Julian Ignace Fontana was a multi-talented individual. He was a pianist, composer, piano teacher, trained lawyer, journalist, author and a businessman. A native of Cracow, Poland, he was proficient in Polish, French, Spanish, English and possibly German and Italian. He used many of his talents in Europe and America in the publication of his own music and the music of his close friend Frederick Chopin. After Chopin's death in 1849, Fontana was chosen by the Chopin family for the posthumous publication of Chopin’s previously unpublished manuscripts. Fontana labored over this task for almost ten years. He refused compensation for this effort and considered it “ a labor of love”. His efforts culminated in the publication of Oeuvres Posthumes pour le piano de Fred. Chopin, ops. 66-73 in 1855 and Chopin's Songs, op. 74 in 1859

There is no complete biography of Julian Fontana. Many of the details of his life are extracted from publications, letters and events surrounding his association with Chopin. Some of the details of Fontana’s life below may not be completely accurate but they are utilized as the best information presently available.

The most comprehensive summary of the life and work of Julian Fontana is given by Jan Ekier in Chopin Studies 7, The Frederick Chopin Society, Warsaw 2000. Detailed descriptions are given of Julian Fontana’s personal life, his relationship to Chopin, Fontana as a musician, Fontana’s work on the posthumous music of Chopin and the value of Fontana’s edition for current editorial work. This treatise is most highly recommended. A detailed account (published in Spanish) of Fontana's life in Cuba was written by Dr. Cecilio Tieles and published in Revista de Musicologia, Vol. XI - 1988, Madrid Spain.

It is unknown how Julian Fontana's love for music developed. Fontana's ancestors emigrated from Italy and lived in Poland for many generations. Many of his ancestors were prominent architects. The famous Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw( Image1/ Image2 ), frequently used for coronations and important royal events, designed in part by the Fontana brothers, was constructed in the late 1600s. Jan Fontana, father of Julian Fontana held the post of Cashier-in-Chief for the Kingdom of Poland. After the failed uprising against Russia in the 1830s the family property was confiscated.


