Chopin, the poet of the piano

Frédéric François Chopin was a classical pianist and composer. Born in Poland in 1810 to a French father and a Polish mother, Chopin arrived in Paris in October 1831 and died there in 1849 at the age of 39.

Chopin’s Paris

In addition to Chopin’s grave in Père Lachaise cemetery, there are several points of interest to visit in Paris. Some of the more quirkier ones are:

  • Salon Chopin, a reproduction of the apartment where Chopin died. Bibliothèque Polonaise à Paris, 6 quai d’Orléans, Paris 4
  • A plaster cast of Chopin’s left hand at the Musée de la Vie Romantique, 16 rue Chaptal, Paris 9
  • Half of an oil on canvas of Chopin in the Louvre painted by his friend, Delacroix (also buried in Père Lachaise, Div. 49). The original painting also included George Sand watching Chopin play piano. For some unknown reason, the painting was cut in half. The other half with George Sand is located in the Ordrupgaard museum near Copenhagen.

This painting by Delacroix was divided into two for unknown reasons. The George Sand half is located in the Ordrupgaard museum near Copenhagen, while the Chopin half is located in the Louvre. 1838, 78 x 56.5cm, oil on canvas.

Painting of Chopin by Delacroix in the Louvre museum
Painting of Chopin by Delacroix in the Louvre museum (Photo Leon Salcedo/Flickr)

Further reading

  • Guide and map to Chopin’s Paris (in French)
  • Société Chopin à Paris
  • Chopin’s Heart, Alex Ross, The New Yorker Culture Desk, February 5, 2014
  • The Parisian Worlds of Frederic Chopin, William G. Atwood, Yale University Press
  • Chopin in Paris: The Life and Times of the Romantic Composer, Tad Szulc, Da Capo Press

Père Lachaise

Chopin’s grave (Div. 11) is one of the most visited in Père Lachaise. More that 3,000 people attended his funeral at the Église de Madeline. Mozart’s Requiem was played following his wishes.

The soil that Chopin kept from his native Poland was sprinkled on his grave. His heart was taken to Poland by his sister and placed in the Holy Cross church in Warsaw. The sculpture is Euterpe, the muse of music. This sculpture and the medallion of Chopin’s profile are both by Clésinger (also buried in Père Lachaise, Div. 10).

Pèlerinage sur la tombe de Chopin au Père-Lachaise vers 1920
Chopin’s grave ca. 1920. (Photo public domain, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons)
Other musicians buried on the same path are singer/songwriter, Mano Solo, jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani and classical composer, Luigi Cherubini.

Feature photo courtesy Leon Salcedo/Flickr

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DJ Mehdi, a magician at the turntables

Mehdi Favéris-Essadi

1977–2011

DJ Mehdi was a critically acclaimed and award-winning Paris-based music producer and DJ. He initially started out producing hip-hop records, most notably 113’s Les Princes de la Ville which won two major French music awards in 2000 (Rap Album of the Year and Best New Artist). He then crossed over to electronic music where he made several critically acclaimed albums.

From the album Lucky Boy, released in 2006. The video was directed by Romain Gavras.

From 2010, DJ Mehdi was touring and mixing Chicago house with British DJ Riton forming the duo Carte Blanche.

For more music samples and discography, check out DJ Mehdi’s website and his Discogs page.

Homages

DJ Mehdi died on September 13, 2011 as the result of a terrible accident. News of his death sent a shock wave through the electronic and hip-hop music community. He was 34 years old. DJ Cut Killer broke the news with his tweet:

“Dj Mehdi !!! there are no words to tell you the pain I feel … a friend is gone … rest in peace bro’—DJ Cut Killer”

Frédéric Mitterrand, the French Minister of Culture, issued a press release upon learning the news writing that DJ Mehdi was “a magician at the turntables”.

The Social Club in Paris, where DJ Mehdi was a frequent DJ, posted the following message on their Facebook page (translated from French): “Following DJ Mehdi’s death, we made the decision to close the club tonight. An evening of silence in honor of the artist. Thank your for not commenting on this status.”

DJ Riton tweeted:

From Roman Gavras, director of DJ Mehdi’s “Signatune” video:
https://twitter.com/ROMAIN_GAVRAS/status/116094289754324992

“We love you Mehdi”

Mural at the artist residency Les Frigos (Paris 13).
Mural at the artist residency Les Frigos (Paris 13).

Père Lachaise cemetery

DJ Mehdi is buried in Division 73.

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❤️∞M //

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Three stories from a visit to Jim’s grave in 1976

Recently I reached out to Tom Teicholz to request adding a rare photograph of his of Jim’s grave from Spring 1976. Not only did Tom oblige, but he in turn reached out to his fellow travel companions in the photo who kindly provided their memories from that day.

I am so pleased to be able to share this photo and their comments with you. Many, many kind thanks to Tom, Mary and Lawrence!

Jim Morrison Grave Pere Lachaise Cemetery Paris 1976
1976 © Tom Teicholz

Tom Teicholz

“Living in Paris in the spring of 1976, we went to Père Lachaise as a pilgrimage, out of deep respect for the greats buried there. And as Beats revered Kerouac, and as Patti Smith, who played Paris that Spring invoked Rimbaud, we sought out Jim’s grave to commune with his poet spirit. The grave was unmarked and the site was messy but we made it for a few minutes our own.”

Mary McBride

“This is a very special photo of a very special day. It was unseasonably warm and very sunny. We walked in the gates and this enormous vista of paths opened up. Many of the gravestones were in fact small monuments, like buildings along a road, and it was hard to tell the direction.
I turned to the guard to ask for a map. Before I could speak, and without prompting, he asked “Vous cherchez Jim Morrison?” That was weird.

There was in fact a map and we were shown how to get to his grave. Though I don’t remember that the site was listed on the map. My memory was that the grave was behind other graves, almost a no-man’s plot on leftover land. There was no official marking, maybe a frame of cement on dirt.

I don’t know what the grave looks like now but it was an absolute mess then. Of course there were candles, and other memorabilia around, but I was very disturbed at the amount of graffiti on every possible surface. And garbage. I was sorry that I hadn’t taken anything decent to leave like flowers.

On the other hand, the amount of emotion that squalid little corner could evoke was incredible. Here was a great. And there was no doubt that his visitors felt that. If there would be no official recognition, so be it.

The faithful would come and leave their mark. Seeing this photo again always brings back a lot of emotions for me.”

Lawrence Schoen

“I remember the day as sunny and no one else was about in the grounds. We spread out, each one forging along and exploring, calling out names. The layout of graves was chaotic. I remember feeling smallish as some of the headstones were immense, as those under them. I best remember Balzac, Proust, Chopin, then at last our Jim, in his cramped corner, defaced by ugly graffiti and other stuff.

We found our little place to sit and make it feel like home, at least, a connection to America for us in Paris. And I remember thinking he would appreciate the respect paid because the place was a mess and we came to pay our respects to one we admired.

We were lost, as he was lost, as the place was lost, at the time…, an ironic, lustrous back corner of history.”

Photo courtesy of Tom Teicholz www.tommywood.com

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Homage to George Whitman in Paris

Family plans to mark his grave with a statue of Don Quixote

Following George Whitman’s (1913–2011) death on December 14, a friend and I stopped by Shakespeare and Company today to pay homage to the owner of the legendary Left Bank English-language bookstore.Continue reading “Homage to George Whitman in Paris”