‘The Maiden’s Prayer’ and beyond

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In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing educational piano music by Polish composers. Captivated by my new musical discoveries, I have continued to independently explore and review the music of Chopin’s land…

While The Maiden’s Prayer is one of the most beloved piano pieces of all time, its composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska remains one of the many great female composers of the early 19th century whose music was largely ignored in the 20th.

In this article I will try to find out who she was, what else she wrote, introduce a wonderful collection of her pieces from PWM edition, Memories of my Cottage, and share the tutorial video that I filmed for PWM offering tips on playing and teaching The Maiden’s Prayer itself…

The Music

Little is known of Tekla Bądarzewska’s short life. According to the PWM Edition Memories of my Cottage, which includes a helpful introduction written by Paulina Olko, she was born around 1829 in Mława, Mazovia, to a landowning family. We know that on 16th May 1852 she married one Jan Baranowski, with whom she spent the remaining nine years of her life; they had five children.

We know nothing of Bądarzewska’s musical studies, but she was clearly a prodigious talent. Her first piece, valse pour le pianoforte, was published in 1843, when she was probably just 13 years old.

But it was La prière d’une vierge (“The Maiden’s Prayer”) which established her enduring fame. Published in 1859, it has subsequently reappeared in print more than 550 times, becoming hugely popular worldwide. How sad, then, that she was not fated to enjoy her newfound celebrity; as her fame was just taking off Bądarzewska died on 29 September 1861 of unknown causes.

Bądarzewska left behind around 40 other miniatures, piano pieces characterised by richly ornamented, lyrical themes, poised rhythms, and a musical language that is beguilingly gentle and elegant.

And while The Maiden’s Prayer is perhaps the most perfect example of her genius it is not the only one, as evidenced in Memories of my Cottage, which includes the following pieces alongside Bądarzewska’s most cherished work:

  1. The Maiden’s Prayer
  2. Mazurka in G minor “Sweet Reverie”
  3. Mazurka Brillante in E flat major
  4. Memories of my Cottage
  5. The Prayer Heard

In terms of difficulty, all of these pieces would suit the early advanced player (around UK Grades 6-8).

The Publication

PWM Edition have an established house style for their adult piano publications, and Memories of my Cottage is thus housed in a smart card soft cover:

The 28 pages within are printed on soft ivory white paper, and in addition to the title and contents pages there is the aforementioned article, which appears in both Polish and English, and is the most thorough and accurate introduction I have found for this composer.

The notation has been newly engraved (this PWM Edition only appeared in 2020), is very clearly and spaciously presented, and helpful editorial fingering is included throughout.

This is, then, a straightforward edition, but one which ticks every box and can be very highly recommended.

Tutorial Video

Here, then, is my tutorial video for PWM, in which I discuss The Maiden’s Prayer in more depth, explaining and demonstrating tips for playing it well.

Closing Thoughts

The Maiden’s Prayer is a marvellous teaching piece which introduces so many fine details for players working at the early advanced level. It is also a touching concert piece for students, a lovely encore for the concert pianist, and a superb introduction to a much neglected composer!

But as noted in the film, the other pieces here are well worth exploring too, and shine an impressive light on this too-long neglected genius.

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based on Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.

4 thoughts on “‘The Maiden’s Prayer’ and beyond”

  1. Thank you for the very enlightening instruction. I was introduced to this piece when I was 9 years old and did not put much diligence learning it. Getting to know about the composer and the way you played the arpeggios with expression made me appreciate the delicate beauty of the piece. I will relearn the piece with more meaning and expression.

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