1810 July 31; Julian Fontana born in Cracow, Poland. His father was Jan Fontana and his mother was Julia Fontana nee Petzold. Julian had a sister named Leokadia.
1823 Julian Fontana and Frederick Chopin commence study at the Warsaw Lyceum. Fontana receives his diploma in 1828. He then registers at the University to study law.
1824 July 31; Julian Fontana baptized in the Church of St. John the Baptist in Warsaw. The godparents were Gerard Witowicki and Rosalia Razlowskie Fontana.
July 26 (?); Fontana performs in public at the Warsaw Lyceum with Chopin and Dominik Magnuszewski
1827 July 27; Chopin terminates his studies at the Warsaw Lyceum. During his three years of study he was a close friend of Julian Fontana among others.
1828 December; Fontana plays Chopin’s Rondo in C major for two pianos with Chopin.
1829 Winter; Julian Fontana attends English lessons three evenings per week with Chopin and others from a teacher of Irish provenance called Makartnej.
1830 September 15; Fontana receives a law diploma from the University of Warsaw.
1830 November; Chopin travels abroad and eventually takes up residence in Paris.
Fontana participates in the Polish November Uprising against Russia.
1831 September 10; Subofficer Julian Fontana, Artillery promoted to rank of Second Lieutenant by General Ramorino of the Army of the Kingdom of Poland.
1832-1833 After the failure of the November Uprising Fontana resides in Paris prior to his departing for London.
1833 Fontana resides briefly in Hamburg. While there he writes A la Mazurka.
1833-1836 Fontana resides in London. He publishes his arrangements of Polish National Melodies. Also while in London a few of Chopin’s works, op.1, op.3, op.5, op.10 and op.11, are published by Wessel and Co. whose subtitles include “edited by his pupil J. Fontana” and “fingering by J. Fontana” and the note “student of Chopin”.
1835 date unknown; According to La Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris , June 7 Fontana performs in a concert in London in an ensemble of 12 hands including Moscheles, Cramer, Schultz, Sowinski and Alkan.
1837 Spring; Julian Fontana returns to Paris and becomes chief copyist for Chopin works destined for publication. Fontana prepares approximately 50 copies of ops. 25 to 49 inclusive, which served as the basis for French, German and English editions.
1840 November - December; Chopin publishes Deux Polonaises , op. 40 dedicated “a Mr. Jules Fontana”.
1841 April 19; Fontana plays in the recital hall of Hotel de Paris. The program includes works by Chopin.
1841 December; Fontana's Caprice, op 1, published in Keepsakes des Pianistes, by La Revue Gazette Musicale de Paris. The collection includes works by Chopin, Heller, Kalkenbrenner, Mendelsohn, et al.
Fontana sends the three letters to Paris to Madame la Vicomtesse de Verny in Warsaw, desparately seeking funds.
1843 Portrait of Fontana on medallion created by Wladyslaw Oleszczynski in Paris
1843 March 17; a benefit concert is held for Julian Fontana in Paris. The performers include Julian Fontana and tenor Stefan Grotkowski and probably Chopin. Grotkowski interprets songs by Chopin and Fontana to words by Witwicki. Two unpublished works by Fontana A la Mazurka and Andantino were included in the program.
1844 Fontana travels to Cuba in July and is mentioned in articles in the press in Havana. He meets Camila Dalcour Tennant age 26 in 1844, a native of Matanzas, Cuba. She is the daughter of wealthy French parents (Dalcour) who had emigrated from Haiti to Louisiana and then to Cuba. At the time Camila is married to Englishman businessman Stephen Cattley Tennant and they have four children.
1844 July 8; Fontana’s premier concert in Havana in the salon of the Philharmonic Society. The concert includes works by Liszt, Chopin and Thalberg. This concert introduces Chopin's music to Cuba.
1844 July 27; Fontana’s second concert in the salon of the Havana Society. The concert includes works by Chopin, Thalberg, Moscheles and an original composition by Fontana based on national themes.
1844 Fontana continues to give concerts and commences giving piano lessons. Among his students is Nicolas Ruiz Espadero who becomes one of Cuba’s most famous pianists and composers and eventually copyist for the American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
1845 July 20; The Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris publishes a review of Fontana’s La Havanne , op 10. “Monsieur Fontana... is a talented man full of taste. His collection (Havanne), thanks to the selection of national melodies that it contains, as well as the skill the author manages to bring to the work- is very appealing”.
1845 Lolita, Grande Valse Brillante, op. 11 published in Paris. The title is in honor of a sister of Camila Dalcour Tennant. The composition is dedicated to another sister, Laure Dalcour.
1845 December 2; Fontana arrives in Philadelphia from Havana, Cuba aboard the U.S. Bark Louisa.
December 8; From the New York Herald; "We understand a new candidate for fame on the piano has arrived in this country. He claims to be a professor of the instrument and probably hopes to rival De Meyer. This gentleman's name is Fontana, from Paris, but he is unknown in this country."
