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Episode 71: 'Papa' Chopin

Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major, Op. 47

rc-papa-200Fryderyk Chopin never had any children, but he was “like a papa” to a girl named Solange.

Solange Dudevant was the daughter of Chopin’s lover, George Sand. Her father may have been one of Sand’s previous lovers, although Sand’s ex-husband Casimir Dudevant considered her his own child. Solange was ten in 1838 when Sand invited Chopin to winter with her family on Majorca. Over the next nine years Chopin became like a member of the family.

But it was a dysfunctional family. Solange’s older brother, Maurice, resented Chopin’s presence; he considered himself the man of the house. Chopin tried to stay out of the family’s business whenever he could. But Solange drew him in.

Perhaps sensing that Sand’s favorite was her brother, Solange clashed with her mother and began to charm Chopin. Solange “has a very good heart,” Chopin declared. He started giving her piano lessons in the happy and productive summer of 1841, when he wrote his Ballade No. 3.

Chopin by nature hated confrontations, but in the summer of 1847, he was drawn into the ongoing battle between Solange and her mother. Solange was 18 and newly married. She caused a row at a family gathering, and Sand banished her and her husband. Solange appealed to Chopin, and he reacted by sending Sand a letter saying Solange’s “future is in balance” and that she “requires maternal tenderness now more than ever.”

In the aftermath, Sand spitefully told a friend that Chopin was in love with Solange, but her daughter only thought of him “like a papa.” Sand’s anger eventually softened, but she and Chopin never reconciled. Two years later when Chopin died, Solange Dudevant Clésinger was the one who was at his bedside. - Frank Dominguez & Don Lee

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Radio Chopin Episode 71: 'Papa' Chopin

Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major, Op. 47

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