Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday Search Challenge (Feb 9, 2011): What conference gave Chopin a reason to leave Poland?

Frederic Chopin is one of the world's greatest composers of piano music.  He's my piano-hero and the object of adoration by pianists around the world.

Chopin's early life is fairly well documented, and yet it still contains some interesting puzzles for the searcher.

This is really a multi-part search problem.

First, when did Chopin leave Poland for the first time?  And what scientific conference gave him the opportunity to leave?

Can you figure out the story?  It's an important point in Chopin's young life because it gave him his first chance to hear opera performed outside of Poland and to get a glimpse of the possibilities of life beyond Warsaw.

My strategy to find this out was fairly straight-forward.  How will you discover it?



  1. From Wikipedia [ ] "In September 1828, eighteen-year-old Chopin struck out for the wider world in the company of a family friend, the zoologist Feliks Jarocki, who planned to attend a scientific convention in Berlin."

    Via Google [ chopin Jarocki congress ]: "9 September {1828}. Sets off for Berlin, together with his father's friend Feliks Jarocki, who is participating in the world congress of 'nature researchers'."

    Hower his first stay abroad was in Bad Reinertz (Germany).

    Found via Google [ chopin Jarocki congress naturalists ]: "After completing his studies, Chopin planned a longer stay abroad to become acquainted with the musical life of Europe and to win fame. Up to then, he had never left Poland, with the exception of two brief stays in Prussia. In 1826, he had spent a holiday in Bad Reinertz (modern day Duszniki-Zdrój) in Lower Silesia, and two years later he had accompanied his father's friend, Professor Feliks Jarocki, on his journey to Berlin to attend a congress of naturalists."

  2. I did a quick Google Book Search (with just the word "Chopin" and picked the top "free Google eBook", called "Chopin: The Man and His Music."

    With a little browsing, I see that Chopin first left Poland in 1826 to go to Reinerz:

    "He being sickly and his sister's health poor the pair was sent in 1826 to Reinerz a watering place in Prussian Silesia." (p.11)

    His first real foray, though, was to Berlin in 1828:

    "In the fall of 1828 he went to Berlin and this trip gave him a foretaste of the outer world." (p.12)

    And more detail a couple pages later:

    "Chopin's fourteen days in Berlin,-— he went there under the protection of his father's friend, Professor Jarocki, to attend the great scientific congress — were full of joy unrestrained. The pair left Warsaw September 9, 1828, and after five days travel in a diligence arrived at Berlin. This was a period of leisure travelling and living. Frederic saw Spontini, Mendelssohn and Zelter at a distance and heard " Freischiitz." He attended the congress and made sport of the scientists, Alexander von Humboldt included."

    A quick Google search (berlin 1828 "scientific congress") says this was The Scientific Congress of 1828, in Berlin, or the Naturforscher.