(/ˈʃoʊpæ̃/; French: [fʁedeʁik
fʁɑ̃swa ʃɔpɛ̃]; 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a
Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote
primarily for solo piano. He has maintained worldwide renown as a
leading musician of his era, one whose "poetic genius was based on a
professional technique that was without equal in his generation."
was born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin[n 1] in the Duchy of Warsaw
and grew up in Warsaw, which in 1815 became part of Congress Poland. A
child prodigy, he completed his musical education and composed his
earlier works in
at the age of 20, less
than a month before the outbreak of the November 1830 Uprising. At 21,
he settled in Paris. Thereafter—in the last 18 years of his
life—he gave only 30 public performances, preferring the more
intimate atmosphere of the salon. He supported himself by selling his
compositions and by giving piano lessons, for which he was in high
formed a friendship with
and was admired by
many of his other musical contemporaries (including Robert Schumann).
obtained French citizenship. After a failed engagement
from 1836 to 1837, he maintained an often troubled
relationship with the French writer Amantine Dupin (known by her pen
name, George Sand). A brief and unhappy visit to
with Sand in
1838–39 would prove one of his most productive periods of
composition. In his final years, he was supported financially by his
admirer Jane Stirling, who also arranged for him to visit
1848. For most of his life,
was in poor health. He died in
Paris in 1849 at the age of 39, probably of tuberculosis.
All of Chopin's compositions include the piano. Most are for solo
piano, though he also wrote two piano concertos, a few chamber pieces,
and some 19 songs set to Polish lyrics. His keyboard style is esoteric
and often technically demanding: his own performances were noted for
their nuance and sensitivity.
invented the concept of the
instrumental ballade. His major piano works also include mazurkas,
waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, études, impromptus, scherzos,
preludes and sonatas, some published only posthumously. Among the
influences on his style of composition were Polish folk music, the
classical tradition of J. S. Bach, Mozart, and Schubert, and the
atmosphere of the Paris salons of which he was a frequent guest. His
innovations in style, harmony, and musical form, and his association
of music with nationalism, were influential throughout and after the
late Romantic period.
Chopin's music, his status as one of music's earliest superstars; his
(indirect) association with political insurrection; his often
tumultuous love-life, and his early death have made him a leading
symbol of the Romantic era. His works remain popular, and he has been
the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying historical
1.3 Travel and domestic success
1.5 Franz Liszt
1.6 George Sand
1.8 Tour of England and Scotland
1.9 Death and funeral
2.2 Titles, opus numbers and editions
2.3 Form and harmony
2.4 Technique and performance style
2.5 Polish heritage
2.6 Reception and influence
4 In literature, stage, film and television
6 External links
Chopin's father, Nicolas Chopin, by Mieroszewski, 1829
Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola, 46 kilometres (29
miles) west of Warsaw, in what was then the Duchy of Warsaw, a Polish
state established by Napoleon. The parish baptismal record gives his
birthday as 22 February 1810, and cites his given names in the Latin
form Fridericus Franciscus (in Polish, he was Fryderyk
Franciszek). However, the composer and his family used the
birthdate 1 March,[n 2] which is now generally accepted as the
Fryderyk's father, Nicolas Chopin, was a Frenchman from
had emigrated to
Poland in 1787 at the age of sixteen. Nicolas
tutored children of the Polish aristocracy, and in 1806 married
Justyna Krzyżanowska, a poor relative of the Skarbeks, one of the
families for whom he worked. Fryderyk was baptized on Easter
Sunday, 23 April 1810, in the same church where his parents had
married, in Brochów. His eighteen-year-old godfather, for whom he
was named, was Fryderyk Skarbek, a pupil of Nicolas Chopin.
Fryderyk was the couple's second child and only son; he had an elder
sister, Ludwika (1807–55), and two younger sisters, Izabela
(1811–81) and Emilia (1812–27). Nicolas was devoted to his
adopted homeland, and insisted on the use of the
Polish language in
In October 1810, six months after Fryderyk's birth, the family moved
to Warsaw, where his father acquired a post teaching French at the
Warsaw Lyceum, then housed in the Saxon Palace. Fryderyk lived with
his family in the Palace grounds. The father played the flute and
violin; the mother played the piano and gave lessons to boys in
the boarding house that the Chopins kept.
Chopin was of slight
build, and even in early childhood was prone to illnesses.
Chopin's birthplace in Żelazowa Wola
Fryderyk may have had some piano instruction from his mother, but his
first professional music tutor, from 1816 to 1821, was the Czech
pianist Wojciech Żywny. His elder sister Ludwika also took
lessons from Żywny, and occasionally played duets with her
brother. It quickly became apparent that he was a child prodigy.
By the age of seven Fryderyk had begun giving public concerts, and in
1817 he composed two polonaises, in
G minor and B-flat major. His
next work, a polonaise in A-flat major of 1821, dedicated to Żywny,
is his earliest surviving musical manuscript.
In 1817 the
Saxon Palace was requisitioned by Warsaw's Russian
governor for military use, and the
Warsaw Lyceum was reestablished in
Kazimierz Palace (today the rectorate of
Fryderyk and his family moved to a building, which still survives,
adjacent to the Kazimierz Palace. During this period, Fryderyk was
sometimes invited to the
Belweder Palace as playmate to the son of the
ruler of Russian Poland, 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.
