Music scholars, critics, and popular writers have for generations told and retold the same tale about Fryderyk Chopin: namely, that the teenaged composer encountered Jewish folk musicians during his visits to the Polish countryside, was fascinated by their music, and even occasionally performed it. Our article endeavors to counter this and similar misconceptions about Chopin's connections to Jews and Jewish folk music, drawing on an array of historical, ethnographic, and literary sources previously discounted or overlooked by Chopin scholars, and freshly reexamining the composer's earliest correspondence. Having established an absence of primary documentation corroborating oft-repeated anecdotes about the young Chopin's interactions with Jewish music makers, we argue that the “Jewish tales” tenaciously clinging to the composer's biography reflect narratives rooted in later nineteenth-century nationalist rhetoric, anachronistic misreadings of Polish-Jewish relations, and unchallenged reliance on precedent writing. Finally, we offer a sampling of the folk and popular music Chopin would likely have heard, performed, and described to his family, citing material sourced from the work of the pioneering Polish ethnographer, and Chopin family friend, Oskar Kolberg.

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