CHOPIN’S POLAND CHOPIN’S POLAND

Wrocław

Wrocław Wrocław

Chopin visited Wrocław (Breslau, in his day) on several occasions, most probably four times. In late July and early August 1826 he journeyed to Lower Silesia with his mother, visiting the family region of his teacher, Józef Elsner. This was not an exclusively touristic jaunt; Fryderyk was to undergo a cure to improve his health. Mother and son travelled in the direction of Duszniki (Reinertz), to join up with Ludwika Skarbek, who was already in the area.

Along the route, which Fryderyk describes in detail (enumerating all the larger towns) in a letter sent that summer to Wilhelm Kolberg, he lists Wrocław as the twelfth 'stop' on the way. The fact that a break here from the journey was planned may be testified by the fact that Professor Józef Elsner, who had earlier been associated with this city, entrusted his pupil with letters for his friends there. Chopin discharged this task in part when he stopped overnight in Wrocław on the way to Duszniki; as he wrote, 'Mr Latzel' was very pleased at the letter. On his way back from the spa, he visited Friedrich W. Berner, organist at St Elizabeth's, and also Joseph I. Schnabel, chapel-master of Wrocław Cathedral. One may presume that Fryderyk also demonstrated to the addressees his pianistic skills.

It is not known whether Chopin, who was only passing through Wrocław, managed to visit anything else besides the two churches referred to here. Of a similar character may have been his next visit to Wrocław, when three years later Fryderyk stopped here on his way back from Vienna, where he had travelled in the summer with a few friends. Only in November 1830 did he stay in the city for a longer time. On that occasion, he and Tytus Woyciechowski stayed at the Zur Goldenen Gans [The golden goose] inn on Junkernstrasse (now Ofiar Oświęcimskich street). In the evening of their arrival they went to the Municipal Theatre on Taschenstrasse (now at the junction of Oławska and Piotra Skargi street) for a performance of Raimund's Der Alpenkönig und der Menschenfeind.

Maria Zduniak writes of the two friends' stay, identifying in her article the places visited by Chopin: [1]

'On Sunday 7 November, Chopin and Woyciechowski went to Wrocław Cathedral, to meet the chapel-master and composer Joseph I. Schnabel, who, pleased at the encounter, as one may surmise, invited his guests to the morning rehearsal for the concert that was to take place on the evening of the following day in the Grand Hall of the Merchants' Club on ul. Biskupa, known at that time as the hall of the Hotel de Pologne.'

What subsequently occurred during the rehearsal at the Merchants' Club is best conveyed by the words of Fryderyk himself, taken from a letter to his family in Warsaw, written in Wrocław on Tuesday 9 November 1830: 'I found there a small, as usual, orchestra that had turned up for the rehearsal, a piano and some referendary, an amateur, by the name of Hellwig, preparing to play the First Concerto in E flat major by Moscheles. Before he sat down at the instrument, Schnabel, who had not heard me for four years, asked me to try out the piano. It was difficult to refuse, so I sat down and played a couple of variations. Schnabel was infinitely pleased, Mr Hellwig got cold feet, and others began to request that I perform in the evening. More particularly, Schnabel so kindly insisted that I couldn't dare refuse the old gentleman. He's a great friend of Mr Elsner's; but I told him that I'd do it just for him, since neither had I played for a couple of weeks, nor was I intending to show off in Wrocław. To that the old man said that he knew all of this and that he had wanted to ask me yesterday in the church, but was too embarrassed. Then I went with his son to get some music and played them the Romance and Rondo from the Second Concerto. At the rehearsal the Germans admired my playing, saying "Was für ein leichtes Spiel hat er", but nothing about the composition. Tytus even heard one of them saying, "that I knew how to play, but not compose".' [2]



[1] M. Zduniak, ‘Fryderyk Chopin we Wrocławiu i popularyzacja jego dzieł w dziewiętnastowiecznej stolicy Dolnego Śląska', 17-27.
[2] The correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin, ed. B. E. Sydow, 1 vol. (Warsaw, 1955), 148.

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