Antoni Brzezina’s bookshop
Antoni Brzezina was a well-known Warsaw publisher in the 1820s and 1830s, who also owned a music shop, a lithography workshop and a printing press. Little is known about when and where he has born, or his family life, except that sometime prior to 1823, he married the daughter of a Lwów [now Lviv, Ukraine] bookseller named Bogusław Pffaf, and that he died in that city in June 1831. He is, however, a person of significance to anyone wanting to follow the trail of the young Fryderyk Chopin.
After advertising the publication of his first music print in 1822, Brzezina expanded his operations considerably over the next few years. The wide range of publications he had on offer attracted a large clientele, including a teenage Chopin, who reported to Tytus Woyciechowski in 1829: ‘I go to Brzezina’s each day’. References to the bookshop actually appear in Chopin’s letters even earlier, as in 1824, when the homesick youngster wrote home from where he was holidaying in Szafarnia: ‘We await Papa with the greatest impatience, and I ask Papa that he be so kind as to buy Air Moore variete [varié] pour le piano forté [forte] à quatres mains par Ries at Brzezina’s and bring it with him, because I want to play it with Mrs Dziewanowska’.
From 1822, Brzezina’s music shop was located at what is now ul. Miodowa 8. It is highly likely that the proximity of the café in Tepper Palace had something to do with the frequent visits that young people made to the bookseller, as no doubt did some of the publications available there, which had alluring titles like ‘Courier for the Fair Sex or Journal Dedicated to Literature, the Arts, Innovation and Trends’, ‘Lute’, the annual ‘Wanda’, and ‘Musical Weekly for Pianoforte’.
Chopin published his Rondo in C minor, Op. 1 (1825) and Rondo à la Mazur, Op. 5 (1828) through Brzezina, who, thanks to his many contacts with publishers outside the country, also appears in the young composer’s letters in the context of his Variations, Op. 2 (1827) finally being published in Vienna by Haslinger: ‘I don’t have anything at hand to send you from my pieces of nonsense, because it isn’t even worth it’, Chopin explains to Tytus Woyciechowski in a letter from 1830. ‘As far as the 3rd concert is concerned, which they await here all the more, I won’t give it until shortly before my departure, and I would play the new Concerto; that new one that is not yet finished; I would play the Polish Fantasy, which they are demanding, and the Variations dedicated to you, for which I am only waiting, since the fair in Leipzig has already begun, so Brzezina will also receive a delivery’.
Piotr Mysłakowski notes that Brzezina entered into an agreement with an employee, Gustaw Sennewald, under the terms of which the company name was changed to ‘Brzezina i Komp’ [Brzezina & co.]. Not long afterwards, one of Chopin’s letters (again to Tytus Woyciechowski) mentions a failed business venture of Sennewald (who eventually took over the lithography workshop and printing press after Brzezina’s death, in July 1831). ‘Sennewald, a friend of Brzezina’s, asked me for my portrait, but I couldn’t permit him this, because it would have been too much at one time, and I have no desire that they wrap butter up in me, as happened with Lelewel’s portrait’, Chopin wrote after giving a concert at the National Theatre.