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Frédéric François Chopin (/ˈʃpæn/; French pronunciation: ​[fʁʁik ʃɔ.pɛ̃]; 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849), born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin,[n 1] was a Polish[1][neutrality is disputed] composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era. Chopin, a child prodigy, grew up in Warsaw, completed his musical education there, and composed many of his works there before leaving Poland shortly before the outbreak of the November 1830 Uprising.

Effectively cut off from Poland, at age 20 he settled in Paris. During the remaining 19 years of his life, he gave only some 30 public performances, preferring the more intimate atmosphere of the salon; he supported himself by selling his compositions and as a sought-after piano teacher. He formed a friendship with Franz Liszt and was admired by many of his musical contemporaries, including Robert Schumann. After a failed engagement with a Polish girl, from 1837 to 1847 he maintained an often troubled relationship with the French writer George Sand. A brief and unhappy visit with Sand to Majorca in 1838–39 was also one of his most productive periods of composition. In his last years, he was financially supported by his admirer Jane Stirling, who also arranged for him to visit Scotland in 1848. Through most of his life, Chopin suffered from poor health; he died in Paris in 1849, probably of tuberculosis.

All of Chopin's compositions include the piano; most are for solo piano, although he also wrote two piano concertos, a few chamber pieces, and some songs to Polish lyrics. His keyboard style is often technically demanding; his own performances were noted for their nuance and sensitivity. Chopin invented the concept of instrumental ballade; his major piano works also include sonatas, mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, études, impromptus, scherzos, and preludes. Many of these works were published only after Chopin's death. Stylistically, they contain elements of both Polish folk music and of the classical tradition of J.S. Bach, Mozart and Schubert, whom Chopin particularly admired. Chopin's innovations in keyboard style, musical form, and harmony were influential throughout the late Romantic period and since.

Both in his native Poland and beyond, Chopin's music, his association (if only indirect) with political insurrection, his amours and his early death have made him, in the public consciousness, a leading symbol of the Romantic era. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying degrees of historical accuracy.



Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola,[2] 46 kilometers (29 miles) west of Warsaw, in what was then the Duchy of Warsaw under Russian rule. The parish baptismal record, Template:Cn span gives his birthday as 22 February 1810,[3] and cites his given names in the Latin form Fridericus Franciscus; in Polish, he was Fryderyk Franciszek.[4] The composer and his family used the birth-date 1 March;[3] according to Chopin's letter of 16 January 1833 to the chairman of the Polish Literary Society in Paris, he was "born 1 March 1810 at the village of Żelazowa Wola in the Province of Mazowsze."[5] 1 March is now generally accepted as his birthday.

Chopin's father, Nicolas Chopin, was a Frenchman from Lorraine who had emigrated to Poland in 1787 at the age of sixteen.[6] In Poland he used the Polish form of his name, Mikołaj. Nicolas tutored children of the Polish aristocracy, and in 1806 married Justyna Krzyżanowska, a poor relation of the Skarbeks, one of the families for whom he worked.[7][n 2] The wedding took place at the 16th-century parish church in Brochów.[9]

Fryderyk Chopin was baptized on Easter Sunday, 23 April 1810, in the same church where his parents had married. His eighteen-year-old godfather, for whom he was named,[10] was Fryderyk Skarbek (1792–1866), a pupil of Nicolas Chopin.[11] [n 3] Fryderyk Chopin was the couple's second child and only son; he had an elder sister, Ludwika (1807–1855), and two younger sisters, Izabela (1811–1881) and Emilia (1812–1827).

In October 1810, Template:Cn span, the family moved to Warsaw, where his father acquired a post teaching French at the Warsaw Lyceum,[13] then housed in the Saxon Palace.[14] Chopin's father played the flute and violin;[15] his mother played the piano and gave lessons to boys in the boarding house that the Chopins kept.[16] Even in early childhood, Chopin was slight of build and prone to illnesses.[17]

Chopin may have had some piano instruction from his mother, but his first professional music tutor, from 1816 to 1821, was the Czech Wojciech Żywny.[18] Chopin's elder sister Ludwika also took lessons from Żywny, and occasionally played duets with her brother.[19] The seven-year-old Chopin began giving public concerts; in 1817 he composed two Polonaises, in G minor Template:Cn span[20] Chopin's next work, a Polonaise in A-flat major, dedicated to Żywny, is his earliest surviving musical manuscript.[21]

During this period, Chopin was sometimes invited to the Belweder Palace as playmate to the son of Russian Poland's ruler, Grand Duke Constantine; he played the piano for the Duke and composed a march for him. Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, in his dramatic eclogue, "Nasze Przebiegi" ("Our Discourses", 1818), attested to "little Chopin's" popularity.[22]


From September 1823 to 1826 Chopin attended the Warsaw Lyceum.[23] In 1824–28, while attending the Warsaw Lyceum and then the Warsaw Conservatory, he spent his vacations away from Warsaw, at a number of locales;[n 4] in 1824 and 1825, at Szafarnia, where he was a guest of the father of his schoolmate Dominik Dziewanowski. Here for the first time Chopin encountered Polish rural folk music.[25] His missives home from Szafarnia (the self-styled "Szafarnia Courier" letters), written in a very modern and lively Polish, amused his family with their spoofing of the Warsaw newspapers and demonstrated the youngster's literary gift.[26]

