A Musician Deprived of His Own Motherland
Original photography of Fryderyk Chopin (1849)
Fryderyk Chopin is considered one of the greatest composers of all time, a person so gifted, that his first compositions were published when he was just 7 and at the age 15 he played for the czar Alexander I of Russia. His works have been performed all over the world at famous concert halls by numerous outstanding pianists.
Chopin was born on 22nd February 1810 in Żelazowa Wola in Poland as a second child of Mikołaj and Justyna. His father, born in France, moved to Poland in 1787 and worked as a lecturer of French and French culture. Not long after Fryderyk’s birth the family decided to move from Żelazowa Wola to Warsaw. The city was, at the time, the capital of The Duchy of Warsaw was where Chopin’s father found employment as a school master in the Warsaw Lycee, later also attended by his son. It was Fryderyk’s mother who discovered her son’s great talent, and it was she who began to teach young Fryderyk the basics of music when he was 3. His skills were improving at a dramatic pace, which resulted in his first compositions in 1814. In the years 1823-26 Chopin attended the Warsaw Lycee and continued his education in the Institute of Music and Declamination where he studied until 1829. There exists a rich correspondence from that period, as Chopin was an avid letter. He kept in touch with his parents when sent to his yearly countryside vacations, which were to so strongly colour his later compositions with the Polish folklore.
A banknote with Fryderyk Chopin (1988)
In 1830 he left his motherland (as it would eventually turn out – forever) and headed for Vienna and Paris. He took strong interest in political situation of his country, followed the course of November Uprising and when it fell, he expressed his pain in the “Revolutionary Etude” (Etude Op. 10, No. 12). After extensive travels through Europe, Chopin finally settled down in Paris, where he immediately became a sensation as a pianist, highly prized both as a guest in the fashionable salons and a music teacher, his main source of income. In spite of his great social popularity, his finances were always shaky, as attested by the lively correspondence he maintained with his family.
In 1838 the composer fell in love with a French writer and early women’s rights activist George Sand (her true name was Aurore Dudevant). Chopin stayed with her in Majorca and later in her French manor in Nonhant, which is where he created the “Funeral March” (Piano Sonata No. 2). In October 1839 Chopin and Sand returned to Paris, where, since 1840, he attended Adam Mickiewicz’s lectures at the College de France, but the summer visits to Nohant continued until 1846. Their relationship ended in 1847 as a result of numerous misunderstandings and conflicts between Sand and her children, which affected her relationship with Chopin.
In June 1849 the composer was diagnosed with a crtitical stage of tuberculosis. He died on the 17th October 1849, but before demanded, that after his death his heart would be taken back to Poland. Chopin was buried on Pere Lachaise graveyard in Paris, and his heart was indeed placed in the pillar of the Holly Cross Church in Warsaw, where it still remains.
A statue of Fryderyk Chopin in
Łazienki Królewskie Park in Warsaw
During his life Chopin created 57 mazurkas, 17 polonaises, 19 waltzes, 27 etudes and many more other compositions. The motifs of Polish folk dances, the music he grew up with, are a specific and distinctive feature of his catalogue. Every 5 years, since 1937, International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition is organized in Warsaw. It gathers numerous young talents from all around the world, who provide the highest competition level possible.
- Compositions [Internet]. allmusic.com, Available from: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric-chopin-mn0000066824/compositions
- Jeden z największych kompozytorów polskich [Internet]. Świat Internetu, Available from: http://www.chopin.info.pl/show.php?DOC=biografia [accessed in 2008]
- Rodzina Fryderyka Chopina [Internet]. chopin.info.pl, Available from: http://www.chopin.info.pl/show.php?DOC=jego_rodzina
- Smoleńska-Zielińska B. (2008). Biografia Fryderyka Chopina [Internet]. Chopin.pl, Available from: http://www.chopin.pl/biografia_chopina.pl.html [accessed in 2008]
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