The French have a saying: "Chopin's heart is in Poland, but his soul is in France."
Arriving in Paris in 1831, Fryderyk Chopin was enthralled by his new home. "Paris is whatever you care to make of it. You can enjoy yourself, get bored, laugh, cry, do anything you like. Everyone goes his own way."
Chopin quickly discovered that if he were going to make anything of Paris, he had to find his own new way.
His first public concert was a box-office flop. The Salle Pleyel was only one-third full. Those who did come complained about Chopin's soft touch: "he brings little sound out of the instrument," said one review. Clearly, a career as a big public virtuoso would not be a fait accompli for Chopin. So, in a land known then as it is now for nuance and shades of meaning, he blazed a new trail through the salons of Paris society, where the Polish exile exuded an utterly French persona.
"Chopin," said one writer, "was the ideal guest. Perfect in manners, a little aloof, and with the enviable capability to cast a magic spell on the company as soon as he sat at the piano."
And for all of its Polish roots, Chopin's music began to sprout some Gallic branches. The Nocturne in F Major, Op. 15, No. 1, was among the first works to emerge from Chopin's newfound surroundings.
Marcel Proust, perhaps the ultimate French author, heard similar French accents in Chopin's music:
"The long, sinuous phrases of Chopin, so free, so flexible, so tactile, which begin by reaching out and exploring far beyond the point which one might have expected the notes to reach, and which divert themselves in those by-ways of fantasy, only to return more deliberately, with a more premeditated reprise, with more precision, as on a crystal bowl that reverberates to the point of making you cry, striking at your heart." - Benjamin K. Roe