In 1827, soon after the death of Chopin's youngest sister Emilia, the family moved from their home in a Warsaw University building near the Kazimierz Palace to lodgings just across the street from the university, in the south annex of the Krasiński Palace on Krakowskie Przedmieście. (The palace is now the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts.) Here the parents continued running a boarding house for male students; Chopin lived here until he left Warsaw in 1830.[n 5] The Chopin Family Parlor (Salonik Chopinów) is now a small museum open to the public; there Chopin premiered many of his early works. Four boarders at his parents' apartments became Chopin's intimates: Tytus Woyciechowski, Jan Białobłocki, Jan Matuszyński and Julian Fontana; the last two would later be part of Chopin's Paris milieu. In 1829, the artist Ambroży Mieroszewski executed a set of portraits of Chopin family members, including the first known portrait of the composer. (The originals perished in World War II; only black-and-white photographs remain.)

In the autumn of 1826, Chopin had begun a three-year course of studies with the Silesian composer Józef Elsner at the Warsaw Conservatory.[n 6] Chopin's first contact with Elsner may have been as early as 1822; it is certain that Elsner was giving him informal guidance by 1823, and in 1826 Chopin officially began studying music theory, figured bass, and composition with Elsner. In his final report from the Conservatory (July 1829), Chopin is recorded as showing "exceptional talent, musical genius."[28]

Throughout this period Chopin continued to compose and to give recitals in concerts and salons in Warsaw. He was engaged by the inventors of a mechanical organ, the "eolomelodicon", and in May 1825 performed on this instrument part of a Moscheles concerto and his own improvisation. The success of this concert resulted in him being asked to give a similar recital on the instrument before Tsar Alexander I, who was visiting Warsaw; the Tsar presented Chopin with a diamond ring. At a subsequent eolomelodicon concert (10 June 1825) Chopin performed his Rondo Op.1 (the first of his works to be commercially published); this earned him his first mention in the foreign press, when the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung praised his "wealth of musical ideas."[29]

While Chopin himself never gave thematic or "programmatic" titles to his instrumental works – instead, he identified them simply by genre and number[30][31] – his compositions were often inspired by emotional experiences in his life. One of these was his passion for a young singing student at the Warsaw Conservatory (later a singer at the Warsaw Opera), Konstancja Gładkowska. In letters to his friend Tytus Woyciechowski, Chopin indicated which of his works, and even which of their passages, were influenced by his fascination with her.[32][33] In this period he was also friendly with members of Warsaw's young artistic and intellectual world, including Mauryry Mochnacki, Jan Matuszewski, Józef Bohdan Zaleski, Julian Fontana and Stefan Witwicki.[32][34]


In September 1828, Chopin visited Berlin with a family friend, the zoologist Feliks Jarocki. There he enjoyed operas directed by Gaspare Spontini, attended several concerts, and saw Carl Friedrich Zelter, Felix Mendelssohn and other celebrities. On a return trip to Berlin, he was a guest of Prince Antoni Radziwiłł, governor of the Grand Duchy of Posen—himself an accomplished composer and aspiring cellist. For the Prince and his pianist daughter Wanda, Chopin composed his Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C major for cello and piano, Op. 3.[35]

Back in Warsaw, in 1829, Chopin heard Niccolò Paganini play and met the German pianist and composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel. On 11 August of the same year, three weeks after completing his studies at the Warsaw Conservatory, Chopin made his debut in Vienna. He gave two piano concerts and received many favorable reviews—in addition to some that criticized the "small tone" that he drew from the piano.[36] In one of these concerts on 11 August, he premiered his Variations on "Là ci darem la mano", Op. 2 (variations on a theme from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni) for piano and orchestra. On his return to Poland he premiered, in December 1829, at the Warsaw Merchants' Club, his Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21. In this period he also began writing his first Études (1829–32).[36]

Chopin's successes as a composer and performer opened the door for him to western Europe, and on 2 November 1830, seen off by friends and admirers, with a ring from Konstancja Gładkowska on his finger, and carrying with him a silver cup containing soil from his native land, Chopin set out, writes Chopin's interwar Polish biographer Zdzisław Jachimecki, "into the wide world, with no very clearly defined aim, forever."[32] With Tytus Woyciechowski he headed for Austria, intending to go on to Italy.

Concerto No. 2 in F minor
File:Frederick Chopin - Concerto 2 in F minor, 1st movement.ogg
Nico Snel conducting the Seattle Philharmonic

File:Frederic Chopin - Opus 10 - Twelve Grand Etudes - c minor.ogg
Martha Goldstein playing an 1851 Érard

Problems playing these files? See media help.

