Frederic Chopin

Frederic Chopin Frederic Chopin, the Polish composer and pianist, was born on March 1,1810, according to the statements of the artist himself and his family, but according to his baptismal certificate, which was written several weeks after his birth, the date was 22 February. His birthplace was the village of Zelazowa Wola, part of the Duchy of Warsaw. The musical talent of Frederic became apparent extremely early on, and it was compared with the childhood genius of Mozart. Already at the age of 7, Frederic was the author of two polonaises, the first being published in the engraving workshop of Father Cybulski. The prodigy was featured in the Warsaw newspapers, and little Chopin became the attraction and ornament of receptions given in the aristocratic salons of the capital.

He also began giving public charity concerts. His first professional piano lessons lasted from 1816 to 1822, when his teacher was no longer able to give any more help to a pupil whose skills surpassed his own. Wilhelm Wrfel, a renowned pianist and professor at the Warsaw Conservatory, supervised the further development of Frederic’s talent. Wrfel would offer valuable, although irregular, advice as regards playing the piano and organ to young Chopin. Frederic later attended the Warsaw Lyceum where his father was one of the professors. He spent his summer holidays in estates belonging to the parents of his school friends in various parts of the country. The young composer listened to and noted down the texts of folk songs, took part in peasant weddings and harvest festivities, danced, and played a folk instrument resembling a double bass with the village musicians; all of which he described in his letters.

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Chopin became well acquainted with the folk music of the Polish plains in its authentic form, with its distinct tonality, richness of rhythms and dance vigor. When composing his first mazurkas in 1825, as well as the later ones, he resorted to this source of inspiration that he kept in mind until the very end of his life. Chopin soon began studying the theory of music, figured bass and composition at the Warsaw High School of Music, which was both part of the Conservatory and, at the same time, connected with Warsaw University. Its head was the composer Jzef Elsner. Chopin, however, did not attend the piano class. Aware of the exceptional nature of Chopin’s talent, Elsner allowed him, in accordance with his personality and temperament, to concentrate on piano music but was unbending as regards theoretical subjects, in particular counterpoint.

Chopin, endowed by nature with magnificent melodic invention, ease of free improvisation and an inclination towards brilliant effects and perfect harmony, gained in Elsner’s school a solid grounding, discipline, and precision of construction, as well as an understanding of the meaning and logic of each note. During this period of time, Frederic composed a series of extended works, and after the third year of his studies Elsner wrote in a report: Chopin, Frederic, third year student, amazing talent, musical genius. After completing his studies, Chopin planned a longer stay abroad to become acquainted with the musical life of Europe and to win fame. Up to then, he had never left Poland, with the exception of two brief stays in Prussia. In July 1829 he made a short excursion to Vienna in the company of his acquaintances. Wilhelm Wrfel, who had been staying there for three years, introduced him to the musical milieu, and enabled Chopin to give two performances in the Krtnertortheater, where, accompanied by an orchestra, he played Variations and the Rondo la Krakowiak, as well as performing improvisations. He enjoyed tremendous success with the public, and although the critics censured his performance for its small volume of sound, they acclaimed him as a genius of the piano and praised his compositions. Consequently, the Viennese publisher Tobias Haslinger printed the Variations on a theme from Mozart.

This was the first publication of a Chopin composition abroad, for up to then, his works had only been published in Warsaw. Upon his return to Warsaw, Chopin, already free from student duties, devoted himself to composition and wrote, among other pieces, two Concertos for piano and orchestra: in F minor and E minor. This was also the period of the first nocturne, etudes, waltzes, and mazurkas. During the last months prior to his planned longer stay abroad, Chopin gave a number of public performances, mainly in the National Theatre in Warsaw where the premire of both concertos took place. Originally, his destination was to be Berlin, where the artist had been invited by Prince Antoni Radziwill, the governor of the Grand Duchy of Poznan, who had been appointed by the king of Prussia, and who was a long-standing admirer of Chopin’s talent.

Chopin, however, ultimately chose Vienna where he wished to consolidate his earlier success and establish his reputation. On 11 October 1830, he gave a ceremonial farewell concert in the National Theatre in Warsaw, during which he played the Concerto in E minor, and K. Gladkowska sang. On 2 November, Chopin left for Austria, with the intention of going on to Italy. Several days after their arrival in Vienna, the two friends learned about the outbreak of the uprising in Warsaw, against the subservience of the Kingdom of Poland to Russia and the presence of the Russian Tsar on the Polish throne.

This was the beginning of a months-long Russo-Polish war. Chopin, succumbing to the persuasion of his friend, stayed in Vienna. In low spirits and anxious about the fate of his country and family, he ceased planning the further course of his career, an attitude explained in a letter to Elsner: In vain does Malfatti try to convince me that every artist is a cosmopolitan. Even if so, as an artist, I am still in my cradle, as a Pole, I am already twenty; I hope, therefore that, knowing me well, you will not chide me that so far I have not thought about the program of the concert. The performance ultimately took place on 11 June 1831, in the Krtnerthortheater, where Chopin played the Concerto in E minor. The eight months spent in Vienna were not wasted. Strong and dramatic emotional experiences inspired the creative imagination of the composer, probably accelerating the emergence of a new, individual style, quite different from his previous brilliant style.

The new works, which revealed force and passion, included the sketch of the Scherzo in B minor and, above all, the powerful Etudes. Having given up his plans for a journey to Italy, due to the hostilities there against Austria, Chopin resolved to go to Paris. On the way, he first stopped in Munich where he gave a concert on the 28th of August and then went on to Stuttgart. He …