“A native of Warsaw, a Pole at heart, with the talent of a world citizen” Cyprian Kamil Norwid.
It’s the bicentennial of the legendary composer’s, Freyderyk Chopin’s birth. The native son is celebrating his 200th birthday with a plethora of celebrations.
In Poland, especially Warsaw, much has been happening since the beginning of the year for the beloved and cherished musical son. Although I had only a day before I was off to Lithuania, I did have a guide who decided I should see some of the city’s celebrations and as we walked along on this warm sunny end of September day, Olga pointed out some of the most innovative ideas which were all about the most famous Varsovian. Although Chopin lived until he was only 39, it was in Warsaw that he studied and was education. Actually the true birth city is Zelazowa Wola but the Chopin family moved permanently to Warsaw thus his is known as a local. He began studying piano by the time he was six and his teacher very quickly realized his exceptional talent of this child prodigy who also started to compose his own compositions by the time he was eight.
Coincidences occur often when one travels as much as I do, but stranger still was that I couldn’t’ see the original musical scores while there. They are on a time limited loan to the ROM from the Fryderky Chopin Museum in Warsaw.
Last time I was in Warsaw I was enchanted by the Chopin concert, weather permitting, every Sunday in the always fully packed Lazienki Park under a huge bronze sculpture of this noted composer. It’s a weekly occasion where afterwards, if you didn’t have reservations at the park’s restaurant, you can amble by the 17th century Belvedere Palace, that of Prince Konstantin palaces of the king and one estate of his mistress.
The city is certainly celebrating and one can’t walk down the main streets and not be aware of music. The stroll down a few of the city centre streets such Krawkowskie and Nowy Swiat Streets had me intrigued so that I spent much time listening to the wondrous sounds.
But the piano ‘concerts are coming from marble street benches. These self guided tours have audio guides where one has only to press a button to hear a short except of different romantic compositions. There are 14 such seats placed in front of various well known sites and from which they take their name. For instance Zamoyski Palace (Palac Zamoyskiego) and where his youngest sister Izabela, kept many of her brother’s possession. Czapski Palace is also where the Chopins lived in a wing of the Palace and where a salon was recreated in the sixties .Then there are Kazimierzowskyui Palace (Palac Kazimierzowski) and the Church of the Visitation (kosciol Wizytek) with their benches. The 17th Radziwill, Presidential Palace (palac Radziwillow/Prezydencki) is where the eight year old Fryderyk gave his first public concert and Res Sacra Miser Building (Budynek Res Sacra Misers) is where Chopin’s concert prompted a newspaper to write that “after the sixth night of the musical event, we can no longer be jealous of Vienna doe having J.P. Liszt; our capital has someone equal to him and perhaps even more perfect:” Again, you’ll find people standing to hear the piano concertos. Some cafes on Miodows Street and Krasinki Square are some of the locations where these benches are also located. On each bench, there’s a route map of the walk and inserted is a small image in photocode and the music can be downloaded to your mobile phone. The baroque classical Frederyk Chopin Museum, has a priceless collections of manuscripts and memorabilia .
It was at the Kordegarda , the Chopin Information Centre, that I listened to someone playing Chopin at a piano in an alcove and for those who choose, and have some ability, they can play on Chopin’s piano. A young man of about 25, sat absorbed and focused so that he wasn’t aware of the attention and audience his fine playing had attracted. A plus is that the pianist can have their performance recorded. And although I had wanted to see an amber exhibit at a nearby gallery, I soon discovered that this shop cum café was a much favoured meeting place where Chopin visited almost daily.
However, his last concert in Warsaw was in October 1830 and soon after he moved to Vienna. By 1831 he had already moved to Paris where his lived until his death I 1849. Obviously and literally, his heart was in Warsaw. Although his is buried in the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery, his heart is buried in Holy Cross Church (kosciot sw. Kryza) in Warsaw.