Later that month, in Warsaw, the November 1830 Uprising broke out, and Woyciechowski returned to Poland to enlist. Chopin, now alone in Vienna, was nostalgic for his homeland, and wrote to a friend, "I curse the moment of my departure."[37] When in September 1831 he learned, while traveling from Vienna to Paris, that the uprising had been crushed, he expressed his anguish in the pages of his private journal, (which is now in the National Library of Poland): "O God!... You are there, and yet you do not take vengeance!"[38] Jachimecki ascribes to these events the composer's maturing "into an inspired national bard who intuited the past, present and future of his native Poland."[32] However, shortly after this outburst, Chopin was already comfortable in Paris, which was sympathetic to the Polish cause and had already become the home of many Polish émigrés.[39]


Chopin arrived in Paris in late September 1831; he would never return to Poland,[40] thus becoming one of many expatriates of the Polish Great Emigration. In France Chopin used the French versions of his given names. After receiving French citizenship in 1835, he traveled on a French passport.[41][42] In Paris, Chopin found artists and other distinguished company, as well as opportunities to exercise his talents and achieve celebrity, and before long he was earning a handsome income teaching piano to affluent students from all over Europe.[43] During his years in Paris he was to become acquainted with, amongst many others, Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Ferdinand Hiller, Heinrich Heine, Eugène Delacroix, and Alfred de Vigny.[44] Two Polish friends in Paris were also to play important roles in Chopin's life there. His fellow student at the Warsaw Conservatory, Julian Fontana, had originally tried, without success, to establish himself in England; Albert Grzymała, who in Paris became a wealthy financier and society figure, often acted as Chopin's adviser and "gradually began to fill the role of elder brother in [his] life."[45] Fontana was to become, in the words of Michałowski and Samson, Chopin's "general factotum and copyist."[46] At the end of the year, in December 1831, Chopin received the first major endorsement from an outstanding contemporary when Robert Schumann, reviewing Chopin's Variations on "La ci darem la mano" in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (his first published article on music), declared: "Hats off, gentlemen! A genius."[47]

On 26 February 1832 Chopin gave a debut Paris concert at the Salle Pleyel which drew universal admiration. The critic François-Joseph Fétis wrote in the Revue et gazette musicale: "Here is a young man who ... taking no model, has found, if not a complete renewal of piano music, ... an abundance of original ideas of a kind to be found nowhere else..."[48] After this concert, Chopin realized that his light-handed keyboard technique was not optimal for large concert spaces. Later that year he was introduced to the wealthy Rothschild banking family, whose patronage also opened doors for him to other private salons.[36]

Chopin seldom performed publicly in Paris. In later years he generally gave a single annual concert at the Salle Pleyel, a venue that seated three hundred. He played more frequently at salons—social gatherings of the aristocracy and artistic and literary elite—but preferred playing at his own Paris apartment for small groups of friends. His precarious health prevented his touring extensively as a travelling virtuoso, and beyond playing once in Rouen, he seldom ventured out of the capital.[49] His high income from teaching and composing freed him from the strains of concert-giving, to which he had an innate repugnance.[36] Arthur Hedley has observed that "As a pianist Chopin was unique in acquiring a reputation of the highest order on the basis of a minimum of public appearances—few more than thirty in the course of his lifetime."[31] The list of musicians who took part in some of Chopin's concerts provides an indication of the richness of Parisian artistic life during this period. Examples include a concert on 23 March 1833, in which Chopin, Liszt and Hiller performed J. S. Bach's concerto for three keyboards; and, on 3 March 1838, a concert in which Chopin, his pupil Adolphe Gutman, Alkan, and Alkan's teacher Zimmermann performed Alkan's arrangement, for eight hands, of Beethoven's 7th symphony. Chopin was also involved in the composition of Liszt's Hexameron; Chopin wrote the sixth (and final) variation on Bellini's theme.

Chopin's music soon found success with publishers, and in 1833 he contracted with Maurice Schlesinger, who arranged for it to be published also in Germany and England.[50]

In 1835 Chopin went to Carlsbad, where, for the last time in his life, he met with his parents. On his way back to Paris, he met old friends from Warsaw, the Wodzińskis. He had made the acquaintance of their daughter Maria in Poland five years earlier, when she was eleven. This meeting prompted him to stay for two weeks in Dresden, when he had previously intended to return to Paris via Leipzig.[51] The sixteen-year-old girl's portrait of the composer is considered, along with Delacroix's, as amongst Chopin's best likenesses.[52] In October he finally reached Leipzig, where he met with Robert Schumann, Clara Wieck and Felix Mendelssohn, who organised for him a performance of his own oratorio St. Paul, and who considered Chopin "a perfect musician".[53] In July 1836 Chopin traveled to Marienbad and Dresden to be with the Wodziński family, and in September he proposed to Maria; her mother Countess Wodzińska approved in principle. Chopin went on to Leipzig, where he presented Schumann with his G minor Ballade.[54] At the end of 1836 Chopin sent Maria an album in which his sister Ludwika had inscribed seven of his songs, which had been composed mainly in Warsaw, set to words by Polish poets, and his 1835 Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 1, which he was confident she would be able to play.[55] The anodyne thanks he received from Maria proved to be the last letter he was to have from her.[56]

