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Frederick Francois CHOPIN, the most eminent Polish composer

Joanna Ławrynowicz

Frederick Francois CHOPIN, the most eminent Polish composer, was born in 1810 in Zelazowa Wola (around 50 km away from Warsaw) in the estate of count Skarbek, where Frederick's father (of French descent), Nicholas Chopin, lived and worked as tutor. Frederick's mother, Justyna Krzy|anowska was a very musical person; she played the piano and sang. She naturally became the first music teacher of little Frederick. A few months after Frederick was born, the Chopin family moved to Warsaw, where Nicholas Chopin assumed a post of a teacher in Warsaw Lyceum.

At the age of six Frederick Chopin began taking piano lessons from Wojciech {ywny. Together with his sister Ludwika, Frederick musicked at home and played four hands piano music. Soon Frederick made first efforts at composition. His first work, Polonaise in B flat Major, was written down by his father. At the time of studies with professor {ywny, Chopin began to give public performances; he played in the houses of Warsaw aristocracy and took part in charity concerts.

As a sixteen-year-old Chopin began taking piano composition theory lessons with Józef Elsner at Warsaw School of Music. At the time he was greatly influenced by folk songs and dances in the regions of Mazovia, Kujawy, Wielkopolska and Lubelszczyzna. He listened to the folk music with great interest during his holidays which he spent in among others Szafarnia, Antonin and Sanniki. In 1826 he made his first trip abroad to Berlin and soon afterwords to Vienna, where he gave two public performances, to Dresden and Prague. At nineteen Frederick finished his studies with professor Elsner, having gained professor's respect. In a students report professor wrote: "Chopin, Fryderyk, third year student, amazing talent, musical genius"

In October of 1830 Frederick gave his last performance in Warsaw. On November 2nd 1830 he left Warsaw forever. He went to Dresden, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich and Stuttgart. In September 1831 he came to Paris, where he stayed for good, and soon received wide acclaim in the whole of Europe.

The first years in Paris were very intense. Chopin gave many concerts and performed his own pieces, thereby strengthening his status of composer and pianist. After performance of Variations on the theme La ci darem la mano for piano and orchestra Robert Schumann wrote in his famous review: "Hats off, gentlemen. A genius!". At a later period Chopin focused mainly on composing. His works were published by French, German and English publishers. However, teaching was his main source of income. He had many students, among whom were amateurs, but also a group of professional pianists.

He was a very sociable man. He maintained friendly relations with both distinguished musicians who lived in Paris, among others Francis Liszt, Vincenzo Bellini, Gioacchino Rossini and Felix Mendelssohn, and with publishers, critics and Polish emigrants. In 1836 he met writer George Sand, who became his life partner and made a profound impact on the composer's life. They traveled together, visited Majorca, Marseille and Genua. They spent a few summers in a row in Nohant and returned to Paris for the winters.

Since 1839 Chopin's health constantly deteriorated. He was gravely ill with tuberculosis. In 1848 he made his last concert tour in England and Scotland. Frederick Chopin gave the last public concert on November 16th in London after which he fell very ill. Upon his return to Paris he never regained his health. Chopin died on October 17th 1849 in an apartment in Vendome 12 Square. He was buried in Parisian Pere Lachaise cemetery. His heart is in Warsaw, in the Holy Cross Church in Krakowskie Przedmie[cie street.

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Last update - Saturday, 01 March 2008