Warszawa Chopina (Chopin's Warsaw)

Uploaded by warszawapl on 18.02.2010

Chopin’s Warsaw
Welcome to Warsaw
the city of Fryderyk Chopin’s youth.
Fryderyk Chopin was born on 1st March 1810 in the village of Żelazowa Wola
about 50 kilometres away from Warsaw.
He was the Chopin’s only son.
His father, Nicholas, was a Frenchman who came to Warsaw as a teenager
and took part in the Kościuszko Insurrection.
Then, he worked as a governor to the children of land-owning gentry.
In Żelazowa Wola he met Justyna Krzyżanowska and they married in 1806.
Fryderyk had an older sister, Ludwika, and two younger ones
Izabella and Emilia.
When Fryderyk was seven-months old, the family moved to Warsaw.
Fryderyk spent half of his life here.
Back then everyone called him "Frycek".
The Chopin’s first home was situated in the no longer existing Saxon Palace.
This building was home to a secondary school
where Nicolas taught French.
Over the course of history, the palace was used for different purposes.
It was the Polish General Staff headquarters between World Wars I and II.
It was also the Polish Cipher Bureau where, for the first time, the code was broken
for the German Enigma machine.
After the failed 1944 Warsaw Uprising,
the palace, like many other monuments
was blown up by the Nazis.
All that remains from the original complex
is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
From the late 18th century, the Saxon Gardens were a public city park.
However, at first it was only open
to members of the aristocracy.
We know that as a child Fryderyk often played with his family in this park.
The Chopin family’s second home was situated in the right wing of the Kazimierz Palace.
From 1816 this area became home to Warsaw University.
In 1817, Nicholas’s school was relocated here, along with the teachers’ living quarters.
Fryderyk was seven-years-old when his family moved here.
His parents ran a boarding house for boys who came from outside of Warsaw.
He soon made new friends.
The other boys liked Fryderyk, who despite being a frail, sickly boy,
was the life and soul of the party.
He played the piano and drew caricatures.
He was also a good actor.
For example, he often amused his friends with his impressions of the school rector.
At school Fryderyk made his two closest friends:
Tytus Wojciechowski and Jan Białobłocki.
Sadly, Jan died as a teenager from tuberculosis of the bones.
As for Tytus, Fryderyk never saw him again after leaving Warsaw.
The whole Chopin family was musical.
His father played the violin, his mother sang
and Ludwika played the piano.
It was she who discovered her brother’s musical talent.
She persuaded her parents to hire a piano teacher for the six-year-old Frycek.
Fryderyk’s first teacher was a Czech called Wojciech Żywny.
Żywny was an eccentric character.
He wore out-dated clothes and a wig and his cravat was always wonky.
He loved tobacco,
which he took often and would make him sneeze violently.
The parents of Fryderyk‘s school friends
repaid the Chopin’s for looking after their children
by inviting Fryderyk to their country estates.
There he could strengthen his health.
It turned out that these trips also marked a turning point in his music.
There, Chopin first heard Polish folk music.
These influences can be heard in his Mazurkas.
As Żywny’s student, Chopin composed his first pieces –
Polonaises, marches and variations.
Unfortunately, most have been lost.
At the age of twelve, Fryderyk began private composition lessons
with the rector of the Warsaw Conservatory,
Józef Elsner.
Elsner was a famous composer and conductor.
The most important Polish music institution is situated in Warsaw and is named
the Fryderyk Chopin Music University.
The Chopin’s last home in Warsaw was in the Czapski Palace,
also known as the Krasiński Palace.
The palace still exists opposite the University of Warsaw gates
at the address Krakowskie Przedmieście 5.
Currently it is the home of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts.
The Chopin’s lived on the second floor of the palace’s North annex.
Here, Fryderyk could compose and reflect
whilst observing the city.
It was here that he composed his first mature compositions, which included
the concerts E-minor and F-minor.
It was also a great space for Chopin to play his new pieces to friends.
However, the move was not an entirely happy one for the Chopin family.
It was also a time of enormous grief after the death of Fryderyk’s youngest sister,
Emilia, to tuberculosis.
Fryderyk was very close to Emilia.
They spent a great deal of time together.
They created a literary society together and put on plays.
They were both very sickly.
Every Sunday, at the Church of the Visitation, there was a special school mass.
Fryderyk was appointed organist for these school masses.
He was very proud of this role.
One or two authentic organ pipes might still remain from that time.
One thing‘s for sure,
as one of the few buildings to survive World War II,
the church remembers the sound of Fryderyk’s playing.
Once Fryderyk got so caught up with his own improvisations
that in the end the sacristan had to come up and stop him
so that mass could continue.
In 1815, in keeping with decisions made at the Congress of Vienna,
a new Polish state was established, called the Kingdom of Poland.
It was a constitutional monarchy formed in union with Russia,
so the Russian Tsar automatically became the King of Poland.
As the Tsar couldn’t reside in Poland, he had deputies representing him in Warsaw.
They lived in the Radziwiłł Palace,
which is now the residence of the Polish President
and is called the Presidential Palace.
The eight-year-old Fryderyk made his public debut in the palace.
The concert was organized by the Warsaw Philanthropic Society.
Apparently, music critics were very sceptical about the event.
They were convinced that they would be bored by such a young pianist.
However, after the concert, Warsaw‘s cultural elite congratulated Chopin’s father.
Little Frycek became a sensation.
