Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mr. Chopin and Mr. Johns

There was a hefty stack of my brother's piano music in the boxes of music from my father's basement that we brought back to Illinois with us this week. I am now the proud custodian of enough piano music to keep me occupied for a lifetime (or the rest of mine). I especially like the Henle editions of Beethoven and Bach (yes, the hardbound volumes of the WTC that I wondered about in a post back in May). Today I decided to try my hand (or hands) at a few Chopin Mazurkas, and to my surprise and delight I was able to play them. Chopin is great fun to listen to, but it is even greater fun to play.

I was surprised to read the dedication above the 5 Mazurkas of Opus 7 was to a certain Monsieur Johns de Nouvelle Orleans. (Not this Mr. Johns.) The only thing we really know about Chopin's Mr. Johns is that his name was Paul Emil Johns, he was born in Krakow in 1798, lived in New Orleans for a while, and died in Paris in 1860. Chopin and Johns probably met in Paris, and through their association dubious rumors began to circulate about the possibility of Chopin moving to America.

It is certainly interesting to listen to the first Mazurka of Opus 7 in connection with the music that we so often associate with New Orleans.


John H. Baron said...

We know a lot more about Mr. Johns. See my book, Concert Life in 19th-Century New Orleans (LSU Press, 2013) and my original article from 1972.

Katie Burlison, curator said...

Mr.Johns was also the piano teacher to Miss Virginie Hermann, to whom one song in Johns' "Album Louisianais" is dedicated". You can see her portrait and the house she moved to in 1831, in the New Orleans French Quarter, at the Hermann-Grima Historic House, 820 St. Louis St., New Orleans.