Józef Elsner after 1853
From September 1823 to 1826,
Chopin attended the
Warsaw Lyceum, where
he received organ lessons from the Czech musician Wilhelm Würfel
during his first year. In the autumn of 1826 he began a three-year
course under the Silesian composer
Józef Elsner at the Warsaw
Conservatory, studying music theory, figured bass and
composition.[n 3] Throughout this period he 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 on
this instrument in May 1825 he performed his own improvisation and
part of a concerto by Moscheles. The success of this concert led to an
invitation to give a similar recital on the instrument before Tsar
Alexander I, who was visiting Warsaw; the Tsar presented him with a
diamond ring. At a subsequent eolomelodicon concert on 10 June 1825,
Chopin performed his Rondo Op. 1. This was the first of his works to
be commercially published and earned him his first mention in the
foreign press, when the
Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung
praised his "wealth of musical ideas".
Chopin spent his vacations away from Warsaw, at a
number of locales.[n 4] In 1824 and 1825, at Szafarnia, he was a guest
of Dominik Dziewanowski, the father of a schoolmate. Here for the
first time he encountered Polish rural folk music. His letters
home from Szafarnia (to which he gave the title "The Szafarnia
Courier"), 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.
In 1827, soon after the death of Chopin's youngest sister Emilia, the
family moved from the
Warsaw University building, adjacent to the
Kazimierz Palace, to lodgings just across the street from the
university, in the south annex of the Krasiński Palace on Krakowskie
Przedmieście,[n 5] where
Chopin lived until he left
Warsaw in 1830.[n
6] Here his parents continued running their boarding house for male
Chopin Family Parlour (Salonik Chopinów) became a
museum in the 20th century. In 1829 the artist Ambroży Mieroszewski
executed a set of portraits of
Chopin family members, including the
first known portrait of the composer.[n 7]
Four boarders at his parents' apartments became Chopin's intimates:
Tytus Woyciechowski, Jan Nepomucen Białobłocki,
Jan Matuszyński and
Julian Fontana; the latter two would become part of his Paris milieu.
He was friendly with members of Warsaw's young artistic and
intellectual world, including Fontana,
Józef Bohdan Zaleski
Józef Bohdan Zaleski and
Stefan Witwicki. He was also attracted to the singing student
Konstancja Gładkowska. In letters to Woyciechowski, he indicated
which of his works, and even which of their passages, were influenced
by his fascination with her; his letter of 15 May 1830 revealed that
the slow movement (Larghetto) of his Piano Concerto No. 1 (in E minor)
was secretly dedicated to her – "It should be like dreaming in
beautiful springtime – by moonlight." His final
Conservatory report (July 1829) read: "
Chopin F., third-year student,
exceptional talent, musical genius."
Travel and domestic success
Chopin plays for the Radziwiłłs, 1829 (painting by Henryk
In September 1828 Chopin, while still a student, visited Berlin with a
family friend, zoologist Feliks Jarocki, enjoying operas directed by
Gaspare Spontini and attending concerts by Carl Friedrich Zelter,
Felix Mendelssohn and other celebrities. On an 1829 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, he composed
his Introduction and
Polonaise brillante in C major for cello and
piano, Op. 3.
Warsaw that year,
Niccolò Paganini play the
violin, and composed a set of variations, Souvenir de Paganini. It may
have been this experience which encouraged him to commence writing his
first Études, (1829–32), exploring the capacities of his own
instrument. On 11 August, three weeks after completing his studies
Warsaw Conservatory, he made his debut in Vienna. He gave two
piano concerts and received many favourable reviews—in addition to
some commenting (in Chopin's own words) that he was "too delicate for
those accustomed to the piano-bashing of local artists". In one of
these concerts, he premiered his Variations on Là ci darem la mano,
Op. 2 (variations on a duet from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni) for
piano and orchestra. He returned to
Warsaw in September 1829,
where he premiered his Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 on
17 March 1830.
Chopin's successes as a composer and performer opened the door to
western Europe for him, and on 2 November 1830, he set out, in the
words of Zdzisław Jachimecki, "into the wide world, with no very
clearly defined aim, forever." With Woyciechowski, he headed for
Austria again, intending to go on to Italy. Later that month, in
Warsaw, the November 1830 Uprising broke out, and Woyciechowski
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." When in September 1831 he learned, while
Vienna to Paris, that the uprising had been crushed,
he expressed his anguish in the pages of his private journal: "Oh
God! ... You are there, and yet you do not take vengeance!"
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."
Chopin at 25, by his fiancée Maria Wodzińska, 1835
Chopin arrived in Paris in late September 1831; he would never return
to Poland, thus becoming one of many expatriates of the Polish
Great Emigration. In France he used the French versions of his given
names, and after receiving French citizenship in 1835, he travelled on
a French passport. However,
Chopin remained close to his fellow
Poles in exile as friends and confidants and he never felt fully
comfortable speaking French. Chopin's biographer
Adam Zamoyski writes
that he never considered himself to be French, despite his father's
French origins, and always saw himself as a Pole.