That evening, when Fryderyk returned home, his ill mother asked him about the concert.
He told her everyone liked his English-style collar most of all.
She had made him the shirt collar especially for the occasion.
In the 19th century, near the busy Castle Square,
was Mariensztat Street.
The Bernardine monastery buildings were housed there.
No trace of them remains today.
Between 1819 and 1831
they were the seat of the Music Conservatory.
Fryderyk Chopin wasn’t a very diligent pupil during his time at secondary school.
But his attitude changed when he entered the University’s Main School of Music.
The rector Józef Elsner took a very personal approach to his pupil.
At first, Elsner treated Chopin’s talent with reserve.
He tried to encourage Fryderyk to write operas,
which would be the best test of a composer’s abilities.
Fryderyk would not be persuaded.
In the end, Elsner let Chopin remain with his favourite instrument –
the piano.
After three years, he assessed Fryderyk’s extraordinary talent with these words:
Fryderyk Chopin –
special aptitude,
musical genius.
During this time, Fryderyk’s attention wasn't entirely devoted to his studies.
At the Warsaw Conservatory he met a voice student –
Konstancja Gładkowska.
For a long time, he didn’t openly confess his feelings for her.
However, he often wrote about them in letters to his friends.
Fryderyk’s love for Konstancja was the inspiration for his Piano Concerto in F-minor.
Chopin dedicated the concerto’s second part to her –
the Larghetto.
Apparently the two lovers had their last meeting in the Saxon Gardens.
Konstancja and Fryderyk exchanged rings and promised to keep in touch.
However, young love didn’t withstand the test of time and distance.
One year and three months later, Konstancja married a wealthy landowner.
But for years she kept Fryderyk’s letters and his portrait.
She burned them shortly before she died.
In Chopin’s time, Miodowa Street was the centre of Warsaw’s social life.
Due to the political situation,
the cafes were places of emotional debates.
Nothing escaped the attention of the tsarist spies.
They reported everything they heard and saw to the Tsar’s deputy –
the Grand Duke Constantine.
Fryderyk was also a frequent guestat these cafes.
The existing cafe Honoratka preserves the tradition on Miodowa Street to this day.
Whilst having fun in these cafes, the teenage Fryderyk never suspected
that in just a few years the November Uprising, against Russian rule, would break out in Warsaw.
Abroad in Stuttgart, Chopin learned about the uprising’s collapse.
Devastated, he wrote in his diary words of sorrow towards God,
for allowing the Polish people to suffer so.
Under the influence of these emotions, Chopin wrote the very famous
Revolutionary Etude.
However, Chopin never anticipated what would happen to Warsaw in the 20th century.
During World War II, the city was almost razed to the ground.
Today it's a thriving European metropolis.
In Chopin’s time, the National Theatre was situated on the Krasiński Square
where the Warsaw Uprising Monument currently stands.
There, Chopin gave his last three public performances in the Polish capital.
He played both of his Concertos.
In a letter to a friend, Chopin wrote about the middle part of his Concerto in E-minor:
It should give the impression of a glance at the place where
a thousand cherished memories reside.
Don't worry,
everything's going to be fine.
Remarkably, Fryderyk performed publicly only 30 times in his entire life.
He claimed that he wasn't good at it.
A couple of months later, the 20-year-old Polish genius left the country
barely four weeks before the outbreak of the November Uprising.
Family and friends bid farewell to Fryderyk at a party
where joy mingled with sorrow.
On the corner of Kozia and Krakowskie Przedmieście is the Wessel Palace.
In Chopin’s time it was a post office.
From this place, travellers set off for trips abroad.
Here, at dawn on 2nd November 1830, Fryderyk Chopin boarded a carriage
and left Warsaw forever.
At that time he had no idea that he would never see his homeland again.
Aside from a cup filled with Polish soil, Fryderyk took only one keepsake
from his life in Warsaw –
an album filled with dedications from his friends.
A watercolour of Zygmunt’s Column was on the first page.
In the autumn of 1831, Fryderyk arrived in Paris –
the cultural capital of Europe.
Half a year later, he introduced himself to the elite of the Parisian artistic community
at the Salle Pleyel.
The performance was a success.
Immediately, Chopin gained a prominent position in the music world.
In exile, he composed his greatest works.
Fryderyk Chopin died of tuberculosis on the 17th October 1849.
He was just 39 years old.
He was buried at the Père Lachaise cemetary in Paris.
The Polish poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid, who visited Chopin before his death,
wrote to Poland:
By birth a Varsovian, in his heart a Pole,
through his talent a citizen of the world –
Fryderyk Chopin has left this world.
Fryderyk never succeeded in returning to his homeland before the end of his life.
Yet after his death, Chopin’s eldest sister Ludwika fulfilled his dying wish
and brought his heart home to Warsaw.
It was a difficult and dangerous task.
Ludwika smuggled the heart across the border.
She hid it in a wooden box and covered it under her crinoline skirt.
She wanted to put this precious treasure in their family’s parish church.
The heart of Fryderyk Chopin rests in one of the columns
of Warsaw’s Holy Cross Church to this day.
The place is marked by a plaque bearing the words from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
During World War II, Fryderyk Chopin’s work was banned in Poland.
German occupants captured Warsaw and blew Chopin’s monument to bits.
Yet the monument was rebuilt,
and to this day draws fans from all over the world.
Fryderyk Chopin lives on in the heart of Warsaw.
Translated by Anna Piwowarska and Amy Drozdowska