Maria Szymanowska

Maria Szymanowska


Maria Szymanowska (1789–1831)

Antoni Borel, lithograph, after a drawing from nature by Józef Oleszkiewicz, first half of 19th c., 370 x 285.

Collection: Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw [Gr.Pol.15001].

The license is accorded by the owner.


In the years 1815–1828, the Polish pianist and composer Maria Szymanowska undertook numerous concert tours all over Europe, gaining a reputation as an outstanding pianist. Most important in her compositional output (her oeuvre numbers around one hundred compositions) are piano works, comprising dance miniatures (mazurkas, polonaises and waltzes) and other pieces (nocturnes, etudes), in which Szymanowska exploits the instrument’s technical and timbral possibilities. In her mazurkas, she addressed the question of national style in Polish music, as is expressed in the references these works contain to Polish folk music. It is difficult not to notice the concordance with the titles of later works by Chopin, who met Szymanowska on several occasions; indeed, he was ‘shown’ to every personage arriving in Warsaw. Moreover, he followed attentively the concert life of Warsaw, in which there was no lack of contemporary piano music. On 15 January and 7 February 1827, Maria Szymanowska performed at the Teatr Narodowy, playing concertos by Hummel and Klengel and works by Ries. In a letter to Jan Białobłocki of 8 January 1827, Chopin wrote: ‘Mrs Szymanowska is giving a concert this week. It is to be on Friday with a raised price; apparently half a ducat the parterre, a ducat the stalls, and so on. – I shall be there without fail and will let you know how she plays and is received’ [Sydow, i, 75]. It is not known what Chopin thought of Maria Szymanowska’s concert.