Frederic Chopin

1810 - 1849

Frédéric François Chopin (1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849), born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as a leading musician of his era, whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation." 

“I tell my piano the things I used to tell you” 

Frederic Chopin       



 

(b. Zelazowa Wola, March 1, 1810; d. Paris, October 17, 1849)
 

POUSH-BORN PIANIST AND COMPOSER of matchless genius in the realm of keyboard music. As a pianist his talents were beyond emulation and had an impact on other musicians entirely out of proportion to the number of concerts he gave— only 30 public performances in 30 years of concertizing. No one before or since has contributed as many significant works to the piano’s repertoire, or come closer to capturing its soul.

Chopin’s mother was Polish, his father a Frenchman who had come to Poland as a young man and held jobs as a bookkeeper and tutor before marrying and settling in Warsaw. Young Frederic studied piano with Wojciech Zywny and harmony and counterpoint with Jozef Eisner, gave his first concert when he was eight, and rather quickly outdistanced his teachers. His name became known outside of Poland when his Variations, Op. 2, for piano and orchestra on Mozart’s “La ci darem la mano”—written when he was 17—were published in 1830, prompting Robert Schumann’s famous accolade in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, “Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!”

In the spring and autumn of 1830 Chopin treated the Warsaw audience to a pair of newly composed, marvelously poetic piano concertos. Seeking to expand his horizons, he left Poland for Vienna in November 1830, and after eight months there, headed for Paris. He would never again return to his native country, but Poland’s loss would be Paris’s gain.

Chopin plays for the Radziwiłłs, 1829
(painting by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1887)

Key Works

Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor Op.11

1. Allegro maestoso 0:00
2. Romance (Larghetto) 20:07
3. Rondo (Vivace) 30:07

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21

Chopin wrote his piano concertos to launch the virtuoso career that he later found so distasteful.

FIRST MOVEMENT (MAESTOSO, 11:00)
After the first performance in 1830, Chopin wrote: “The first Allegro of my concerto, which relatively few could grasp, called forth applause, but it seems to me that people felt they had to show interest and pretend to be connoisseurs”.
SECOND MOVEMENT (LARGHETT0.8:00)
Inspired by his feelings for Constantia Gladkowska, Chopin wrote that the slow movement “belonged” to her. With its distinctive harmony, poetic lyricism, and ornate decoration it stands in sharp relief to other concertos of the period.
THIRD MOVEMENT (ALLEGRO VIVACE, 7:15)
Virtuosic yet always elegant, the finale pays tribute to the mazurka of Polish folk music. The horn call that ushers in the exciting coda was a great surprise to early audiences.

0:00
 - Maestoso
14:02 - Larghetto
22:50 - Allegro vivace

Ballades (1 to 4)

0:00 Ballade 1
9:38 Ballade 2
16:43 Ballade 3
23:47 Ballade 4

Etudes (1 to 24)

1. Etude in C major Op.10 No.1
2. Eutde in A minor Op.10 No.2 'Chromatique'
3. Eutde in E major Op.10 No.3 'Tristesse'
4. Etude in C♯ minor Op.10 No.4
5. Etude in G♭ major Op.10 No.5 'Black Keys'
6. Etude in E♭ minor Op.10 No.6
7. Etude in C major Op.10 No.7
8. Etude in F major Op.10 No.8
9. Etude in F minor Op.10 No.9 
10. Etude in A♭ major Op.10 No.10
11. Etude in E♭ major Op.10 No.11
12. Etude in c minor Op.10 No.12 'Revolutionary'
13. Etude in A♭ major Op.25 No.1 'Harp Study'
14. Etude in F minor Op.25 No.2
15. Etude in F major Op.25 No.3
16. Etude in A minor Op.25 No.4
17. Etude in E minor Op.25 No.5
18. Etude in G♯ minor Op.25 No.6
19. Etude in C♯ minor Op.25 No.7
20. Etude in D♭ major Op.25 No.8
21. Etude in G♭ major Op.25 No.9 'Butterfly Wings'
22. Etude in B minor Op.25 No 10
23. Etude in A minor Op.25 No.11 'Winter Wind'
24. Etude in C minor Op.25 No.12

