Frédéric François Chopin

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was a Polish composer and piano player. His music was exclusively written for piano. He lived in Paris since 1830, aged 20, where he changed his name into Frédéric François Chopin.

Frédéric François Chopin was born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, on March 1, 1810, in Zelazowa Wola, Masovia region, Duchy of Warsaw, Poland. His father, named Mikolaj (Nicolas) Chopin, was a Frenchman who came to Poland from Lorraine, and eventually became professor at Warsaw Lyceum. His mother, named Tekla Justina Krzyzanovska, was a relative of Polish Countess Ludwika Skarbkowa, owner of the Zelazowa Wola estate.

From 1816-1822 Chopin studied piano under professional musician Wojcech Zywny. He wrote his first piano compositions at the age of 7. At 8, he gave piano concerts and wanted to become a professional piano player.

In 1820, Chopin moved with his family to Warsaw. There he gained a reputation as a "second Mozart" for his piano playing. He moved to Paris in 1830, aged 20, where he was welcomed by important composers of his time like Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz as well as no prominent authors like Heinrich Heine and Honoré de Balzac. The aristocratic circles had Chopin playing in their salon all the time, especially his own polonaise compositions which were inspired by his Polish background.

From 1823-1826 Chopin studied at the Warsaw Lyceum. In 1824 he was influenced by the Jewish folklore and composed Mazurka in A minor, called "The Jewish." From 1826-1830 he studied at the Warsaw Conservatory under pianist Wilhelm Wurfel and composer Josef Elsner. In 1829 Chopin attended a performance of the famous composer-violinist Niccolò Paganini in Warsaw. In the same year Chopin gave solo concerts in Vienna and premiered his Piano Concerto No.1 in F minor.

Also in 1830, Chopin premiered his Piano Concerto No.2 in E minor at the National Theatre in Warsaw. In November of the same year, he visited Vienna again and played his two piano concertos with great success. He continued his concert tour to Munich and Stuttgart. There he learned of the invasion of the Russian Army in Poland, and composed the Etude in C minor, called Revolutionary. Chopin chose the status of a political exile and finally emigrated to Paris, France.

From 1830-1849, in Paris, Chopin established himself as composer and piano player. There he changed his name into Frédéric François Chopin. In Paris that he met the famous composer Franz Liszt, who initiated a friendship. They played together in several concerts becoming rivals later. Chopin formed personal friendship with composer Hector Berlioz. His other personal friends were Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Vincenzo Bellini. In 1835 he made a trip to Dresden and Karlsbad, where he visited with his relatives and accompanied them to Poland. On his way back to Paris, he became ill with bronchial asthma.

In 1836 he proposed to Maria Wodzinska, a seventeen-year-old Polish girl, and she accepted. Their engagement lasted for several months, but was called off in 1837 by her mother after an influence by George Sand. In October of the same year, Chopin met the writer George Sand (Amandine-Lucie - Aurore Dupin) at a Parisian party hosted by Marie d'Agoult, mistress of Franz Liszt. In June of 1837 Sand wrote in a letter to her friend about her agenda to abandon another affair in order to start a relationship with Chopin. George Sand was strongly attracted to Chopin, she destroyed his engagement to Maria Wodzinska, and dominated his life for nine years. Chopin and Sand had a turbulent relationship.

In 1839, during their first winter vacation together on Mallorca, Sand took along her children from her previous marriage. There, Chopin did not have a decent piano to practice, while he was composing his 'Raindrop' prelude. He also completed his greatest masterpiece, the cycle of 24 Preludes. He struggled with a poor rental piano, unhappy and fell ill, but received little help from local doctors. Later Chopin enjoyed a better environment at Sand's estate in Nohant. There his creativity flourished during the summers of 1839 until 1843 and he composed many important works. However, Chopin and Sand were not a good match, and their differences prevailed. Sand was a pipe smoker and a flamboyant party goer. Chopin suffered from bronchial asthma and tuberculosis and needed a quiet solitude for his music. In George Sand's violent quarrel with her daughter Solange, Chopin defended the daughter. Sand left Chopin.

Chopin gave his last concerts in Paris in February 1848. He went to England and Scotland in November of 1848, and fell ill there. While gravely ill, he gave his last concerts in London. Chopin returned to Paris, but was unable to teach or perform for several months during 1849. Before he died, sensing the end was near, Chopin's last request was that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's famous  "Requiem" be sung at his funeral service at the Church of the Madeleine. He also requested that his heart be removed and brought in an urn to Warsaw, Poland. Chopin died on October 17, 1849, but could not be buried for two weeks, because the church did not allow female singers for Mozart's Requiem.  The church eventually relented and the funeral was held on October 30, 1849.

His funeral was attended by a crowd of four thousand. Among many prominent people from cultural circles, composer Berlioz, artist Delacroix, poet Adam Mickiewicz, singer Pauline Viardot, were present, but notably absent was George Sand. Chopin's heart was dispatched in an urn to Warsaw, and his body was laid to rest in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France.

Recommended Nocturnes Music:  

1. Frederic Chopin classical music piano collection with paintings of Rembrandt van Rijn.  YouTube / Debussy Your Mind - Classical Piano Music. Accessed March  1, 2018.  
2. Interpretations from Brigitte Engerer, Chopin Complete Nocturnes.
3. 20 Essential Chopin Recordings. WQXR Blog.   

Video Credit:

Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 Op. 11 Evgeny Kissin. Youtube, uploaded by xelarutra. Accessed  March 1, 2009. (The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Zubin Mehta)

Image Credit:

Chopin painted by artist Eugene Delacroix. / public domain.


Frédéric François Chopin. IMDB

Oxford Dictionary of Music by Michael & Joyce Kennedy & Tim Rutherford-Johnson.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, New updated Edition. Edited by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan Publishers, 1994.

Further Reading:

Chopin's Funeral by Benita Eisler.  London: Abacus, 2003.

Article posted: June 2007. Latest update: 11 August 2016

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