Fryderyk Chopin

Poland’s most eminent composer, ‘poet of the piano’, was born on 1st March (according to his own declara- tions) or 22nd February (as the baptismal certificate states) 1810 in Żelazowa Wola, to the music-loving family of Polonised Frenchman Mikołaj (Nicolas) Chopin and his wife Tekla Justyna née Krzyżanow- ska. From his earliest years, he passionately soaked up the music of J.S. Bach and W.A. Mozart, while during holidays he familiarised himself with the allure of folk melodies. As a pupil of Wojciech Żywny, and later of Józef Elsner, he astonished the critics and the audience alike with his mastery of the piano, ease of improvisation, and creative imagination.

Following the Warsaw success of his two piano concertos (in F Minor Op. 21 and E Minor Op. 11), and almost directly before the outbreak of the 1830–1831 November Uprising, the 20-year-old Chopin left Poland. Though he was never to return to his beloved homeland, it was constantly on his mind, and his homesickness is reflected in all of his later output.

In Paris Chopin joined the milieu of that time’s most eminent artists, making friends with Liszt, Berlioz, Heine, Mickiewicz, as well as maintaining contacts with the Polish Great Emigration. In 1838 he met George Sand, with whom he built a stormy relationship. During their joint stay on Majorca, the already gravely ill Chopin wrote, as Sand put it, “music that unavoidably brought to mind the thought of paradise.” Chopin’s last concert was held on 16th February 1848 at the Parisian Salle Pleyel. His departure for England and Scotland hastened the development of his tuberculosis. He died on 17th October 1849 in Paris.

“A Varsovian by birth, a Pole in his heart, a citizen of the world by virtue of his talent,” Chopin not only paved for Polish music the way to the world’s concert stages, but also mapped out a new direction in music, subsequently followed by Wagner, Rachmaninov, and even Debussy or Scriabin. The piano was his special passion. His mazurkas, polonaises, waltzes, ballades, scherzos, songs, and other compositions combine virtuosity and masterful technique with a genuinely Polish spirit.

Phot. Louis-Auguste Bisson
Przewiń do góry