Chopin encountered artists and other distinguished figures,
and found many opportunities to exercise his talents and achieve
celebrity. During his years in Paris he was to become acquainted with,
among many others, Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Ferdinand Hiller,
Heinrich Heine, Eugène Delacroix, and Alfred de Vigny.
also acquainted with the poet Adam Mickiewicz, principal of the Polish
Literary Society, some of whose verses he set as songs.
Two Polish friends in Paris were also to play important roles in
Chopin's life there. His fellow student at the
Julian Fontana, had originally tried unsuccessfully to establish
himself in England; Fontana was to become, in the words of
Michałowski and Samson, Chopin's "general factotum and copyist".
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."
At the end of 1831,
Chopin received the first major endorsement from
an outstanding contemporary when Robert Schumann, reviewing the Op. 2
Variations in the
Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung
Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (his first published
article on music), declared: "Hats off, gentlemen! A genius." 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 ..." After this concert,
that his essentially intimate 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 (social gatherings of the aristocracy and
artistic and literary elite). By the end of 1832
established himself among the Parisian musical elite, and had earned
the respect of his peers such as Hiller, Liszt, and Berlioz. He no
longer depended financially upon his father, and in the winter of 1832
he began earning a handsome income from publishing his works and
teaching piano to affluent students from all over Europe. This
freed him from the strains of public concert-giving, which he
Maria Wodzińska, self-portrait
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, but preferred
playing at his own Paris apartment for small groups of friends. The
Arthur Hedley has observed that "As a pianist
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." The list of musicians who took part in some of
his 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 (on pianos) a
concerto by J.S. Bach for three keyboards; and, on 3 March 1838, a
concert in which Chopin, his pupil Adolphe Gutmann, Charles-Valentin
Alkan, and Alkan's teacher Joseph Zimmermann performed Alkan's
arrangement, for eight hands, of two movements from Beethoven's 7th
Chopin was also involved in the composition of Liszt's
Hexameron; he 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 not only in France but, through his family connections, also
in Germany and England.
In the spring of 1834,
Chopin attended the Lower Rhenish Music
Festival in Aix-la-Chapelle with Hiller, and it was there that Chopin
met Felix Mendelssohn. After the festival, the three visited
Düsseldorf, where Mendelssohn had been appointed musical director.
They spent what Mendelssohn described as "a very agreeable day",
playing and discussing music at his piano, and met Friedrich Wilhelm
Schadow, director of the Academy of Art, and some of his eminent
pupils such as Lessing, Bendemann, Hildebrandt and Sohn. In 1835
Chopin went to Carlsbad, where he spent time with his parents; it was
the last time he would see them. 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.
The sixteen-year-old girl's portrait of the composer is considered,
along with Delacroix's, as among Chopin's best likenesses. In
October he finally reached Leipzig, where he met Schumann, Clara Wieck
and Mendelssohn, who organised for him a performance of his own
oratorio St. Paul, and who considered him "a perfect musician". In
Chopin travelled to
Dresden to be with the
Wodziński family, and in September he proposed to Maria, whose mother
Countess Wodzińska approved in principle.
Chopin went on to Leipzig,
where he presented Schumann with his
G minor Ballade. At the end
of 1836 he sent Maria an album in which his sister Ludwika had
inscribed seven of his songs, and his 1835
Nocturne in C-sharp minor,
Op. 27, No. 1. The anodyne thanks he received from Maria proved to
be the last letter he was to have from her.
Franz Liszt in 1838, engraving by Josef Kriehuber
Although it is not known exactly when
Chopin first met Liszt after
arriving in Paris, on 12 December 1831 he mentioned in a letter to his
friend Woyciechowski that "I have met Rossini, Cherubini, Baillot,
etc.—also Kalkbrenner. You would not believe how curious I was about
Herz, Liszt, Hiller, etc." Liszt was in attendance at Chopin's
Parisian debut on 26 February 1832 at the Salle Pleyel, which led him
to remark: "The most vigorous applause seemed not to suffice to our
enthusiasm in the presence of this talented musician, who revealed a
new phase of poetic sentiment combined with such happy innovation in
the form of his art."
The two became friends, and for many years lived in close proximity in
Chopin at 38 Rue de la Chaussée-d'Antin, and Liszt at the
Hôtel de France on the Rue Lafitte, a few blocks away. They
performed together on seven occasions between 1833 and 1841. The
first, on 2 April 1833, was at a benefit concert organized by Hector
Berlioz for his bankrupt Shakespearean actress wife Harriet Smithson,
during which they played George Onslow's
Sonata in F minor for piano
duet. Later joint appearances included a benefit concert for the
Benevolent Association of Polish Ladies in Paris. Their last
appearance together in public was for a charity concert conducted for
the Beethoven Memorial in Bonn, held at the
Salle Pleyel and the Paris
Conservatory on 25 and 26 April 1841.
Although the two displayed great respect and admiration for each
other, their friendship was uneasy and had some qualities of a
Harold C. Schonberg believes that Chopin
displayed a "tinge of jealousy and spite" towards Liszt's virtuosity
on the piano, and others have also argued that he had become
enchanted with Liszt's theatricality, showmanship and success.
