Episode 137: Chopin and Solange

Polish Songs, Op. 74 No. 19, “Dumka”

rc-solange-200Call her a lover, a companion, a muse - what you will; inarguably, George Sand was a central fixture in the life of Fryderyk Chopin. With Sand came a son, Maurice, and a daughter, Solange. From there, it gets…complicated.

Maurice Dudevant was adored. He was a young, happy couple’s firstborn son. But when Solange came along, the household had soured beyond vinegar. Conceived in “questionable circumstances,” Solange was far less welcomed. The “circumstances” precipitated a divorce. And the infant girl had a mother who changed her named to….George.

Where in this artist’s life did a little girl fit? Apparently, she was An Inconvenient Truth. Her mother pronounced Solange “fat and lazy” at age three. When Sand departed for Venice with a new lover, she left her daughter behind to be beaten by the servants. When she came back, Solange was packed off to boarding school. “The girl is a demon who requires constant surveillance,” George Sand instructed. You can see where this is going, can’t you?

With Solange tucked away with the tutors, Mom returned to Paris in hot pursuit of Fryderyk Chopin.. Next thing you know, Fryderyk, George, Maurice, AND Solange are on a boat for Majorca. The composer had never met the children; suddenly they were family. In Majorca, Chopin began to teach Solange how to play the piano. She thrived. Biographer Benita Eisler describes, “…a nameless sympathy between them: Unloved child and homeless artist…both exiles…wherever they found themselves, they were there on sufferance, rewarded for performing, for charming, for summoning a sympathy that, once granted, deepened loneliness.“

Within a year, Chopin composed his last song, “Dumka,” setting a text befitting both: My heart is heavy….Far from home, I long to dream. I want what I have not – to love.

Over the years, Chopin, when not obviously siding with Solange, found ways to make peace between mother and daughter. In her teens, Solange developed a crush on the composer. A few years later a terrible fight broke out over Solange’s unfortunate choice of husbands. Sand demanded Chopin choose sides. He chose Solange’s. Exile ensued. Chopin’s fragile health collapsed. It was in Solange’s arms that he died. - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 137: Chopin and Solange

Polish Songs, Op. 74 No. 19, 'Dumka'