CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY

Year 1824 Year 1824

24 July. End of the fourth year of secondary school marked by a public show and an award 'moribus et diligentiae'.

August – September. Holidays in Szafarnia, in the Dobrzyń region, staying at the home of his school-friend Dominik Dziewanowski, whose uncle, an officer of Napoleon's Guard, perished at Samosierra. He acquaints himself with the immediate and more distant surroundings: Sokołowo and Dobrzyń (the Wybraniecki and Białobłocki families), Radomin and Rętwiny (the Cisowskis), Gulbiny and Płonne (the Piwnickis), Ugoszcz and Obory (the Borzewskis), Bocheniec (the Ciżewskis), Obrów (the Romockis), Dułnik, Białkowo, Płonko, Golub, Lipno and Nieszawa. He witnesses a gathering of the gentry. He also becomes familiar with the rural folklore of the borderlands of the regions of Mazovia and Kujawy, and listens to a Jewish ensemble; plays four-handed with Ludwika Dziewanowska.

10 August. First letter to parents: 'Through God's grace I am well and time always passes most pleasurably. I neither read nor write, but I play, drawn, run, make the most of the fresh air...' He asks his father the favour of buying him from Brzezina Air Moore varié pour le pianoforte à quatre mains par [Ferdinand] Ries; soon he would himself write variations for four hands on this theme.

16, 19, 24, 27 and 31 August and 3 September. Sends to his parents a series of amusing 'letters', known as the 'Kurier Szafarski' [Szafarnia Courier], parodying the 'Kurier Warszawski' [Warsaw Courier]. Among the deluge of schoolboy gags and foolery are a few more sensible items.

15 August. 'At a musical gathering in Szafarnia of a dozen or so persons and half-persons, a star turn was given by Mr Pichon esquire; he played a [Friedrich] Kalkbrenner concerto, which made a lesser impression, particularly on the small personages, than the Żydek [Little Jew], played by the same Mr Pichon'.

20 August. 'At Obrów a harvest festival was held. The entire village gathered in front of the manor amused themselves truly, particularly after vodka, and the girls, in a squeaky, false semitone voice sang 'Przede dworem kaczki w błocie, nasza pani w samym złocie...' ['At the manor ducks in the mire, our lady all in gold attired…']

29 August. 'Mr Pichon esquire, riding through Nieszawa, heard a 'Catalani' seated on a fence singing something at the top of her lungs. He was mightily taken, and listened with pleasure to air and voice, yet not content with that alone sought to hear some verse. He twice passed beside the fence, though to no avail. [...] Long she quibbled, frowned and declined, but encouraged by thruppence she began to sing a little mazurka [...]: 'Patsajze tam za gulami, za gulami, jak to wilk tańcuje, a wsakzeć on nie ma żony, bo się tak frasuje...' ['Look there beyond the knolls, the knolls, how the wolf does dance, but he has no wife and therefore looks askance…']

1 September. 'No sooner had Mr Pichon esquire played the Żydek, than Mr Dziewanowski called to the Jewish pakciarz, asking him for an opinion on this Jewish virtuosity'. The verdict was positive; 'should Mr Pichon wish to play at a Jewish wedding, he would earn himself at least ten thalers'. Then a humorous reflection: 'this declaration prompted Mr Pichon to study this kind of music as much as was possible, and who knows if he will not, with time, give himself over completely to such a profitable harmony'. The memoirs of K. W. Wójcicki contain a similar account from another gathering: 'When some Jews arrived at the neighbouring manor in Obrów to purchase grain, Fryderyk called them over and played them a ceremonial Jewish song. His playing drove the traders to such ardour and forgetfulness that they not only leapt and danced in merriment, but also forcefully pleaded with the child that he do it, that this player play for them at a wedding that was soon to be held: for he played, he played as if he were born a Jew'.

6 December. In Warsaw, together with his sister Emilia, he writes and 'stages' on his father's name-day the short comedy Omyłka, czyli Mniemany filut [The Error, or the Supposed Rogue]. He 'founds' the children's 'Literackie Towarzystwo Rozrywki' [Literary Entertainment Society], modelled on the Warszawskie Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk [Warsaw Society for the Advancement of the Arts and Sciences]; he discharges the functions of 'president', whilst the Chopin boarders are the members. According to Józefa Kościelska (nee Wodzińska), 'the fact that little Freddie was already considered to be the best pianist in Warsaw gave him less appeal in our eyes than the fact that none of the boys was so eager to joke and have fun than he'. It was around this time that he composed the Variations in E major on 'Der Schweizerbub' (WN 4), dedicated to Katarzyna Sowińska, wife of the legendary general[1], the first versions of the Mazurkas in A flat major Op. 7 No. 4 and A minor Op. 17 No. 4, and the Polonaise in G sharp minor (WN 5), dedicated to Ludwika Dupon, later Cichowska, with whom he readily and frequently played four-handed. In addition, also composed at this time were a number of mazurkas, waltzes, polonaises and marches, not known to us today, that were written into the album of Izabela Grabowska, which was lost in St. Petersburg.

25 December. An evening of cantata music in the Augsburg Evangelical church, under the direction of Józef Jawurek, including a performance of Haydn's Creation; it is thought that Chopin sang in the chorus, together with his sister Ludwika.


[1] General Józef Longin Sowiński (1777-1831), who participated in the Kościuszko Rising (cf. note i) and was also a commander in the November Rising (cf. note vi).

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