As Liszt was not himself present, and does not give the authority for his statement, we may set it, and with it Karasowski's, aside; but the two other statements, made as they were by two musicians who were ear witnesses, leave us in distressing perplexity with regard to what really took place, for between them we cannot choose. Chopin, says M. Gavard, looked forward to his death with serenity.
Premising that Fetis in telling the story is less circumstantial and lays the scene of the incident in the pianoforte-saloon of Pleyel, I shall quote Karasowski's version, as he may have had direct information from Schulhoff, who since 1855 has lived much of his time at Dresden, where Karasowski also resides: Schulhoff came when quite a young man and as yet completely unknown to Paris.
Karasowski's account of this last meeting is in the feuilleton style and a worthy pendant to that of the first meeting: Some moments he hesitated whether he should accept this invitation, for he had of late years less frequented the salons; at last as if impelled by an inner voice he accepted. An hour before he entered the house of Madame H...
The above and all the following letters of Chopin to Fontana are in the possession of Madame Johanna Lilpop, of Warsaw, and are here translated from Karasowski's Polish edition of his biography of Chopin. Many of the letters are undated, and the dates suggested by Karasowski generally wrong.
If the details of Karasowski's account of Chopin's and Schulhoff's first meeting are correct, the Polish artist was in his aloofness sometimes even deficient in that common civility which good-breeding and consideration for the feelings of others demand.
Four pages suffice for a background upon which the composer has flung with overwhelming fury the darkest, the most demoniac expressions of his nature. Here is no veiled surmise, no smothered rage, but all sweeps along in tornadic passion. Karasowski's story may be true regarding the genesis of this work, but true or not, it is one of the greatest dramatic outbursts in piano literature.