George Sand

In 1836, at a party hosted by Liszt's mistress Marie d'Agoult, Chopin met the French author George Sand (real name: Aurore Dupin). Chopin initially felt an aversion to Sand, and wrote, "What an unattractive person la Sand is. Is she really a woman?"[57] However, by early 1837 Maria's mother had made it clear to Chopin in correspondence that the marriage was unlikely to proceed.[58] It is thought that she was influenced by his poor health and possibly also by rumours about his associations with women such as d'Agoult and Sand.[59] Chopin finally placed the letters from Maria and her mother in a package on which he wrote, in Polish, "My tragedy".[60] Sand, in a letter to Grzymała of June 1838,[61] admitted strong feelings for the composer and debated whether to abandon a current affair in order to begin a relationship with Chopin; she asked Grzymała to assess Chopin's relationship with Maria Wodzińska, without realising that the affair, at least from Maria's side, was over.

By the end of June 1838, Chopin and Sand had become lovers.[62] Sand, who was six years older than Chopin, and who had had a series of lovers, wrote at this time: "I must say I was confused and amazed at the effect this little creature had on me... I have still not recovered from my astonishment, and if I were a proud person I should be feeling humiliated at having been carried away..."[63] The two spent a miserable winter on Majorca (8 November 1838 to 13 February 1839), where, together with Sand's two children, they had journeyed in the hope of improving the healths of Chopin and Sand's 15-year-old son Maurice, and also to escape the threats of Sand's former lover Félicien Mallefille.[64] However, after discovering that the couple were not married, the deeply religious people of Majorca became inhospitable,[65] making accommodation difficult to find; this compelled the group to take lodgings in a former Carthusian monastery in Valldemossa which gave little shelter from the cold winter weather.[62]

On 3 December, Chopin complained about his bad health and the incompetence of the doctors in Majorca: "Three doctors have visited me... The first said I was dead; the second said I was dying; and the third said I was about to die."[66] Chopin also had problems having his Pleyel piano sent to him. It finally arrived from Paris in December. Chopin wrote to Pleyel in January 1839: "I am sending you my Preludes [(Op. 28)]. I finished them on your little piano, which arrived in the best possible condition in spite of the sea, the bad weather and the Palma customs."[62] Chopin was also able to undertake work on his Ballade No. 2, Op. 38; two Polonaises, Op. 40; Scherzo No. 3, Op. 39; the Mazurka in E minor from Op. 41; and probably revisited his Sonata No. 2, Op. 35.

Although this period had been productive, the bad weather had such a detrimental effect on Chopin's health that Sand determined to leave the island. To avoid further customs duties, Sand sold the piano to a local French couple, the Canuts.[67] [n 7]

The group traveled first to Barcelona, then to Marseilles, where they stayed for a few months while Chopin convalesced.[69] In May 1839 they headed to Sand's estate at Nohant for the summer (where they spent most summers until 1846). In autumn they returned to Paris, where Chopin's apartment, at 5 rue Tronchet, was close to Sand's rented accommodation at the rue Pigalle. Chopin frequently visited Sand in the evenings, but both retained some independence.[70] At the funeral of the tenor Adolphe Nourrit in Paris 1839, Chopin made a rare appearance at the organ, playing a transcription of Franz Schubert's lied Die Gestirne.[71] In 1842 Chopin and Sand moved to the Square d'Orléans, living in adjacent buildings.[72]

During the summers at Nohant, particularly in the years 1839–43, Chopin found quiet but productive days during which he composed many works. They included his Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53. Sand gives a "novelistic" description of Chopin's creative process in an account of an evening in Nohant with their friend Delacroix:

Chopin is at the piano, quite oblivious of the fact that anyone is listening. He embarks on a sort of casual improvisation, then stops. 'Go on, go on,' exclaims Delacroix, 'That's not the end!' 'It's not even a beginning. Nothing will come ... nothing but reflections, shadows, shapes that won't stay fixed. I'm trying to find the right colour, but I can't even get the form ...' 'You won't find the one without the other,' says Delacroix, 'and both will come together.' 'What if I find nothing but moonlight?' 'Then you will have found the reflection of a reflection.' The idea seems to please the divine artist. He begins again, without seeming to, so uncertain is the shape. Gradually quiet colours begin to show, corresponding to the suave modulations sounding in our ears. Suddenly the note of blue sings out, and the night is all around us, azure and transparent. Light clouds take on fantastic shapes and fill the sky. They gather about the moon which casts upon them great opalescent discs, and wakes the sleeping colours. We dream of a summer night, and sit there waiting for the song of the nightingale ...[73]

Deteriorating health

From 1845 Chopin's health continued to deteriorate. A series of his letters dated from 1845 to 1848, now at the Warsaw Chopin Museum, describe his daily life during this period and his Cello Sonata in G minor.[74] Chopin's relations with Sand also soured, worsened in 1846 by problems involving her daughter Solange and her fiancé, the young fortune-hunting sculptor Auguste Clésinger.[75] Chopin frequently took Solange's side in quarrels with her mother; he also faced jealousy from Sand's son Maurice.[76] As the composer's illness progressed, Sand had become less of a lover and more of a nurse to Chopin, whom she called her "third child." In letters to third parties, she vented her impatience, referring to him as a "child," a "little angel," a "sufferer" and a "beloved little corpse."[77]

