About Chopin


Frédéric Fran?ois Chopin(1810─1849)
Polish composer and pianist, Chopard was born on the outskirts of Warsaw on March 1, 1810. His father was a Frenchman. He was a French teacher at the middle school in Warsaw and his mother was a Polish. Chopard has shown extraordinary artistic talent since he was a child. He began to study music at the age of six. At the age of seven, he created the Polish dance music. At the age of 8, he performed on stage and became famous after being under 20 years old. He is one of the most influential and popular piano composers in history and one of the most important figures in the history of Polish music. He is a representative of European romantic music in the 19th century. Most of Chopard's life creations are piano pieces, which are known as "piano poets."

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Detailed introduction

Following the Russian suppression of the Uprising, he settled in Paris as part of Poland's Great Emigration. During the remaining 19 years of his life, Chopin gave only some 30 public performances, preferring the more intimate atmosphere of the salon; he supported himself by selling his compositions and teaching piano. After some romantic dalliances with Polish women, including an abortive engagement, from 1837 to 1847 he carried on a relationship with the French writer Amandine Dupin, aka George Sand. For most of his life Chopin suffered from poor health; he died in Paris in 1849 at age 39.

Most of Chopin's works are for solo piano, though he also wrote two piano concertos, a few chamber pieces and some songs to Polish lyrics. His piano works are often technically demanding, emphasizing nuance and expressive depth. Chopin invented the instrumental ballade and made major innovations to the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, polonaise, étude, impromptu, scherzo and prélude.

George Sand

In 1836, at a party hosted by Countess Marie d'Agoult, mistress of friend and fellow composer Franz Liszt, Chopin met French author Amandine Aurore Lucille Dupin, the Baroness Dudevant, better known by her pseudonym, George Sand. Sand's earlier romantic involvements had included Jules Sandeau (their literary collaboration had spawned the pseudonym "George Sand"), Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset, Louis-Chrysostome Michel, the writer Charles Didier, Pierre-Fran?ois Bocage and Félicien Mallefille.[49]

Chopin initially felt an aversion to Sand.[40] He declared to Ferdinand Hiller: "What a repulsive woman Sand is! But is she really a woman? I am inclined to doubt it."[50] Sand, however, in a candid thirty-two page letter to Count Wojciech Grzyma?a, a friend to both her and Chopin, admitted strong feelings for the composer. In her letter she debated whether to abandon a current affair in order to begin a relationship with Chopin and attempted to gauge the currency of his previous relationship with Maria Wodzińska, which she did not intend to interfere with should it still exist.[51] By the summer of 1838, Chopin's and Sand's involvement was an open secret.[40]
A notable episode in their time together was a turbulent and miserable winter on Majorca (8 November 1838 to 13 February 1839), where they, together with Sand's two children, had gone in the hope of improving Chopin's deteriorating health. However, after discovering the couple were not wedded, the deeply religious people of Majorca became inhospitable,[citation needed] making accommodations difficult to find; this compelled the foursome to take lodgings in a scenic yet stark and cold former Carthusian monastery in Valldemossa.
Chopin also had problems having his Pleyel piano sent to him. It arrived from Paris on 20 December but was held up by customs. (Chopin wrote on 28 December: "My piano has been stuck at customs for 8 days... They demand such a huge sum of money to release it that I can't believe it.") In the meantime Chopin had a rickety rented piano on which he practiced and may have composed some pieces.
On 3 December, he complained about his bad health and the incompetence of the doctors in Majorca: "I have been sick as a dog during these past two weeks. Three doctors have visited me. The first said I was going to die; the second said I was breathing my last; and the third said I was already dead."
On 4 January 1839, George Sand agreed to pay 300 francs (half the demanded amount) to have the Pleyel piano released from customs. It was finally delivered on 5 January. From then on Chopin was able to use the long-awaited instrument for almost five weeks, time enough to complete some works: some Preludes, Op. 28; a revision of the Ballade No. 2, Op. 38; two Polonaises, Op. 40; the Scherzo No. 3, Op. 39; the Mazurka in E minor from Op. 41; and he probably revisited his Sonata No. 2, Op. 35. The winter in Majorca is still considered one of the most productive periods in Chopin's life.
During that winter, the bad weather had such a serious effect on Chopin's health and chronic lung disease that, in order to save his life, the entire party was compelled to leave the island. The beloved French piano became an obstacle to a hasty escape. Nevertheless, George Sand managed to sell it to a French couple (the Canuts), whose heirs are the custodians of Chopin's legacy on Majorca and of the Chopin cell-room museum in Valldemossa.
The party of four went first to Barcelona, then to Marseille, where they stayed for a few months to recover. In May 1839, they headed to Sand's estate at Nohant for the summer. In autumn they returned to Paris, where initially they lived apart; Chopin soon left his apartment at 5 rue Tronchet to move into Sand's house at 16 rue Pigalle. The four lived together at this address from October 1839 to November 1842, while spending most summers until 1846 at Nohant.[52] In 1842, they moved to 80 rue Taitbout in the Square d'Orléans, living in adjacent buildings.[53]
It was from around this time that there is evidence of Chopin's playing an instrument other than the piano. At the funeral of the tenor Adolphe Nourrit, who had jumped to his death in Naples but whose body was returned to Paris for burial, Chopin played an organ transcription of Franz Schubert's lied Die Gestirne.[54]
During the summers at Nohant, particularly in the years 1839–43, Chopin found quiet but productive days during which he composed many works. They included his Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53, the "Heroic", one of his most famous pieces. Sand describes Chopin's tumultuous creative process, filled with emotion, weeping, complaints, and hundreds of changes of concept eventually returning to the initial inspiration,[53] on an evening in Nohant with friend Eugène Delacroix:
Chopin is at the piano, quite oblivious of the fact that anyone is listening. He embarks on a sort of casual improvisation, then stops. 'Go on, go on,' exclaims Delacroix, 'That's not the end!' 'It's not even a beginning. Nothing will come ... nothing but reflections, shadows, shapes that won't stay fixed. I'm trying to find the right colour, but I can't even get the form ...' 'You won't find the one without the other,' says Delacroix, 'and both will come together.' 'What if I find nothing but moonlight?' 'Then you will have found the reflection of a reflection.' The idea seems to please the divine artist. He begins again, without seeming to, so uncertain is the shape. Gradually quiet colours begin to show, corresponding to the suave modulations sounding in our ears. Suddenly the note of blue sings out, and the night is all around us, azure and transparent. Light clouds take on fantastic shapes and fill the sky. They gather about the moon which casts upon them great opalescent discs, and wakes the sleeping colours. We dream of a summer night, and sit there waiting for the song of the nightingale ...[55]
As the composer's illness progressed, Sand became less of a lover and more of a nurse to Chopin, whom she called her "third child." In the years to come she would maintain her friendship with Chopin while often affectionately venting her impatience in letters to third parties, referring to him as a "child," a "little angel," a "sufferer" and a "beloved little corpse."[53]
In 1845, as Chopin's health continued to deteriorate, a serious problem emerged in his relations with Sand. Those relations were further soured in 1846 by problems involving her daughter Solange and the young sculptor Auguste Clésinger. In 1847 Sand published her novel Lucrezia Floriani, whose main characters – a rich actress and a prince in weak health – could be interpreted as Sand and Chopin; the story was uncomplimentary to Chopin, who could not have missed the allusions as he helped Sand correct the printer's galleys. In 1847 he did not visit Nohant. Mutual friends attempted to reconcile them, but the composer was unyielding.[53]
One of these friends was mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot. Sand had based her 1843 novel Consuelo on Viardot, and the three had spent many hours at Nohant. An outstanding opera singer, Viardot was also an excellent pianist who had initially wanted the piano to be her career and had taken lessons with Liszt and Anton Reicha. Her friendship with Chopin was based on mutual artistic esteem and similarity of temperament.[56] The two had often played together; he had advised her on piano technique and had assisted her in writing a series of songs based on the melodies of his mazurkas. He in turn had gained from Viardot some first-hand knowledge of Spanish music.[56]
In 1847, Sand and Chopin quietly ended their ten-year relationship.[53] Count Wojciech Grzyma?a, who followed their romance from the beginning, commented, "If (Chopin) had not had the misfortune of meeting G.S. [George Sand], who poisoned his whole being, he would have lived to be Cherubini's age." Chopin died at thirty-nine; his friend Cherubini died in Paris in 1842 at the age of eighty-one.[57] The two composers are buried four meters apart at Père Lachaise Cemetery.


