Episode 195: A Chopin Christmas

Lulaizje Jezuniu; Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20

rc-xmas-200Paris. December 1845. Today is Christmas Eve. They don’t know that here. They eat dinner at the usual hour, and only a few foreign families keep those customs. All the protestant families keep Christmas Eve, but most Parisians make no difference between today and yesterday.

If you’re alone, away, or alienated, Christmas is far from the most wonderful time of year. It’s a time of loss – and longing, for friends and family…and perhaps, to paraphrase fellow Parisian Marcel Proust, a Remembrance of Things Past.

Christmas. A day for Fryderyk Chopin – a Pole, a Catholic, and an exile, filled with deep meaning, beautiful memories, and a bittersweet sadness. His surviving letters are sporadic and few…but a surprising number are postmarked at Christmastide….

Vienna, Christmas Day, Sunday morning, 1830. Last year at this hour, I was with the Bernadines. Today, I am sitting alone, in my dressing-gown, gnawing at my ring, and writing.

One year later, Chopin was in Paris. New city; same story:

Paris, 25 December, 1831. Dear Tytus: This is the second year that I have to send your name-day wishes from beyond ten frontiers. One glance might do more to keep you in my heart than ten letters…..I wish you were here; you can’t think how mournful it is to have no one’s tongue to wag with.

So how to cope with the Christmas Blues? For Chopin, it was to keep busy. On Christmas Day, 1834, he and Franz Liszt played piano duets in a benefit concert for a local music school. In December of 1843, he packed off a huge sheaf of manuscripts to his publisher in Leipzig, taking special note of his Scherzo No. 1, containing the old Polish Christmas carol Lulaizje Jezuniu – “Lullay, Baby Jesus.” - Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 195: A Chopin Christmas

Lulaizje Jezuniu

Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20