Episode 51: Bright Lights Big City

Rondo a la Krakowiak in F Major, Op. 14

rc-brightlights-200On September 9, 1828, an 18-year-old Chopin left Warsaw on his first journey to one of the grand capitals of Europe: Berlin. He was full of high hopes and anticipation. One of his ambitions was to see fellow prodigy Felix Mendelssohn, only a year his senior. He did, but was too shy to introduce himself. Chopin also took in a performance of Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütz. It made an impression on him that would last a lifetime.

Visiting Berlin left Chopin feeling confined in parochial Warsaw, so he jumped at the chance to accompany three friends to Vienna in July, 1829. Vienna – Europe’s city of music, the city of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert.

The Austrian capital ultimately proved an inhospitable place for Chopin's musical ambitions, but during his first visit, he reveled in the artistic atmosphere of the city, and met everyone worth knowing. The musical élite of Vienna soon pressed him to give not one concert, but two. He had intended to play his Rondo a la Krakowiak at the first, but the orchestra’s parts were an illegible mess, so the work had to wait until the second concert. The Viennese press was enthusiastic. One reviewer wrote, “His interpretations and his compositions both bear the stamp of genius…[He] appears on the horizon like a most brilliant meteor.”

Chopin was indeed about to take the music world by storm. But not quite yet. He returned to Warsaw one last time and spent thirteen restless months at home before being lured back to the bright lights of the big city forever. - Rachel Stewart

Radio Chopin Episode 51: Bright Lights Big City

Rondo a la Krakowiak in F Major, Op. 14