Chopin's father, Nicolas Chopin, was a Frenchman from Lorraine who had migrated to Poland in 1787 at age sixteen. When Adam Weydlich (manager of an estate owned by a Pole, Micha? Jan Pac (pl), where Nicolas had lived with his family) was returning to his native Poland, Nicolas went with him and was hired by Weydlich for his Warsaw tobacco factory. During the 1794 Ko?ciuszko Uprising Nicolas served in the Warsaw municipal militia, rising to the rank of lieutenant. In France he had been baptized Nicolas; in Poland he used the Polish form of that given name, Miko?aj. In time the immigrant became Polonized and, according to Polish historian and archivist ?opaciński, "undoubtedly considered himself a Pole."[4]

Nicolas subsequently tutored children of the Polish aristocracy, including the Skarbeks, whose poor relation, Justyna Krzy?anowska, he married.[5] The wedding took place at the 16th-century parish church in Brochów on 2 June 1806.[6] (Justyna's brother would become the father of American Union General W?odzimierz Krzy?anowski.[7][8])
Chopin's father, Nicolas Chopin, by Mieroszewski, 1829
Chopin's mother, Justyna, by Mieroszewski, 1829 Frédéric was the couple's second child and only son (the eldest child, Ludwika, was to become his first piano teacher, and several decades later was to repatriate his heart from Paris). He was born at ?elazowa Wola, forty-six kilometers west of Warsaw, in what was the Duchy of Warsaw. The parish baptismal record, discovered in 1892, gives his birthday as 22 February 1810,[9] but a date one week later, 1 March, was stated by the composer and his family as his birthday;[10] according to Chopin in a letter of 16 January 1833 to the chairman of the Polish Literary Society in Paris,[11] he was "born 1 March 1810 at the village of ?elazowa Wola in the Province of Mazowsze."[12]
He was baptized on Easter Sunday, 23 April 1810, in the same Brochów church where his parents had married. The parish register cites his given names in the Latin form Fridericus Franciscus;[9] in Polish, he was Fryderyk Franciszek. His godfather was Fryderyk Skarbek (1792–1866), a pupil of Nicolas Chopin—later a prison reformer who would design the Pawiak Prison of World War II ill fame, and great-great-uncle of World War II SOE agent Krystyna Skarbek;[13] the godfather's son Józef Skarbek would in 1841 marry Chopin's erstwhile fiancée Maria Wodzińska.[14]
In October 1810, when Chopin was seven months old, the family moved to Warsaw, where his father had accepted an offer from lexicographer Samuel Linde to teach French at the Warsaw Lyceum. The school was housed in the Saxon Palace, and the Chopin family lived on the palace grounds. In 1817 Grand Duke Constantine requisitioned the Saxon Palace for military purposes, and the Lyceum was moved to the Kazimierz Palace,[15] which also hosted the newly founded Warsaw University. The family lived in a spacious second-floor apartment in an adjacent building. Chopin attended the Warsaw Lyceum from 1823 to 1826.[16]
The Polish spirit, culture and language pervaded the Chopins' home, and as a result the son would never, even in Paris, perfectly master the French language.[17][18] Louis énault (fr), a biographer, borrowed George Sand's phrase to describe Chopin as being "more Polish than Poland".[19]
Others in Chopin's family were musically talented. Chopin's father played the flute and violin; his mother played the piano and gave lessons to boys in the elite boarding house that the Chopins maintained.[17][20] As a result Chopin became conversant with music in its various forms at an early age.[17]
Józef Sikorski (pl), a musician and Chopin's contemporary, recalls in his Memoirs about Chopin (Wspomnienie Chopina) that, as a child, Chopin wept with emotion when his mother played the piano. By six, he was already trying to reproduce what he heard or make up new melodies.[21] He received his earliest piano lessons not from his mother but from his older sister Ludwika.[17]
Chopin's first professional piano tutor, beginning in 1817, was the Czech, Wojciech ?ywny.[22] Though the youngster's skills soon surpassed his teacher's, Chopin later spoke highly of ?ywny. Seven-year-old "little Chopin" (Szopenek) began giving public concerts that soon prompted comparisons with child prodigies Mozart and Beethoven.[17]
In 1817–27 Chopin's family lived in this Warsaw University building, now adorned with Fryderyk's profile (center) That same year, seven-year old Chopin composed two Polonaises, in G minor and B-flat major. The first was published in the engraving workshop of Father Izydor Józef Cybulski (composer, engraver, director of an organists' school, and one of the few music publishers in Poland); the second survives as a manuscript prepared by Nicolas Chopin. These small works were said to rival not only the popular polonaises of leading Warsaw composers, but the famous Polonaises of Micha? Kleofas Ogiński. A substantial development of melodic and harmonic invention and of piano technique was shown in Chopin's next known Polonaise, in A-flat major, which the young artist offered in 1821 as a name-day gift to ?ywny.[17]
About this time, at the age of eleven, Chopin performed in the presence of Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, who was in Warsaw to open the Sejm (Polish Parliament).[21]
As a child, Chopin displayed an intelligence that was said to absorb everything and utilize everything for its development. He early showed remarkable abilities in observation and sketching, a keen wit and sense of humor, and an uncommon talent for mimicry.[17] A story from his school years recounts a teacher being pleasantly surprised by a superb portrait that Chopin had drawn of him in class.[23]
In those years, Chopin was sometimes invited to the Belweder Palace as playmate to the son of Russian Poland's ruler, Grand Duke Constantine, and charmed the irascible duke with his piano-playing.[17]
Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz attested to "little Chopin's" popularity in his dramatic eclogue, "Nasze Verkehry" ("Our Intercourse", 1818), in which the eight-year-old featured as a motif in the dialogues.[17]
In the 1820s, when teenage Chopin was attending the Warsaw Lyceum and Warsaw Conservatory, he spent every vacation away from Warsaw: in Szafarnia (1824 – perhaps his first solo travel away from home – and 1825), Duszniki (1826), Pomerania (1827) and Sanniki (1828).[24]
At the village of Szafarnia (where he was a guest of Juliusz Dziewanowski, father of schoolmate Dominik Dziewanowski)[25] and at his other vacation venues, Chopin was exposed to folk melodies that he later transmuted into original compositions. His missives home from Szafarnia (the famous self-styled "Szafarnia Courier" letters), written in a very modern and lively Polish, amused his family with their spoofing of the Warsaw newspapers and demonstrated the youngster's literary gift.[23]
An anecdote describes how Chopin helped quiet rowdy children by first improvising a story and then lulling them to sleep with a berceuse (lullaby) – after which he woke everyone with an ear-piercing chord.[23] Education
