updated 8 February 2014
is the author of the first comprehensive biography of
Chopin. He was an unknown German viola player and
organist in Dumfries, Scotland, when he worked on the
Chopin project in the
The Life of Chopin - Frederick
Chopin As a Man and
In 1891, Fr. Niecks became Reid
professor of music at the
Edinburgh. According to the press, it was an
"indirect" result of the Chopin biography of 1888.² Niecks, born in Düsseldorf and having retained his German
nationality, had to return to Germany when
World War 1 broke out in 1914.
Nevertheless, the biographer Niecks
is inaccurately called "Professor Niecks" by scholars
James Huneker to
Arthur Hedley and
PG ebooks. In 1987, a book by a well-known
musicologist misrepresents Niecks as a "Scottish musician ...
of German extraction".
Frederick Niecks: The Life of Chopin
Frederick Chopin As a Man and Musician
This two-volume Chopin biography was published in English by Novello, Ewer & Co.in both London and New York in 1888, 1890 and 1902; and in German by F.E.C. Leuckart in Leipzig
in 1890. It was then unprecedented in format,
information sources, detail, etching, volume, multinational
distribution, and four rapid editions including the German
translation. - It must have boosted Chopin's reputation.
Patron of the biography: Jenny Lind
the preface, Frederick Niecks names Jenny.Lind-Goldschmidt
(1820-1887) among his few surviving "chief sources of
information". Icons of Europe's research shows that
many of the other chief sources had known or been dependent
on the wealthy and
influential Jenny Lind (e.g.
Lindsay Sloper), and that she commissioned Niecks and her Novello
friends for the Chopin biography project.³
The title "... As a Man" sounds like a pun
on the depth of Jenny Lind's relationship with Chopin - a
subject expanded with: "... he had made the best possible
impression upon her [Jenny Lind], not only as an artist, but
also as a man" (vol. 2, p. 284).
Flawed sections of the biography
Icons of Europe's research also shows that
Frederick Niecks' sections on 1841-1849 and the posthumous years are
flawed with half-truths, hearsay, misinformation, omissions, hints and puns.
He also insists that Chopin only gave lessons in piano and
omits to say that Chopin taught the
Art of Singing since late 1832, apparently based on
Manuel Garcia, Sr's method. These sections have later been cited and
'adapted' by various writers,
sowing significant and lasting inaccuracies in Chopin literature.
Apparently covering for Jenny Lind's
doings, Niecks often misrepresents or plants.confusion about events involving.Jane Stirling,
George Sand (e.g.
Delfina Potocka and other people
Chopin's funeral). He sometimes cites 'witnesses',
who were not present at the events (e.g.
Liszt in 1849). No.information
has been found on whether
Niecks could speak French with witnesses in Paris.
Frederick Niecks makes scant reference to
in the biography - in contrast
with Chopin's upbeat letters about their many private meetings in
1848-1849, and with Niecks' preface naming her among his
"chief sources of information".
Jenny Lind's Memoir 1820-1851 of
1891, edited by her German widower and also published widely
in a similar format, is equally scant with
includes fabricated information on 1848-1849 and on
Etching of Chopin (1810-1849) by Teofil Kwiatkowski placed
opposite the title page of Frederick Niecks' elaborate
biography of Chopin.
Fryderyk Chopin Institute
has recent had Niecks' biography of
Chopin translated into Polish.
It apparently still misrepresents the identity and role of
CHOPIN LITERATURE /
To clear up the
misinformation and confusion in
Chopin literature today and reinforce the legacy beyond his
oeuvre, it would be necessary for Poland to produce a new
- Biography of Chopin's life;
- Translation of his letters;
- Review of
Revisit Chopin's life and times in these three books:
December 2004 to
Chopin in the World.
Niecks at Wikipedia
¹ Frederick Niecks' modest position prior to 1891 is a fact stated in the
edited by Christina Niecks, London,
Toronto, New York,
1925, in which Fr. Niecks' friend A.C. Mackenzie says (p. viii-ix):
"Niecks, Leopold Auer's pupil and Ferdinand Hiller's admiring disciple,
(somewhere in 1868) a desire to come to this country; and just at
a time when
we were greatly in need for a competent
viola player to take part in a
chamber concerts in my native city. By a fortunate chance I was
soon able to
secure a modest position for him as organist and teacher in Dumfries."
It is telling that Frederick Niecks' wife, Christina, says in the
of the Schumann biography (p. x): "For many years my husband had
and documents for a Life and Work
of Robert Schumann
on a large
other work continuously prevented the execution of the project."
In addition to the Chopin and Schumann biographies, Frederick Niecks only
published A Concise Dictionary of Musical Terms, Augener & Co., London 1884.
The Monthly Musical Record
wrote in 1915 (Niecks returned to Germany at the
outbreak of WW1)
that the Chopin biography had
“indirectly led to” Niecks' position
While praising Niecks’ career,
the journal also observed: “His whole
life has been
one long big
accident [including] the manner in
which he first
came to be regarded
the greatest living authority on Chopin”.
³ Icons of Europe submitted its research findings on Frederick Niecks to the Fryderyk
Institute on 1 April 2006 for an essay competition of Chopin in the
Icons of Europe holds all rights on the research material developed
This online summary, copyright © 2003-2009 Icons of
Europe, B-1380 Brussels,
may be quoted in part or be reproduced
as a whole, provided
that the source
is specified as:
"Cecilia and Jens Jorgensen, Icons of
IMAGE OF NIECKS
"Portrait of Professor Frederick Niecks in a gown",
oil on canvas by Robert Henry Alison Ross.
IMAGE OF CHOPIN
Frederick Niecks writes: “... etching after a charming
drawing in my possession” (vol. 2, p. 344). Obviously,
Jenny Lind is the most likely holder of this drawing
by Teofil Kwiatkowski,
whom she met in 1849.