CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY CHOPIN BIOGRAPHY

Year 1829 Year 1829

Winter. Wilhelm Kolberg recalls thus: ‘In 1829 I lived on Krakowskie Przedmieście in a tenement house on the corner of Oboźna Street, Chopin lived with his parents in the Krasiński Palace. Throughout the winter he came to me three times a week in the evening for English lessons, which the three of us – together with Julian Fontana – were taking from a teacher of Irish provenance called Makartnej, well-known in Warsaw at that time. [...] These lessons were livened up by an inexhaustible supply of ideas, gestures and gags, mostly coming from Chopin’.

7 February. Concert in the Teatr Narodowy given by a colleague from composition classes, Antoni Orłowski.

13 April. Mikołaj Chopin applies to the Minister of Religion and Public Education, Stanisław Grabowski, for a grant for his son, ‘that he may visit foreign countries, in particular Germany, Italy and France, in order that he be able to adequately learn from good models’. His case is not helped by his loyalist evocation of his son’s appearance, not without success, before the monarch and grand duke; despite Grabowski’s support his request is turned down by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Tadeusz Mostowski.

21 April. At a concert given by pupils of Carlo Soliva he meets Konstancja Gładkowska (1810–1880), his ‘first love’.

Maj. Antoni Radziwiłł pays a visit to the Chopin home. Chopin would soon (1829–1830) compose for him the Polonaise in C major for piano and cello Op. 3.

23 May – 14 July. Famous series of concerts given by Niccolò Paganini and Karol Lipiński, organised to bring splendour to the celebrations of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I as King of Poland. A hot dispute ensued in the press with the participation of Elsner, Kurpiński and Mochnacki. Mochnacki wrote thus about Paganini in the ‘Gazeta Polska’: ‘He showed all his qualities – all the irresistibility and imperfection of his talent. He played prior to the Lipiński concert and immediately afterwards, on the following day, as if to challenge the Polish virtuoso. [...] Melancholy, frenzy, disruption and a tempest of ideas, then the tenderness of longing – such is the spiritual character of Paganini’. Yet, a moment later: ‘Then does his playing brighten with an Orphic solemnity, as if without blemish or defect’. Lipiński, who ‘in the eyes of his compatriots measured up to the leading virtuoso in Europe, cedes nought to his rival, no less splendid, no less illustrious’. The final judgement of the chief critic of romantic Warsaw: ‘we shall not place one above the other, for both are equally remarkable’. Possibly dating from this time is Chopin’s trifle Variations in A major, entitled Souvenir de Paganini (WN 16).

31 May. World premiere of Kurpiński’s two-act opera Cecylia Piaseczyńska.

15 June. The ‘Kurier Warszawski’ [Warsaw Courier] carries information on ‘the complete works of the famous Beethoven’, on sale in Brzezina’s bookstore.

22 June. The ‘Gazeta Polska’: ‘The critics and reviewers, and also the disputes caused by Paganini and Lipiński in Warsaw, are already known to the whole of Poland, as they have been reproduced from Warsaw publications in the “Rozmaitości” [Variétés] of Lviv, the “Goniec” [Courier] of Cracow and the “Gazeta Poznańska” [Poznań Gazette]’.

20 July. Completion of schooling at the Szkoła Główna Muzyki. Elsner’s report, entitled ‘Lessons in music composition, or practical counterpoint’, bears his final assessments. Among the long-term pupils are Antoni Orłowski (‘very great ability’) and August Freyer (‘great ability’); among the third-years are Antoni Rodziński (‘sufficient ability for concertato style), Józef Linowski (‘much ability for church style’) and ‘Szopen Friderik – special ability, musical genius, etc.’

The Years of Travelling, 1829–1831

Mid July. Chopin’s first trip to Vienna. He travels in the company of Romuald Hube, Alfons Brandt, Marceli Celiński, Ignacy Maciejowski and Mieczysław Potocki. The route leads through Opoczno, Końskie, Cracow, Wadowice, Bielsko, Cieszyn and Moravia.

23 July. ‘Our first week in Cracow was spent solely on walking and visiting the surrounding area’. He visits the Biblioteka Jagiellońska [Jagiellonian Library], in Wawel Cathedral listens to Wincenty Gorączkiewicz play on the organ. He admires Ojców and the Pieskowa Skała castle, and on 24 July signs the visitors’ book in the Wieliczka salt mine.

End of July. To his family: ‘The beautiful landscape of Galicia as far as Bielsko, then Upper Silesia and Moravia, made the journey all the more pleasant thanks to the rain which occasionally fell during the night, liberating us from the wretched dust’.