Chopin, tutored at home until he was thirteen, enrolled in the Warsaw Lyceum in 1823, but continued studying piano under ?ywny's direction. In 1825, in a performance of the work of Ignaz Moscheles, he entranced the audience with his free improvisation, and was acclaimed the "best pianist in Warsaw."[17]
In the autumn of 1826, Chopin began a three-year course of studies with the Silesian composer Józef Elsner at the Warsaw Conservatory, which was affiliated with the University of Warsaw (hence Chopin is counted among the university's alumni). Chopin's first contact with Elsner may have been as early as 1822; it is certain that Elsner was giving him informal guidance by 1823, and in 1826 Chopin officially began studying music theory, figured bass, and composition with Elsner.
In year-end evaluations, Elsner noted Chopin's "remarkable talent" and "musical genius." As had ?ywny, Elsner observed, rather than influenced or directed, the development of Chopin's blossoming talent. Elsner's teaching style was based on his reluctance to "constrain" Chopin with "narrow, academic, outdated" rules, and on his determination to allow the young artist to mature "according to the laws of his own nature."[26]
From 1827 the Chopins lived in south annex (left) of Warsaw's Krasiński Palace (middle, background), now the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts.
Chopin Family Parlor, Krasiński Palace In 1827, soon after the death of Chopin's youngest sister Emilia, the family moved to lodgings just across the street from Warsaw University, in the south annex of the Krasiński Palace at Krakowskie Przedmie?cie 5 (the palace is now the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts). Here the parents continued running their elite boarding house for male students. Young Chopin lived here until he left Warsaw in 1830. (In 1837–39, artist-poet Cyprian Norwid would live here while studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts; later he would pen the poem, "Chopin's Piano", about Russian troops' 1863 defenestration of the instrument.[27]) The Chopins' parlor (Salonik Chopinów) is now a small museum open to the public; there Chopin premiered many of his early works.
Four boarders at his parents' apartments became Chopin's intimates: Tytus Woyciechowski (pl), Jan Bia?ob?ocki, Jan Matuszyński (pl) and Julian Fontana. Chopin would share aspects of his Parisian life with the latter two.[28]
In 1829, Polish portraitist Ambro?y Mieroszewski executed a set of five portraits of Chopin family members (the youngest daughter, Emilia, had died in 1827): Chopin's parents, his elder sister Ludwika, younger sister Izabela, and, in the first known portrait of him, the composer himself. (The originals perished in World War II; only black-and-white photographs remain.) In 1913, French musicologist and Chopin biographer édouard Ganche (fr) would write that this painting of the precocious composer showed "a youth threatened by tuberculosis. His skin is very white, he has a prominent Adam's apple and sunken cheeks, even his ears show a form characteristic of consumptives." Chopin's younger sister Emilia had already died of tuberculosis at the age of fourteen, and their father would succumb to the same disease in 1844.[26][29]
According to Polish musicologist and Chopin biographer Zdzis?aw Jachimecki, comparison of the juvenile Chopin with any earlier composer is difficult because of the originality of the works that Chopin was composing already in the first half of his life. At a comparable age, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven had still been apprentices, while Chopin was perceived by peers and audiences to be already a master who was pointing the path to the coming age.[26]
Chopin himself never gave thematic titles to his instrumental works, but identified them simply by genre and number.[30] His compositions were, however, often inspired by emotional and sensual experiences in his own life. One of his first such inspirations was a beautiful young singing student at the Warsaw Conservatory and later a singer at the Warsaw Opera, Konstancja G?adkowska. In letters to his friend Tytus Woyciechowski, Chopin indicated which of his works, and even which of their passages, were influenced by his erotic transports. His artist's soul was also enriched by friendships with such leading lights of Warsaw's artistic and intellectual world as Maurycy Mochnacki, Józef Bohdan Zaleski and Julian Fontana.[31]
In September 1828, eighteen-year-old Chopin struck out for the wider world in the company of a family friend, the zoologist Feliks Jarocki, who planned to attend a scientific convention in Berlin. There Chopin enjoyed several unfamiliar operas directed by Gaspare Spontini, attended several concerts, and saw Carl Friedrich Zelter, Felix Mendelssohn and other celebrities. On his return trip, he was a guest of Prince Antoni Radziwi??, governor of the Grand Duchy of Posen – himself an accomplished composer and aspiring cellist. For the Prince and his piano-playing daughter Wanda, Chopin composed his Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C major for cello and piano, Op. 3.[34]
Back in Warsaw, in 1829, Chopin heard Niccolò Paganini play and met the German pianist and composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel. On 11 August the same year, three weeks after completing his studies at the Warsaw Conservatory, Chopin made a brilliant debut in Vienna. He gave two piano concerts and received many favorable reviews – in addition to some that criticized the "small tone" that he drew from the piano.[21] In one of these concerts on 11 August, he premiered his Variations on "Là ci darem la mano", Op. 2 (variations on a theme from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni) for piano and orchestra.
This was followed by a concert, in December 1829, at the Warsaw Merchants' Club, where Chopin premièred his Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21. In this period he also began writing his first études (1829–32).[21]
Chopin's successes as a performer and composer opened the professional door for him to western Europe, and on 2 November 1830, seen off by friends and admirers, with a ring from Konstancja G?adkowska on his finger and carrying with him a silver cup containing soil from his native land, Chopin set out, writes Jachimecki, "into the wide world, with no very clearly defined aim, forever."[34] He headed for Austria, intending to go on to Italy.
Concerto No. 2 in F mino
Nico Snel conducts the Seattle Philharmonic
étude Op. 10, No. 12, Revolutionary
Martha Goldstein playing an 1851 érard
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Later that month, in Warsaw, the November Uprising broke out, and Chopin's friend and traveling companion, the future industrialist and art patron Tytus Woyciechowski (pl), returned to Poland to enlist. Chopin, now alone in Vienna, writes Jachimecki, "afflicted by nostalgia, disappointed in his hopes of giving concerts and publishing, matured and acquired spiritual depth. From a romantic... poet... he grew into an inspired national bard who intuited the past, present and future of his country. Only now, at this distance, did he see all of Poland from the proper perspective, and understand what was great and truly beautiful in her, the tragedy and heroism of her vicissitudes."[34]
