Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Finding More Chopin Sites in Warsaw (Vol. 7, No. 8)

Inspired by the "eye of an aspen tree" found in one of Warsaw's parks, I went on to seek more traces of Chopin in Warsaw, and found some places I did not see before. . . 

The Krasinski Palace, view from the Krasinski Park

A famous aristocratic family of Chopin's time that had a palace in Warsaw was the Krasinski family, today mostly remembered for its most famous son, Zygmunt Krasinski (), poet, philosopher, essayis, and drama writer.  Zygmunt Napoleon Stanisław Adam Ludwik Krasiński - was the son of General Wincenty Krasiński who served in Napoleon's army and was the Commandor of the Legion of honor, the count of Napoleonic empire, but laster also the general for Tsars Alexander I and Nicolas I. The Emperor Napoleon was the Godfather to the son of his favorite general.  Krasinski was raised in this palace and studied at the University of Warsaw.  Since 1929 contuned to study in Geneva and moved to Paris after the uprising (that he did not participate in  and was ostracized by his colleagues). A friend of fellow great romantic poets, Adam Mickiewicz, Cyprian Kamil Norwid and Juliusz Słowacki. In 1838-1846, he was in a romantic relationship with Countess Delfiną Potocką, one of Chopin's staunchest supporters. It is Delfina who provides the link between Chopin and the Krasinskis.

The National Theater where Chopin gave his public concert and attended opera performances in the late 1820s was located at Krasinski Square across the street from the Krasinski Palace. According to Chopin's Life on NIFC website,  Chopin's works performed there included "the Concerto in F minor, Op. 21 and Fantasy on Polish Airs, Op. 13, performed with the accompaniment of an orchestra directed by Karol Kurpiński. A second performance, with a similar repertory, was held several days later, on 22 March, 1830 and Chopin's farewell concert, his last in Poland, took place on 11 October 1830."

The Concerto in F minor, composed in 1829-1830, was dedicated to Delfina Potocka, the beloved of Zygmunt Krasinski, mentioned above. More information can be found on NIFC website:
You might also want to listen to this work in one of the many renditions on YouTube:

The building of the National Theater has not survived and the Monument to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 is now located in this space.  To the left is the tall columnade of the Warsaw Courts,surrounded by tents of protesters these days...

Plac Krasinskich (Krasinski Square)

Please note that while Chopin's biographies point out that his family lived in the Krasinski Palace in 1827-1830, it was another palace in a different location, on Krakowskie Przedmiescie, across the street from the main gate to the University of Warsaw. A small museum of the Chopin Salon is now housed inside the building which serves as the Academy of Fine Arts.

From the Krasinski Square let's walk towards the Old Town along the Miodowa Street, lined with palaces of Polish aristocracy, some of them with links to Chopin, pointed out by signs. The Mlodziejowski Palace at Miodowa 10 (also called Morsztyn Palace), was the site of Chopin's first public concert in December 1829.

The only Mlodziejowski appearing in Chopin-related "persons" on the website of National Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Poland was an artist active in the early 20th century, so there were no personal Mlodziejowski friends or connections worthy of being noted.

The Mlodziejowski Palace, at Miodowa 10, was built in 17th century and expanded in 1766-1771. Its 1804-11 reconstruction changed it into a classicist design that stands now. Interestingly, the design was by Fryderyk Albert Lessel (1767-1822) of the same name, but unrelated to Franciszek Lessel (1780-1838) a Polish composer and administrator of the Czartoryski family estates.

Right next to it, at Miodowa 6-8, is the Branicki Palace, now closed to the public and serving as a seat for Warsaw City government. It was built by the aristocratic Branicki family for Prince Jan K. Branicki in 18th century.  Burnt down during the bombing of Warsaw by Germans in 1939, it was rebuilt after the war (completed in 1967) on the basis of detailed paintings by Bernardo Belotto Canaletto, whose views of Warsaw helped rebuilt the destroyed city.

While Chopin has not performed in this palace while in Warsaw, his links to the Branickis is through Countess Katarzyna Branicka (1825-1907), to whom he dedicated his last published Waltz,, Op. 64, No. 3, in A flat major, composed in 1846-47. The Countess was just 21 at that time and lived in Paris. She later married Count Adam Jozef Potocki, in 1854, returned to Poland, and went on to become a notable art collector.

