“Come and create a new motherland at Nohant.” – With these words, Franz Liszt’s lover Marie d’Agoult encouraged a reluctant Fryderyk Chopin to visit George Sand’s country retreat.
It took Chopin two years to heed the advice of Countess d’Agoult. But once he got there, after his disastrous winter in Majorca, Chopin was immediately enchanted by his surroundings. He described the countryside as beautiful, filled with “nightingales, skylarks…”
George Sand had grown up at Nohant, her family’s country estate, located about two hundred miles due south of Paris. She loved its peaceful, pastoral atmosphere, which seemed to enhance her already-prodigious writing output. During Chopin’s first summers at Nohant, Sand’s remarkable productivity was contagious. Chopin came to view the estate as THE place where he could compose…even finding the inspiration to finish pieces he had previously put aside.
But the magic of Nohant faded. Chopin was, at heart, a city mouse. Rainy days made him long for Paris. In 1845 he wrote his family, “I was not made for the country, though fresh air is good for me.” And then life in Nohant became nightmarish for Chopin. Family squabbles sapped his spirit, and strained his relationship with Sand. Chopin complained to his friend, cellist Auguste Franchomme, “…my new works will give neither the impression of warbling birds, nor even broken china.” As it turned out, his Cello Sonata - dedicated to Franchomme - was probably his last Nohant composition.
Chopin left Nohant in November 1846, and then George Sand left him. He never again had a peaceful refuge to call his own. - Rachel Stewart