they travel down the Mediterranean coast to Barcelona. Sand is in elevated mood, constantly hugging and kissing him as they are waiting for the steamship to take them to Mallorca.

The steamship, El Mallorquin takes them to Palma, a quiet and romantic spot with long stretches of pristine beaches and receding hills described by Homer as "fierce and uncivilized land whose inhabitants have no assemblies for the making of laws and where each man is a lawgiver to his children and to his wives, and where no one cares for anything including their neighbors," a passage from Odyssey that Sand reads to Chopin on the ship's deck.

Ironically, Sand and Chopin quickly discover that Mallorca indeed offers no-welcome to strangers as they move to a small, simply furnished villa on the beach. With them are Sand's two children Maurice and Solange, and as they walk together the beach Chopin immediately catches bronchitis in the cold, brute weather. His condition gets worse, as he gets a fever staying high day-by-day with torrential rain, and mud slides pouring down from the mountains.  With Chopin still running a high-fever they call the doctor.

Immediately, rumors of deadly tuberculosis spread throughout the village and the owner demands that they leave the house immediately and pay damages for soiling his summer house with tuberculosis. Facing severe and desperate conditions they hide in the ancient monastery in Valldemossa. Despite the obstacles they are both very much in love, and Chopin and Sand enjoy the best of times. They now have each other.

Nohant. They arrive back in Nohant, Sand's beautiful chateau in the country-side and her summer residence where Chopin gets well and is back to work, writing from morning till night as the various guests and friends of Mme. Sand continuously listen to the amazing sounds of his compositions.

Among them is Eugene Delacroix whose acquaintance eventually develops into long-lasting friendship with Frederic. Although they do not understand each other's professional interests quite well, as Chopin does not care much for paintings, even though he was a brilliant sketch artists in his childhood, and Delacroix in turn does not quite understand instrumental music on this level Delacroix is immersed in Chopin's music, just as George Sand is completely obsessed with it.

Paris 1839. Frederic moves to a new apartment on Rue Tronchet, and Sand goes with him but rents an apartment close by, on nearby Rue Pigalle. Except for the summer months Frederic does not leave Paris at all, and in 1840 he does not go there at all. He constantly gives lessons, he is "seen" at the best places, he gives concerts and attends and plays at many soirees. In the summer of 1841 he goes again with Sand to Nohant. When they return he rents a spacious, and very beautiful apartment at Square d'Orleans.

Two houses down the street Sand takes her apartment to allow him privacy and peace for his work. One day a musician, Joseph Brzowski carrying letters from Poland from his parents arrives at Chopin's apartment and greeted by the butler he is told to wait as Monsieur Chopin is finishing his lesson. When Frederic sees him he immediately recognizes him at once and says: "Come Joseph... see my student," he smiles. "She's a great looking countess," he says proudly. The girl is indeed very beautiful, and as soon as Mr. Brzowski and realizes she is being admired for her grace she hurries to her governess and they prepare to leave.

When they leave Joseph hands him correspondence from Warsaw he carried from his family and a gift from his father, a medal with the face of Mozart personally hand-crafted for him by famous Tajchman.
While reading the letters and opening the packages Chopin is still thinking about his young student that just left with her governess. "True... young and beautiful she is, " he says opening the correspondence pensively. 

"What a pleasure setting those small fingers on the keyboard," he smiles. "She has a lot of musical sensibility. I don't even have to tell her piano here, crescendo here, play slower here, play faster here," he says.

They have coffee and Frederic reads more of his letters. Auguste Franchomme, a well-known cellist and a friend of Frederic is announced and walks right in. Moment later, to Brzowski's complete astonishment a number of other Chopin's friends also arrive.

The presence of his friends, the voluminous correspondence from his parents, arrival of his old friend from Poland puts Chopin in superb mood and he gives them an astounding recital. Auguste Franchomme plays the cello, then they perform together in one of the most exquisite moments at Chopin's home beginning with morning lessons, and spending time with his friends, giving recitals and composing.