In 1847 Sand published her novel Lucrezia Floriani, whose main characters—a rich actress and a prince in weak health—could be interpreted as Sand and Chopin; the story was uncomplimentary to Chopin, who could not have missed the allusions as he helped Sand correct the printer's galleys. In 1847 he did not visit Nohant. Mutual friends attempted to reconcile them, but the composer was unyielding.[77] Amongst them was the mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot. Sand had based her 1843 novel Consuelo on Viardot, and the three had spent many hours together at Nohant. Chopin and Viardot had often played together; he had advised her on piano technique and had assisted her in writing a series of songs based on the melodies of his mazurkas. He in turn had gained from Viardot some first-hand knowledge of Spanish music.[78]

In 1847 Sand and Chopin quietly ended their ten-year relationship following an angry correspondence which, in Sand's words, made "a strange conclusion to nine years of exclusive friendship."[79] Grzymała later commented, "If [Chopin] had not had the misfortune of meeting G.S. [George Sand], who poisoned his whole being, he would have lived to be Cherubini's age." – i.e., 81, as against his death at the age of 39.[80]

Final years

Chopin's public popularity as a virtuoso began to wane, as did the number of his pupils. In February 1848 he gave his last Paris concert, with Franchomme, which included three movements of the Cello Sonata Op. 65. In April, with the Revolution of 1848 underway in Paris, he left for London, where he performed at several concerts and at numerous receptions in great houses.[77] This tour was suggested to Chopin by his Scottish pupil Jane Stirling and her elder sister. Stirling also made all the necessary arrangements and provided much of the necessary funding.[81]

In late summer he was invited by Jane Stirling to visit Scotland, staying at Calder House near Edinburgh and at Johnstone Castle in Renfrewshire, both owned by members of Jane Stirling's family.[82] Stirling proposed to him, but Chopin was already sensing his approaching end and in any case cherished his freedom more than the prospect of living at a wife's expense.[83] He gave a single concert in Edinburgh, at the Hopetoun Rooms on Queen Street (now Erskine House).[84]

In late October 1848, while staying in Edinburgh, at 10 Warriston Crescent, with the Polish physician Adam Łyszczyński, Chopin wrote out his last will and testament—"a kind of disposition to be made of my stuff in the future, if I should drop dead somewhere," he wrote to Grzymała.[77]

Chopin made his last public appearance on a concert platform at London's Guildhall on 16 November 1848, when, in a final patriotic gesture, he played for the benefit of Polish refugees. He was at this time clearly seriously ill (weighing less than 45 kg) and his doctors were aware that his sickness was in a terminal stage.[85]

At the end of November, Chopin returned to Paris. He passed the winter in unremitting illness, but in spite of it he continued seeing friends and visited and played for the ailing Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz,[83] whose poems he had once set to music.[n 8] Chopin no longer had the strength to give lessons, but he continued to compose. He lacked money for the most essential expenses and for his physicians, and had to sell off his more valuable furnishings and belongings.[77]


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

In his increasing illness, Chopin desired to have a family member with him. In June 1849 his sister Ludwika came to Paris with her husband and daughter. In September 1849, supported by the financial assistance of Jane Stirling, Chopin took an apartment at Place Vendôme 12. After 15 October, when Chopin's condition took a marked turn for the worse, only a handful of his closest friends remained with him, although Viardot sardonically remarked that "all the grand Parisian ladies considered it de rigueur to faint in his room."[87]

Some of his friends provided music at his request; amongst them, Delfina Potocka (who had arrived in Paris on 15 October) sang and Auguste Franchomme played the cello. He requested that his body be opened after death (for fear of being buried alive) and his heart returned to Warsaw. He also bequeathed his unfinished piano method to the composer and pianist Charles-Valentin Alkan for completion.[88] On 17 October, after midnight, the physician leaned over him and asked whether he was suffering greatly. "No longer", Chopin replied. He died a few minutes before two o'clock in the morning. Those present at the deathbed appear to have included his sister Ludwika, Princess Marcelina Czartoryska, Solange (George Sand's daughter), and Thomas Albrecht.[89]

Later that morning, Solange's husband Clésinger made Chopin's death mask and a cast of his left hand. Before the funeral, Chopin's heart was removed, as he had requested.

Chopin's disease and the cause of his death have since been a matter of debate. His death certificate gave the cause as tuberculosis, and his physician, Jean Cruveilhier, was then the leading French authority on this disease.[90] The terminal symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis resemble those of cystic fibrosis, which would be described and named only a century later; but in the 19th century, in the absence of modern respiratory therapy and medical support, survival with cystic fibrosis to age 39 was virtually impossible.[91] Given Chopin's history and symptoms, it seems likely that he suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis.[92]

Funeral and after

The funeral, to be held at the Church of the Madeleine in Paris, was delayed almost two weeks, until 30 October,[93] Template:Cn span Entrance was restricted to ticket holders[94] as many people were expected to attend.[93] The delay before the funeral enabled a number of people to travel from London, Berlin and Vienna who would not normally have been able to attend.[95] George Sand did not attend.

