Persons related to Chopin Persons related to Chopin

Karol Kurpiński

Karol Kurpiński

Karol Kurpiński

*6 III 1785 Włoszakowice, †18 IX 1857 Warszawa

Kurpiński Karol, Polish composer, conductor and director of opera of the National Theatre, pedagogue, journalist, one of the main personalities of the Warsaw musical world at the times of Chopin’s youth.

Chopin stayed in close contact with Kurpiński on private and official ground (they met i.a. during Easter in 1830). Before the meeting in Easter Chopin wrote to Tytus Woyciechowski: “I’m curious what he will say to me, because you won’t believe how affectionately he always greets me” (Chopin’s Polish Letters, p. 152).

Kurpiński was present at the rehearsals of both the Piano concerto in F minor and the Fantasy in A major, Op. 13 on 3rd of March 1830 and the Piano concerto in E minor on 22nd of September 1830 – all in Chopin family drawing room. As Chopin reported to Woyciechowski, Kurpiński highly valued the Piano concerto in E minor emphasizing its originality (Chopin’s Polish Letters, p. 182).

Kurpiński was the conductor of Chopin’s first public concerts in Warsaw in March 1830. After the concerts he noted in his diary: “[...] liczna publiczność z wielkimi oklaskami przyjmowała kompozycję i grę młodego artysty” [numerous audience rewarded the composition and the playing of the young artist with big applause]. Chopin in another letter to Woyciechowski quoted Kurpiński’s opinion on the F minor Concerto: “Kurpiński noted new moments of beauty in my Concerto that evening” (Chopin’s Polish Letters, p. 147).

Chopin knew Kurpiński's output very well: not only the operas staged in the National Theatre but also other compositions frequently played in Warsaw in 1820s. This output did not directly influence Chopin’s music – despite the song repertoire and the early polonaises in which one can find traces of the typical polonaise style of the contemporary polonaises very common in Kurpiński’s pieces. But Kurpiński’s frequent use of polonaise and mazurka rhythms had an input on young Chopin. 

Chopin referred twice to the themes from Kurpiński’s pieces. At first in the Fantasy in A major, Op. 13 where the melody of one of the themes is in fact a fragment of the Elegy on the death of Tadeusz Kościuszko. The second case appears in the Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49 in which – as Mieczysław Tomszewski states – the composer makes a hidden allusion to one of Kurpiński's songs: Litwinka, composed during the November Uprising and commonly sang among the Polish emigracy in Paris. It is well known that Chopin improvised many times on the theme from one of Kurpiński’s opera: Zabobon, czyli Krakowiacy i Górale.

Zdzisław Jachimecki mentioned other relasions between the two composers. He pointed to the Polonaise in D major Witaj Królu (composed by Kurpiński to great the Russian car in 1825) as an archetype for the theme of the Polo««„naise in C minor, Op. 40 No. 2. From this purely musical observation he drew a conclusion that Chopin's polonaise was an ironic responce to Kurpiński’s piece. 


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