Julian (or Jules) Fontana (31 July 1810 – 23 December 1869) was a Polish pianist, composer, lawyer, author, translator, and entrepreneur, best remembered as a close friend and musical executor of Polish-French composer Frédéric Chopin.
Born in Warsaw to a family of Italian origin, Fontana studied law at the University of Warsaw and music under Józef Elsner at the conservatory, where he met Chopin. Fontana left Warsaw in 1831, after the November Uprising and settled in Hamburg, before becoming a pianist and teacher in Paris in 1832.
In 1840, Chopin dedicated his 2 Polonaises, Op. 40, to Fontana. These included the "Military Polonaise" in A major.
He took up a wandering life that included:
- England and France (1833–1837);
- Havana, Cuba (1844–45): On 8 July 1844 he played the music of Chopin for the first time in Cuba. His pupils there included Nicolás Ruiz Espadero.
- New York (1845–51): he gave concerts with Camillo Sivori;
- Montgeron, Paris (1852) – becoming part of the literary scene and friends with Adam Mickiewicz.
In New York, on 9 September 1850, Fontana married Camilla Dalcour Tennant (1818–1855), widow of Stephen Cattley Tennant (1800–1848), a merchant, and mother of Enriqueta Augustina Tennant (1843–1908) and four other children. Their son Julian Camillo Adam Fontana was born in Paris on 10 July 1853. Camilla died on 30 March 1855 of pneumonia, while pregnant with her 7th child. Fontana took her children from her first marriage to be looked after by her first husband's family in England. He then returned to New York, where he was naturalised an American citizen on 7 September the same year.
Also in 1855 he published a collection of Chopin's unpublished manuscripts, under the opus numbers 66–73. He then travelled to Cuba in an unsuccessful bid to recover his late wife's estate. He spent some years travelling between Havana, New York, Paris and Poland. In 1859 he published 16 of Chopin's Polish Songs, as Op. 74 (a later edition increased this to 17 songs).
In 1860 Louis Moreau Gottschalk dedicated two compositions to Fontana, La Gitanella and Illusions perdues.
He succumbed to deafness and poverty, and committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide in Paris. He was buried in Montmartre Cemetery. He had arranged, prior to his death, to have his son looked after by his wife's family in England.
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