Liszt was the dedicatee of Chopin's Op. 10 Études, and his
performance of them prompted the composer to write to Hiller, "I
should like to rob him of the way he plays my studies." However,
Chopin expressed annoyance in 1843 when Liszt performed one of his
nocturnes with the addition of numerous intricate embellishments, at
Chopin remarked that he should play the music as written or not
play it at all, forcing an apology. Most biographers of
that after this the two had little to do with each other, although in
his letters dated as late as 1848 he still referred to him as "my
friend Liszt". Some commentators point to events in the two men's
romantic lives which led to a rift between them; there are claims that
Liszt had displayed jealousy of his mistress Marie d'Agoult's
obsession with Chopin, while others believe that
Chopin had become
concerned about Liszt's growing relationship with George Sand.
Chopin at 28, from Delacroix's joint portrait of
Chopin and Sand
In 1836, at a party hosted by Marie d'Agoult,
Chopin met the French
George Sand (born [Amantine] Aurore [Lucile] Dupin). Short
(under five feet, or 152 cm), dark, big-eyed and a cigar
smoker, she initially repelled Chopin, who remarked, "What an
unattractive person la Sand is. Is she really a woman?" However,
by early 1837 Maria Wodzińska's mother had made it clear to
correspondence that a marriage with her daughter was unlikely to
proceed. 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.
Chopin finally placed the letters from Maria
and her mother in a package on which he wrote, in Polish, "My
tragedy". Sand, in a letter to Grzymała of June 1838, 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
In June 1837
Chopin visited London incognito in the company of the
Camille Pleyel where he played at a musical soirée
at the house of English piano maker James Broadwood. On his return
to Paris, his association with Sand began in earnest, and by the end
of June 1838 they had become lovers. Sand, who was six years older
than the composer, 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 ..." 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 health of
Chopin and that of Sand's 15-year-old
son Maurice, and also to escape the threats of Sand's former lover
Félicien Mallefille. After discovering that the couple were not
married, the deeply traditional Catholic people of
inhospitable, making accommodation difficult to find. This
compelled the group to take lodgings in a former
in Valldemossa, which gave little shelter from the cold winter
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." He also had problems
having his Pleyel piano sent to him. It finally arrived from Paris in
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."
Chopin was also able to undertake
work on his Ballade No. 2, Op. 38; two Polonaises, Op. 40; and the
Scherzo No. 3, Op. 39.
Chopin in 1838 by Charles Louis Gratia
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.[n 8] The group traveled first to
Barcelona, then to Marseilles, where they stayed for a few months
Chopin convalesced. In May 1839 they headed for the summer
to Sand's estate at Nohant, 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.
He frequently visited Sand in the evenings, but both retained some
independence. In 1842 he and Sand moved to the Square d'Orléans,
living in adjacent buildings.
At the funeral of the tenor
Adolphe Nourrit in Paris in 1839, Chopin
made a rare appearance at the organ, playing a transcription of Franz
Schubert's lied Die Gestirne (D. 444). On 26 July 1840
Sand were present at the dress rehearsal of Berlioz's Grande symphonie
funèbre et triomphale, composed to commemorate the tenth anniversary
of the July Revolution.
Chopin was reportedly unimpressed with the
During the summers at Nohant, particularly in the years 1839–43,
Chopin found quiet, productive days during which he composed many
works, including his
Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53. Among the
visitors to Nohant were Delacroix and the mezzo-soprano Pauline
Chopin had advised on piano technique and
composition. Delacroix gives an account of staying at Nohant in a
letter of 7 June 1842:
The hosts could not be more pleasant in entertaining me. When we are
not all together at dinner, lunch, playing billiards, or walking, each
of us stays in his room, reading or lounging around on a couch.
Sometimes, through the window which opens on the garden, a gust of
music wafts up from
Chopin at work. All this mingles with the songs of
nightingales and the fragrance of roses.
Main article: Chopin's disease
George Sand sewing, from Delacroix's joint portrait of
Chopin and Sand
From 1842 onwards,
Chopin showed signs of serious illness. After a
solo recital in Paris on 21 February 1842, he wrote to Grzymała: "I
have to lie in bed all day long, my mouth and tonsils are aching so
much." He was forced by illness to decline a written invitation
from Alkan to participate in a repeat performance of the Beethoven
Seventh Symphony arrangement at Érard's on 1 March 1843. Late in
Charles Hallé visited
Chopin and found him "hardly able to
move, bent like a half-opened penknife and evidently in great pain",
although his spirits returned when he started to play the piano for
his visitor. Chopin's health continued to deteriorate,
particularly from this time onwards. Modern research suggests that
apart from any other illnesses, he may also have suffered from
temporal lobe epilepsy.
Chopin's relations with Sand were soured in 1846 by problems involving
her daughter Solange and Solange's fiancé, the young fortune-hunting
sculptor Auguste Clésinger. The composer frequently took
Solange's side in quarrels with her mother; he also faced jealousy
from Sand's son Maurice.
Chopin was utterly indifferent to Sand's
radical political pursuits, while Sand looked on his society friends
with disdain. 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." 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, and he 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." The two
would never meet again.
Chopin's output as a composer throughout this period declined in
quantity year by year. Whereas in 1841 he had written a dozen works,
only six were written in 1842 and six shorter pieces in 1843. In 1844
he wrote only the Op. 58 sonata. 1845 saw the completion of three
mazurkas (Op. 59). Although these works were more refined than many of
his earlier compositions, Zamoyski concludes that "his powers of
concentration were failing and his inspiration was beset by anguish,
both emotional and intellectual."
