Why Chopin?

Chopin is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers and virtuoso pianists who was at the head of the Romantic movement that revolutionized music in the nineteenth century. 

 

Chopin, according to Arthur Hedley "had the rare gift of a very personal melody, expressive of heart-felt emotion, and his music is penetrated by a poetic feeling that has an almost universal appeal.... Present-day evaluation places him among the immortals of music by reason of his insight into the secret places of the heart and because of his awareness of the magical new sonorities to be drawn from the piano"

 

His admirers read like a list of the most notable minds and souls of our times, including composers and pianists such as Liszt, Brahms, Paderewski, Schumann and Rubinstein as well as the philosopher Nietzsche.

"A Varsovian by birth, a Pole at heart, a citizen of the world by virtue of his talent."

Fyderyk Chopin was born in the village of Żelazowa Wola, in the Duchy of Warsaw, to Polish mother Justyna Krzyzanowska and Mikolaj Chopin, French-expatriate father, and in his early life was regarded as a child-prodigy pianist.

In November 1830, at the age of 20, he went abroad on a conert tour; when he was away the Polish people took up arms in the November Uprising that was brutally suppressed by the occupying Russian Tsar army. Chopin was advised by his friends not to return to Poland and instead to more for the Polish cause in exile. This led Chopin to settle in Paris and become one of the many expatriates of the Polish "Great Emigration". 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Paris, Chopin made a comfortable living as a composer and piano teacher, while giving few public performances.

Though an ardent Polish patriot, in France he used the French versions of his names and eventually, to avoid having to rely on Imperial Russian documents, became a French citizen.

 

After some ill-fated romantic involvements with Polish Countess Maria Wodzinska , from 1837 to 1847 he had a turbulent relationship with the French writer George Sand (Aurore Dudevant).

 

Always in frail health, in 1849 he died in Paris, at the age of 39, of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis. When he realized he was terminally ill, he expressed a wish to be buried at Pere Lachaise cemetery, next to his friend, Vincenzo Bellini, an opera composer. He also made an explicit wish that his heart be brought back to Warsaw, Poland.

 

When Chopin's father secured a position of a teacher and later a professor of French at Warsaw University, the family moved to Warsaw. Chopin was a few months old at the time.

 

When Fryderyk was six years old, he exhibited an extraordinary musical talent, and his education was entrusted to Wojciech Zywny, a highly respected piano teacher who let his talent develop. When he was eight years old he had his first public performance in the Radziwill residence currently, Presidential Palace .During Chopin's youth, he was invited to perform in front of the most prominent Polish aristocratic families: the Radziwill, the Sapiecha, and the Potocki,Poniatowsku  families. He also performed for the Duke of Russia, Constantine, the Commander of Polish Army on behalf of the Russian Tsar.

 

During his school years, Chopin often went to the countryside to listen the Polish folk songs and dance music which later materialized in his mazurkas, etudes and polonaises. He continued his education at the Warsaw University under the supervision of a famous piano professor, Jozef Elsner. At this time he composed a great deal of his work. In 1829 he went to Vienna where he played in front of a demanding European audience. He made a tremendous impression and was proclaimed, not for the first time, a musical genius.

 

While back in Warsaw, he fell in love with a young singer, Konstancja Gladkowska, which resulted in several notable compositions such as Larghetto, concerto f-minor, nocturnes op 9 etudes As-minor and famous song The Wish.

Just before the beginning of the November Uprising, he traveled to Vienna for the second time and  never to return to Warsaw again. In the letter to his friend he cursed the moment he left Poland, "If I could I would be back in an instance...." The same year he went to Paris, and France became his second motherland.

 

Soon he developed a reputation as a great pianist and composer and became friends with the greatest musicians and artists of the time: Schumann, Mendelsshon, Berlioze, Rossini, Hiller, Delacroix, and Liszt.

 

When he met the Rothschild family and their circle of acquaintances, he entered the world of wealth and influence, and his financial fortune turned around. He stayed in Paris where he could focus on composing while making a living giving piano lessons. He maintained close relations with a huge wave of Polish Émigrés: Mickiewicz, Slowacki, Lelewell, Niemcewicz, Czartoryski, and countless military men, participants of the uprising who escaped the Russion Tsar persecution.

The Grand Theatre in Warsaw where Chopin debuted his Piano Concerto No. 1

Visitation Church where Chopin played the organ in his youth.

St. Alexander's Church where Chopin played for the Russian Czar in May 1825.

Chopin had made it clear that his heart belonged in Warsaw. One of his final wishes was for his actual heart to be taken to Poland, which his sister fulfilled by smuggling it into the country in an urn. The heart was sealed in a pillar of the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw where it has been ever since. It was even smuggled out of Warsaw for a time in 1944, a stroke of luck considering the original church was leveled that year during the Warsaw Uprising. The pillar with Chopin's heart is still a part of the now-rebuilt church, where you can visit it today.

Chopin died in 1849 and is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.