Chopin and a Moth

Prelude in Bm     F. Chopin (1810-1849)

“How Firm a Foundation”

Fuga   J.H. Buttstett (1611-1727)

One evening, when they were all assembled in the salon, Liszt played one of Chopin’s nocturnes, to which he took the liberty of adding some embellishments. Chopin’s delicate intellectual face, which still bore the traces of recent illness, looked disturbed; at last he could not control himself any longer, and in that tone of sang froid which he sometimes assumed he said, ‘I beg you, my dear friend, when you do me the honor of playing my compositions, to play them as they are written or else not at all.’

‘Play it yourself then,’ said Liszt, rising from the piano, rather piqued.

‘With pleasure,’ answered Chopin. At that moment a moth fell into the lamp and extinguished it. They were going to light it again when Chopin cried, ‘No, put out all the lamps, the moonlight is quite enough.’ Then he began to improvise and played for nearly an hour. And what an improvisation it was! Description would be impossible, for the feelings awakened by Chopin’s magic fingers are not transferable into words.

When he left the piano his audience were in tears; Liszt was deeply affected, and said to Chopin, as he embraced him, ‘Yes, my friend, you were right; works like yours ought not to be meddled with; other people’s alterations only spoil them. You are a true poet.’

‘Oh, it is nothing,’ returned Chopin, gaily, ‘We have each our own style.’