Episode 41: Chopin's Mummy Dearest

Polonaise in G minor, KK 889

rc-mom-200I congratulate you Mummy, on your name-day!
May the heavens fulfil what I feel in my heart
That you should always be well and happy, and
Have the longest and most satisfactory life.

Fryderyk Chopin, Tekla Justyna's second child and only son, wrote those adoring words to his mother on her name day in June of 1817 – the same year he wrote his first piece of music – the little Polonaise in G minor. Tekla Justyna Chopin was by all accounts utterly devoted to young Fryderyk. She sang and played music to him as an infant, and first sat him down on a piano stool at the age of four. By the time Chopin was six, he was improvising at the keyboard – and a year later writing ditties to his mother…both in prose and at the piano.

It was fitting that Chopin’s first piece would be a polonaise, for it was not his French father, but his Polish mother who passed on to Chopin “the soul of a Pole” - or zal – that peculiar mixture of longing, sadness, and regret.

In fact, the last time Justyna Chopin saw her son was a characteristic mix of joy and sorrow. Five years after he’d left Warsaw for good, Chopin and his parents were reunited in the spa town of Karlsbad. Chopin declared he was “at the height of my happiness.” Though when it came time to go, both mother and son were despondent: Justyna “barely kept her tears,” and Fryderyk “spent his day in his room, unable to come out and join us” – according to his hosts. Chopin was 25 years old; he would never see his mother again. But they never ceased corresponding, and his mother assured him, “God will send you friends who will take my place." - Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 41: Chopin's Mummy Dearest

Polonaise in G minor, KK 889