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Frederic Chopin

1810-1849

Chopin Portrait

  "The greatest Polish composer"

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was a son of a native Polish woman and a Frenchman. He was born on March 1, 1818 in Zelazowa Wola, a small village six miles from Warsaw.

From an early age, Chopin was deeply affected by music. He would end up in tears listening to his mother's singing or piano playing. Because of his mother's encouragement, he started playing himself when he was around 5. By the time he was 6, he was improvising to a remarkable degree.

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Joseph Elsner, one of his early teachers, recognized the genius of the young musician. While others found fault with young Chopin for breaking the so-called rules, Elsner stuck up for young composer. Chopin's first appearance as a pianist was at a public concert when he was around 9. His first published work followed in a couple of years (Polonaise in G minor).

Chopin had a great reputation as a piano virtuoso and a composer of piano pieces by 1829. He toured Europe giving concert performances acclaimed by audiences and critics. In 1831 he arrived in Paris where he was well received. He became well known as a pianist, teacher and composer. Once he settled in Paris, Chopin became a favorite with the artists as well as the society. He was welcomed into a circle of famous men like Liszt, Meyerbeer, Bellini, Balzac, Heine, Victor Hugo and Robert Schumann.

Chopin mainly concentrated his attention on the piano, teaching pupils from both the French and Polish nobilities and playing in fashionable salons. In 1836, at the height of his career, he became the object of almost fanatical admiration on the part of his Parisian admirers. Chopin deeply fell in love with the novelist George Sand (Aurore Dudevant), a popular and rather coarse romantic writer of the time, whose house was a gathering place for the leading writers, painters and other artists of the day.

In 1838, Chopin exhibited the first symptoms of tuberculosis. That winter, in an effort to improve his health, he and Aurore went to Majorca in the Mediterranean. This proved a thoroughly disagreeable and disillusioning experience for the sensitive musician and later the two separated. In 1848, after the revolution, he left for London in need of money. He performed concerts in Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London and was presented to Queen Victoria. Early in 1849 he returned to Paris where he died on October 17. Mozart's requiem was played at his funeral along with his own funeral march, one of the most famous funeral compositions ever written.

Chopin is often considered a nationalistic composer.  Many of his compositions make reference to Polish folk music.  Among his most popular compositions are mazurkas and polonaises that contained the rhythms and melodies of Polish folk music. 

Sources:

Donald Jay Grout, A History of Western Music, Norton and Company, New York 1977
McKinney and Anderson, Music in History, New York 1940
Rachlin Ann, Chopin (Famous Children), Published 1993
Eigeldinger Jean-Jacques , Chopin: Pianist and Teacher, Published 1989
Gibbons James, Chopin: The Man and His Music, Huneker 1966


Edited by: Marta Maslowski, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
Researched by: Michael Policarpio, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
Written by: Magdalena Maslowski, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
13 October 1998

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