Friday, 3 April 2015

C is for Chopin

As a former musician and pianist, I have a great respect for those who committed their lives to composing music for the piano.  Frederic Chopin was born in 1810 near Warsaw, Poland and quickly became recognized as a child prodigy.  By the age of seven he was giving concerts and had composed two works for the piano.

After completing his education at the Warsaw Conservatory he continued to perform, and produce music, even garnering the attention of the visiting Tsar Alexander I.  His burgeoning success as a composer led him to travel to various places in Europe before settling in Paris.  There he encountered many distinguished people who would play large roles in his life and music: Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Heinrich Heine, among others.

He received his first major endorsement by Robert Schumann who called him "a genius".  Thereafter he realized that his keyboard technique was more suited to smaller salons and not concert halls, and support from the wealthy Rothschild family ensured him access to gatherings of the French elite.  His successes on a personal front were sadly much fewer: his proposal to Countess Maria Wodinska was ultimately rejected, and a long-time relationship with author Amantine Dupin (known as George Sand) broke up as his health deteriorated.

Political strife in the late 1840s caused Chopin financial difficulties, so he traveled to England to perform and give music lessons.  Within a year however, recognizing that his illness was terminal, returned to Paris to be with his friends and family for support.  His final request upon his deathbed was that his heart be returned to Warsaw; despite his father's French roots Chopin always had considered himself Polish.

The following is one of Chopin's best-known works: Op. 64 No. 1 known as the Minute Waltz.
Chopin Minute Waltz