In the evening Joseph back at his hotel receives an elegant, hand-delivered note by personal courier from Chopin: " I have few people over in my house, Mme. Sand is here, Liszt is playing, Nourrit is singing. If it can bring pleasure to Mr. Brzowski I await him this evening - signed Chopin." Brzowski is astounded.

Paris. Salle Pleyel – 1841. Quiet audience, without the pomp, but the concert is very powerful. The critics cannot contain their enthusiasm. The audience is ecstatic. "We've never heard anything like it," says L'Escudier, a very well known, astute French music critic.

"Absolutely! I totally agree" responds Franchomme enthusiastically. "When you listen to Chopin you'll understand very quickly that he does not sacrifice himself to fashion, or commercialism. He never bends to the whims of bad taste to become rich, or famous. He's a born pianist of the highest-caliber, a perfect, born virtuoso. He composes for himself and plays for himself and what he plays and composes the world listens to with complete amazement and unrestrained enchantment." "Can I put this in writing," asks L'Escudier. "Yes," says Franchomme.

The next day the article appears in La France Musicale. The date in the newspaper headline announcing the review of the concert. It is May 2, 1841. In Nohant, Sand is suddenly undergoing family crisis with her children. Solange, her 18-year old daughter breaks off her engagement with her fiance and suddenly decides to marry a young sculptor named Clesinger.

Few days after the wedding a fight erupts between Maurice, Solange's brother and Clesinger who assaults Maurice with a hammer with intent to strike him and as Sand stands between them, Maurice grabs a pistol and fires a shot. Friends and servant intervene as the fight erupts and miraculously everybody gets out of it alive. Completely enraged, Sand tells them to leave the house immediately and never come back, and Solange rushes off to Paris with her newly wed husband Clesinger convincing Chopin that her mother is against them.

Unaware that Solange completely distorted the facts to get him on her side Chopin then writes to enraged Sand a very strong letter that only adds fuel to fire. Sand in response abruptly breaks off the relationship between them feeling betrayed by both of them - Solange and Chopin, and in the summer of 1847 their relationship is irrevocably over.

Disappointed with Sand and her family's sudden intrigue involving Solange and her brother, Chopin is withdraws to himself. He gives another recital at Salle de Pleyel. His performance is completely sold out and there is already a waiting list for second concert that is not even planned. The royal court of Louis Phillippe purchases forty tickets and his recital is an astounding perfomrances. Chopin's cello sonata written for and performed by Franchomme is also performed and Frederic plays his Barcarolle, his Etudes, and several of his Preludes.

Paris February Revolution – 1848. Paris is in turmoil. Revolution of the Second Republic breaks out triggered by public discontent of corrupt and autocratic monarchy of Louis Phillippe. The official government is abolished with bloody and violent confrontations taking place throughout barricaded city.
Proletariat proclaims France as Second Republic with Louis Napoleon Bonaparte as its President. In matter of days all theaters, salons, performance halls, schools and universities are all shut down. 

Terror and chaos reigns on the streets. The artists and all Parisian aristocracy leave Paris at once. Suddenly, the artists lifeline has been cut off from them and their world with all its magic has vanished within days.

London 1848. Jane Stirling, his former English pupil and her Scottish sister Lady Erskine try to get Frederic to come see them in London at once as Liszt leaves for Geneva and Chopin is left alone in Paris. They are persistent and Chopin accepts the invitation taking a trip across the Channel arriving in Folkstone on April 20, 1848 and reaching London the next day. When he arrives he is met by Jane Stirling and her sister Lady Katherine Erskine, a wealthy widow. 

Upon arrival Chopin is settled in lavishly accommodated and luxuriously furnished hotel suite on Dover Street, with two grand pianos, including his favorite Pleyel and a number of smaller comfortable rooms at his disposal. It looks like the two sisters do not omit anything to make him comfortable, even the embroidery on his stationary had his embossed initials with the big letter "C" on it.

