Dresden, panorama

Dresden, panorama of the city, view over the royal residence, steel engraving after a painting by Otto Hagner, 1837, photographic print from the collection of Maria Mirska. Collection: Photographic collection of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw [F.3862].


Here is an extract from a letter written by Chopin in Dresden to his parents on 26 August 1829, on the way back from a trip to Vienna: ‘To the Honourable Lord and Lady Chopin, Warsaw professor and his wife, and to my Dear Begetters on this occasion from their son sojourning in Dresden. I am healthy and cheerful as can be. A week ago to the day, in Vienna, I did not yet know that I would be in Dresden. […] Starting out yesterday at 5 a.m. with a driver hired for two thalers, we arrived in Dresden at 4 p.m. I immediately met the Lewińskis and the Łabędzkis. My journey is shaping up very nicely; today Goethe’s Faust, and on Saturday, so Klengel has told me, an Italian opera. The letter commenced yesterday evening, I shall finish this morning. I am getting dressed and going to Baron Kreise and Morlacchi, as there is no time to lose. We had intended to leave here a week from now, but first we will visit Saxon Switzerland, if the weather is propitious. After spending a couple of days in Wrocław, only then will we leave there for home. I hie to you such, my dearest parents, that I would not like to call on Mr and Mrs Wiesiołowski. What tales and adventures I have to tell you, fine indeed, most fine. PS the ‘Maître de Cremonie’, Baron de Friesen, received me cordially and asked me where I stood; he declared that the chamberlain in charge of the chapel was not in Dresden at present, but that he would find out who is standing in for him; and that although my sojourn in this city was short, he would make every effort to be of some service to me at least in something. Much ceremonial bowing. I’ll keep the rest for the letter which I’ll have sent in a week at the earliest or a week and a half from Wrocław. I have paid visits to the picture gallery here, an exhibition of works, ampler gardens, and now I am going to the theatre; I think that will be enough for one day! PS two. My letter waited till late in the evening; I have just returned from Faust. One had to stand outside the theatre from half past four; the show lasted from 6 till 11. Devrient, whom I have already seen in Berlin, played Faust. Just today they have been celebrating Goethe’s eightieth birthday. A dreadful, but great fantasy. During the entr’actes they played excerpts from Spohr’s opera of the same name… I am going to bed… Tomorrow morning I’ll be waiting for Morlacchi, with whom I am going to Miss Pechwell. Not I to him, but he comes to me. Ha, ha, ha… Goodnight! Your Fryderyk. 


His second visit to Dresden is connected with the journey to Vienna which Fryderyk began on 2 November 1830 and continued from Kalisz in the company of Tytus Woyciechowski. The two friends stopped in Dresden from 12 to 19 November: ‘a week has flown by without me even noticing’. He listens repeatedly to the playing of the pianist Antoinette Pechwell. In the cathedral he attends the rehearsals of Francesco Morlacchi’s Vespers, the performers including celebrated Neapolitan sopranos by the name of Sassarolli and Tarquinio. At the Opera he sees Auber’s La muette de Portici and Rossini’s Tancredi. He again meets and plays with the pianist August Alexander Klengel. He plays and improvises among society at a Polish dinner. The Komars’ home is believed to be where he first met Delfina Potocka; in the salon of Salomea Dobrzycka he is applauded by Saxon princesses, and at the Pruszaks’ by General Karol Otton Kniaziewicz. He receives letters of recommendation for Italy. Another visit to the Dresden picture gallery literally strikes a chord within him: “Were I to live here, I would go there every week, as there are pictures at the sight of which I seem to hear music”.’ [Tomaszewski, Chopin…].


Fryderyk’s third stay in Dresden is linked to the following story: on 19 September 1835, following a month spent with his parents in Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) and Tetschen (Děčín), Chopin travels to Dresden, where he meets with the Wodziński family. (This is possibly when Chopin began his ill-fated romance with the sixteen-year-old Maria Wodzińska.) Apparently by chance, Chopin encountered in the city a member ‘of the family of Wincenty Wodziński, from Służewo in Cuiavia (his sons lived in Warsaw at the boarding school run by Mikołaj Chopin). A contemporary diarist, Count Józef Krasiński, noted: “Chopin did not give a concert in Dresden, but at an evening in their home for invited guests, he played his compositions for us, improvised and played variations—including ‘Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła’, or ‘D±browski’s Mazur’ [now the Polish national anthem, trans.], and exquisite variations on its theme of his own composition. […] He delighted us the whole evening long—and then the next morning I was summoned to the Russian Embassy and asked how I could be in a home where patriotic, revolutionary songs were being sung. I replied that they were not revolutionary at all, but old, that they were not sung at all, but Chopin played variations on the theme of an old mazur. That I did not know he would be playing, and that finally how could I dictate to a musician what and how he is to improvise in someone else’s home. – I shall never forget what Richter [the ambassador’s secretary] replied: If, Sir, you wish to be a loyal subject of the Monarch […] then you should have shoved such a demagogue as Chopin out the door!!!” Krasiński was refused an extension to his residence permit and the Wodzińskis were “ordered to leave Dresden”.