Maria Szymanowska (Polish pronunciation: [ˈmarja ʂɨmaˈnɔfska]; born Marianna Agata Wołowska; Warsaw, 14 December 1789 – 25 July 1831, St. Petersburg, Russia) was a Polish composer and one of the first professional virtuoso pianists of the 19th century. She toured extensively throughout Europe, especially in the 1820s, before settling permanently in St. Petersburg. In the Russian imperial capital, she composed for the court, gave concerts, taught music, and ran an influential salon.
Her compositions—largely piano pieces, songs, and other small chamber works, as well as the first piano concert etudes and nocturnes in Poland—typify the stile brillant of the era preceding Frédéric Chopin. She was the mother of Celina Szymanowska, who married the Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz.
Marianna Agata Wołowska was born in Warsaw, Poland on 14 December 1789 into a prosperous Polish family with Frankist Jewish roots, one of her ancestors being Salomon Ben Elijah (or Jacob ben Judah Leib/Jacob Leibowicz), the personal assistant of Jacob Frank. Her father Franciszek Wołowski was a landlord and a brewer. Her mother Barbara Wołowska (née Lanckorońska) came from a noble Polish Lanckoroński family. The history of her early years and especially her musical studies is uncertain; she appears to have studied piano with Antoni Lisowski and Tomasz Gremm, and composition with Franciszek Lessel, Józef Elsner and Karol Kurpiński. She gave her first public recitals in Warsaw and Paris in 1810.
In the same year, she married Józef Szymanowski (d. 1832), with whom she had three children while living in Poland: Helena (1811–61), who married a Polish lawyer Franciszek Malewski, and twins Celina (1812–55), who married Adam Mickiewicz, and Romuald (1812–40), who became an engineer). The children remained with Maria after her separation from Szymanowski in 1820. The marriage ended in divorce.
Szymanowska died of cholera during the summer 1831 epidemic in St Petersburg.
She is presumed to be unrelated to Karol Szymanowski, considered to be the most famous Polish composer of the 20th century.
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