Immediately, Chopin sees tremendous selection of pupils anxious to become the students of "Monsieur Chopin" while Jane Stirling sees and attends to his every need. The highly prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society extends with great honor their invitation for Chopin to appear at one of their concerts, but surprisingly Frederic declines the invitation and the critics immediately express their shock, astonishment and displeasure at this insult, but Chopin is not especially concerned.

He is introduced to Queen Victoria at Stafford House (London Museum) by the great Duchess of Sutherland who's daughter took piano lessons from Chopin in Paris. During the course of the evening at the Duchess's Palace with eighty persons present Chopin suddenly finds himself in the most exclusive London society, with Queen Victoria and the Royal Family having dinner with him.

Since Chopin is the Duchess's great guest of honor Queen Victoria is also very friendly with Chopin and Prince Albert, her husband and himself an amateur pianist also plays piano for him.

"This is very unusual," says Jane Stirling sitting with them at the table as the toast is being raised in his honor. "You won't find Prince Albert playing for anybody," she smiles. Shortly, Chopin is a celebrity in the Duchess's Stafford House, and everyone including Queen Victoria seem to be completely under the spell of Chopin's name and Chopin's presence with them.

The following weeks are spent on lessons to English aristocracy and on private recitals at their homes. He gives a very successful recital at Lord Falmouth's mansion on St. James Square. He plays a Scherzo and his Etudes and Pauline Viardot who arrives from Paris sings a vocal arrangement of his mazurkas

On the invitation of Lord Torphichen, Jane and her brother in law they take the train to Scotland with Chopin coming along with them. In Edinburgh, a carriage takes them to Calder House, the estate and home of Lord Torphichen.

The Scottish castle makes great first impression on Chopin. It is an old manor with eight feet thick walls with great galleries and corridors on all sides filled with the ancient, ancestral portraits and costumes of the Scots. His room has a view on the town of Stirling, and on Glasgow with beautiful mountains, and enormous, tree lined lawns with the most brilliant sky he has ever seen.

In Glasgow he gives another concert at the Merchants Hall, while Jane and Lady Erskine do not rest taking him on continuous rounds of visits to their families and friends. Chopin does not refuse, but the trip, and the constant family visits and gatherings with continuous visits, concerts and recitals begin to take their toll on his health. On his way to Edinburgh he gives another concert at the Hamilton Palace as the guest of honor of Duke and Duchess of Hamilton.

He returns back to London with them in October and is anxious to get home. When he arrives in Paris he moves to Chaillot, a quiet suburb outside the city. Without income, as London was financially draining him and unable to pull himself together while fighting attacks of tuberculosis that by now is claiming his life Chopin makes a desperate plea to his sister Louise to come see him. Louise takes a trip across the continent and arrives several weeks later.

Paris 1848. The last winter of Chopin's life as he rides in a carriage along Champs d'Elysee with Eugene Delacroix. They have now become good friends, and Delacroix is now his most devoted admirer on whom Chopin has made an indelible impression like no one else in his life. Since their summers together in Nohant, Delacroix mentions him on every occasion wishing that he had been there with him, and now with a bottle of wine in their hands, riding towards l'Etoile on the grand boulevard Champs-Elysees celebrating the New Year they talk about music. Delacroix asks him about the secret of his writing and his playing.

"The secret is in the internal logic that governs the harmony and counterpoint," says Chopin. "It's in the hidden pulse that's within the music, like the blood that's pumping in our veins," he says. "Understanding the fugue is the key. The fugue is pure logic. If you can master the fugue you will master the elements of all causes and effects in music, as in it are contained all the causes and effects of the universe within it," he says.

"What about Beethoven," asks Delacroix. "Beethoven .... " shrugs Frederick. "Beethoven is inconsistent, and it's not because of his wild originality," he says. "It's because he ignores the rules. Mozart never does that! Every moment of his music has its own line that is in complete harmony with other parts, blending and following it flawlessly," he says. "That's why he's Mozart...." he says.