When in September 1831 Chopin learned, while traveling from Vienna to Paris, that the uprising had been crushed, he poured "profanities and blasphemies, resembling the final verses of Konrad's[35] improvisation," in his native Polish language into the pages of a little journal that he kept secret to the end of his life.[36] He expressed fear for the safety of his family and other civilians, especially the womenfolk at risk of outrages by the Russian troops; mourned the death of "kindly [General] Sowiński" (to whose wife he had dedicated a composition); damned the French for not having come to the aid of the Poles; and expressed dismay that God had permitted the Russians to crush the Polish insurgents – "or are you [God] yourself a Russian?"[37] These outcries of a tormented heart found musical expression in his Scherzo in B minor, Op. 20, and his "Revolutionary étude", in C minor, Op. 10, No. 12.[34]
Chopin arrived in Paris in late September 1831, still uncertain whether he would settle there for good.[34] In fact he would never return to Poland, becoming one of many expatriates of the Polish Great Emigration.[10] In December 1831, Robert Schumann, reviewing Chopin's Variations on "La ci darem la mano" in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, declared: "Hats off, gentlemen! A genius."[38]
On 26 February 1832 Chopin gave a concert at the Salle Pleyel that garnered universal admiration. The influential musicologist and critic Fran?ois-Joseph Fétis wrote in Revue musicale: "Here is a young man who, taking nothing as a model, has found, if not a complete renewal of piano music, then in any case part of what has long been sought in vain, namely, an extravagance of original ideas that are unexampled anywhere..."[39]
After his Paris concert debut in February 1832, Chopin realized that his light-handed keyboard technique was not optimal for large concert spaces. However, later that year he was introduced to the wealthy Rothschild banking family, whose patronage opened doors for him to other private salons.[21]
In Paris, Chopin found artists and other distinguished company, as well as opportunities to exercise his talents and achieve celebrity, and before long he was earning a handsome income teaching piano to affluent students from all over Europe.[40] He formed friendships with Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Vincenzo Bellini, Ferdinand Hiller, Felix Mendelssohn, Heinrich Heine, Eugène Delacroix, Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, Alfred de Vigny, and Charles-Valentin Alkan.[40]
Though an ardent Polish patriot,[4][41] in France he used the French versions of his given names and traveled on a French passport, possibly to avoid having to rely on Imperial Russian documents.[42] The French passport was issued on 1 August 1835, after Chopin had become a French citizen.[43]
Maria Wodzińska, self-portrait In Paris, Chopin seldom performed publicly. In later years he generally gave a single annual concert at the Salle Pleyel, a venue that seated three hundred. He played more frequently at salons – social gatherings of the aristocracy and artistic and literary elite – but preferred playing at his own Paris apartment for small groups of friends. His precarious health prevented his touring extensively as a traveling virtuoso, and beyond playing once in Rouen, he seldom ventured out of the capital.[40] His high income from teaching and composing freed him from the strains of concert-giving, to which he had an innate repugnance.[21] Arthur Hedley has observed that "As a pianist Chopin was unique in acquiring a reputation of the highest order on the basis of a minimum of public appearances—few more than thirty in the course of his lifetime."[44]
In 1835 Chopin went to Carlsbad, where, for the last time in his life, he met with his parents. En route through Saxony on his way back to Paris, he met old friends from Warsaw, the Wodzińskis. He had made the acquaintance of their daughter Maria, now sixteen, in Poland five years earlier, and fell in love with the charming, intelligent, artistically talented young woman.[45] The following year, in September 1836, upon returning to Dresden after having vacationed with the Wodzińskis at Marienbad, Chopin proposed marriage to Maria. She accepted, and her mother Countess Wodzińska approved in principle, but Maria's tender age and Chopin's tenuous health (in the winter of 1835–1836 he had been so ill that word had circulated in Warsaw that he had died) forced an indefinite postponement of the wedding. The engagement remained a secret to the world and never led to the altar.[46] Chopin finally placed the letters from Maria and her mother in a large envelope, on which he wrote the Polish words "Moja bieda" ("My sorrow").[40]
Maria Wodzińska, self-portrait In Paris, Chopin seldom performed publicly. In later years he generally gave a single annual concert at the Salle Pleyel, a venue that seated three hundred. He played more frequently at salons – social gatherings of the aristocracy and artistic and literary elite – but preferred playing at his own Paris apartment for small groups of friends. His precarious health prevented his touring extensively as a traveling virtuoso, and beyond playing once in Rouen, he seldom ventured out of the capital.[40] His high income from teaching and composing freed him from the strains of concert-giving, to which he had an innate repugnance.[21] Arthur Hedley has observed that "As a pianist Chopin was unique in acquiring a reputation of the highest order on the basis of a minimum of public appearances—few more than thirty in the course of his lifetime."[44]
Delfina Potocka Chopin's feelings for Maria left their traces in his Waltz in A-flat major, "The Farewell Waltz", Op. 69, No. 1, written on the morning of his September departure from Dresden. On his return to Paris, he composed the étude in F minor, the second in the Op. 25 cycle, which he referred to as "a portrait of Maria's soul." Along with this, he sent Maria seven songs that he had set to the words of Polish Romantic poets Stefan Witwicki, Józef Zaleski and Adam Mickiewicz.[47]
After Chopin's matrimonial plans ended, Polish countess Delfina Potocka appeared episodically in Chopin's life as muse and romantic interest. He dedicated to her his Waltz in D-flat major, Op. 64, No. 1, the famous "Minute Waltz".[40]
During his years in Paris, Chopin participated in a small number of public concerts. The list of the programs' participants provides an idea of the richness of Parisian artistic life during this period. Examples include a concert on 23 March 1833, in which Chopin, Liszt and Hiller performed J. S. Bach's concerto for three keyboards; and, on 3 March 1838, a concert in which Chopin, his pupil Adolphe Gutman, Alkan, and Alkan's teacher Zimmermann performed Alkan's arrangement, for eight hands, of Beethoven's 7th symphony.
Chopin was also involved in the composition of Liszt's Hexameron; Chopin's was the sixth (and last) variation on Bellini's theme.