31 July. In Vienna. ‘The city is most attractive. I like it’. He tours a picture gallery and describes his impressions in a (lost) letter home. He pays a visit to the Viennese piano manufacturers K. Graff and A. Stein, and meets the publisher of his Variations Op. 2, T. Haslinger (‘thanks to Elsner’s letter he did not know what to do with me’), and a number of eminent local musicians: I. Seyfried, J. K. Kessler, J. Mayseder, Jírovec, F. Lachner, K. Kreutzer and Count W. Gallenberg. His guide is Václav Würfel (‘respectable old Würfel’). Above all, however, he attends concerts and the opera. He listens to the playing of a local celebrity, the pianist Leopoldina Blahetka. He himself is recognised as a pianist and persuaded – mainly through Würfel – to give a concert. ‘He assures me that now is the most appropriate time, as the Viennese are hungry for new music’.

8 August. To his family: ‘I am well and in good spirits. I do not know what it is, but the Germans wonder at me, and I wonder at them that they have nothing at which to wonder. [...] I have seen three operas: La Dame blanche [Boieldieu], La Cenerentola [Rossini] and Meyerbeer’s Il Crociato in Egitto. The orchestra and chorus are excellent. Today Joseph [Méhul]’. In a postscript: ‘I am decided. Blahetka says that I shall cause a furore, as I am a virtuoso of the highest calibre, that I should be numbered among Moscheles, Herz and Kalkbrenner. [...] I hope that the Lord God will help me – Worry not’.

11 August. Gives a concert in the Kärntnerthortheater, playing the Variations on ‘Là ci darem la mano’ ‘and improvising. Initially, the programme was to be different: a Beethoven Overture, my Variations, singing by Miss Weltheim, the court singer to the King of Saxony, my Rondo and once again singing, followed by a short ballet to complete the evening’. However, ‘at the rehearsal the orchestra accompanied so badly that I changed the Rondo into a freie fantasie’. He describes the results without false modesty: ‘As soon as I appeared on stage, I received an ovation, after each variation was played the applause was such that I could not hear the orchestra. When I had finished, they applauded so much that I had to come out a second time and take a bow’. He improvised on a theme from La Dame blanche and – asked for a Polish theme – on Chmiel [Hops], which electrified the audience, not accustomed to such songs. My parterre spies assure me that they were even dancing on the benches. [...] So my first performance was as successful as it was unexpected [...] Today I am wiser and more experienced by some four years’.

13 August. New musical acquaintances. To his family: ‘Today I met Count Lichnowski; he could not praise me enough […] it is the same count who was the greatest friend of Beethoven’. To Tytus Woyciechowski: ‘With Czerny I am on intimate terms, and have often played with him at his home on two pianos. A good man, but no more’. He is talked into giving another concert, in spite of his inner revolt: ‘a second time I am to play for free, in order to ingratiate myself with the Count [Gallenberg], whose pockets are thin (but this in secret). I am to play the Rondo and improvise’.

18 August. Second concert at the Kärntnerthortheater. The programme ultimately included the Variations Op. 2 and the Rondo à la Krakowiak Op. 14. On 19 August he writes to his parents: ‘If I was well received on the first occasion, yesterday was even better. The ovation was threefold, the audience more numerous [...] I know that ladies and artists took a liking to me [...] Blahetka said that nothing amazes her more than the fact that I learned all this in Warsaw’. Reviews are printed in many periodicals: ‘Zeitschrift für Kunst...’, ‘Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung’, ‘Allgemeiner Musikalischer Anzeiger’, ‘Wiener Theater-Zeitung’ and ‘Der Sammler’. Besides much lauding and expression of admiration – ‘this is a young man who follows his own path’ – he is somewhat reproved for playing too softly, for ‘a lack of strength, a lack of brilliance and fire’.

19 August. In Prague. The visitors from Warsaw are shown around the city by an expert on ancient Czech history, Václav Hanka, who led them ‘through some exquisite sights. [...] Generally a grand city, when seen from the castle hill, old and formerly wealthy’. A visit to Friedrich W. Pixis, director of the Conservatory, and a meeting with August A. Klengel, a pupil of Clementi and pianist at the Dresden court. ‘I listened to him playing his fugues for some two hours. I did not play, as I was not asked; he plays prettily, but I would wish for something better (Quiet!)’. He receives letters of recommendation to Francesco Morlacchi, conductor at the Dresden court.

23 August. In V. Hanka’s diary, Chopin writes out a special mazurka to words by Ignacy Maciejowski Jakież kwiaty, jakież wianki [What Flowers, What Wreaths]. Leaves Prague for Teplice. He encounters Poles everywhere: in Vienna, N. Nidecki; in Prague, one of the Niegolewskis; in Teplice, L. Łempicki; in Dresden, F. K. Lewiński, with whom he immediately strikes up friendly contacts.

