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Fryderyk Chopin - Musical Genius

Fryderyk Chopin - Musical Genius Famous People Visual Arts Biographies Music World History

This is the only known photograph of Fryderyk (Frédéric) Chopin.  It was taken by Louis-Auguste Bisson in 1849, the year Chopin died.

A brilliant pianist, even as a child, Chopin (1810-1849) was born in Żelazowa Wola, a village in the Duchy of Warsaw.  Fryderyk's mother was Polish; his father was a Frenchman, living in Poland.  The pianist moved to Paris when he was twenty.

Known as one of the world's great composers, Chopin died young - at age 39.  Suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, he continued to perform but had to abandon lesson-giving. 

Before he died, in Paris, he gave instructions that his heart should be removed from his body.  He had, apparently, a fear of being buried alive. 

His heart, now in Warsaw, is safely sealed within a pillar of the rebuilt Holy Cross Church on Krakowskie Przedmieście - a place virtually destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

Still considered one of the greatest piano composers who ever lived, Chopin liked to perform for small, private audiences.  Those types of intimate settings helped people to really enjoy his soaring melodies.  His music - particularly the notes which a pianist plays with the right hand - convey a sense of emotional intensity.

Chopin created some of his most-famous works during his nine-year relationship with Aurore Dudevant (better known as “George Sand”) which began in the late 1830s.  Although they never married, the couple had a positive impact on each other until their relationship began to deteriorate.

While they were still together, Chopin became ill with tuberculosis.  Even when he was ill, in the 1840s, he was able to create beautiful compositions for the piano.

By the time that he and George Sand (1804-1876) parted ways, Chopin was extremely ill.  He spent about six months in England and Scotland, during 1848, but he kept getting weaker.  By the time he returned to Paris, in November of 1848, he was exhausted.

During the last year of his life, Chopin was unable to continue composing, or performing, as he had always done before illness enveloped him

He died in Paris on the 17th of October, 1849.  About 3,000 people attended his funeral including celebrities like Victor Hugo, Franz Liszt and Eugene Delacroix (who had worked on a joint-but-unfinished painting of Chopin and George Sand).

He left behind a very significant body of work - nearly 170 compositions - for someone who had lived only 39 years, including:

  • 20 nocturnes 
  • 25 preludes
  • 17 waltzes
  • 15 polonaises
  • 58 mazurkas
  • 27 etudes

Some of his most-beautiful, still-famous works are:

  • Four Ballades

During his life, Chopin gave private music lessons but limited his public performances.  Historians tell us that he only performed thirty times in small concert settings. 

Although he had much sadness in his lifetime, Chopin’s personal emotions helped him to create works of haunting beauty.  As NPR’s Ted Libbey notes:

He created a slimmer oeuvre than his important contemporaries, but every piece he produced was a pearl.

His pearls, however, did not generate significant income for Chopin.  When he died, penniless, his friends had to pay for his funeral. 

His last piano is currently owned by the Frederick Chopin Museum in Warsaw.  His remains - minus his heart - are entombed in Paris at the Cemetery Père-Lachaise - Division 11.


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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