Mozart's Requiem was sung at the funeral,[94] Template:Cn span The soloists in the Requiem were: soprano Jeanne-Anais Castellan; mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot; tenor Alexis Dupont; and bass Luigi Lablache. Also played were Chopin's Preludes No. 4 in E minor and No. 6 in B minor. The organist was Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély.[96] The funeral procession to Père Lachaise Cemetery was led by the aged Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski; immediately after the casket, whose pallbearers included Delacroix, Franchomme, and the pianist Camille Pleyel, walked Chopin's sister, Ludwika.[97] At the graveside, Chopin's Funeral March from his Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35, was played, in Reber's instrumentation.[98]

Chopin's tombstone, featuring the muse of music, Euterpe, weeping over a broken lyre, was designed and sculpted by Clésinger. The expenses of the funeral and monument, in the amount of five thousand francs, were covered by Jane Stirling, who also paid for the return of Chopin's sister Ludwika to Warsaw.[97] Ludwika took with her, in an urn, Chopin's heart, preserved in alcohol.[99][n 9] She also took to Poland a collection of 200 letters from Sand to Chopin; after 1851 these were returned to Sand, who seems to have destroyed them.[99]



In 1926 a bronze statue of Chopin, designed by sculptor Wacław Szymanowski in 1907, was erected in the upper part of Warsaw's Royal Baths (Łazienki) Park. The stylized willow over Chopin's seated figure echoes a pianist's hand and fingers. The statue was originally to have been installed in 1910, on the centenary of Chopin's birth, but its execution was delayed by controversy about the design, then by the outbreak of World War I. On 31 May 1940, during the German occupation of Poland in World War II, the statue was destroyed by the Nazis.[101] It was reconstructed after the war, in 1958. Since 1959, free piano recitals of Chopin's compositions have been performed at the statue's base on summer Sunday afternoons. Until 2007, the statue was the world's tallest monument to Chopin.

A full-size replica of Szymanowski's statue is found in Warsaw's sister city, Hamamatsu, Japan.


The world's oldest monographic music competition, the International Chopin Piano Competition, founded in 1927, is held every five years in Warsaw. Periodically the Grand prix du disque de F. Chopin is awarded for notable Chopin recordings.

The Fryderyk Chopin Museum, established in 1954, is housed in Warsaw's Ostrogski Palace, seat of the Fryderyk Chopin Society. The Museum was refurbished in 2010 for the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth.

Named for the composer are the largest Polish music conservatory, the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music; Warsaw Chopin Airport; the Chopin crater on Mercury; and asteroid 3784 Chopin.

For the 2010 bicentennial of Chopin's birth, 14 "Chopin's Warsaw" ("Warszawa Chopina") benches were placed in Warsaw near Chopin landmarks. Pressing a button on a bench makes it play a few bars of a Chopin composition.[102]


Main articles: List of compositions by Frédéric Chopin by genre, List of compositions by Frédéric Chopin by opus number, Nocturnes (Chopin), Preludes (Chopin), Études (Chopin) and Miscellaneous compositions (Chopin)


Over 230 Chopin works survive; some compositions from early childhood have been lost. All his known works involve the piano, and only a few range beyond solo piano music, as either piano concertos or chamber music.

Chopin was educated in the tradition of Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and Clementi; he used Clementi's piano method with his own students. He was also influenced by Hummel's development of virtuoso, yet Mozartian, piano technique. Chopin cited Bach and Mozart as the two most important composers in shaping his musical outlook.[103] Chopin's early works are in the style of the 'brilliant' keyboard pieces of his era as exemplified by the works of Ignaz Moscheles, Friedrich Kalkbrenner, and others. Less direct in the earlier period are the influences of Polish folk music and of Italian opera. Much of what became Chopin's typical ornamentation (e.g. his fioriture) is taken from singing. His melodic lines were increasingly reminiscent of the modes and features (e.g. drones) of the music of his native country.[104]

Chopin took the new salon genre of the nocturne, invented by Irish composer John Field, to a deeper level of sophistication. Three of Chopin's twenty-one Nocturnes were published only after his death in 1849, contrary to his wishes.[105] He also endowed popular dance forms, such as the Polish mazurek and the Viennese Waltz, with a greater range of melody and expression.

Chopin's mazurkas, while based somewhat on the traditional Polish dance (the mazurek), were different from the traditional variety in that they were suitable for concerts halls as well as dance settings. With his mazurkas, Chopin brought a new sense of nationalism, which was an idea that other composers writing both at the same time as, and after, Chopin would also incorporate into their compositions. Chopin's nationalism was a great influence and inspiration for many other composers, especially Eastern Europeans, and he was one of the first composers to clearly express nationalism through his music. Furthermore, he was the first composer to take a national genre of music from his home country and transform it into a genre worthy of the general concert-going public, thereby creating an entirely new genre.

