‘Old’ Merchants' Hall
‘“Cóż to za pani ta, co na łbie fioki ma?” [‘What kind of girl is that? With curls upon her head’]. This song lingers on in the memories of Warsaw residents. In 1829, when the National Theatre resounded to the strains of the humorous songs of the Broom-maker from the evergreen Der Bauer als millionär [The peasant as millionaire], it gave Chopin something to improvise on in a musical evening at the Merchants' Hall’. Thus the nineteen-year-old Fryderyk Ferdynand Hoesick begins his description of that performance.
The concert was held on 19 December 1829. Apart from the young Chopin, the bill included the highly promising violinist Józef Bielawski, Carlo Soliva, professor of singing at the Institute of Music and Declamation, and the singers Copello and Dorville. There was a short account of the concert, cited by Hoesick, in the Kurier Warszawski [Warsaw courier]: ‘The young virtuoso, Mr Szopę [Chopin], whose brilliance is increasingly winning over music lovers and cognoscenti alike, improvised piano variations to the much-loved ditty “Miotły” [Brooms] (from Der Bauer als millionär) before a sizeable crowd in the old Merchants' Hall the other day’. A letter to the editor of the Courier (from Stanisław Egbert Koźmian) was similarly quoted verbatim by Hoesick: ‘The soiree given last Saturday evening at the Merchants' Hall was one of the most pleasant in our capital. The talent of Mr Chopin (Szopę) greatly contributed to this, and he was enthusiastically received. Our countryman had not been heard in his homeland before. This correspondent considers his modesty, although the finest attribute of talent, less creditable in this respect. Is not the brilliance of Mr Chopin the property of his homeland? The works of Mr Chopin undoubtedly bear the mark of great genius. One of his most recent works, the Concerto in F minor [sic], can hold its own among the works of the greatest musicians in Europe. We can only hope that Mr Chopin, having been summoned by us so many times, will no longer wish to dampen, to the detriment of his and his nation’s reputation, our pleasant conviction that Poland can produce great talent’.
Actually, Chopin was riding high at the time, especially after his recent triumphs in Vienna. Over the coming months, he threw himself into Warsaw’s salon life and concert scene, and in March 1830 he could even be heard at the National Theatre.