CHOPIN’S POLAND CHOPIN’S POLAND

Duszniki Zdrój

Duszniki Zdrój Duszniki Zdrój

Chopin stayed in Duszniki in the summer of 1826. On completing his final year at the Warsaw Lyceum, he went with his mother on a journey to the 'Silesian waters' for a cure, joining there Ludwika Skarbek and Emilka Chopin. The previous month, Ludwika Chopin had stayed at Duszniki Kudowa with Count Fryderyk Skarbek, his wife Prakseda, and their little son Józef.

We know the exact route taken on the approximately week-long journey from Warsaw to Silesia thanks to a description contained in the introduction to a letter written by Fryderyk in Duszniki to his friend Wiluś (Wilhelm Kolberg) on 18 August 1826. The route led through 'Błonie, Sochaczew, Łowicz, Kutno, Kłodawa, Koło, Turek, Kalisz, Ostrów, Międzyborz, Oleśnica, Wrocław, Nimsch, Frankenstein, Warta and Glatz', [1] and thence only some '4 miles' to Reinertz. On arrival, they took accommodation in the Dom Bürgla [Bürgel House] pension. In those times, this was a modern and comfortable pension, offering both accommodation and full board, with meal times fitted around the recommended rhythm of a guest's cure in the spa's waters.

In the above-mentioned letter to Wiluś, Fryderyk ironically describes the detailed daily schedule at the spa, without omitting the various 'attractions' that were part of the town's tradition: 'In the morning, 6 o'clock at the latest, all the Ailing at the spring; here, wretched brass music compiled from a dozen or so caricatures in various tastes [...] is played to the slowly perambulating Kur-gästs [...] This promenade along the lovely avenue connecting the Anstalt with the town lasts usually until eight, depending on how many cupfuls one has to drink in the morning, then everyone (each to his own) goes off to breakfast. - After breakfast I usually go off for a stroll, walk until 12, at which time dinner must be eaten, because after dinner we go once again to the Brun. The afternoon [...] is again sullied by music, and apart from that one walks around until evening. Like me, since I drink only two glasses of Lau-brun after dinner, so I go home early for supper, and after supper to sleep.' [2]

Fryderyk, somewhat bored with the walks around the spa and the daily obligation of drinking the waters (from the Laubrunn spring) with added goat's-milk whey and herbs, eagerly described his impressions and his plans for further trips into the mountains around the spa. He rued not being permitted to wander around the Sudeten mountains due to his fragile health: 'Admittedly, I do walk around the mountains by which Reinertz is surrounded, often delighted by the view of the local valleys, wandering back down reluctantly, sometimes on all-fours, but I've not yet been there, where everyone goes, as it's been forbidden me.' Meanwhile, he writes further into the letter of his plans: 'We're going to the Hohemenze, which is supposedly also a mountain in sumptuous surroundings; I'm expecting it to come about.' [3]

Fryderyk also mentions a remarkable spot in Duszniki traditionally visited by visitors to the spa, which appears to have been the object of a joint trip with the Skarbeks: 'Having climbed up the mountain, one of the highest in Reinertz, one walks up a hundred and several dozen steps in a straight line, almost perpendicular, made of stone, to the hermitage itself, from which there is a sumptuous view over the whole of Reinertz.' [4]

The expedition with the Skarbeks to the hermitage on the hill (which Chopin called Rozalia's Mount) was described, along with other details of her stay, by Chopin's sister, Ludwika, who gave a meticulous account of all the events of that summer, seen through the eyes of little Józef, the Skarbeks' small son whom she often looked after during their stay. Thus 'Józef's journey from Warsaw to the Silesian waters', and also the diary kept during that time by Count Skarbek, entitled 'Journey to the Silesian Waters and surrounding [towns?] in the summer of 1826, became two sources of information relating to the party's stay in the spa.' [5]

Ludwika mentions in her little tale a visit to a paper mill in Duszniki, situated on the edge of the town. It is highly likely that Fryderyk also visited this interesting factory. It is certain that he possessed paper made there, which he used for correspondence, as he emphasises in a letter to Jan Białobłocki.

