March 10, 2012
"Chopin’s talent for mimicry, which even such distinguished actors as Bocage and Madame Dorval regarded with admiration, is alluded to by Balzac in his novel “Un Homme d’affaires,” where he says of one of the characters that “he is endowed with the same talent for imitating people which Chopin, the pianist, possesses in so high a degree; he represents a personage instantly and with astounding truth.” Liszt remarks that Chopin displayed in pantomime an inexhaustible verve drolatique, and often amused himself with reproducing in comical improvisations the musical formulas and peculiar ways of certain virtuosos, whose faces and gestures he at the same time imitated in the most striking matter. These statements are corroborated by the accounts of innumerable eye and ear-witnesses of such performances. One of the most illustrative of these accounts is the following very amusing anecdote. When the Polish musician Nowakowski visited Paris, he begged his countryman to bring him in contact with Kalkbrenner, Liszt, and Pixis. Chopin, replying that he need not put himself to the trouble of going in search of these artists if he wished to make their acquaintance, forthwith sat down at the piano and assumed the attitude, imitated the style of playing, and mimicked the mien and gestures, first of Liszt and then of Pixis. Next evening Chopin and Nowakowski went together to the theatre. The former having left the box during one of the intervals, the latter looked round after awhile and saw Pixis sitting beside him. Nowakowski, thinking Chopin was at his favorite game, clapped Pixis familiarly on the shoulder and said: “Leave off, don’t imitate now!” The surprise of Pixis and the subsequent confusion of Nowakowski may be easily imagined. When Chopin, who at this moment returned, had been made to understand what had taken place, he laughed heartily, and with the grace peculiar to him knew how to make his friend’s and his own excuses. One thing in connection with Chopin’s mimicry has to be particularly noted - it is very characteristic of the man. Chopin, we learn from Liszt, while subjecting his features to all kinds of metamorphoses and imitating even the ugly and grotesque, never lost his native grace, “la grimace ne parvenait meme pas a l’enlaidir.”"

— Frederick Niecks, Frederick Chopin, as a Man and Musician (via our-chopin)

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