By the 1830s, Paris had become the undisputed center of European culture—a hotbed of new thinking in the arts and letters and the focal point of Romanticism in music. After a sensational debut at the Salle Pleyel on February 26, 1832, with Franz Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, and Luigi Cherubini among those in the audience, Chopin, three days shy of his 22nd birthday, took his place as one of the celebrities of the French capital. He found himself in such demand as a teacher that he was able to make a comfortable living, and he hobnobbed with the great artists of the day, forming particularly close friendships with Eugene Delacroix, who would paint a splendid portrait of him in 1838, and Liszt. Chopin’s works from his first years in Paris include the Nocturnes of Opp. 9 and 15 (1830-32), the 12 Etudes, Op. 10 (1830-32), dedicated to Liszt, the 12 Etudes, Op. 25 (1835-37), dedicated to Liszt’s mistress, the Comtesse Marie d’Agoult, the Scherzo in B-flat minor, Op. 31 (1837), the Sonata in B-flat minor, Op. 35 (1837), and the G minor Ballade, Op. 23. In 1836 Chopin became engaged to Maria Wodzinski, but the engagement was broken off by her family the following year.

Portrait of Frédéric Chopin and George Sand. 
Eugène Delacroix. 1838 

Preludes, Op. 28 (1 to 24)

No.1 -- 00:00
No.2 -- 00:40
No.3 -- 02:49
No.4 -- 03:44
No.5 -- 06:14
No.6 -- 06:42
No.7 -- 09:27
No.8 -- 10:34
No.9 -- 12:34
No.10 -- 14:25
No.11 -- 14:59
No.12 -- 15:37
No.13 -- 16:41
No.14 -- 21:39
No.15 -- 22:04 ("Raindrop")
No.16 -- 29:26
No.17 -- 30:29
No.18 -- 33:52
No.19 -- 34:49
No.20 -- 35:56
No.21 -- 38:05
No.22 -- 41:04
No.23 -- 41:49
No.24 -- 42:33

Nocturnes (1 to 21)

1. 0:06 Op. 9, No. 1 in B flat minor. Larghetto
2. 5:53 Op. 9, No. 2 in E flat major. Andante
3. 10:29 Op. 9, No. 3 in B major. Allegretto
4. 17:09 Op. 15, No. 1 in F major. Andante cantabile
5. 22:07 Op. 15, No. 2 in F sharp major. Larghetto
6. 25:43 Op. 15, No. 3 in G minor. Lento
7. 30:53 Op. 27, No. 1 in C sharp minor. Larghetto
8. 36:32 Op. 27, No. 2 in D flat major. Lento sostenuto
9. 42:27 Op. 32, No. 1 in B major. Andante sostenuto
10. 47:27 Op. 32, No. 2 in A flat major. Lento
11. 53:01 Op. 37, No. 1 in G minor. Lento
12. 59:51 Op. 37, No. 2 in G major. Andante
13. 1:06:17 Op. 48, No. 1 in C minor. Lento
14. 1:12:25 Op. 48, No. 2 in F sharp minor. Andantino
15. 1:20:11 Op. 55, No. 1 in F minor. Andante
16. 1:25:36 Op. 55, No. 2 in E flat major. Lento sostenuto
17. 1:31:19 Op. 62, No. 1 in B major. Andante
18. 1:38:51 Op. 62, No. 2 in E major. Lento
19. 1:45:11 Op. 72, No. 1 in E minor. Andante
20. 1:49:19 Op. posth in C sharp minor. Lento con gran espressione
21. 1:53:18 Op. posth in C minor. Andante sostenuto

Waltzes (1 to 19)

1. KK IVb No. 11 a moll 0:00
2. KK IVa No. 13 A flat major 1:55
3. KK IVa No. 12 E major 3:19
4. KK IVb No. 10 E flat major 5:48
5. KK IVa No. 15 E minor 8:13
6. KK IVa No. 14 E flat major 11:17
7. Op. 18 Grande Valse Brillante in E flat major 13:13
8. Op. 34 No. 1 Grande Valse Brillante in A flat major 19:21
9. Op. 34 No. 2 Grande Valse Brillante in A minor 25:25
10. Op. 34 No. 3 Grande Valse Brillante in F major 31:51
11. Op. Posth. 69 No. 2 B minor 34:31
12. Op. Posth. 70 No. 1 G flat major 38:08
13. Op. Posth. 70 No. 2 F minor 40:28
14. Op. Posth. 70 No. 3 D flat major 42:13
15. Op. 64 No. 3 A flat major 44:44
16. Op. Posth. 69 No.1 A flat major 48:15
17. Op. 64 No. 1 D flat major 52:04
18. Op. 64 No. 2 C sharp minor 54:05
19. Op. 42 Grande Valse in A flat major 58:05

Mazurkas (1 to 29)