Music Features

The great majority of Chopin's compositions were written for the piano as solo instrument; all of his extant works feature the piano in one way or another. Chopin, according to Arthur Hedley, "had the rare gift of a very personal melody, expressive of heart-felt emotion, and his music is penetrated by a poetic feeling that has an almost universal appeal.... Present-day evaluation places him among the immortals of music by reason of his insight into the secret places of the heart and because of his awareness of the magical new sonorities to be drawn from the piano."[44]

The first systematic, if imperfect, study of Chopin's style came in F. P. Laurencin's 1861 Die Harmonik der Neuzeit. Laurencin concluded that "Chopin is one of the most brilliant exceptional natures that have ever stridden onto the stage of history and life, he is one who can never be exhausted nor stand before a void. Chopin is the musical progone[78] of all progones until now."[79]
Robert Schumann, speaking of Chopin's Sonata in B-flat minor, wrote that "he alone begins and ends a work like this: with dissonances, through dissonances, and in dissonances", and in Chopin's music he discerned "cannon concealed amid blossoms".[79]
According to Tad Szulc, Chopin's works, though technically demanding,[80] emphasize nuance and expressive depth rather than sheer virtuosity. Vladimir Horowitz referred to Chopin as "the only truly great composer for the piano".[81]
Chopin's music for the piano combined a unique rhythmic sense (particularly his use of rubato), frequent use of chromaticism, and counterpoint. This mixture produces a particularly fragile sound in the melody and the harmony, which are nonetheless underpinned by solid and interesting harmonic techniques. He took the new salon genre of the nocturne, invented by Irish composer John Field, to a deeper level of sophistication. Three of Chopin's twenty-one Nocturnes were published only after his death in 1849, contrary to his wishes.[82] He also endowed popular dance forms, such as the Polish mazurek and the Viennese Waltz, with a greater range of melody and expression.
Autographed musical quotation from Op. 53, signed by Chopin on 25 May 1845 Chopin's mazurkas, while based somewhat on the traditional Polish dance (the mazurek), were different from the traditional variety in that they were suitable for concerts halls as well as dance settings. With his mazurkas, Chopin brought a new sense of nationalism, which was an idea that other composers writing both at the same time as, and after, Chopin would also incorporate into their compositions. Chopin's nationalism was a great influence and inspiration for many other composers, especially Eastern Europeans, and he was one of the first composers to clearly express nationalism through his music. Furthermore, he was the first composer to take a national genre of music from his home country and transform it into a genre worthy of the general concert-going public, thereby creating an entirely new genre.
Chopin was the first to write ballades[83] and scherzi as individual pieces. He took the example of Bach's preludes and fugues and essentially established a new genre with his own Préludes. He reinvented the étude,[84] expanding on the idea and making it into a gorgeous, eloquent and emotional showpiece, and he used his études to teach his own revolutionary style[21] – for instance playing with the weak fingers (3, 4, and 5) in fast figures (Op. 10, No. 2), playing in octaves (Op. 25, No. 10), and playing black keys with the thumb (Op. 10, No. 5).
Further information: Nocturnes (Chopin), Preludes (Chopin), and études (Chopin)
Over 230 Chopin works survive; some compositions from early childhood have been lost. All his known works involve the piano, and only a few range beyond solo piano music, as either piano concertos or chamber music. He composed:
Over 230 Chopin works survive; some compositions from early childhood have been lost. All his known works involve the piano, and only a few range beyond solo piano music, as either piano concertos or chamber music. He composed:
Chopin's autograph, stylised as a half note59 mazurkas
27 études (twelve in the Op. 10 cycle, twelve in the Op. 25 cycle, and three in a collection without an opus number)
27 preludes
21 nocturnes
20 waltzes
18 polonaises, including one with orchestral accompaniment and one for cello and piano accompaniment
5 rondos
4 ballades
4 impromptus
4 scherzos
4 sets of variations, including Souvenir de Paganini
3 écossaises
3 piano sonatas
2 concerti for piano and orchestra, Op. 11 and 21
He also composed: a fantaisie; an Allegro de concert (possibly the remnant of an incomplete concerto); a barcarole; a berceuse; a bolero; a tarantelle; a contredanse; a fugue; a cantabile; a lento; a Funeral march; a Feuille d'album; a krakowiak for piano and orchestra; Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for piano and orchestra; fantasia on themes from Polish songs with accompanying orchestra; a trio for violin, cello and piano; a sonata for cello and piano; a Grand Duo in E major for cello and piano on themes from Giacomo Meyerbeer's opera Robert le diable, co-written with Auguste Franchomme; and 19 Polish songs for voice and piano.[79]
Chopin published much of his music simultaneously in Germany, France, and England. While this certainly earned the composer triple exposure and likely a good sum of revenue, the discrepancies between these three (or more) editions can be quite the conundrum. Ever the romantic, Chopin lived in a constant state of inspiration and improvisation, and was certainly prone to editing and revising his own music even after sending final drafts to his publishers. Especially considering that all published editions of his work during his lifetime were in fact proofed and approved by the composer himself, this is a popular source of anxiety amongst pianists and scholars.