According to Mieczyslaw Tomaszewski, this waltz "at first glance, is cheerful, high-spirited, boisterous even. The next moment, however, those first impressions are dispelled. What remains is music that seems to be seeking – relentlessly, but hopelessly – its proper tone, or perhaps a way out, repeating the same pattern on successive tonal planes: in F minor, in B flat major, then in G flat major. Yet the narration does eventually arrive at its goal, which is the music of the trio (in C major), filled with a simple, hushed song in cello timbres. In keeping with the laws of the form (the dance with trio), the music of the beginning, that path-seeking music, returns. Before that, however, transitional music is heard: sketched with a subtle line and endowed with the harmonic half-light of chromatic hues."

Here are various performances of this Waltz, posted on YouTube: http://en.chopin.nifc.pl/chopin/youtube/search/composition_id/261

Plac Zamkowy near former location of Warsaw Conservatory.

Just a couple block further down Miodowa Street, if you turn left towards the Castle Square - Plac Zamkowy, you will stand where the Warsaw Conservatory used to be and Chopin's teacher, Jozef Elsner used to live. The street no longer exist, as it was demolished during the post-WWII reconstruction of the Old Town that partly changed the configuration of streets.

                                 Teatr Wielki Opery i Baletu - Grand Theater of Opera and Ballet

From Miodowa Street it is just a short walk to the Plac Teatralny, known in Chopin's time as Marywilski. The monumental building that now stands in the middle of it was rebuilt after its total destruction by Germans during WWII; it was bombed in 1939 during the siege of Warsaw.  In 1945-1965 performances took place in other location while the Grand Theater rose from ruins. It was not only rebuilt but modernized and expanded.

The original Teatr Wielki was erected in 1825-1833  based on a design by Antonio Corazzi. When Chopin lived in Warsaw, National Opera performed at another stage, on Plac Krasinskich, and only the walls of the Teatr Wielki were rising up in this place.  The building currently houses National Opera, Polish National Ballet, National Theater, and Opera Museum.

Once you walk through the Plac Teatralny to Senatorska and you reach the Plac Bankowy, you may miss a now neglected palace associated with two aristocratic families closely linked to Chopin, of the Princes Czartoryskis and Counts Zamoyskis. Prince Adam Czartoryski was the leader of post-1830 emigration in Paris and his Palace Lambert was the site of many Chopin's concerts and visits through his Parisian years.  The Czartoryski palace in Warsaw, called the Azure Palace (or Blue Palace), is located at the corner of Senatorska Street and the Plac Bankowy (Bank Square). First built in the 17th century, it was reconstructed and expanded in accordance with a design by Fryderyk A. Lessel in 1812-1819.  In 1808-1816 it was used by Princess Maria Czartoryska for her Azure Salons, frequented by poets and writers dedicated to the promotion of Polish language and culture. Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz was one of the guests and his "Historical Chants" arose in this circle of patriotic aristocracy, with many countesses and noble ladies composing music or illustrations for the volume of Niemcewicz's poetry that was to determine the image of Polish history for the next hundred years. 

The Azure Palace on Senatorska Steet, left wing.

Chopin dedicated his Rondo a la Krakowiak in F major, Op. 14 from 1828 to Princess Anna Czartoryska, the wife of Prince Adam Czartoryski mentioned above.  She was especially close to Chopin in their years of Parisian exile. He enjoyed performing during their "musical evenings" and often "improvised delightful fantasies on Polish melodies."  Another, more famous Princess Czartoryska associated with Chopin, Marcelina, was actually a Princess due to her marriage to the son of Prince Adam Alexander, and grandson of Prince Adam, that is Prince Alexander Romuald. Princess Marcelina studied piano with Czerny in Vienna and with Chopin since 1844 or 47 in Paris. She performed as a pianist in solo recitals and charitable events, and traveled widely through Europe. Remembered for taking care of Chopin during his last illness, she later become one of the principal guardians of his oeuvre and tradition as a performer and composer, a Chopin institution in her own right. 

You may listen to various renditions of the Rondo a la Krakowiak on YouTube: 
And find out more about this work (its manuscript is in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow):

To return to Warsaw, the Azure Palace, since 1811 later served as the home to Countess Zofia Zamoyska, one of Czartoryski sisters, daughters of Princess Izabela Czartoryski Fleming. Chopin gave many performances in Zamoyska's salons prior to his departure from Warsaw in November 1830. According to NIFC, "Chopin, who is believed to have first played at the Zamoyski salon as a sixteen-year-old, was invited to the Blue Palace many times as a young man. One of these recitals took place in May 1826. Chopin recalled that evening in a letter to Jan Białobłocki: 'On Sunday, a week ago to the day, I was at the Zamoyskis', where Długosz's aeolopantalon was admired virtually the whole evening long.'." The building now seems abandoned as it waits for its reconstruction by new/old owner after it was returned to private hands. 