Tour of England and Scotland
Chopin's public popularity as a virtuoso began to wane, as did the
number of his pupils, and this, together with the political strife and
instability of the time, caused him to struggle financially. In
February 1848, with the cellist Auguste Franchomme, he gave his last
Paris concert, which included three movements of the Cello
Jane Stirling, by Devéria, c. 1830
In April, during the Revolution of 1848 in Paris, he left for London,
where he performed at several concerts and at numerous receptions in
great houses. This tour was suggested to him by his Scottish pupil
Jane Stirling and her elder sister. Stirling also made all the
logistical arrangements and provided much of the necessary
Chopin took lodgings at Dover Street, where the firm of
Broadwood provided him with a grand piano. At his first engagement, on
15 May at Stafford House, the audience included
Queen Victoria and
Prince Albert. The Prince, who was himself a talented musician, moved
close to the keyboard to view Chopin's technique. Broadwood also
arranged concerts for him; among those attending were Thackeray and
the singer Jenny Lind.
Chopin was also sought after for piano lessons,
for which he charged the high fee of one guinea per hour, and for
private recitals for which the fee was 20 guineas. At a concert on 7
July he shared the platform with Viardot, who sang arrangements of
some of his mazurkas to Spanish texts. On 28 August, he played at
a concert in Manchester's Concert Hall, sharing the stage with
Marietta Alboni and Lorenzo Salvi.
In late summer he was invited by
Jane Stirling to visit Scotland,
where he stayed at Calder House near
Edinburgh and at Johnstone Castle
in Renfrewshire, both owned by members of Stirling's family. She
clearly had a notion of going beyond mere friendship, and
obliged to make it clear to her that this could not be so. He wrote at
this time to Grzymała "My Scottish ladies are kind, but such bores",
and responding to a rumour about his involvement, answered that he was
"closer to the grave than the nuptial bed." He gave a public
concert in Glasgow on 27 September, and another in Edinburgh, at
the Hopetoun Rooms on Queen Street (now Erskine House) on 4
October. In late October 1848, while staying at 10 Warriston
Edinburgh with the Polish physician Adam Łyszczyński, he
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.
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. By this time he
was very seriously ill, weighing under 99 pounds (i.e. less than
45 kg), and his doctors were aware that his sickness was at a
At the end of November,
Chopin returned to Paris. He passed the winter
in unremitting illness, but gave occasional lessons and was visited by
friends, including Delacroix and Franchomme. Occasionally he played,
or accompanied the singing of Delfina Potocka, for his friends. During
the summer of 1849, his friends found him an apartment in Chaillot,
out of the centre of the city, for which the rent was secretly
subsidised by an admirer, Princess Obreskoff. Here in June 1849 he was
visited by Jenny Lind.
Death and funeral
Chopin on His Deathbed, by Teofil Kwiatkowski, 1849, commissioned by
Chopin is in the presence of (from left) Aleksander
Jełowicki, Chopin's sister Ludwika, Princess Marcelina Czartoryska,
Wojciech Grzymała, Kwiatkowski.
With his health further deteriorating,
Chopin desired to have a family
member with him. In June 1849 his sister Ludwika came to Paris with
her husband and daughter, and in September, supported by a loan from
Jane Stirling, he took an apartment at
Place Vendôme 12. After
15 October, when his condition took a marked turn for the worse, only
a handful of his closest friends remained with him, although Viardot
remarked sardonically that "all the grand Parisian ladies considered
it de rigueur to faint in his room."
Some of his friends provided music at his request; among them, Potocka
sang and Franchomme played the cello.
Chopin requested that his body
be opened after death (for fear of being buried alive) and his heart
Warsaw where it rests at the Church of the Holy
Cross. He also bequeathed his unfinished notes on a piano tuition
method, Projet de méthode, to Alkan for completion. On 17
October, after midnight, the physician leaned over him and asked
whether he was suffering greatly. "No longer", he 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, Sand's daughter Solange, and his close friend
Thomas Albrecht. Later that morning, Solange's husband Clésinger made
Chopin's death mask and a cast of his left hand.
Chopin's death mask, by Clésinger (photos: Jack Gibbons)
The funeral, held at the Church of the Madeleine in Paris, was delayed
almost two weeks, until 30 October. Entrance was restricted to
ticket holders as many people were expected to attend. Over
3,000 people arrived without invitations, from as far as London,
Berlin and Vienna, and were excluded.
Mozart's Requiem was sung at the funeral; the soloists were the
soprano Jeanne-Anaïs Castellan, the mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot,
the tenor Alexis Dupont, and the bass Luigi Lablache; Chopin's
Preludes No. 4 in E minor and No. 6 in B minor were also
played. The organist at the funeral was Louis Lefébure-Wély.
The funeral procession to Père Lachaise Cemetery, which included
Chopin's sister Ludwika, was led by the aged Prince Adam Czartoryski.
The pallbearers included Delacroix, Franchomme, and Camille
Pleyel. At the graveside, the Funeral March from Chopin's Piano
Sonata No. 2 was played, in Reber's instrumentation.
