JULIAN (JULES) FONTANA (1810-1869)
Julian Ignace Fontana was a multi-talented individual.
He was a pianist, composer, piano teacher, trained lawyer, journalist,
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
posthumous publication of
previously unpublished manuscripts.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
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,
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,
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.
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.
1825 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
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.
1830-1831 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
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
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.
1842-1843 Fontana sends the three
letters to Paris to Madame la Vicomtesse de Verny in Warsaw,
desparately seeking funds.
of Fontana on medallion created by Wladyslaw Oleszczynski
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
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
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
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
1844 Fontana continues to give concerts and
commences giving piano lessons. Among his students is Nicolas
Ruiz Espadero who
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),
to the selection of national melodies that it contains, as well
as the skill the author manages to bring to the work- is very
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.
1845 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,
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
Fontana's future wife and her daughter.
1848 August; Fontana makes a brief visit to
London for unknown reasons. Chopin sends Fontana a letter
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
1849 Rhapsodie a la Polka, pour
le piano, op.19 published by Kerksieg & Breusing,
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
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
manuscripts of her son Frederick. In the letter she refers to
Fontana as a “competent judge” of her son’s
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)
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
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
1855 September; Fontana and his son return to
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
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
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.