Frederic Chopin

Portrait of Frederic Chopin (Zelazowa Wola, 1810-Paris, 1849), Polish pianist and composer
Frederic Chopin. De Agostini / G. Dagli Orti / Getty Images

Born: March 1, 1810 - Zelazowa Wola (near Warsaw)

Died: October 17, 1849 - Paris

Chopin Quick Facts

  • Chopin's unique style and genres (Etude, Mazurka, Nocturne, and Waltz) were clearly established before he left Warsaw.
  • Chopin preferred to give private, more intimate concerts to smaller crowds of high class "socialites".
  • Chopin was able to charge lofty fees for private piano lessons. His tutorship was highly demanded.

    Chopin's Family Background

    Chopin's father, Mikolaj, tutored the son of Countess Justyna Skarbek at the Countess's estate in Zelazowa Wola. Chopin's mother, Tekla Justyna Kryzanowska, had also been employed there, but at a much younger age. She was the Countess's companion and housekeeper. In 1806, Chopin's parents married. Frederic Chopin was only seven months old when they moved out of the estate to Warsaw. Mikolaj secured a post at the Lyceum and lived in the right wing of the Saxon Palace. Chopin had three siblings.

    Childhood

    Given the current living circumstances, Chopin met and associated with three different classes of people: professors of academia, middle gentry (most of the students attending Lyceum), and the wealthy aristocrats. In 1817, the Lyceum, along with the Chopins, moved to the Kazimierzowski Palace next to the University of Warsaw. Chopin quickly gained several lasting friendships with the boys attending the school long before he enrolled in the university.

    He was home-schooled until 4th grade.

    Teenage Years

    Chopin received several years of private lessons from Józef Elsner before attending the High School of Music in 1826. He also took organ lessons in 1823 from Wilhelm Würfel. However, these lessons did not contribute to Chopin's extraordinary keyboard ability; he taught himself.

    Chopin did learn rules of composition, though, while attending high school. After graduation, he traveled and performed. Back in Warsaw at the age of 20, he performed the F minor Concerto to a crowd of 900.

    Early Adult Years

    Chopin, depressed by the uncertainty of his future (should he be a public performer or not)and by his secret love of Konstancja Gladkowska, set off to Vienna in November of 1830. During his short stay in Vienna, Chopin managed to compose his first nine mazurkas. Chopin departed Vienna in 1831 and headed toward Paris. While in Paris, Chopin gave concerts and earned the friendships of other great pianists such as Liszt and Berlioz. He became the "premiere" piano instructor.

    Mid Adult Years

    In 1837, Chopin met a novelist by the name of George Sand. She came from a social class Chopin would consider "bohemian." He once said, "What an unattractive person La Sand is. Is she really a woman?" Nevertheless, a year later they met again and instantly fell in love. Chopin became very ill while staying in Majorca with Sand. However, he was still able to write. He ​mailed several preludes to his friend, Pleyel. Upon his recovery, Chopin moved to Sand's manor in Nohant.

    Late Adult Years

    Many of Chopin's greatest works were composed during his summer stays in Nohant.

    Although Chopin's works were blossoming, his relationship with Sand was slowly deteriorating. Many family feuds broke out between Sand's children and Chopin. Tensions between Sand and Chopin also increased; apparent in her later writings, "...a strange conclusion to nine years of exclusive friendship." Chopin never fully recovered from the breakup. Chopin died of consumption in 1849.

    Selected Works by Chopin

    Piano

    Mazurka

    • Op. 68/2 - a minor - 1827
    • Op. 68/3 - F Major - 1830
    • Op. 68/1 - C Major - 1830
    • Op. 67/1 - G Major - 1835
    • Op. 67/3 - C Major - 1835
    • Op. 41/1 - e minor - 1838
    • Op. 68/4 - f minor - 1846
    • Op. 67/4 - a minor - 1846
    • Op. 67/2 - g minor - 1848

    Nocturne

    • Op. 72/1 - e minor - 1829
    • Op. 15/3 - g minor - 1832
    • Op. 27/1 - c sharp minor - 1835
    • Op. 27/2 - D Major - 1835
    • Op. 37/1 - g minor - 1838
    • Op. 37/2 - G Major - 1839

      Polonaise

      • Op. 71/1 - d minor - 1828
      • Op. 71/2 - B flat Major - 1828
      • Op. 71/3 - f minor - 1828
      • Op. 40/1 - A Major - 1838
      • Op. 40/2 - C Major - 1839
      • Op. 44 - f sharp minor - 1841
      • Op. 53 - A flat Major - 1843