The series of seven Polonaises published in his lifetime (another nine were published posthumously), beginning with the Op. 26 pair, set a new standard for music in the form.[106]

Chopin was the first to write ballades[107] and scherzi as individual pieces. He took the example of Bach's preludes and fugues and essentially established a new genre with his own Preludes. He reinvented the étude,[108] expanding on the concept to and make it into a showpiece, and he used his Études to teach his own technique of piano playing[36]—for instance playing with the weak fingers (3, 4, and 5) in fast figures (Op. 10, No. 2), playing in octaves (Op. 25, No. 10), and playing black keys with the thumb (Op. 10, No. 5).

Chopin's Preludes, Op. 28 were in part a tribute to J. S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier. Chopin's preludes move up the circle-of-fifths, whereas Bach uses the chromatic scale to create a prelude in every major and minor tonality achievable on the clavier.

Some of Chopin's well-known pieces have acquired descriptive titles, e.g. the Revolutionary Étude (Op. 10, No. 12), the Minute Waltz (Op. 64, No. 1), and the third movement of his Funeral March Sonata No. 2 (Op. 35). Chopin himself however never named an instrumental work beyond genre and number, leaving all potential extra-musical associations to the listener; the names by which we know many of the pieces were invented by others.[109] The Revolutionary Étude was not written with the failed Polish uprising against Russia in mind; it merely appeared at that time. The Funeral March was written before the rest of the sonata within which it is contained, but the exact occasion is not known; it appears not to have been inspired by any specific personal bereavement.

The last opus number that Chopin himself used was 65, allocated to the Cello Sonata in G minor. He expressed a deathbed wish that all his unpublished manuscripts be destroyed. At the request of the composer's mother and sisters, however, his pianist friend and musical executor Julian Fontana selected 23 unpublished piano pieces and grouped them into eight further opus numbers (Opp. 66–73), published in 1855.[110] In 1857, 17 Polish songs that Chopin wrote at various stages of his life were collected and published as Op. 74, though their order within the opus did not reflect the order of composition.[111] (Two more songs were published in 1910.) Works published since 1857 have received alternate catalog designations instead of opus numbers.

Today several scholarly editions exist, notably the Paderewski and Polish National editions which contain lengthy and scholarly explanations and discussions regarding choices and sources.

Influence and reception

, Op. 64, No. 1
File:Frederic Chopin-Trois Valses Op. 64 No. 1 Des-Dur Piano Peter Gerwinski.ogg
Peter Gerwinski, piano

Étude Op. 25, No. 2 in F minor
File:Frederic Chopin - Opus 25 - Twelve Grand Etudes - f minor.ogg

Frédéric Chopin: Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17, No. 4
File:Giorgi Latsabidze Plays Mazurka.ogg
Giorgi Latso, piano

Prelude Op. 28, No. 4 in E minor
Porticodoro / SmartCGArt Media Productions

Prelude Op. 28, No. 15 in D-flat major
File:Chopin Prelude Op 28 N 15 Giorgi Latsabidze performs.ogg
Giorgi Latso, piano

Problems playing these files? See media help.
Robert Schumann was an early admirer of Chopin's music, and named a piece from his suite Carnaval after Chopin. This admiration was not fully reciprocated, although Chopin did dedicate his Ballade No. 2 in F major to Schumann.

Franz Liszt transcribed for piano six of Chopin's Polish songs. However, Liszt refuted the suggestion that he wrote Funérailles (subtitled "October 1849", the seventh movement of his piano suite Harmonies poétiques et religieuses of 1853) in memory of Chopin, although the middle section seems to be modeled on the famous octave trio section of Chopin's Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53.

Chopin's technical innovations became influential. His Preludes (Op. 28) and Études (Opp. 10 and 25) rapidly became standard works, and inspired both Liszt's Transcendental Études and Schumann's Symphonic Studies. Alexander Scriabin was also strongly influenced by Chopin; for example, his 24 Preludes, Op. 11, are inspired by Chopin's Op. 28.


Chopin's music is frequently played with rubato (i.e. divergence from strict rhythm). There are differing opinons as to how much, and what type, of rubato is appropriate for his works. Charles Rosen points out that
most of the written-out indications of rubato in Chopin are to be found in his mazurkas ... It is probable that Chopin used the older form of rubato so important to Mozart ... [where] the melody note in the right hand is delayed until after the note in the bass ... An allied form of this rubato is the arpeggiation of the chords thereby delaying the melody note; according to Chopin's pupil, Carl Mikuli, Chopin was firmly opposed to this practice.[112]

Another Chopin pupil, Friederike Müller, wrote:

[Chopin's] playing was always noble and beautiful; his tones sang, whether in full forte or softest piano. He took infinite pains to teach his pupils this legato, cantabile style of playing. His most severe criticism was "He—or she—does not know how to join two notes together." He also demanded the strictest adherence to rhythm. He hated all lingering and dragging, misplaced rubatos, as well as exaggerated ritardandos ... and it is precisely in this respect that people make such terrible errors in playing his works.[113]


