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Posted - 10-03-2016

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Love letters of a Polish pianist discovered at the National Library of Wales

The name of Auguste de Radwan (1867-1957) has faded into obscurity but he was once a famous concert pianist, a notable authority on Chopin, fêted by the beau monde of Europe. His friends included Princess [Roza] Radziwill and Isidor Philipp.

It was hugely exciting to discover over 250 letters by Radwan, written mostly in French, amongst the Gogerddan estate records. Radwan was Polish but, like many other musicians, he was based in Paris for most of his career. In January 1926 a student of the Conservatoire de Paris asked for his autograph.

Her name was Marjorie Howell of Cwmcynfelyn near Aberystwyth (1906-1993). She was totally starstruck: Il etait charmant! Je l’adore! and the encounter developed into a love affair which lasted almost until Marjorie’s marriage to Sir Lewes Pryse of Gogerddan in 1938.

The letters and Marjorie’s diaries vividly portray the musical life of Paris, the concerts by Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubenstein, Emil Von Sauer and Ignacy Jan Paderewski, as well as Radwan’s own performance for Mareschal Ferdinand Foch in 1928, and his meeting with Moriz Rosenthal in 1931. Marjorie described Radwan’s apartment at 107 Rue de l’Universite: three lovely rooms, two pianos, many books, pictures and a portrait of Chopin in the bedroom. His effects included silver-framed photographs of the queens of Belgium and Italy, and the velvet waistcoats and silk stocks that he liked to wear.

After Marjorie’s return to Wales, the strain of the long-distance romance eventually caused its demise. Radwan kept her photographs and her first letter in his wallet until the day he died.

 

Hilary Peters, Assistant Archivist

 

3 responses

Thanks for posting. You have to scroll quite a way down to find the start of the story! How do you enlarge pictures?

Hilary

Commented March 11, 2016 / 10:29:02

Better! Thanks.

Hilary

Commented March 11, 2016 / 15:59:17

What a great story to discover and share – thank you!

Joanna

Commented March 17, 2016 / 15:53:50

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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