How is one to know what the composer truly meant and wanted when we are presented with autographs and first drafts bearing the composer's approval that differ in content? Details such as phrase markings, dynamics, fingerings, even the notes themselves are often subject to suspicion. The several editions of the time had different ways of dealing with this problem; the Germans of course believed that their version was infallible, the French called Chopin their own, having spent most of his adult life based in Paris, and the English publisher (a German who largely copied the French editions) annoyed Chopin by insisting on adding flowery titles to his pieces. Nearly 200 years later, the state of affairs in regards to Chopin editions has turned over a new leaf.
The English pianist Angela Lear has recorded her performances of Chopin's compositions based on her extensive research into his autographs and all available sources, and has published CD's with discussions and musical illustrations.
[edit] Opus numbering
The last opus number that Chopin himself used was 65, allocated to the Cello Sonata in G minor. He expressed a deathbed wish that all his unpublished manuscripts be destroyed. At the request of the composer's mother and sisters, however, his pianist friend and musical executor Julian Fontana selected 23 unpublished piano pieces and grouped them into eight further opus numbers (Opp. 66–73), published in 1855.[85] In 1857, 17 Polish songs that Chopin wrote at various stages of his life were collected and published as Op. 74, though their order within the opus did not reflect the order of composition.[86] (Two more songs were published in 1910.) Works published since 1857 have received alternate catalog designations instead of opus numbers.
Main article: Miscellaneous compositions (Chopin)
Today several scholarly editions exist that attempt to organize the vast array of sources and compile the information in one presentable volume, notably the Paderewski and Polish National editions which contain lengthy and scholarly explanations and discussions regarding choices and sources. Even so, it is ultimately up to the taste of an editor as to which version of which piece suits them most at the given time, and perhaps Chopin himself faced the same dilemma, resulting in the variations we have today.
[edit] Influence
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Several of Chopin's pieces have become very well known—for instance the Revolutionary étude (Op. 10, No. 12), the Minute Waltz (Op. 64, No. 1), and the third movement of his Funeral March Sonata No. 2 (Op. 35), which is often used as an iconic representation of grief. Chopin himself never named an instrumental work beyond genre and number, leaving all potential extra-musical associations to the listener; the names by which we know many of the pieces were invented by others.[87] The Revolutionary étude was not written with the failed Polish uprising against Russia in mind; it merely appeared at that time. The Funeral March was written before the rest of the sonata within which it is contained, but the exact occasion is not known; it appears not to have been inspired by any specific personal bereavement.[88]
Other melodies have been used as the basis of popular songs, such as the slow section of the Fantaisie-Impromptu (Op. posth. 66) and the first section of the étude, Op. 10, No. 3. These pieces often rely on an intense and personalised chromaticism, as well as a melodic curve that resembles the operas of Chopin's day – the operas of Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, and especially Vincenzo Bellini.[89] Chopin used the piano to recreate the gracefulness of the singing voice, and talked and wrote constantly about singers.
Chopin's style and gifts became increasingly influential. Robert Schumann was a huge admirer of Chopin's music, and he used melodies from Chopin and even named a piece from his suite Carnaval after Chopin. This admiration was not generally reciprocated, although Chopin did dedicate his Ballade No. 2 in F major to Schumann.
Franz Liszt was another admirer and personal friend of the composer, and he transcribed for piano six of Chopin's Polish songs. However, Liszt denied that he wrote Funérailles (subtitled "October 1849", the seventh movement of his piano suite Harmonies poétiques et religieuses of 1853) in memory of Chopin. Though the middle section seems to be modeled on the famous octave trio section of Chopin's Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53, Liszt said the piece had been inspired by the deaths of three of his Hungarian compatriots in the same month.
Johannes Brahms and the younger Russian composers, too, found inspiration in Chopin's examples.[79] Chopin's technical innovations became influential. His Préludes (Op. 28) and études (Opp. 10 and 25) rapidly became standard works, and inspired both Liszt's Transcendental études and Schumann's Symphonic Studies. Alexander Scriabin was also strongly influenced by Chopin; for example, his 24 Preludes, Op. 11, are inspired by Chopin's Op. 28.
Jeremy Siepmann, in his biography of the composer, lists pianists whose recordings of Chopin are generally acknowledged to be among the greatest Chopin performances ever preserved: Vladimir de Pachmann, Raoul Pugno, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Moriz Rosenthal, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alfred Cortot, Ignaz Friedman, Raoul Koczalski, Arthur Rubinstein, Mieczys?aw Horszowski, Claudio Arrau, Vlado Perlemuter, Vladimir Horowitz, Dinu Lipatti, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini, Murray Perahia, Krystian Zimerman, Evgeny Kissin.
Chopin was a genius of universal appeal. His music conquers the most diverse audiences. When the first notes of Chopin sound through the concert hall there is a happy sigh of recognition. All over the world men and women know his music. They love it. They are moved by it. Yet it is not "Romantic music" in the Byronic sense. It does not tell stories or paint pictures. It is expressive and personal, but still a pure art. Even in this abstract atomic age, where emotion is not fashionable, Chopin endures. His music is the universal language of human communication. When I play Chopin I know I speak directly to the hearts of people!
[edit] Style
Chopin's autograph of first 32 bars of Polonaise in A-flat major, 1842 Although Chopin lived in the 19th century, he was educated in the tradition of Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and Clementi; he used Clementi's piano method with his own students. He was also influenced by Hummel's development of virtuoso, yet Mozartian, piano technique. Chopin cited Bach and Mozart as the two most important composers in shaping his musical outlook.[90]