01 - Mazurka No.1 in F sharp minor, Op.6 No.1
02 - Mazurka No.2 in C sharp minor, Op.6 No.2
03 - Mazurka No.3 in E, Op.6 No.3
04 - Mazurka No.4 in E flat minor, Op.6 No.4
05 - Mazurka No.5 in B flat, Op.7 No.1
06 - Mazurka No.6 in A minor, Op.7 No.2
07 - Mazurka No.7 in F minor, Op.7 No.3
08 - Mazurka No.8 in A flat, Op.7 No.4
09 - Mazurka No.9 in C, Op.7 No.5
10 - Mazurka No.10 in B flat, Op.17 No.1
11 - Mazurka No.11 in E minor, Op.17 No.2
12 - Mazurka No.12 in A flat, Op.17 No.3
13 - Mazurka No.13 in A minor, Op.17 No.4
14 - Mazurka No.14 in G minor, Op.24 No.1
15 - Mazurka No.15 in C, Op.24 No.2
16 - Mazurka No.16 in A flat, Op.24 No.3
17 - Mazurka No.17 in B flat minor, Op.24 No.4
18 - Mazurka No.18 in C minor, Op.30 No.1
19 - Mazurka No.19 in B minor, Op.30 No.2
20 - Mazurka No.20 in D flat, Op.30 No.3
21 - Mazurka No.21 in C sharp minor, Op.30 No.4
22 - Mazurka No.22 in G sharp minor, Op.33 No.1
23 - Mazurka No.23 in D, Op.33 No.2
24 - Mazurka No.24 in C, Op.33 No.3
25 - Mazurka No.25 in B minor, Op.33 No.4
26 - Mazurka No.26 in C sharp minor, Op.41 No.1
27 - Mazurka No.27 in E minor, Op.41 No.2
28 - Mazurka No.28 in B, Op.41 No.3
29 - Mazurka No.29 in A flat, Op.41 No.4

Mazzrkas (30 to 49)

01 - Mazurka No.30 in G, Op.50 No.1
02 - Mazurka No.31 in A flat, Op.50 No.2
03 - Mazurka No.32 in C sharp minor, Op.50 No.3
04 - Mazurka No.33 in B, Op.56 No.1
05 - Mazurka No.34 in C, Op.56 No.2
06 - Mazurka No.35 in C minor, Op.56 No.3
07 - Mazurka No.36 in A minor, Op.59 No.1
08 - Mazurka No.37 in A flat, Op.59 No.2
09 - Mazurka No.38 in F sharp minor, Op.59 No.3
10 - Mazurka No.39 in B, Op.63 No.1
11 - Mazurka No.40 in F minor, Op.63 No.2
12 - Mazurka No.41 in C sharp minor, Op.63 No.3
13 - Mazurka No.42 in G, Op.posth.67 No.1 (BI 93)
14 - Mazurka No.43 in G minor, Op.posth.67 No.2 (BI 167)
15 - Mazurka No.44 in C, Op.posth.67 No.3 (BI 93)
16 - Mazurka No.45 in A minor. Op.posth.67 No.4 (BI 163)
17 - Mazurka No.46 in C, Op.posth.68, No.1 (BI 38)
18 - Mazurka No.47 in A minor, Op.posth.68 No.2 (BI 18)
19 - Mazurka No.48 in F, Op.posth.68 No.3 (BI 34)
20 - Mazurka No.49 in F minor, Op.posth.68 No.4 (BI 168) (reconstruction by J. Ekier)
21 - Mazurka in A minor, Op.posth.S2 No.5 (BI 140) (à Émile Gaillard)
22 - Mazurka in A minor, Op.posth.S2 No.4 (BI 134) (Notre Temps)
23 - Mazurka in B flat, Op.posth.S1 No.2b (BI 16) (Prague)
24 - Mazurka in G, Op.posth.S1 No.2a (BI 16)
25 - Mazurka in A flat, Op.posth.P2 No.4 (BI 85) (Szymanowska)
26 - Mazurka in C, Op.posth.P2 No.3 (BI 82)
27 - Mazurka in B flat, Op.posth.P2 No.1 (BI 73) (for Alexandra Wolowska)
28 - Mazurka in D, Op.posth.P2 No.2 (BI 71)
29 - Mazurka in D, Op.posth.A1 No.1 (BI 4) (Mazurek)
30 - Mazurka No.49 in F minor, Op.posth.68 No.4 (BI 168) (revised version)