Without doubt, the most important event during the sojourn in Duszniki should be seen as Fryderyk's performance. This fact, described a thousand times over, is shrouded in legend, as is usually the way with Chopin's performances. Silesian spas had always cultivated the proud tradition of the ubiquitous presence of music. This tradition was not always associated with a high standard of performance, and so the more demanding listeners were not always satisfied with the musical attractions offered in the spa.

As we learn from sources, three years prior to Chopin's stay a concert was held in Duszniki in which the main protagonist was the fourteen-year-old Felix Mendelssohn. The young pianist did without the accompaniment of the semi-amateur ensemble and decided to improvise solo on themes from Mozart and Weber. Both performances, by Felix and by Fryderyk, were of a charitable character. One may assume that the young pianist was encouraged to give a recital in the spa while still in Warsaw. Yet a fundamental problem in Duszniki proved to be the lack 'of the one thing which all the beauties of Duszniki cannot replace, that is a good instrument'. [6]

In spite of that, Fryderyk decided to perform. There are even hypotheses concerning two such recitals. [7] It is worth mentioning that the 'Kuryer Warszawski' of 22 August 1826 included the following notice: 'when several children were orphaned by the death of their father, who had come to the waters for a cure, Mr Chopin, emboldened by persons aware of his talent, gave two concerts in aid of the children, which brought great honour to him and assistance to them.' The concert, or two concerts, was held in the hall of the Spa Theatre, built in the 1800s to a design by H. Geissler. Cultural life in the spa revolved around the ‘kursal'-a small mansion in the centre of the Spa Park.

In the Spa Park in Duszniki Zdrój, one of the key sites of the cult of Fryderyk Chopin in Poland, there remains much to remind visitors of his stay, including the mansion named Chopin House, an obelisk, a monument and the Pieniawa Chopina mineral water intake.

Particularly noteworthy is the mansion (also known as the Chopin Theatre), built at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Since 1946 an annual International Chopin Festival has been held there. Moreover, for over twenty years now, outstanding Polish and foreign piano teachers have run there masterclass courses for young virtuosos from all over the world during the days leading up to the festival.

Also standing in the Spa Park are a Chopin Monument by Jan Kucz, unveiled on 8 August 1976, and the Pieniawa Chopina (formerly Brunne) mineral water intake, located near the Pump Room.

Duszniki Zdrój lies in Lower Silesia, in the Kłodzko Basin, on the E67 road. Situated nearby are two other well-known spas: Polanica Zdrój (in the direction of Kłodzko) and Kudowa Zdrój (in the direction of the Czech border). The Bystrzyca Dusznicka flows through the town.

Worth seeing in the area:

  • seventeenth-century paper mill (now a Museum of Paper-Making) on the Bystrzyca Dusznicka in Duszniki (at 42 ul. Kłodzka), on the E67
  • baroque church of SS Peter and Paul (with whale-shaped pulpit) and sandstone sculpture of the Madonna and Infant accompanied by SS Florian and Sebastian, made by L. Weber in 1725, both in Duszniki
  • gothic church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (fourteenth-sixteenth centuries) with baroque interior, in Kłodzko
  • gothic bridge (from fourteenth century) with baroque sculptures, in Kłodzko


[1] The correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin, ed. B. E. Sydow, 1 vol. (Warsaw, 1955), 69.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] See Clavier, A., Dans l'entourage de Chopin (Lens, 1984), Nowaczyk, H. F., Chopin na traktach Wielkopolski Południowej [Chopin on the highways of southern Greater Poland] (Kalisz, 2006).
[6] The correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin, ed. B. E. Sydow, 1 vol. (Warsaw, 1955), 72.
[7] See Zduniak, M., 'Fryderyk Chopin we Wrocławiu i popularyzacja jego dzieł w dziewiętnastowiecznej stolicy Dolnego Śląska' [Fryderyk Chopin in Wrocław and the popularisation of his works in the 19th-century capital of Lower Silesia], in K. Kościukiewicz (ed.), Międzynarodowe Festiwale Chopinowskie w Dusznikach Zdroju 1946-1999 [The International Chopin Festival in Duszniki Zdrój 1946-1999] (Wrocław, 2000), 17-27.

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