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Pianos and Pianists - Consultant Editor Ates Orga

Christmas in Vienna



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to his 'best friend in the world' Jan Matuszynski in Warsaw

Sunday morning December 26th 1830

Today I am sitting alone, in a dressing-gown, gnawing my ring and writing ... Yesterday [Christmas Day] I dined with a Polish lady called Beyer, whose Christian name is Constance. I love to go there for the reminiscence; all the music; the pocket handkerchiefs and table-napkins have her name on them. I go there with Slavik [Josef Slavik the Bohemian violinist, 1806-33], for whom she has a weakness. The day before yesterday we played the whole morning and afternoon, then, as it was Christmas Eve and fine clear springlike weather, we left there at night. After parting from Slavik, who was due at the Imperial Chapel, I strolled along slowly alone, and at midnight went into St Stephen's. When I entered there was no one there. Not to hear the mass, but just to look at the huge building at that hour, I got into the darkest corner at the foot of a Gothic pillar. I can't describe the greatness, the magnificence of those huge arches. It was quiet; now and then the footsteps of a sacristant lighting candles at the back of the sanctuary, would break in on my lethargy. A coffin behind me, a coffin under me - only the coffin above me was lacking. A mournful harmony all around - I never felt my loneliness so clearly; I loved to drink in this great sight, till people and lights began to appear. Then, turning up the collar of my cloak, as once - do you remember? - along the Krakow Suburb [a street in Warsaw], I went to hear the music at the Imperial Chapel. On the way, I passed through the finest streets of Vienna, not alone now, but in the company of a cheerful crowd, and reached the Castle, where I heard three numbers of a not very good mass, sleepily sung, and then at 1 in the night, went home to bed.


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