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, amounting to 5,000 francs, were covered
by Jane Stirling, who also paid for the return of the composer's
sister Ludwika to Warsaw. Ludwika took Chopin's heart in an urn,
preserved in alcohol, back to
Poland in 1850.[n 9] She also took
a collection of two hundred letters from Sand to Chopin; after 1851
these were returned to Sand, who seems to have destroyed them.
Chopin's disease and the cause of his death have since been a matter
of discussion. His death certificate gave the cause as tuberculosis,
and his physician, Jean Cruveilhier, was then the leading French
authority on this disease. Other possibilities were advanced
including cystic fibrosis, cirrhosis and alpha 1-antitrypsin
deficiency. In 2017, an autopsy was performed on Chopin's
preserved heart, which confirmed that a rare case of pericarditis,
caused by complications from chronic tuberculosis, was the likely
cause of his death.
See also: List of compositions by Frédéric
Chopin by genre, List of
compositions by Frédéric
Chopin by opus number, Ballades (Chopin),
Études (Chopin), Mazurkas (Chopin), Nocturnes (Chopin), Polonaises
(Chopin), Preludes (Chopin), Waltzes (Chopin), and Miscellaneous
Autographed musical quotation from the
Polonaise Op. 53, signed by
Chopin on 25 May 1845
Over 230 works of
Chopin 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,
songs 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. He cited Bach and Mozart as the two most
important composers in shaping his musical outlook. 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 his typical style of ornamentation (for example, his fioriture)
is taken from singing. His melodic lines were increasingly reminiscent
of the modes and features of the music of his native country, such as
Chopin took the new salon genre of the nocturne, invented by the Irish
composer John Field, to a deeper level of sophistication. He was the
first to write ballades and scherzi as individual concert pieces.
He essentially established a new genre with his own set of
free-standing preludes (Op. 28, published 1839). He exploited the
poetic potential of the concept of the concert étude, already being
developed in the 1820s and 1830s by Liszt, Clementi and Moscheles, in
his two sets of studies (Op. 10 published in 1833, Op. 25 in
Chopin also endowed popular dance forms with a greater range of melody
and expression. Chopin's mazurkas, while originating in the
traditional Polish dance (the mazurek), differed from the traditional
variety in that they were written for the concert hall rather than the
dance hall; as J. Barrie Jones puts it, "it was
Chopin who put the
mazurka on the European musical map." The series of seven
polonaises published in his lifetime (another nine were published
posthumously), beginning with the Op. 26 pair (published 1836),
set a new standard for music in the form. His waltzes were also
written specifically for the salon recital rather than the ballroom
and are frequently at rather faster tempos than their dance-floor
Titles, opus numbers and editions
Some of Chopin's well-known pieces have acquired descriptive titles,
such as the Revolutionary
Étude (Op. 10, No. 12), and
Waltz (Op. 64, No. 1). However, with the
exception of his Funeral March, the composer never named an
instrumental work beyond genre and number, leaving all potential
extramusical associations to the listener; the names by which many of
his pieces are known were invented by others. There is no
evidence to suggest that the Revolutionary
Étude was written with the
failed Polish uprising against Russia in mind; it merely appeared at
that time. The Funeral March, the third movement of his Sonata
No. 2 (Op. 35), the one case where he did give a title, was
written before the rest of the sonata, but no specific event or death
is known to have inspired it.
The last opus number that
Chopin himself used was 65, allocated to the
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 musical executor Julian Fontana
selected 23 unpublished piano pieces and grouped them into eight
further opus numbers (Opp. 66–73), published in 1855. 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.
Works published since 1857 have received alternative catalogue
designations instead of opus numbers. The present standard
musicological reference for Chopin's works is the Kobylańska
Catalogue (usually represented by the initials 'KK'), named for its
compiler, the Polish musicologist Krystyna Kobylańska.
Chopin's original publishers included
Maurice Schlesinger and Camille
Pleyel. His works soon began to appear in popular 19th-century
piano anthologies. The first collected edition was by Breitkopf
& Härtel (1878–1902). Among modern scholarly editions of
Chopin's works are the version under the name of Paderewski published
between 1937 and 1966 and the more recent Polish "National Edition",
edited by Jan Ekier, both of which contain detailed explanations and
discussions regarding choices and sources.
Chopin published his music in France, England and the German states
due to the copyright laws of the time. As such there are often three
different kinds of ‘first editions’. Each edition is different
from the other, as
Chopin edited them separately and at times he did
some revision to the music while editing it. Furthermore, Chopin
provided his publishers with varying sources, including autographs,
annotated proofsheets and scribal copies. Only recently have these
differences gained greater recognition.
Form and harmony
Chopin's last (Pleyel) piano, on which he played and composed in
Chopin Museum, Warsaw
Improvisation stands at the centre of Chopin's creative processes.
However, this does not imply impulsive rambling: Nicholas Temperley
writes that "improvisation is designed for an audience, and its
starting-point is that audience's expectations, which include the
current conventions of musical form." The works for piano and
orchestra, including the two concertos, are held by Temperley to be
"merely vehicles for brilliant piano playing ... formally
longwinded and extremely conservative". After the piano concertos
(which are both early, dating from 1830),
Chopin made no attempts at
large-scale multi-movement forms, save for his late sonatas for piano
and for cello; "instead he achieved near-perfection in pieces of
simple general design but subtle and complex cell-structure."