24 August. In Teplice visits the Wallenstein Palace. At a musical soirée at the home of Duke Clary-Aldringen he improvises on themes put forward by the artistic company: from Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto and Il barbiere di Siviglia, and also on themes from Polish songs. One of ‘three comely princesses’, Eufemia, notes in her diary that ‘he played beautifully, brillant and with simply exceptional expression’.

25 August. In Dresden, where he stays for one week. ‘We visited the Saxon Switzerland. Beauty abounds. A wonderful gallery. Only the Italian opera was taken away from under my nose. I left the same day as Crociato in Egitto, consoling myself only with the fact that I had seen it in Vienna’.

26 August. ‘I am returning from Faust. [...] The show lasted from 6 until 11. Faust was played by Devrient, whom I had previously seen in Berlin. [...] Dreadful, but great fantasy. Played in the entr’acte were extracts from the opera of this name by Spohr [...] Time for bed [...] Tomorrow I shall be waiting for Morlacchi, with whom I am going to call on Miss Pechwell. Not I to him, but he comes to me, ha, ha, ha [...]’.

27 August. Listens to the playing of the pianist Antoinetta Pechwell, a pupil of Klengel: ‘she plays well’. He meets Francesco Morlacchi, court chapel-master to the King of Saxony. He returns to Warsaw via Wrocław.

September. In Warsaw he sits for a portrait before Ambroży Miroszewski. The artist also produces likenesses of his parents, sisters and Żywny (‘he has captured him such that it is remarkably similar’).

October. Begins to frequent the musical ‘Fridays’ at the home of Józef Ch. Kessler. He becomes familiar with many works he had not previously known: the Octet by Ludwig Spohr (‘wonderful, absolutely wonderful’), a Trio by Beethoven (‘I have not heard something so great for a long time, here Beethoven mocks the whole world’), the Trio in E major, Concerto in E major and Septet Op. 74 by Hummel, the Concerto in C sharp minor by Ries (‘in a quartet’). ‘There everyone comes forward and plays – nothing is arranged beforehand, whatever comes up in the company, that is played’.

3 October. A letter to Woyciechowski contains an echo of his Viennese successes, detailed accounts of Warsaw cultural life, his own plans, indecisions and – confessions. ‘Do you want to know what I am planning to do with myself this winter, learn that I am not staying in Warsaw, but where circumstances will carry me, I know not’. And later: ‘I should not be able to contain myself were it possible to travel with You; but I have to travel differently to You; I am going to study from Vienna to Italy, and next winter with Hube in Paris – although all this may yet change, especially as Papa would happily send me to Berlin, something which I would not like’. An additional argument in favour of this last idea is that ‘Duke Radziwiłł, or rather she, extremely polite, have invited me to Berlin, even giving me an apartment in their own palace, but what is this to me, when now I must be there where I started, particularly as I promised to return to Vienna, and in one of the local newspapers they wrote that a lengthier sojourn in Vienna would be beneficial for my coming out into the world (Anschlag)’. He ends with a significant avowal: ‘You Yourself doubtless feel the need for my return to Vienna not for Miss Blahetka, about whom, as far as I recall, I wrote that she is a young, pretty, person, who also plays, as I already have, perhaps unfortunately, my ideal, whom I faithfully serve, without having spoken to her for half a year already, of whom I dream, in remembrance of whom was created the adagio of my concerto, who inspired me to write that little waltz this morning, the one that I sent You. Be careful in one place marked +. No-one knows about this apart from you. How sweet it would be for me to play it to You, dearest Tytus. In the Trio the left-hand song should dominate until the upper E flat in the right hand in the 5th bar, which I need not explain since You feel’. He writes here about the Larghetto from the Concerto in F minor Op. 21, which he was in the process of writing, and the Waltz in D flat major (WN 20).

20 October. Further confidences made during work on the Concerto in F minor: ‘The concerto’s Adagio was praised by Elsner, who said it was new, but as for the Rondo at the moment I do not want the verdict of anyone, as I am not yet entirely content with it’. At the same time he begins to compose études: ‘I have done a large Exercice en forme, in my unique way’.