The Azure Palace, corner of Senatorska Street and Plac Bankowy.

In addition to spending evenings with the aristocracy, the young composer also frequented cafes in the area of Miodowa, Kozia, and Krakowskie Przedmiescie. According to his biography on NIFC Website: "he also occasionally dropped in to some famous Warsaw cafes: to ‘Kopciuszek’ [Cinderella] or to the ‘Dziurka’ [Hole], both on Miodowa street (in the Tepper Palace), to the ‘Honoratka’ opposite, and to Brzezińska’s cafe on Kozia Street. This last establishment was mentioned by Wójcicki: ‘During Podczaszyński’s stay in our city, this cafe began to be frequented by Maurycy Mochnacki, Konstanty Gaszyński, Leon Zienkowicz, the last two editors of the Pamiętnik dla Płci Pięknej, and Dominik Magnuszewski, together with his friend Fryderyk Szopen, who was setting off on a journey abroad’. The cafes were the focus for political and literary life, and the birth-place of the trend of ‘dynamic romanticism.’"

Mural with the history of Brzezinska Cafe, later known as Telimena 

Visiting Chopin in Brzezinska Cafe, where Chopin was "almost daily" - per the inscription.

While walking from palace to palace, I traversed two beautiful parks, Park Krasinskich and Ogrod Saski (Saxon Garden in English translations of Polish maps, but better stick to "Saski")  filled with majestic ancient chesnuts and maples. Some of them probably date back to Chopin's time, such as the chesnut with green lichen on its trunk below, found in the Saski Garden (Ogrod Saski). At the  end of this alley the Saski Palace once stood, now only the Tomb to the Unknown Soldier remains while the entire palace is gone.

This chesnut tree looks huge and ancient. Was it there when Chopin played in the Ogrod Saski?

Ogrod Saski, main alley towards the former Saski Palace.

Chopin spent first seven years of his life in the Saxon Palace (Palac Saski), that was destroyed during WWII and not rebuilt after the war. His father was a teacher in Warsaw Lyceum located in one of the Saxon Palace's wings and the family stayed there until 1817. According to NIFC Website, "Mrs Justyna Chopin will certainly have taken Ludwika and little Frycek to the nearby park. Given Fryderyk's fondness for walks around the city, we can assume that a dozen years or so later he visited this beautiful spot on many occasions in the company of friends. Some biographers have even held that he used to come here with Konstancja Gładkowska, although there is no information regarding such romantic walks in mentions of Fryderyk's contacts with his first love. The Saxon Garden was part of the 'Saxon Axis'-a complex of royal residences and gardens belonging to Augustus II the Strong, created in the years 1713-33 to the king's commission by Jan Krzysztof Naumann and Mateusz Daniel Pöppelmann. By 1727 the Garden had become the first public park in Warsaw. During Chopin's lifetime, it was redesigned by James Savage in the spirit of an English landscape garden."

After walking along Krolewska Street on the right side of the gardens, all the way back to Krakowskie Przedmiescie, you may see the Church of Visitation (Kosciol Wizytek) where the young Chopin played the organ.  The church is next to the statue of poet Adam Mickiewicz, another famous emigre who spent half of his life in Paris, from 1830 to 1855.

Wizytki Church next to Adam Mickiewicz Monument, Krakowskie Przedmiescie.

Turn right, walk towards Nowy Swiat,  and stop in front of the University of Warsaw (where Chopin lived with his family in the Kazimierzowski Palace). Across the street is the former Krasinski Palace, i..e. the Academy of Fine Arts, and a Chopin Piano Bench marks this spot. You can listen for a while to the Minute Waltz, in the middle of a busy street...

If you continue to walk along, soon you will stand in front of Church of the Holy Cross (Kosciol Sw. Krzyza) where Chopin's heart rests in one of the pillars in the main nave. 

Chopin's heart is in this pillar in the Church of the Holy Cross.

The location of these and other landmarks of Chopin's Warsaw may be found on the website: 


The last encounter with Chopin during my trip was at the Chopin Airport, when I noticed a piano and a pianist practicing his Chopin amidst all the commotion and crowds of passengers running to catch the planes, or resting between flights...