Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Great Polish Composers: Frederic Chopin

 Frederic Chopin March 1,1810- October 17, 1849
Frederic "Francois" Chopin was a "superstar" in the world of classical music.  His life was one of enchantment, love affairs, controversy, self-exile, greatness and public adoration. He was also a child prodigy.

Like Mozart, Chopin began playing the piano and composing music at a very young age. At the tender age of seven he was already giving public concerts. At so young an age, Chopin composed two magnificent polonaises (in G minor, and B-flat major).  During this time Chopin was occasionally invited to Belweder Palace as playmate for the son of Grand Duke Constantine of Russia. 
Little Chopin became hugely popular with the Duke for his impressive piano concertos. And he even composed a march especially for Duke Constantine, entitled "Nasze Przebiegi" 1818, (translated, it means "Our Discourses"). 

Incidentally, the title, "Our Discourses" was in direct reference to the Polish Revolution of 1788-92. At that time, the Polish Sejm (or Parliament) had enacted sweeping reforms, most notably the Constitution of May 3, 1791. The "discourse" was one in which pro-Russian and anti-Russian interests clashed, albeit non-violently, in the Polish government. But despite all the reforms, the ultimate power still remained firmly in St. Petersburg. Eventually the "discourse" turned into rebellion in the November Uprising of 1830. Polish officers led armed forces against the Russian regime, which ended in terrible defeat for the Polish.

Shortly before the outbreak of fighting, Chopin, then 20 years of age, left Poland and settled in Paris. When Chopin learned of the terrible outcome of the Uprising, he descended into despair and fury! But he never returned to Poland. A few years later he became a French citizen, and became a celebrity and idol among his peers and the general public. Chopin became part of the elite inner sanctum of composers, such as Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Tytus Wovciechowski, Jan Bialoblocki, Jan Matuszynski, and Julian Fontana. He also became acquainted with Adam Mickiewicz, a famous Polish poet, and whose verses he set to music.

Chopin's compositions were created for piano concertos, a few chamber pieces as well as a few songs. Many of his compositions blended elements of Polish folk music and introduced a spirit of Polish nationalistic fervor. But his work was also greatly influenced by the classical style of Bach, Mozart and Schubert, for whom he held great admiration.

Frederic Chopin created new innovations in music: his waltzes were adapted to performances for salon recitals rather than for ballroom dancing, and thus were written at a much faster tempo. He also set a new standard for his series of polonaises. And needless to say, Chopin' s mazurkas are known around the world!

Of all his compositions only 230 published works survive to this day.  Several compositions from his early childhood have sadly been lost.  One can never know how many compositions Chopin produced in his lifetime, but one can be certain that he worked laboriously, so much so, that in his late thirties, his health failed him and he died of consumption on October 17, 1849.

At his funeral march, Mozart's Requiem was sung by soprano Jeanne-Anais Castellan,  mezzo soprano Pauline Viardot,  tenor Alexis Dupont, and  bass Luigi Lablache.  Chopin's Preludes no. 4 in E minor and no. 6 in B minor were also played and at his final resting place, the Funeral March from Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2, was played.

Chopin had never returned to Poland. Nevertheless, he always considered himself a Pole. Before he passed away, he requested that his heart be sent back to Warsaw.  It is preserved in a hermetically sealed urn in Holy Cross Church.

Great Polish Composer - Frederic Chopin - cast of Chopins left hand
Cast of Chopin's Left Hand

Allegro de concerto in A major op. 46 (1841)
Ballads in G minor op. 23 (1835), F major op. 38 (1839), A flat major op. 47 (1841), F minor op. 52 (1842)
Barcarolle in F sharp major op. 60 (1846)
Berceuse (Lullaby) in D flat major op. 57 (1844)
Bolero in C major op. 19 (before 1834)
3 Ecossaises op. 72 (1830)
Etudes op. 10 (1829-32), op. 25 (before 1837), 3 Nouvelles Etudes (1839)
Fantasy in F minor op. 49 (1841)
Impromptus in A flat major op. 29 (before1837), F sharp major op. 36 (1839), G flat major op. 51 (1842), Fantasy Impromptu in C sharp minor op. 66 (ca. 1834)
Mazurkas (1825-49)
Nocturnes (1828-46)
Polonaises (1817-42)
24 Preludes op. 28 (1831-39)
Preludium Cis-moll op. 45 (1841)
Rondos (1825-34)
Scherzos in B flat minor op. 20 (1831-34), B minor op. 31 (1835-37), C sharp minor op. 39 (1839), E major op. 54 (1842)
Sonatas in C minor op. 4 (1827/28), B minor op. 35 (1839), B flat minor op. 58 (1844)
Tarantella in A flat major op. 43 (1841)
Waltzes (1829-49)
Variations (1824-38)
Grand duo Concertant for piano and cello (1832/33)
Introduction and Polonaise in C major op. 3 for piano and cello (1830)
Sonata in G minor op. 65 for piano and cello (1846/47)
Trio in G minor op. 8 for piano, violin and cello (1829)
Andante Spianato and Polonaise in E flat major op. 22 (1830-36)
Fantasy on Polish Themes in A major op. 13 (ca. 1829)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor op. 11 (1830)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor op. 21 (1829/30)
Rondo a La Krakowiak in F major op. 14 (1828)
Variations in B flat major op. 2 on Aria "La ci darem la mano" from Mozart's opera Don Juan (1827/28)
19 Songs op. 74 (1829-47)

Recommended sites:

The Official website of the City of Warsaw

I highly recommend this site which combines samples of Chopin's magnificent compositions and an enthralling narrative/documentary of the life of Chopin and the turbulent Polish history of his time.  The only thing that could make it better if they included a visual virtual tour to enhance the audio tour!  Still, it's not a website to be missed!


If you are lucky enough to visit Poland in August 2014, you can attend the 10th International Chopin Music Festival.  Check out this website and buy your tickets while you still can!


Yet another exceptional website devoted entirely to Frederic Chopin. The bonus is that it appeals to an international audience.  There are links that provide contact information of Chopin organizations around the world!  And there is a wealth of information of Chopin's life and Work, including Exhibitions, Competitions as well as a selection of other websites devoted to Chopin!


This is an exceptional website for lovers of classical music.  This link provides a comprehensive link of all known compositions of Chopin (and others).  Navigational buttons allow you to sort the list in various ways, and provides you with audio recordings and sheet music.  


You can listen to Chopin's greatest works, and that of many other composers, all for free. But if you want to download, you will have to pay for it!   Listening to his music is a delight, and so is knowing that there are 983,105 other people sharing the same experience! What is more, the id names of other listeners are continuously scrolled online, along with the name of their selected composition. If you wish you can even contact them and add them as a friend. 

Issued in 2001 in Commemoration

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