1846 January 3; Fontana makes his New York debut at the Apollo Rooms with Miss Korinsky and Phillip Mayer. The concert was sparsely attended. Works by Liszt, Thalberg and Wilmers were performed. Fontana also performed his own composition Lolita, op 11
1846 October 15; Fontana performs Chopin's Fantasie, op 49 at the Apollo Rooms in New York City
1846-1848 Fontana resides in New York and performs concerts with violinist Camillo Sivori, a student of Paganini.
1847 Souvenirs de I’le de Cuba, op. 12 published in Paris. This composition is dedicated to "Camile et Leocadie", Fontana's future wife and her daughter.
1848 August; Fontana makes a brief visit to London for unknown reasons. Chopin sends Fontana a letter from Scotland dated August 18,1848 in which he states that “ If I were well, I would go to London tomorrow to embrace you (Fontana)”. At the end of the end of the letter Chopin also states “I think you have done well to settle in New York instead of in Havana”.
1848 November 3; Stephen Cattley Tennant, husband of Fontana's future wife Camila, is fatally injured in a railroad accident in England. Camila is now thirty years old with five children.
1849 Rhapsodie a la Polka, pour le piano, op.19 published by Kerksieg & Breusing, New York
1849 October 17; Frederick Chopin dies in Paris.
1850 Camila Dalcour travels from Havana to New York to find Fontana, who is surprised by her appearance at his apartment.
1850 The Third of May Song, from a collection of Polish National Melodies, Philadelphia, Fiot, Meignen Co. ca.1850 published.
1850 September 9; Julian Ignace Fontana and Camilla Dalcour Tennant are married in New York’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. They depart for Paris shortly thereafter. Witnesses were Sophie Bellchase and Juan De Osma.
1853 July 10; A son, Julian Camillo Adam is born to the Fontana’s in Paris. Adam Mickiewicz, the national poet laureate of Poland and close friend of Fontana is the godfather. The baptism takes place July 31 in the Eglise St. Jacque de Montgeron, Diocese of Versailles(baptismal certificate).
1853 October 15; Justyna Chopin sends a letter (original/translation) to Fontana in Paris giving him permission to select and publish previously unpublished manuscripts of her son Frederick. In the letter she refers to Fontana as a “competent judge” of her son’s music.
1855 March 30; Camila Dalcour Fontana dies of pneumonia while pregnant. She is buried in Cimetiere Pere-Lachaise, Paris. Fontana takes his wife’s children from her first marriage to live in England with her former family.
1855 September 7; Julian Fontana naturalized as a U.S. citizen at Superior Court, New York County, New York.
1855 Julian Fontana publishes Oeuvres Posthumes pour Piano de Fred. Chopin op. 66-73 in Germany, Belgium and France. An afterward (original/translation) to the collection explains how Fontana was chosen to be the only authorized publisher of Chopin’s previously unpublished works and that unauthorized publications of his music will be prosecuted.
1855 September 22; Fontana makes the first of several voyages to Havana, Cuba on the vessel Arago in an unsuccessful attempt to claim the inheritance of his wife's sizable estate.
1855 September; Fontana and his son return to Paris.
1856 January 20; According to La Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris a concert of Chopin’s Oeuvres Posthumes is performed by Fontana in the Pleyel concert hall. At this concert Fontana performs 4 mazurkas, 2 waltzes and the Fantasie Impromptu. A second concert is given later that year and a third in 1857.
1857 Fontana’s Polish songs Smutna rzeka, Przypadek, Wyjazd, and Zakochana published by R. Friedlein, Warsaw
1857 June - 1858 July Fontana in Cuba.
1858 August 12; Fontana arrives in New York on board the U.S. Mail Steam Ship Philadelphia from Havana, Cuba with his son Julian Camile.
1858 Date Unknown; Fontana and son return to Paris
1858-1860 Sporadic trips made to Poland.
1859 Julian Fontana publishes a collection of Chopin’s Sixteen Polish Songs op. 74 in Warsaw. A second edition published in Germany includes 17 songs.
1860 Fontana sends letters from Paris to American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Cuban composer Nicolas Ruiz Espadero.
1860 Two compositions written by American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk are dedicated to Fontana. They are La Gitanella, Caprice Caracteristique pour le piano, op. 35 and Illusions Perdues, Caprice pour le piano, Fantome de bonheur, op. 36.
1860s Fontana translates Don Quijote de la Mancha from Spanish to Polish and contributes articles on Chopin to the Cracovian journal Czar (Time) and to Dzienik Poznanski (Pozan Daily)
1862 Douze Reveries au Piano en deux suites , op. 8, published in Germany.
1869 Fontana publishes a book on folk astronomy in Poland; Astronomja ludowa ( Cover/Preface ), Poznan, Nakladem Ksiegarni J. K. Zupa’nskiego, and a treatise on Polish orthography Kilka uwag nad pisowną polską , Paris, Ksiegarnia Luxemburgska.
1869 December 23; Julian Fontana takes his own life in Paris after many years of illness and deafness. His remains are placed in a tomb in the Cimetiere Montmartre in Paris which includes other Polish expatriates. Prior to his death Fontana arranged for his son Julian to live with his mother’s family (Tennant) in England.


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