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Episode 54: Vexed in Vienna

Waltz in E-flat, Op. 18

rc-vienna-200Fryderyk Chopin spent a heady few weeks in Vienna in July and August of 1829 ingratiating himself into élite artistic circles, playing two very successful concerts, and receiving rave reviews from critics.

But lightning doesn’t strike twice.

Encouraged by his exciting and successful sojourn in 1829, a restless Chopin returned to Vienna in November 1830. He fully expected the city to welcome him with open arms, but he was quickly disappointed. There was no real interest in arranging a paying concert. The publisher Tobias Haslinger who had previously published some of his works refused to put out any more of his music. (Apparently, Chopin’s compositions were sufficiently difficult to discourage the average pianist.) To maintain his network, he felt obliged to attend endless boring parties and dances.

Making matters worse, Poles back home in Warsaw were revolting against the Russians. Chopin was in a constant state of worry about his family’s safety and even contemplated returning to fight for his country.

He took refuge in composition pouring out his anxiety and frustration into mazurkas and Polish songs. He also wrote his first waltz to be published – the Waltz in E-flat, Op. 18. Understandably – but also ironically - it is the most Viennese of all his waltzes.

After eight months, Chopin decided to leave the frustration of Vienna behind. The fall of Warsaw to the Russians discouraged him from returning home, and sent him on a journey that Franz Liszt later said, “settled his fate.” In July of 1831, he headed for Paris, Europe’s dazzling new center of music. - Rachel Stewart

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Radio Chopin Episode 54: Vexed in Vienna

Grand Waltz Brillante in E-flat Major, Op. 18

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