Photo collage by gracious permission from Hanna Komarnicki (“Chopin’s Europe”)

MINI BIO PART 3: Interlude: Bohemia & Saxony

Buoyant with hope and aspiration, Chopin, with his three traveling companions, returned home after his first visit to Vienna by way of Prague. For Chopin, in addition to visiting Bohemia’s beautiful captial city as a tourist, it continued his Mozart Odyssey that took him just weeks before to Vienna to promote his newly published Op. 2, Variations on La ci darem la mano. Chopin also visited St. Vitus Cathedral, the venue of Rosetti’s Requiem on the death of Mozart. The young visitors also met Vaclav Hanka, the curator of the National Museum, where one of the group, Ignacy Maciejowski, inscribed two stanzas in his Visitor’s Book, to which Chopin added a Mazurka.

The group continued to Teplice, where there was yet another Mozart connection which Chopin visited: Wallenstein’s Castle in nearby Duchcov, where Casanova, who had advised Mozart on matters of love during the writing of Don Giovanni, worked as librarian to Count Waldstein.

Dresden, the next stop, was the capital of Saxony, which had a strong Polish connection: the last Kings of Poland were Saxons. Thus, the magnificent city had a sizable Polish community, to Chopin’s delight.

Fast forward six years. Bohemia was the setting, in 1835, of Chopin’s aborted love affair with Maria Wodzinska. Chopin was invited (by chance) to Karlove Vary by the Wodzinski family where he was reacquainted with Maria, whom he taught when she was nine years old (7 years earlier). He was smitten at the sight of the beautiful young woman she had become, fell in love, and copied his Waltz in A-flat, Op. 69 No. 1 into her music album. Maria’s mother initially approved of their subsequent engagement, but her father had strong reservations because of Chopin’s ill health (and  what else, social status), and the engagement was called off. It took Chopin a long time to get over the end of the affair.

Have a listen to “Pierscien” (The Ring), a Chopin song written for Maria in Marienbad. The poem was written by Stefan Witwicki.