Hyperion Records

The Maiden's Prayer

'The Maiden's Prayer' (CDH55410)
The Maiden's Prayer
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55410  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Track 2 on CDH55410 [4'14] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

The Maiden's Prayer
Should we dismiss out of hand The Maiden’s Prayer, ‘this dowdy product of ineptitude’ (Arthur Loesser) that has become a comical byword for sentimental salon tosh? Most people do. It is now past parody, its title far better known than the music itself for no one plays it, not even the soppy amateurs whose territory it was and who so relished its ‘dripping, maudlin arpeggios’. Few could tell you the name of its composer. But hold! Despite the fact that it has no catchy theme to sing or hum, that its octave arpeggios are not easy to execute correctly, and that its four ‘variations’ (if one can dignify them with that term) are devoid of musical interest, The Maiden’s Prayer is probably the biggest selling piece of piano music ever written. Over one hundred editions were published in the nineteenth century and in 1924, more than sixty years after its first appearance, a Melbourne music publisher admitted to selling ten thousand copies of it a year.

Its unique status notwithstanding, little is known of the short life of its Polish composer. Tekla Badarzewska (1834–1861) wrote it when she was just seventeen and had it published in 1851 in Warsaw as Molitwa dziewicy (‘The Maiden’s Prayer’). It was republished as a supplement to the Paris Revue et Gazette Musicale in 1859 from whence it spread round the world like a plague. There are a further thirty-four piano pieces by Badarzewska, including one entitled Prayer Answered. Thankfully, it failed to capture the public’s imagination.

An ungentlemanly German critic in his obituary of Badarzewska opined that ‘[her] early death saved the musical world from a veritable inundation of intolerable lachrimosity’. Far greater composers than Badarzewska have shone brightly and profitably around the world before descending into obscurity. For better or worse The Maiden’s Prayer, if not the name of its composer, will never be forgotten. Quite an achievement for a teenage female Polish composer of the 1850s. Hard to dismiss in fact.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2003

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA67379 track 2
Recording date
23 October 2002
Recording venue
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. The Maiden's Prayer (CDA67379)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: May 2003
    Deletion date: November 2009
    Superseded by CDH55410
  2. The Maiden's Prayer (CDH55410)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: March 2012
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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