Louise, his sister who is already in Paris after a long trip from Poland with her friends realize that Frederic's health is vanishing and they see to it that he moves to a sunnier place on Place Vendome, a large, spacious and bright apartment in the center of Paris, and Chopin moves there while the furnishing is hastily being put in place.

Chopin likes the apartment, but the sunny windows do not help. Only from time to time he is seen walking around the rooms. Doctors suddenly lose hope. A priest friend from Warsaw is at his bed.

After receiving the sacraments he fights for three days and nights. The physicians cannot believe his vitality. He is conscious and until his last hour replies to continuous procession of people coming to pay their respects, the richest and the poor of this world equally, many on their knees, praying for days and nights at his bedside.

Frederic gives them all his consolation and his advice, and sometimes words of encouragement. He dictates his last will and asks Delfine to sing excerpts of Marcello's arias him which she does with great effort trying to control her sobbing and uncontrollable crying.

Several times she stops halfway, then starts over again while Chopin listens careful to the last sounds of music of this world with extreme concentration, and as if in a prayer utters his last breath. "Mother ..," he gasps his last words as Solange and Delfine cry uncontrollably. Gutman, his childhood friend holding his head straight quickly wipes his forehead. The doctor leans over and asks him if he is suffering. "No more.." Chopin speaks barely, but audibly and closes his eyes. At two in the morning Louise drops on her knees. "Oh my God, he's already gone," she sobs.

L'Eglise de La Madeleine. Thousands of people overflow the church. This funeral ceremony is worthy of the head of state, as artists from all over Europe come to say farewell to the world's greatest. The Choir performs Mozart's Requiem amidst a sea of humanity among another sea of flowers. Illustrated London News writes: “Chopin is no more...” Lablache performs Tuba Mirum from Mozart's Requiem, the part he sang at Beethoven's funeral just two decades earlier, and at Rossini's soirees for Chopin and Liszt.

This is a celebration of life and death equally as the voices of the choir raise up and mix among the walls of the church in a massive avalanche of sound, in a cry of desperation.

 At the Offertory, the organist Lefebre-Wely plays Preludes No. 4 and Prelude No. 6 arranged by him for this mass on enormous organ. Then the sound of Liszt' s Ave Maria and Chopin's own March Funebre enter as the procession leaves the church with Meyebeer leading the train of mourners.

The pall is carried by Delacroix, Franchomme, Gutman and Czartoryski as they first stand and proceed slowly on the steps of the church. The entire city of Paris is saying farewell. From the church La Madeleine the procession makes its way along the Grand Boulevards to the cemetery at Pere-Lachaise. At graveside the crowd watches silently as Chopin's body is laid in his grave and then disperses quietly. No speech is made. No words are necessary.

PARIS 2012. Finale. It is springtime. Two people sit on the staircase of the church La Madeleine. They look like tourists or just visiting the church - a grand-father and his grandson. The grand father is in his late-seventies, but still in excellent physical form and the grandson is twelve years old. The street is crowded, traffic jams, cars blocking everywhere honking their horns. The grand-father takes a snapshot from the steps of the church. "Grandpa ... ," says the boy. "Can I play like Chopin," he asks. The visitor smiles. "Who knows", he says. "This is something you need to decide yourself," he says. "What ever happened to Rachmaninoff," asks the child. "Oh," says the grandfather, "he died in Los Angeles several years after I saw him at his home," he says. 

The grandfather raises his camera and takes another snapshot. "It's all there," he says. "Yes," he says. "This is the story of Paris," he sighs. Camera moves away and we have a magnificent, long bird-eye view of contemporary Paris. Sounds of Sinding's Rustles of The Spring enter the soundtrack as the aerial view continues and CREDITS ROLL.

Story & Screenplay by John Mark. Copyright ©2014.  All Rights Reserved.

John Mark performing Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F-minor.wmv on Grotrian-Steinweg:

Preliminary SOUNDTRACK for LISZT & CHOPIN IN PARIS  recorded by John Mark - a preamble soundtrack featuring music scenes from the Script.


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