Fryderyk Chopin visited Czech lands four times during his life and especially in Prague, Mariánské Lázně and Karlovy Vary he spent many happy moments. Therefore it is no wonder people wanted to create a society that would bear the name of this outstanding artist. Their activity in this direction culminated before the 150th anniversary of his birth celebrated under the auspices of UNESCO in 1960.
In the fifties, number of publications dealing with Chopin and his relationship with Czech lands appeared. We can choose and name at least that by Jaroslav Simonides Prague is reasonably pretty which took its title from Chopin’s letter to his parents sent during his first stay in Prague in 1829 or book by Jaroslav Procházka Chopin in Karlovy Vary.
Fryderyk Chopin Society was founded in Mariánské Lázně June 6, 1959. Representatives of the town Mariánské Lázně, Chopin admirers, Miloslav Bervíd, principal conductor of the West Bohemian Symphonic Orchestra Mariánské Lázně, conductor Jaroslav Soukup, head of the School of Arts Emil Vlk and most importantly professor František Rauch, one of the most outstanding Czech performers of Chopin’s music and patron of the society, took part in the constitutive committee.
Jaroslav Porazil and Miroslav Chroust stood behind the support from the town authorities which helped the society from the very beginning. The new seat of the society was historical mansion White Swan Inn where Fryderyk Chopin stayed in 1836 – later it was renamed to House Chopin.
The society’s main objective is to organize Fryderyk Chopin International Festival taking place annually during the third week in August. From the outset, it was outlined as broad-based cultural event. The organizers invite the most prominent Czech and foreign interpreters of Chopin’s music who present also works by other great classical composers. For its 50th anniversary the festival got an overhaul in the form of new, modern concept which nevertheless draws upon the long tradition. Apart from symphonic concerts, day and evening recitals, matinées and art exhibitions the organizers added chamber and jazz music concerts and various social and sports events such as golf tournament Chopin Cup, tennis tournament Karel Zich’s Aces and others.
From the start, the society also organizes the competition for the young interpreters of Chopin’s music. Its instigator and later the head of jury was till his death (August 13, 1988) professor Václav Holzknecht. The competition started as an annual event and at the present time takes part every other year. At the head of the jury stands professor Ivan Klánský, who regularly invites many well known foreign pianists to be his colleagues.
In the first year of the society’s life, Fryderyk Chopin Memorial Museum was opened. The authors of its design were architect Josef Vlček and academic painter Osvald Klapper. With the help from Ota Pavelka, director of the Municipal Museum, the members of the society managed to assemble here many period artefacts commemorating Chopin’s stay in Mariánské Lázně in 1836.
From the first moments, the society cooperated extremely well with the Fryderyk Chopin Society in Warsaw and thanks to J. Simonides it was in constant contact with the Polish culture. Polish delegations regularly took part in the festival and members of the Czech society visited the festival in Duszniky and various important cultural events in Polish capital. We must not forget about the highly valued cooperation with the Polish Embassy and Polish Institute in Prague.