Walking the Walk – to Chopin’s Grave

Poulenc, Piaf, Proust and Pissarro have more in common than their creative artistry and the initial letter of their surname. They are all buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery, that pleasant ‘cité des morts’ in Paris’s 20th arrondissement, the final resting-place of a large community which includes Oscar Wilde, Molière – and Chopin.

The details of Chopin’s Paris funeral on October 30, 1849, were widely reported. In the church of La Madeleine, nearly 3000 mourners attended a sumptuous musical occasion which incorporated a liturgical performance of Mozart’s Requiem as part of the funeral mass, as well as performances of Chopin’s Funeral March (from Piano Sonata Op 35) arranged for brass, and Preludes Op 28 Nos 4&6 played on the organ. The pallbearers included the composer Meyerbeer, the cellist Franchomme, the artist Delacroix, and Camille Pleyel, dedicatee of the Preludes and manufacturer of Chopin’s preferred make of piano. After the service, the coffin travelled by horse-drawn hearse to the cemetery three miles distant, for a private burial.

Having spent this year celebrating the bicentenary of Chopin’s birth, and having visited his Majorcan retreat, a visit to La Madeleine and to his grave seemed appropriate. I went there last Saturday.

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