Minggu, 01 November 2009

Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)

Frédéric François Chopin (born in Zelazowa Wola, 1810; died in Paris, 1849).

Chopin, Polish pianist and composer. Born in 1810 in Poland (Zelazowa Wola) and perhaps the greatest composer for piano ever. One can ask just about any person, musically interested or not, to name a piano composer and a majority will come up with the name Chopin.

Chopin grew up on the countryside outside of Warsaw as the only son among three children, he being the second oldest. The family was not rich but neither poor and music was always present as both parents were musically gifted. It is told that Chopin's mother was a decent piano player and his father could bring out spellbinding melodies. Altogether, with the exception of the tragic death his youngest sister at the age of 14, Chopin's childhood seems solid and happy.

As an infant, Chopin's parents were worried that he did not like music, as he easily started crying when music was played. However, it is now believed that the reason was rather the opposite - that music affected Chopin greatly even in very young years.

Chopin began seriously to play the piano at the age of 5, taught by his older sister Ludwika. His talent was immediately apparent, and the services of a piano teacher were subsequently enlisted in order to support his practise. This piano teacher was Zywny - a generous man and friend to the family. He was not a teacher of the strict disciplinary kind, which disciplined schooled teacher which - in the case of a briliant student like Chopin - only proved to be an advantage. At the age of 7, Chopin was already somewhat famous in Warsaw and made his first appearance for the Russian prince just before he turned 8. The very same year, Chopin's first compositions were published in a local Warsaw newspaper. Chopin was a highly dedicated student. It is even said that he - at the early age of 7 - slept by his own free will with wine-corks between his fingers in order to achieve a wider grip. He knew his destiny.

Chopin's abilities developed greatly during his young years and he was soon recognized a child prodigy - widly known not only in Poland but also by the Russians for whom he gave several recitals.

While Zywny brought him the most fundamental piano practise and encouraged his innative power to compose, Chopin soon needed a more skilled teacher to advance further. He was therefore directed to Josef Elsner. Elsner played a very important role in Chopin's development as a composer, and his influence on the musical world scene was highly valuable. It was at the Conservatory, studying under Elsner, that Chopin got in contact with, for example, John Field's Nocturnes, Bach's preludes and fugues, Clementi, Mozart, Beethoven etc. Elsner should be thanked for not trying to shape Chopin's unusual technique and ideas into a mainstream form of pianism, but rather letting the young genius explore all possibilities and forms of music through his own inventive abilities.

After the studies, Chopin went to Vienna, where he was recognised as a decent pianist with some nicely written compositions, but altogether, it was not the success he had hoped for. Thus, he went back to Warsaw and, subsequently, set his course for Paris.

In Paris, Chopin did not immediately achieve success. It took a couple of hard years of composing and performing before he had worked himself into the highest society where he gave lessons for royalties and could receive the highest gage for his compositions. Chopin became extremely famous and as one example, on the question of who was the best pianist of Kalkbrenner or Liszt, the joking answer, but with an underlying seriousness, was Chopin. So highly was he thought of not only as a composer or teacher but also as a pianist.

Chopin is often compared with people and especially with Liszt but it is a most irrelevant comparison. The very different characters played on different arenas and while the truly romantic Liszt toured as a virtuoso, spellbinding his audience with his extra ordinary capabilities and gave himself totally into the new world of free love, Chopin was composing, mostly Saloon music, gave piano lessons and was the noble gentleman of the old school.

Chopin was never to return to Poland again and made very few trips outside France, mainly because of his weak health. Among the most famous is the disastrous trip to Mallorca which almost got him killed and the trip to Scotland which was equally bad for his health.

Chopin was diagnosed with Tuberculosis early in his life and it is a wonder that he even reached the age of 39 before the disease finally took his life in 1849, after about 15 years of struggle. At this young age, Chopin had composed an amazing amount of works from a wide range of piano genres.

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