The series of seven Polonaises published in his lifetime (another nine were published posthumously), beginning with the Op. 26 pair, set a new standard for music in the form, and were rooted in Chopin's desire to write something to celebrate Polish culture after the country had fallen into Russian control.[91] The Polonaise in A major, Op. 40, No. 1, the "Military," and the Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53, the "Heroic," are among Chopin's best-loved and most-often-played works.
Chopin also wrote 24 different preludes as a tribute to J. S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier. Chopin's preludes move up the circle-of-fifths, whereas Bach uses the chromatic scale to create a prelude in every major and minor tonality achievable on the clavier.[citation needed]
[edit] Rubato
Chopin's music is well known for benefiting from rubato (which was how he himself performed his music),[92] as opposed to a strictly regular playing. Yet there is usually call for caution when the music is performed with wobbly, over-exaggerated, inappropriate "rubato" (e.g. attempting to justify insecure playing, with reference to expressive rubato).
His playing was always noble and beautiful; his tones sang, whether in full forte or softest piano. He took infinite pains to teach his pupils this legato, cantabile style of playing. His most severe criticism was "He—or she—does not know how to join two notes together." He also demanded the strictest adherence to rhythm. He hated all lingering and dragging, misplaced rubatos, as well as exaggerated ritardandos ... and it is precisely in this respect that people make such terrible errors in playing his works.
—Friederike Müller, "From the Diary of a Viennese Chopin Pupil"[93]
However, while some can provide restrictive quotes about Chopin such as the above, often to the effect that "the accompanying hand always played in strict tempo", these quotes need to be considered in better context[94] in terms both of the time when they were made and of the situations that may have prompted the original writer to set down the thoughts. Constantin von Sternberg (1852–1924) has written:
It is amusing to note that even some serious persons express the idea that in tempo rubato "the right hand may use a certain freedom while the left hand must keep strict time." (See Niecks' Life of Chopin, II, p. 101.) A nice sort of music would result from such playing! Something like the singing of a good vocalist accompanied by a poor blockhead who hammers away in strict time without yielding to the singer who, in sheer despair, must renounce all artistic expression. It is reported by some ladies that Chopin himself gave them this explanation, but – they might not have understood him [...]
—Constantin von Sternberg (1852–1924), Tempo rubato, and other essays[95]
There are also views of contemporary writers such as Hector Berlioz.[94][96]
This suggests that Chopin is not to be found at commonly encountered one-sided extremes. The unbalanced views are:
that Chopin requires metronomic rhythm in the left hand;
that insecure performances of Chopin can be justified with reference to rubato;
that performances with particular inflections, that result from technical limits/insecurities rather than a performer's intentions, can be justified with reference to rubato.
Some performers' (and piano-schools') "too strongly held one-sided views on Chopin's way of playing rubato" may account for some unsatisfactory interpretations of his music.[citation needed]
[edit] Romanticism
Chopin is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music.[97]
Chopin regarded most of his contemporaries with indifference, though he had many acquaintances who were associated with romanticism in music, literature, and the fine arts—many of them via his liaison with George Sand. Chopin's music is, however, considered by many to epitomise the Romantic style.[98] The relative classical purity and discretion in his music, with little extravagant exhibitionism, partly reflects his reverence for Bach and Mozart.
Chopin never indulged in explicit "scene-painting" in his music, or used programmatic titles. He castigated publishers who renamed his compositions in this way.
[edit] Nationalism
1831 Russian attack on Warsaw during the November 1830 Uprising Chopin's Polish biographer Zdzis?aw Jachimecki notes that "Chopin at every step demonstrated his Polish spirit – in the hundreds of letters that he wrote in Polish, in his attitude to Paris' [Polish] émigrés, in his negative view of all that bore the official stamp of the powers that occupied Poland." Likewise Chopin composed music to accompany Polish texts[99] but never musically illustrated a single French or German text, though he numbered among his friends several great French and German poets.[79]
According to his English biographer Arthur Hedley, Chopin "found within himself and in the tragic story of Poland the chief sources of his inspiration. The theme of Poland's glories and sufferings was constantly before him, and he transmuted the primitive rhythms and melodies of his youth into enduring art forms."[44]
In asserting his own Polishness, Chopin, according to Jachimecki, exerted "a tremendous influence [toward] the nationalization of the work of numerous later composers, who have often personally – like the Czech Smetana and Norway's Grieg – confirmed this opinion..."[79]
The Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, Chopin's contemporary, referred to Chopin's Polish homeland when he wrote that Chopin "may be ranked first among musicians who have had an individual poetic sense of a particular nation."[100] He referred to Chopin as "a Polish artist."[101] Composer Robert Schumann acknowledged the strength of Chopin's personal reaction to Russia's suppression of the November 1830 Uprising when he wrote that in Chopin's music one found "cannon hidden among the flowers."[102] Joseph Conrad, a great admirer of Chopin's music, considered the distinctive feature of the compositions to be their "Polishness".[103]

