Chopin and Krakow

Chopin may not have had much association with Krakow, but he has not been forgotten by Poland´s cultural capital. There are a couple of venues where you will be able to hear recitals dedicated to the Polish master such as the splendid Pod Baranami Palace and in the spectacular 16th century hall of the Bonerowski Palace both of which are on Krakow´s main square.

Frederic Chopin is a national hero in Poland. He was born in 1810 to a Polish mother and a French father in a little village called Żelazowa Wola 46km west of Warsaw. When Chopin was just seven months old, the family moved to the capital where studied music and attended the Warsaw University. It is not known how much time Chopin actually spent in Krakow, though he would almost certainly have visited with his family.

He would have probably performed in Krakow as well at some point, but the talented composer suffered from illness all through his life and died in Paris at the relatively young age of 39. Because he spent his entire professional career away from Poland it is not recorded whether he played in Krakow as a young boy.

Chopin left Poland at the age of 20 and travelled to Vienna with a friend. However, the Warsaw Uprising broke out not long after their arrival and his friend felt compelled to return to his homeland to join the rebellion against the Russians. Chopin would continue his journey to France alone and along the way learned the Uprising had been crushed. He wrote in his diary about the fear for the safety of his family and of Polish women who would surely be violated by Russian troops.

Although Chopin would never return to his homeland until after his death, something he had stipulated in his will and was a patriotic thing to do at the time, Poland never really left him. After several nuances with Polish women in France he fell in love with the French writer Amantine Dupin, who famously wrote under the pen name George Sands. Amantine used to comment that Chopin was more Polish than Poland.

He was clearly proud of his heritage and continued many Polish traditions whilst living in Paris and his memories of Warsaw crept into his work, including songs to Polish lyrics. His choice in career was clearly more influenced by his polish mother and it is said that as a very young boy he would weep listening to her play piano. By the age of six he was replicating the tunes she played and at seven he composed the Polonaise in G-minor and B-flat major and began performing in public.

Chopin was something of a child prodigy and at the age of 11 performed in the presence of Tsar Alexander I of Russia. He went on to become one of the great masters of romantic music. He reinvented Polish folk dances such as the Polonaise and the Mazurka, and invented many other instrumental ballades and other esteemed creations including the piano sonata,  waltz, nocturne,  impromptu, scherzo and prélude, the vast majority of which were for the piano. He died in Paris on 17th October 1849.