Collage of images from “Chopin’s Europe” Photos courtesy Hanna Komarnicki
MINI BIO PART 2: First Trip to Vienna
Chopin visited Vienna twice. To all musicians, both aspiring and established, the capital city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was the ultimate Mecca, the city of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert. Chopin felt its pull. However, Beethoven and Schubert had died, a year apart, not three years before Chopin’s visit, and already the cultural decline of the world’s music capital was under way. Paris was now becoming the New Vienna, the city in which it was de rigueur to be seen and, above all, heard.
For Chopin, his first visit to Vienna at the end of July, 1829, was a tentative step away from an increasingly provincial Warsaw, into the wider European scene. His passport, appropriately, was his Variations on La ci darem la mano, from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He had previously sent the manuscript to Vienna’s leading publisher, an approving Tobias Haslinger. To complement its publication that very month, Chopin performed this work twice before ecstatic audiences.
In short, Chopin’s first visit to Vienna at age 19 was a short, deliberate and intense enterprise lasting 18 days (if we don’t count the days of arrival and departure). In that brief period, he met Vienna’s musical illuminati, finalized the publication of his Op. 2, and gave two major concerts in the course of one week. He felt energized with hopes of further fame and fortune as he left Vienna with his four friends, bound for home and hearth via Prague and Dresden.
As we celebrate the approach of Chopin’s 204th birthday, we offer his Opus 2 in two iterations, first as written with orchestra, and then, as a reduction for solo piano.
Happy Birthday, Fryderyk Chopin!