21 October. Visit to his godmother, Anna Wiesiołowska (nee Skarbek), in Strzyżewo, near Gniezno. From there a week-long excursion to Antonin, the summer residence of the Duke and Duchess Radziwiłł, at their invitation, where he felt: ‘like in paradise’. As he wrote to Woyciechowski: ‘There were two Eves there, little duchesses exceptionally kind and good, musical and tender creatures’. He gives lessons to Wanda Raziwiłłówna: ‘Young, 17 years, pretty, and it was truly a pleasure to place her little fingers. But joking aside, she has a considerable and genuine feel for music’. Her elder sister, Eliza, produces his portrait: ‘she has done me twice in her album, and how people have said it is a very good likeness’. And the duke himself; ‘You known how he loves music. He showed me his Faust and I found many things so well conceived, even with touches of genius, as I would never have expected from the Governor. Among other things, there is one scene in which Mephistopheles tempts Gretchen by playing on the guitar and singing beneath her window, and at the same time one hears the singing of the choir from the nearby church; this contrast is highly effective in execution; on paper, one sees an artificially contrived song, and more so a diabolic accompaniment under a most solemn choral. From this You may form some idea of how he sees music; at the same time he is a dyed-in-the-wool Gluckist. In his opinion, stage music is noteworthy to such an extent as it portrays situation and sentiment’. Chopin composes for the duke the Polonaise in C major Op. 3: ‘At his home I wrote an alla polacca with cello. Nothing to it but dazzle, for the salon, for the ladies’.

Beginning of November. On the return journey, makes a stop at Kalisz, where one evening ‘Mrs Łączyńska and Miss Biernacka pulled me out to dance’; he danced a mazur, ‘and that with an even prettier maiden than she, or at least equally as attractive…’ He brings from Antonin an invitation extended by Duke Radziwiłł to visit Berlin in May, and also fond memories: ‘I would have stayed there for as long as I was not chased away, yet my business, or more precisely my concerto, not yet finished, and waiting impatiently for its finale to be completed, impelled me to depart from that paradise’.

4 November. Radziwiłł to Chopin: ‘I accept with the utmost gratitude the dedication of the trio composed by Yourself. [...] I would plead that You might even be willing to hasten its printing, that I may have the pleasure of performing it with You during Your sojourn in Poznań on the way to Berlin’. For reasons unknown, these suggestions were never realised.

14 November. ‘I have written a couple of exercises – in Your presence would I play them well’. He is thought to have been referring to the Études in F major, No. 8, F minor, No. 9, A flat major, No. 10, and E flat major, No. 11 – from opus 10. This information comes from another letter, exalted in the early romantic style, to Tytus Woyciechowski, his bosom friend and confidant in the years 1828–1831.

18 November. The ‘Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung’ carries reflections in the wake of Chopin’s sojourn in Vienna: ‘He arrived here unheralded, and vanished like a meteor over our musical horizon’.

26 November. Premiere of Chłop milionowy [The Millionth Peasant], an allegorical melodrama by F. Raimund, with music by J. Damse.

6 December. On his father’s name-day, always celebrated with particular solemnity, he takes part in a domestic concert of chamber music.

18 December. The ‘Kurier Polski’ [Polish Courier] reports on a musical soirée at the Resursa Kupiecka [Society of Merchants], at which Chopin accompanies one of the singers (Capello) and improvises on couplets (Miotełki) from Chłop milionowy.

23 December. Stanisław E. Koźmian in the ‘Kurier Warszawski’: ‘Our Countryman, ardently received abroad, has yet to be publicly heard in his Homeland. His modesty, although the most precious object of his talent, in this respect is considered less laudable. Is the talent of Mr Chopin not the property of his Homeland? Is Poland not capable of duly appraising it? The works of Mr Chopin indisputably bear the stamp of great genius; among his new works is to be a Concerto in F minor, worthy of taking its place alongside the works of the leading musicians of Europe’.

Turn of the Year. Takes an active part in the artistic life of Warsaw. He plays and improvises in the salons of the Count and Countess de Moriolles, the Lewickis, Ochockis, Nakwaskis, Kickis, Buchholzes and Kesslers. According to diarists, he also occasionally dropped in to some famous Warsaw cafes: to ‘Kopciuszek’ [Cinderella] or to the ‘Dziurka’ [Hole], both on Miodowa street (in the Tepper Palace), to the ‘Honoratka’ opposite, and to Brzezińska’s cafe on Kozia Street. This last establishment was mentioned by Wójcicki: ‘During Podczaszyński’s stay in our city, this cafe began to be frequented by Maurycy Mochnacki, Konstanty Gaszyński, Leon Zienkowicz, the last two editors of the “Pamiętnik dla Płci Pięknej”, and Dominik Magnuszewski, together with his friend Fryderyk Szopen, who was setting off on a journey abroad’. The cafes were the focus for political and literary life, and the birth-place of the trend of ‘dynamic romanticism’; one could meet there during these years both Witwicki and Zaleski; Chopin was linked to all of them by some more or less enduring ties. On the margins of the ‘grand’ compositions, he also writes songs and dances (waltzes, mazurkas, écossaises), constituting a salon strand to his oeuvre, written into albums now lost; for example, in the album of Emilia Elsnerówna, Chopin wrote eight works of this kind (WN 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28 and 30).


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