TV documentaries

The 90-minute BBC TV documentary Chopin – The Women Behind The Music (2010) explores Chopin's life, notably his encounters with the singers who enchanted the composer with their voices. The BBC announcement for the premiere refers to Jenny Lind as the "Swedish opera star, who so affected Chopin in the final years of his life."[104]

Another documentary about Chopin was realized by Angelo Bozzolini and Roberto Prosseda for Italian Television in 2010: "Fryderik Chopin". Featuring interviews with Martha Argerich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, Charles Rosen, it is currently distributed by Euroarts.[105]


Possibly the first venture into fictional treatments of Chopin's life was a fanciful operatic version of some of its events. This opera, titled Chopin, was written by Giacomo Orefice and produced in Milan in 1901. Orefice incorporated Chopin's music, arranged as arias; the operatic arrangements have been described as "coarse".[106]
Chopin's life and his relations with George Sand have been fictionalized in film. The 1945 biopic A Song to Remember earned Cornel Wilde an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for his portrayal of the composer. Other film treatments have included: La Valse de l'adieu (France, 1928) by Henry Roussel, with Pierre Blanchar as Chopin and the collaboration of musicologist édouard Ganche (fr) as special historical advisor; Impromptu (1991), starring Hugh Grant as Chopin; La note bleue (1991); and Chopin: Desire for Love (2002). Another cinema reference to Chopin occurs in Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata; the difference in interpreting Chopin's Prelude No. 2 in A minor between pianist Charlotte Andergast and her daughter Eva constitutes a major scene.
Kate Beaton did a series of comics starring Chopin and Liszt.[107]
The video game Eternal Sonata takes place in the mind of Chopin in the hours before his death and features Chopin as a playable character, with regular breaks for presentations of his own music.。


In 1909, to celebrate Chopin's centenary, the Russian composer Sergei Lyapunov wrote a "symphonic poem in memory of Chopin", titled Zhelazova Vola, Op. 37 (Russian: Жeлaзoвa Вoлa), a reference to Chopin's birthplace.[75]

In 1926 a bronze statue of Chopin, designed by sculptor Wac?aw Szymanowski in 1907, was erected in the upper part of Warsaw's Royal Baths (?azienki) Park, adjacent to Ujazdów Avenue (Aleje Ujazdowskie). The statue was originally to have been installed in 1910, on the centenary of Chopin's birth, but its execution was delayed by controversy about the design, then by the outbreak of World War I.
On 31 May 1940, during the German occupation of Poland in World War II, the statue was destroyed by the Nazis.[76] It was reconstructed after the war, in 1958. Since 1959, free piano recitals of Chopin's compositions have been performed at the statue's base on summer Sunday afternoons. The stylized willow over Chopin's seated figure echoes a pianist's hand and fingers. Until 2007, the statue was the world's tallest monument to Chopin.
A 1:1-scale replica of Szymanowski's Art Nouveau statue is found in Warsaw's sister city of Hamamatsu, Japan. There are also preliminary plans to erect another replica along Chicago's lakefront in addition to a different sculpture commemorating the artist in Chopin Park for the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth.
A bronze bust memorializing Chopin stands at Symphony Circle outside Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York.
There are numerous other monuments to Chopin around the world. The most recent, by a small margin taller than the Warsaw statue, is a modernistic bronze sculpture by Lu Pin [4] [5] in Shanghai, China, that was unveiled on 3 March 2007.
The world's oldest monographic music competition, the International Chopin Piano Competition, founded in 1927, is held every five years in Warsaw.
Established in 1954, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum is housed in Warsaw's Ostrogski Palace, seat of the Fryderyk Chopin Society. Refurbished for the 200th anniversary (2010) of Chopin's birth, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum is one of the most modern museums in Poland.
Periodically the Grand prix du disque de F. Chopin is awarded for notable Chopin recordings, both remastered and newly recorded work.
Named for the composer are the largest Polish music conservatory, the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw; Warsaw Chopin Airport; the Chopin crater on Mercury; and asteroid 3784 Chopin.
For the 2010 bicentennial of Fryderyk Chopin's birth, fourteen "Chopin's Warsaw" ("Warszawa Chopina") benches were placed in Warsaw near Chopin landmarks such as his last Warsaw residence (the Krasiński a.k.a. Czapski Palace), Warsaw's Carmelite Church where he played organ as a boy, and the Wessel Palace where in 1830 he boarded a stagecoach bound for Vienna. Pressing a button on a "Chopin's Warsaw" bench makes it play a few bars of a Chopin composition.[77


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édouard Ganche, Frédéric Chopin: sa vie et ses ?uvres (Frédéric Chopin: His Life and Works), Mercure de France, 1913.
Gastone Belotti, Chopin, l'uomo (Chopin the Man), 3 vols., Milan, Sapere, 1974.
Gastone Belotti, Chopin, Turin, EDT, 1984, ISBN 88-7063-033-1.
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[The Book of the Second International Musicological Congress, Warsaw, 10–17 October 1999:] Chopin and His Work in the Context of Culture, studies edited by Irena Poniatowska, vols. 1–2, Warsaw, 2003.
Bastet, Frédéric L. (1997). Helse liefde: Biografisch essay over Marie d'Agoult, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, George Sand (in Dutch). Amsterdam: Querido. ISBN 90-214-5157-3.
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