Schumann acknowledged the strength of Chopin's strong feelings to his native Poland in his 1836 review of Chopins' piano concertos, when he wrote that "Now that the Poles are in deep mourning [after the failure of the 1830 rising], their appeal to us artists is even stronger ... if the mighty autocrat in the north [i.e. Tsar Alexander I] could know that in Chopin's works, in the simple strains of his mazurkas, there lurks a dangerous enemy, he would place a ban on his music. Chopin's works are cannon buried in flowers!"[114] Another contemporary, Liszt, noted that Chopin, "a Polish artist, may be ranked first among musicians who have had an individual poetic sense of a particular nation."[115] Richard Taruskin notes that "it was only because Chopin's nationalism was an oppressed and offended nationalism that Schumann noticed it as nationalism at all...Schumann... was used to thinking of the values of his [own] the general values of humanity, thus professing an unwitting double standard - we now call it ethnocentrism - that perpetuated the oppression with which he consciously sympathised on Chopin's behalf."[116] Taruskin notes that this ambivalent attitude to Polish nationalism by non-Poles persisted (and persists); and that in some ways Chopin may be felt to shared in these parallel attitudes: "He felt his Polish patriotism deeply and sincerely", but consciously modelled his works on the tradition of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and Field.[117][118]

Stage, film and television

Possibly the first venture into fictional treatments of Chopin's life was a fanciful operatic version of some of its events. Chopin was written by Giacomo Orefice and produced in Milan in 1901. All the music is derived from that of Chopin.[119]

Chopin's life and his relations with George Sand have been fictionalized in numerous films. The 1945 biopic A Song to Remember earned Cornel Wilde an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for his portrayal of the composer. Other film treatments have included: La Valse de l'adieu (France, 1928) by Henry Roussel, with Pierre Blanchar as Chopin; Impromptu (1991), starring Hugh Grant as Chopin; La note bleue (1991); and Chopin: Desire for Love (2002).[120] In Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata, the difference in interpreting Chopin's Prelude No. 2 in A minor between pianist Charlotte Andergast and her daughter Eva constitutes a major scene.[121]

A BBC TV documentary Chopin – The Women Behind The Music (2010)[122] and a 2010 documentary realized by Angelo Bozzolini and Roberto Prosseda for Italian television,[123] both covered Chopin's life.

See also

Book icon Frédéric Chopin at World Heritage Encyclopedia books




  • Atwood. William G. (1999). The Parisian Worlds of Frédéric Chopin. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-07773-5.
  • Chopin, Fryderyk (1973). Chopin's Letters, coll. H. Opieński, tr. E.L. Voynich. New York: Dover
  • Chopin, Fryderyk (1962). Selected Correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin, coll. B. Sydow, tr. Arthur Hedley. London: Heinemann.
  • Chopin, Frédéric (1993). Valses, ed. István Márriássy. Budapest: Könnemann Music. ISBN 3833113324.
  • Hedley, Arthur [et al., "Chopin, Frédéric (François)," Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th ed., 2005, vol. 3, pp. 263–64
  • Kruszewska, Mirosława, "Pierwsi Polacy w Ameryce, [23] Zapomniany bohater" ("The First Poles in America, [23] A Forgotten Hero"), in Gwiazda Polarna (Pole Star), vol. 102, no. 23 (5 November 2011), pp. 10–11.
  • Maurois, André, Leila: the Life of George Sand, translated by Gerard Hopkins, Penguin, 1980 (c. 1953).
  • Michałowski, Kornel, and Jim Samson (n.d.), "Grove Music Online (accessed 25 July 2013). (subscription required)
  • Mulley, Clare, The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville, Britain's First Special Agent of World War II, London, Macmillan, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4472-2565-2.
  • Rosen, Charles (1995). The Romantic Generation". Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674779334.
  • Samson, Jim (1996). Chopin. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198164655.
  • Schumann, Robert (1988), tr. and ed. Henry Pleasants. Schumann on Muisc: A Selection from the Writings. New York: Dover Publications. IBN 9780486257488.
  • Taruskin, Richard (2010). Music in the Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-538483-3.
  • Zamoyski, Adam, Chopin: Prince of the Romantics, London, HarperCollins, 2010, ISBN 978-0-007-35182-4 (e-book edition).

External links


  • WorldCat catalog)


  • Biographies (Project Gutenberg e-texts):
    • , by Franz Liszt
    • , by Frederick Niecks
    • , by James Huneker
  • Biography on official site of Fryderyk Chopin Institute.

Music scores

  • Free scores by Frédéric Chopin at the International Music Score Library Project
  • Mutopia Project
  • , a collection of over 400 first and early printed editions of musical compositions by Frédéric Chopin published before 1881.
  • features an interface that allows three navigable scores to be open simultaneously in frames to facilitate comparison.
  • Free scores by Frédéric Chopin in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)


  • Chopin bicentenary website offers free full-track streaming of many of Chopin's works.


  • National Public Radio
  • Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina, Warsaw, Poland
  • University of Michigan Chopin Project
  • International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

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