The Composer and his muse: Chopin and Maria Wodziński

Maria Wodzinska was a dark-eyed Polish beauty. She sang, painted watercolors, and played Chopin’s Ballades on the piano. And they were old family friends: “I used to chase her through the rooms at Pszenny in days gone by,” wrote Chopin; Maria’s older sister recalled, “Of all the boys he was the most willing to joke and play.

On the way back from Paris, Chopin met Maria Wodziński, daughter of his parents' friends. 

Frédéric Chopin knew the Wodzinsky family since childhood, and in the summer of 1835 he was invited to Dresden to spend a short time with them There he met Maria again, the youngest daughter. He remembered her as a child who used to annoy the grown-ups by pulling faces at them or rowdily running around. Now, she was a beautiful girl of sixteen who liked painting and played the piano. Frédéric, who had already turned twenty-five, reciprocated the hospitality by giving piano lessons to Maria every afternoon.

Chopin's Nocturne in E Flat

The maestro asked the young girl to have her music book at hand on the piano, in order to write down any musical ideas that would arise at any time.

A page of this book is shown in the picture: a sketch of the Nocturne in E flat, opus 9 No 2, in its early stages. Obviously, it is just a germ of an idea: barely three bars of the melody. Frédéric will add later the accompaniment making it possible that these scrawled and hard-to-read signs could sound like this. Here we have, in four minutes, the most popular romantic piece for piano of all times.

Maria was the recipient of Chopin's Waltz Brilliant (op. 18) in 1834. She also painted the composer, creating what Tad Szulc called "one of the best portraits of Chopin extant—after that by Delacroix—with the composer looking relaxed, pensive, and at peace".

When Chopin was 25 and Maria was 16, the girl next door had become the living embodiment of the land he’d left behind. He was lonely, homesick, and living in Paris. She was wealthy, beautiful, and thoroughly and delightfully Polish. Chopin could stand it no longer. Visiting her family on holiday in 1836, Chopin made his first – and only – proposal of marriage. “At the Twilight Hour,” snippily noted Teresea Wodzinska.

Maria was thrilled; Mom and Dad weren’t so sure. There was the matter of Chopin’s ever-fragile health. And his whirlwind social life. And his suspect status as a composer. The Wodzinskas made a counter-offer: A one-year waiting period to see if Chopin’s health, fortunes, and habits would improve. Hence the warnings, buried in motherly advice.

But it was not to be. Chopin’s life only got messier, once George Sand entered the picture. The following summer, Chopin receives a “Dear Fryderyk” letter from Maria Wodzinska. He wraps Marie’s correspondence and the rejection letter in a bundle and labels it My Sorrow. And writes this “Farewell” Waltz in A-flat major, inscribed “To Mademoiselle Maria.”  (read more)


Wodzińska's nephew Antoni—not to be confused with his father, Maria's brother Antoni, who was a boarder in the Chopin home during Chopin's childhood and lived in Paris when Chopin was there—wrote a book detailing Chopin's relationship with her: Les trois romans de Frédéric Chopin, published in 1886.

Frederick Niecks, Chopin's first exhaustive biographer, said the book was "more of the nature of a novel than of a biography". In 1912 he wrote a biography of his aunt, O Marii Wodzińskiej (About Maria Wodzińska), whose first book edition was published in 2015.

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