Rosen suggests that an important aspect of Chopin's individuality is
his flexible handling of the four-bar phrase as a structural
J. Barrie Jones suggests that "amongst the works that
for concert use, the four ballades and four scherzos stand supreme",
and adds that "the Barcarolle Op. 60 stands apart as an example
of Chopin's rich harmonic palette coupled with an Italianate warmth of
melody." Temperley opines that these works, which contain
"immense variety of mood, thematic material and structural detail",
are based on an extended "departure and return" form; "the more the
middle section is extended, and the further it departs in key, mood
and theme, from the opening idea, the more important and dramatic is
the reprise when it at last comes."
Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17, No. 4
Giorgi Latso, piano
Waltz in D-flat major, Op. 64, No. 1 (so-called Minute Waltz)
Muriel Nguyen Xuan, piano
Étude Op. 10, No. 12 (so-called Revolutionary)
Martha Goldstein playing an 1851 Érard piano
Prelude Op. 28, No. 15 in D-flat major
Giorgi Latso, piano
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Chopin's mazurkas and waltzes are all in straightforward ternary or
episodic form, sometimes with a coda. The mazurkas often show
more folk features than many of his other works, sometimes including
modal scales and harmonies and the use of drone basses. However, some
also show unusual sophistication, for example Op. 63 No. 3,
which includes a canon at one beat's distance, a great rarity in
Chopin's polonaises show a marked advance on those of his Polish
predecessors in the form (who included his teachers Żywny and
Elsner). As with the traditional polonaise, Chopin's works are in
triple time and typically display a martial rhythm in their melodies,
accompaniments and cadences. Unlike most of their precursors, they
also require a formidable playing technique.
The 21 nocturnes are more structured, and of greater emotional depth,
than those of Field (whom
Chopin met in 1833). Many of the Chopin
nocturnes have middle sections marked by agitated expression (and
often making very difficult demands on the performer) which heightens
their dramatic character.
Chopin's études are largely in straightforward ternary form. He
used them to teach his own technique of piano playing—for
instance playing double thirds (Op. 25, No. 6), playing in
octaves (Op. 25, No. 10), and playing repeated notes
(Op. 10, No. 7).
The preludes, many of which are very brief (some consisting of simple
statements and developments of a single theme or figure), were
described by Schumann as "the beginnings of studies". Inspired by
J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, Chopin's preludes move up the
circle of fifths (rather than Bach's chromatic scale sequence) to
create a prelude in each major and minor tonality. The preludes
were perhaps not intended to be played as a group, and may even have
been used by him and later pianists as generic preludes to others of
his pieces, or even to music by other composers, as Kenneth Hamilton
suggests: he has noted a recording by
Ferruccio Busoni of 1922, in
which the Prelude Op. 28 No. 7 is followed by the Étude
Op. 10 No. 5.
The two mature piano sonatas (No. 2, Op. 35, written in 1839
and No. 3, Op. 58, written in 1844) are in four movements.
In Op. 35,
Chopin was able to combine within a formal large
musical structure many elements of his virtuosic piano technique—"a
kind of dialogue between the public pianism of the brilliant style and
the German sonata principle". The last movement, a brief (75-bar)
perpetuum mobile in which the hands play in unmodified octave unison
throughout, was found shocking and unmusical by contemporaries,
including Schumann. The Op. 58 sonata is closer to the
German tradition, including many passages of complex counterpoint,
"worthy of Brahms" according to the music historians Kornel
Michałowski and Jim Samson.
Chopin's harmonic innovations may have arisen partly from his keyboard
improvisation technique. Temperley says that in his works "novel
harmonic effects frequently result from the combination of ordinary
appoggiaturas or passing notes with melodic figures of accompaniment",
and cadences are delayed by the use of chords outside the home key
(neapolitan sixths and diminished sevenths), or by sudden shifts to
remote keys. Chord progressions sometimes anticipate the shifting
tonality of later composers such as Claude Debussy, as does Chopin's
use of modal harmony.
Technique and performance style
Nocturne Op. 62 no. 1 (1846, composer's
The same passage (1881 Schirmer edition). The examples show typical
Chopin of trills, grace notes and detailed pedalling and tempo
Léon Escudier wrote of a recital given by
Chopin that year,
"One may say that
Chopin is the creator of a school of piano and a
school of composition. In truth, nothing equals the lightness, the
sweetness with which the composer preludes on the piano; moreover
nothing may be compared to his works full of originality, distinction
Chopin refused to conform to a standard method of
playing and believed that there was no set technique for playing well.
His style was based extensively on his use of very independent finger
technique. In his Projet de méthode he wrote: "Everything is a matter
of knowing good fingering ... we need no less to use the rest of
the hand, the wrist, the forearm and the upper arm." He further
stated: "One needs only to study a certain position of the hand in
relation to the keys to obtain with ease the most beautiful quality of
sound, to know how to play short notes and long notes, and [to attain]
unlimited dexterity." The consequences of this approach to
technique in Chopin's music include the frequent use of the entire
range of the keyboard, passages in double octaves and other chord
groupings, swiftly repeated notes, the use of grace notes, and the use
of contrasting rhythms (four against three, for example) between the
Jonathan Bellman writes that modern concert performance style—set in
the "conservatory" tradition of late 19th- and 20th-century music
schools, and suitable for large auditoria or recordings—militates
against what is known of Chopin's more intimate performance
technique. The composer himself said to a pupil that "concerts
are never real music, you have to give up the idea of hearing in them
all the most beautiful things of art." Contemporary accounts
indicate that in performance,
Chopin avoided rigid procedures
sometimes incorrectly attributed to him, such as "always crescendo to
a high note", but that he was concerned with expressive phrasing,
rhythmic consistency and sensitive colouring. Berlioz wrote in
Chopin "has created a kind of chromatic embroidery ...
whose effect is so strange and piquant as to be impossible to
describe ... virtually nobody but
Chopin himself can play this
music and give it this unusual turn". Hiller wrote that "What in
the hands of others was elegant embellishment, in his hands became a
colourful wreath of flowers."
