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Tradition / Chopin Institutions / Sites / memorabilia / in the Czech Republic



Historical monuments to Chopin in Bohemia (in the Czech Republic)


Fryderyk Chopin visited the territory of the present day Czech Republic on several occasions, travelling across this area three times on his way to Vienna. The first time, travelling from Cracow to Vienna, he crossed the border at Cieszyn on the 30th  of  July 1829 and then travelled non-stop across Moravia, passing Olomunc, Brno and Mikulov. The following day he  reached Vienna. No memorabilia has been preserved from that journey.  After an almost three-week stay in Vienna he set out on his way back to Warsaw, accompanied by his three friends, Ignacy Maciejewski, Alfons Brandt and a merchant from Gdansk by the name of  Norman.  Returning home, they took a different route.  A fast coach left Vienna's Stadt London Hotel (City of London Hotel) at 10 o'clock on the 19th of August 1829, which arrived at Znoymo the following morning, and reached Moravsky Budejovice at noon, and Jihlava in the evening. On the 21st of August the coach carrying Chopin and his friends went past Czesky Brod and  drove through the Prague gate stopping  in front of the Golden Angel Hotel (Beim goldenen Engel) in Celetna Street No 588.

It was at the same Golden Angel Hotel that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart stayed in 1787, and also Chopin's parents stayed there in 1835 on their way to Karlsbad via Prague. However, Fryderyk Chopin and his friends did not choose to stay at this hotel. After lunch they moved a little further on to the more modern and popular Zum schwarzen Ross Hotel (Black Horse Hotel) built in 1818 across the road from the historical Praszna Brana (The Powder Gate).  Shortly before Chopin's arrival, Niccolo Paganini, Michail Glinka, Stanisław Moniuszko, Richard Wagner and many other eminent representatives of the world of music and the arts, had stayed at this hotel.

This visit of Chopin to Prague was most fruitful and left numerous lasting records. A semi-official daily entitled Prager Zeitung (The Prague Gazette) No. 132, of the 23rd of August 1829 carried information about the arrival of Chopin, Maciejowski and Brandt. It is the first evidence in print of Chopin's stay in Prague.

During that stay Chopin met various interesting people: among others, Vaclav Hanka (1791 - 1861) a librarian of the Czech museum, a Polonophile, a Slavophile, and the leading figure of the rebirth of Czech nationalism, from whom Chopin learnt a lot about the history of Prague. Vaclav Hanka took Chopin and his friends on  sightseeing tours of Prague and entertained them with great hospitality. To thank him for his warm reception, they presented him with a composition known as The Prague Mazurka in G major, writing it in Hanka's album. Ignacy Maciejewski composed four stanzas of poetry and Fryderyk Chopin composed the music. The original manuscript, slightly damaged, can be seen in the library of the National Museum in Prague. The Black Horse Hotel was demolished at the beginning of the 20th century and a bank was built on its site. In 1961, a commemorative plaque recording Chopin's visit was placed on one of the walls. It reads: Fryderyk Chopin tvurce polske narodni hudby bydlil v roce 1829 a 1830 v dome ktery staval w techto mistech (Fryderk Chopin, composer of Polish national music, stayed here in 1829 and 1839, in the house that used to be on this site). The plaque with a bas-relief portrait is the work of the sculptress Maria Durasova.

On the 24th of August, Chopin travelled by a special coach to Teplitz (now Teplice) where he stayed for two days and spent half a day at nearby Dux (now Duchcov), visiting the local castle which is famous for the stay of many years by Giacomo Casanova.

In the first half of the 19th century Teplitz (now Teplice) was the best known Czech spa, visited by many eminent people from all over Europe, including visitors from Poland. After his arrival, Chopin met Ludwik Łempicki who organised a concert  at the Teplitz castle which belonged to the ducal family of Clary-Aldringen. The programme of Chopin's concert featured various variations and improvisations and was received very well by the audience who mentioned it in numerous diaries and letters. The only permanent trace of Chopin's visit to Teplitz is a piano at the Regional Museum. The piano carries a  plaque in German, saying that on the 25th of August 1829 Fryderyk Chopin performed on it. On the 26th of August, Chopin and his friends left Teplitz setting out for Dresden and Warsaw. Chopin visited Teplitz on two more occasions, in 1835 and 1836, at the invitation of his Czech friends, but apart from entries in diaries marking his stay, no other memorabilia survived.

The  second time Chopin arrived in Prague was in 1830 when he was on the way from Dresden to Vienna. After a whole night of travel by coach, Fryderyk and his companion, Tytus Woyciechowski, reached Prague early, between 6 and 7 o'clock, on Saturday, the 20th of  November 1830. As in his previous visit, he put up in the same hotel called Zum schwarzen Ross (The Black Horse). At first he planned a longer stay in Prague but he had to change these plans because the weather was absolutely terrible, and Chopin caught a cold so that he kept to his room and had to resort to medical treatment. His visit to Prague lasted only 34 hours and turned out to be just a stop on the way because Chopin cancelled all his meetings in order to get to Vienna as soon as possible. This short visit is confirmed both by information in Prager Zeitung (The Prague Gazette) No.184 of the 23rd of November 1830, and by reminiscences in letters to his family.

