Frederic Chopin, the Polish pianist and composer, was one of the most significant composers of the Romantic period. Many of his pieces are widely known today as they have been featured in lots of films, TV programs, advertisements and on the radio - not just classical stations.
Born: March 1, 1810 in Zelazowa Wola, Poland
Died: October 17, 1849 in Paris, France. Tubercolosis.
Father: Mikołaj (Nicolas) Chopin, originally a Frenchman from Lorraine, played the flute and violin.
Mother: Tekla Justyna Krzyzanowska
Siblings: 3 sisters: Ludwika, Izabela and Emilia. Ludwika (Louise) gave him his first piano lessons.
Partners: Unmarried. Was engaged to Maria Wodzińska but broken off. Several romances including Polish countess Delfina Potocka. The most important however was his 10 year turbulent relationship with French writer George Sand ( Aurore Dudevant) who dressed as a man.
Grave: Heart only: Holy Cross Church, Warsaw, Poland
Body (without heart): Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris, France
Style: early French Romantic with Polish nationalist influence.
Quantity: well over 200 works including:
2 Piano concertos
He is unusual in being known primarily for his work for the piano only. He produced very little chamber music and his only major orchestral works were two piano concertos.
He didn't give titles to his works but identified them by genre and number.
One of his best known works however is known as 'The Minute Waltz"
Chopin made a good living by composing and teaching. He gave very few public performances (30 - 35) preferring to play in private salons or at home to his circle of friends and acquantances.
Chopin in Art
A fascinating collection of images - art, portraits, caricatures, cartoons, album covers and postge stamps.
- Height: 5'7" / 1m 70cm
- Weight: 40kg / 88lbs (seriously underweight)
- Large aquiline nose, thin lips, protruding lower lip.
- Delicate hands
- Fond of elegant, expensive clothes
- Poor health from childhood. Prone to chest infections with much wheezing and coughing.
- Didn't lose his Polish accent. Didn't manage to completely master French, his adopted language.
- Liked to be punctual.
- Religion: Catholic
- Friends: Liszt, Mendelssohn, Berlioz.
- Excellent piano teacher. Well liked by his pupils.
- "Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art."
- "England is a country of pianos, they are everywhere."
- "Here, whatever is not boring is not English."
- "I'm a revolutionary, money means nothing to me."
- "Sometimes I can only groan, suffer, and pour out my despair at the piano!"
- "Put all your soul into it, play the way you feel!"
and lots, lots more quotes by and about Chopin (click link)
- Childhood: Family moved to Warsaw soon after he was born.
- Age 6-12: Piano lessons by Zywmy
- Age 13-16: Attended the Warsaw Lyceum where his father taught French. He spent the summers in the countryside with friends and was exposed to Polish folk music which was a big influence on his compositions.
- Age 16-19: Studied the theory of music and composition at the Warsaw High School of Music.
- Age 19: Went to Vienna with friends. While there he gave some concerts including his two piano concertos and was acclaimed as a genius of the piano. A Viennese publisher printed his Varioations on a theme by Mozart.
- Age 20: The Polish Uprising of 1830 made it necessary for him to leave Poland. He decided to go to Paris which was a popular refuge for Poles.
- Age 22: He have a concert which made his name in Paris and also attracted the attention of music publishers. Owing to his fragile health however he preferred to not do concert performances but rather private recitals for the Parisian society.
His main source of income was from teaching the piano.
- Age 25: Became a French citizen.
- Age 27: After various romantic affairs he began a close liaison with the Baroness Dudevant (better known as George Sand) - a divorced, cross-dressing, writer, six years older than him and with two children.
- Age 27-37: Declining health and looked after by George Sand. Yet this period was also his most productive for compositions.
- Age 37: Split with George Sand.
- Age 38: Went on a tour of England and Scotland with his Scottish pupil Jane Stirling. She proposed marriage but he didn't accept. He found the whole tour very tiring and his health worsened. He gave his very last public concert in the Guildhall, London for Polish refugees.
- Age 39: His sister Ludwika came to Paris to look after him. He died of pulmonary tuberculosis.
- He was afraid of being buried alive and specified in his will that his heart should be taken out and pickled in alcohol. It was taken to Warsaw by his sister, while his body was buried in Paris.
For more biographical information see the links below.
Left Poland when he was 21 to go to Paris.
Toured Europe with his friend Liszt, but stayed predominantly in Paris.
Spent some time in Majorca for his health - but it rained all the time and he got worse!
The year before he died he spent 7 months in England and Scotland.
His last public performance was for Polish refugees in London's Guildhall
Chopin's piano pieces are grouped into preludes, studies, nocturnes, mazurkas, polonaises, waltzes, ballads, sonatas, fantasias, barcarolles. Here are eamples of each:
Prelude op28 no.7 - 12
played by Vladimir Ashkenazy
Etudes Op10 nos 1 2 4 5
played by Mei-ting Sun
Nocturne Op 27 # 2 D Flat Major
played by Valentina Lisitsa
Mazurka Op.17 No.4
played by Horowitz
Polonaise N°6 "Heroic"
played by Martha Argerich
played by Lang Lang
Ballade No.1 in G minor, Opus 23
played by Tzvi Erez
Sonata No 2
played by Horovitz at the White House
"Fantasie" Impromptu, Op. 66
played by Yundi Li
Barcarolle in F-sharp major, op. 60
- The Chopin Project
- The Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw
- The Poet of the Piano
- The Life of Chopin by Liszt