Chopin’s art reached a new plateau in the late 1830s as a result of his involvement with the writer Aurore Dudevant, six years his senior, who in 1832 had taken to calling herself George Sand. Some of his greatest works emerged as a result of the emotional contentment he felt in the early days of their nine-year liaison. They spent the winter of 1838-39 together on Majorca, living in adjacent rooms in an abandoned Carthusian monastery. Chopin endured his first major bout of tuberculosis, but though seriously ill managed to complete the 24 Preludes, Op. 28 (1838-39). During the 1840s, in spite of emotional ups and downs and recurrent illness, he produced a remarkable body of compositions that included the Ballades in A-flat, Op. 47, and F minor, Op. 52, the Mazurkas of Opp. 50, 56, 59, 63, and 67, the A-flat major Polonaise, Op. 53, the Nocturnes of Opp. 48, 55, and 62, and the Sonata in B minor, Op. 58 (1844). The best of these works—the B minor Sonata, the Op. 55 Nocturnes, and the Op. 56 Mazurkas—are characterized by remarkable refinement and complexity, along with a newly rich sense of ambivalence. The opening movement of the sonata finds Chopin at the summit of inspiration, weaving turbulence and Romantic yearning into a beautifully seamless expression. 

Chopin at 25, by his fiancée Maria Wodzińska, 1835

The situation with George Sand began to deteriorate in 1843, and in 1847 the break came. By then Chopin was gravely ill; seeking escape, he left Paris in April 1848 for an extended sojourn in England and Scotland, from which he returned, exhausted, in November. He composed virtually nothing in the final year of his life.

Photograph of Chopin by Bisson, c. 1849

In his remarkably advanced treatment of harmony and rhythm Chopin banished the ordinary from his music and opened the door to an emotional ambiguity that continues to intrigue listeners, one whose communication requires subtleties of execution that generations of pianists have labored devotedly to achieve. The luminous textures and haunting melodies he used to express his thoughts added to the piano’s sound and range of color shadings that no one before him had imagined were there, but that all who have followed recognize as his. The same is true of the harmonic question marks one finds throughout his music—the equivalent of a look of gentle longing. He created a slimmer oeuvre than any of his important contemporaries, but every piece he produced was a pearl.

Chopin's grave at Père-Lachaise cemetery, Paris

Chopin was the first composer of genius to devote himself uniquely to the piano— every one of his works was written for it either as solo instrument, or in combination with other instruments. The majority of his solo pieces are in shorter forms, and improvisatory by nature. These include 20 nocturnes, 25 preludes, 17 waltzes, 15 polonaises, 58 mazurkas, and 27 etudes. In these works, especially the nocturnes, preludes, and mazurkas, the emotions are fleeting, and precious because of that. Chopin also achieved success in larger forms, including the scherzo, a form he reinvented; the ballade, a genre he invented; and the sonata. The four Ballades and the Sonatas in B-flat minor and B minor are among his greatest creations, combining passionate drama and lyrical tenderness in a memorable way.

Chopin's death mask, by Clésinger (Jack Gibbons)

“After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own. ”

 

OSCAR WILDE, 1891
 

Chopin statue, Łazienki Park, Warsaw

Polonaises (1 to 7)

01. Polonaise No.1 in C sharp minor, Op.26 No.1
02. Polonaise No.2 in E flat minor, Op.26 No.2
03. Polonaise No.3 in A, Op.40 No.1 'Military'
04. Polonaise No.4 in C minor, Op.40 No.2
05. Polonaise No.5 in F sharp minor, Op.44
06. Polonaise No.6 in A flat, Op.53 'Heroic'
07. Polonaise No.7 in A flat, Op.61 'Polonaise-Fantasie'

Polonaises (8 to 16)

01. Polonaise No.8 in D minor, Op.posth.71 No.1
02. Polonaise No.9 in B flat minor, Op.posth.71 No.2
03. Polonaise No.10 in F minor, Op.posth.71 No.3
04. Polonaise No.11 in B flat minor, Op.posth.P1 No.5 'La Gazza Ladra'
05. Polonaise No.12 in G flat, Op.posth.P1 No.8
06. Polonaise No.13 in G minor, Op.posth.S1 No.1
07. Polonaise No.14 in B flat, Op.posth.P1 No.1
08. Polonaise No.15 in A flat, Op.posth.P1 No.2
09. Polonaise No.16 in G sharp minor, Op.posth.P1 No.3​

Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante

0:00 - Andante Spianato (G major)
4:53 - Grande Polonaise Brillante (E-flat major)

Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor

Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60

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