Bohemian Music had for some time been of great interest to Chopin, who attended Bratislava native Jan Nepomuk Hummel’s Warsaw concerts in April and May of 1828.Other Czech musicians whom he heard at various times in the Polish capital were oboist Frantisek Kohout, who presented his own compositions in concert and pianist Vaclav Wurfel, of celebrated name, who settled in Warsaw. It is said that he was Chopin’s closest friend and had at times taught the young Pole. It was Wurfel who influenced the nineteen-year old Chopin in his early compositional style.
The Czech Circle in Warsaw
Leopold Eustach Capek, another Czech musician, went to Warsaw in 1821 and became part of a Bohemian circle there. This colony also included Antonin Brezina, a bookshop owner and publisher who printed Chopin’s early works. The Slavonic political thought, which had been growing since the early nineteenth century, was also a factor in Chopin’s admiration for the Czechs, and fostered in him an urgent desire to see ‘The Golden Slavonic City of Prague.’
Chopin arrived in Bohemia on August 20, 1829. He was 19 years old. He and his travelling companions found rooms at the celebrated ‘Black Horse Hotel,’ which was situated next to the Powder Tower. Chopin soon had a guide to the city in Vaclav Hanka, the librarian at Prague’s Patriotic Museum. Five days after his arrival in Prague Chopin wrote a letter home in which he describes the short trip to Teplice Spa and the Waldstein Castle in Duchov. He also raved about the ‘ beautiful St. Wenceslas Chapel,’ and the warm reception he received from Johann Peter Pixis, the pianist, composer and teacher who, along with Chopin, Franz Liszt, Karl Czerny and Sigismond Thalberg later became a contributor to the composition ‘Hexameron’.
The Prague Mazurka had its beginning in a manuscript in Vaclav Hanka’s special ‘guest book’ which Chopin wrote instead of the customary autograph. The book , preserved to the present day, holds hundreds of priceless autographs and musings from Slavonic visitors from Poland and Russia. Chopin’s fellow traveller Ignacy Maciejowski’s contribution to the books was four verses addressing Hanka’s discovery of Old Bohemian manuscripts and his subsequent stewardship of these precious works. Chopin then wrote above these verses the first twelve bars of a Mazurka in G Major, followed by his name. “Hanka was greatly pleased and repeated that he had never seen anything like it in his visitors’ book,” said Chopin later.
The trip was a short one and Frederic Chopin was soon on his way back to Warsaw and his studies. But this visit to Bohemia and its musicians had a lasting effect on him and surely added a richness to his already beautiful compositions.