Fryderyk Chopin made a longer and more important stay in Bohemia in 1835 when he met his parents in the spa of Karlsbad (now Karlovy Vary).

Fryderyk's parents arrived in Karlsbad on the 15th of August after a three day stop in Prague at Beim goldenen Engel (The Golden Angel Hotel). The Chopins took lodgings near the Karlovy Vary springs in the vincinity of St Mary Magdalene church at the spa house No. 141 called Zur Goldenen Rose (The Golden Rose), later renamed as The Havana Hotel. After a long journey from Paris, Fryderyk arrived in Karlsbad on the same day. This was their first reunion for five years. The Chopins stayed in Karlsbad until the 6th of  September enjoying their spa therapy, visiting castles in the neighbourhood and meeting acquaintances, many of them Poles also staying at the spa. Fryderyk, naturally, kept being invited to private parties during which he was asked to play the piano at the request of his hosts. This stay was recorded many times in hotel registers and in family and friends' correspondence, as well as in the press, for example The Polish Emigration Weekly. Fryderyk spent most of the time in the company of the composer Josef Dessauer and the young count Fritz Thun who wrote about it to his family. Evidence  to this effect is provided by 22 letters kept today in the State Archives in Decin. The castle, in what was called Tetschen at the time, which was visited by the Chopins and their son, belonged to the Thun-Hohenstein family.

The house in Karlovy Vary in which the Chopins stayed was demolished together with the neighbouring buildings in the second half of the 20th century.  However, a magnificent sculpted marble plaque with a portrait of the composer, the work of Antoni Popiel of Lvov, provides important  proof of Chopin's stay in the town. The plaque was placed on a rocky face on the main avenue of the upper park on the 4th of July 1908 on the initiative of the local authority. Unfortunately, in the seventies the marble plaque began to crumble and was taken down, but after general repair and conservation it is now back in place.

On completing their spa treatment in Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary), Chopin's parents, together with Fryderyk, travelled to Teplitz on the 7th of September for a week-long holiday. There is little information about this visit except that it was mainly devoted to rest and social life. On the 13th of September the Chopins and their son arrived at the castle in Tetschen at the invitation of the Thun family. It was an important moment in Fryderyk's life. It was there that he saw his parents for the last time in his life. They left for Poland the following day. Reports of this visit have survived in the family correspondence of the Chopins and the Thuns. It was also here that Fryderyk composed the so-called Tetschen Waltz in A flat major op.34 no.1 and wrote it in the diary of the young countesses. On the 19th of September Fryderyk departed for Paris, stopping for a few days in Dresden where he met the  Wodziński family. This meeting was of considerable importance in Fryderyk's life as he met  Maria Wodzińska and was most impressed by her, which prompted him to travel again to Bohemia a year later.

The Wodzińskis arrived in Marienbad (now: Marianske Lazne) on the 9th of July 1836 and took up residence at Zum weissen Schwan (the White Swan) in Kaiserstrasse which is now called Dum Chopin (The Chopin House) at Hlavni Strida 47.  When Fryderyk learnt about their stay there, he set out immediately, leaving Paris on the 19th of  July and arrived in Marienbad on the 28th of July, where he took rooms in the same hotel. There is little information about this four-week stay because Fryderyk did not write any letters and devoted all his time to resting, or taking long walks with his beloved Maria Wodzińska, as well as giving frequent concerts for friends and numerous acquaintances from Poland, all of whom continually pressed him to play for them. We know about this from the accounts of other people, particularly from Józefa Kościelska, Maria's sister.

Fryderyk's stay in Marienbad was recorded for posterity in water-colour portraits of the composer, painted by Maria Wodzińska, which are now in the National Museum collection in Warsaw and in the  Historical Museum in Lvov. There is also a lithograph based on these portraits.

On the 24th of August, Fryderyk and the Wodziński family left Marienbad, stopping in Teplitz for three days,  and arriving in Dresden on the 29th of August, where they parted. These happy days in Marienbad were often mentioned by Fryderyk and their mood was reflected in his music.

One of the walls of the Zum weissen Schwan (The White Swan) was decorated with two plaques in French and in Polish on the first floor, which were unveiled on the 31st of July 1902.  They were made in Cracow in cooperation with the Warsaw Music Society. On the 5th of May 1957, a further commemorative plaque, bearing a portrait of the composer, was unveiled next to the entrance. It was sculpted by Antonin Kuchar and the inscription reads in Czech, "Zde zil 1836  Fryderyk Chopin, tvurce polske narodni hudby" ("In 1836, Fryderyk Chopin, the Polish national music composer stayed here").

In 1960, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum was opened in The White Swan. It brings together numerous memorabilia connected with the composer's stay in Bohemia, his music, and material from research into his life and work.

In the spa park, a grand monument, sculpted by  Karl Otahal, was erected in 1960. Every year in August, the International Chopin Festival takes place here, and every two years competitions for young pianists are held. They are organised by the Fryderyk Chopin Society, which was set up in 1959, and which continues its efforts to preserve the memory of the great composer and his music. The local school of music has also been named after Fryderyk Chopin, and a commemorative plaque created by the sculptor, Vitezslav Eibl, was placed at the entrance to the school on 26 August 1978.


  Witold Straus

English translation: Magda Mierowska





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