Chopin's music is frequently played with rubato, "the practice in
performance of disregarding strict time, 'robbing' some note-values
for expressive effect". There are differing opinions as to how
much, and what type, of rubato is appropriate for his works. Charles
Rosen comments 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 Karol Mikuli,
Chopin was firmly opposed to this
Friederike Müller, a pupil of Chopin, wrote: "[His] 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."
The "Polish character" of Chopin's work is unquestionable; not because
he also wrote polonaises and mazurkas ... which forms ...
were often stuffed with alien ideological and literary contents from
the outside. ... As an artist he looked for forms that stood
apart from the literary-dramatic character of music which was a
feature of Romanticism, as a Pole he reflected in his work the very
essence of the tragic break in the history of the people and
instinctively aspired to give the deepest expression of his
nation ... For he understood that he could invest his music with
the most enduring and truly Polish qualities only by liberating art
from the confines of dramatic and historical contents. This attitude
toward the question of "national music" – an inspired solution
to his art – was the reason why Chopin's works have come to be
understood everywhere outside of Poland ... Therein lies the
strange riddle of his eternal vigour.
Karol Szymanowski, 1923
With his mazurkas and polonaises,
Chopin has been credited with
introducing to music a new sense of nationalism. Schumann, in his 1836
review of the piano concertos, highlighted the composer's strong
feelings for his native Poland, writing that "Now that the Poles are
in deep mourning [after the failure of the
November Uprising of 1830],
their appeal to us artists is even stronger ... If the mighty
autocrat in the north [i.e. Nicholas I of Russia] 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!" The biography of
Chopin published in
1863 under the name of
Franz Liszt (but probably written by Carolyne
zu Sayn-Wittgenstein) states that
Chopin "must be ranked first
among the first musicians ... individualizing in themselves the
poetic sense of an entire nation."
Some modern commentators have argued against exaggerating Chopin's
primacy as a "nationalist" or "patriotic" composer. George Golos
refers to earlier "nationalist" composers in Central Europe, including
Michał Kleofas Ogiński
Michał Kleofas Ogiński and Franciszek Lessel, who utilised
polonaise and mazurka forms. Barbara Milewski suggests that
Chopin's experience of Polish music came more from "urbanised" Warsaw
versions than from folk music, and that attempts (by Jachimecki and
others) to demonstrate genuine folk music in his works are without
Richard Taruskin impugns Schumann's attitude toward
Chopin's works as patronizing and comments that
Chopin "felt his
Polish patriotism deeply and sincerely" but consciously modelled his
works on the tradition of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and Field.
A reconciliation of these views is suggested by William Atwood:
"Undoubtedly [Chopin's] use of traditional musical forms like the
polonaise and mazurka roused nationalistic sentiments and a sense of
cohesiveness amongst those Poles scattered across Europe and the New
World ... While some sought solace in [them], others found them a
source of strength in their continuing struggle for freedom. Although
Chopin's music undoubtedly came to him intuitively rather than through
any conscious patriotic design, it served all the same to symbolize
the will of the Polish people ..."
Reception and influence
See also: List of memorials to Frédéric Chopin
Funerary monument on a pillar in Holy Cross Church, Warsaw, enclosing
Jones comments that "Chopin's unique position as a composer, despite
the fact that virtually everything he wrote was for the piano, has
rarely been questioned." He also notes that
Chopin was fortunate
to arrive in Paris in 1831—"the artistic environment, the publishers
who were willing to print his music, the wealthy and aristocratic who
Chopin asked for their lessons"—and these factors, as well
as his musical genius, also fuelled his contemporary and later
reputation. While his illness and his love-affairs conform to
some of the stereotypes of romanticism, the rarity of his public
recitals (as opposed to performances at fashionable Paris soirées)
led Arthur Hutchings to suggest that "his lack of Byronic flamboyance
[and] his aristocratic reclusiveness make him exceptional" among his
romantic contemporaries, such as Liszt and Henri Herz.
Chopin's qualities as a pianist and composer were recognized by many
of his fellow musicians. Schumann named a piece for him in his suite
Chopin later dedicated his Ballade No. 2 in F major to
Schumann. Elements of Chopin's music can be traced in many of Liszt's
later works. Liszt later transcribed for piano six of Chopin's
Polish songs. A less fraught friendship was with Alkan, with whom he
discussed elements of folk music, and who was deeply affected by
Two of Chopin's long-standing pupils,
Karol Mikuli (1821–1897) and
Georges Mathias, were themselves piano teachers and passed on details
of his playing to their own students, some of whom (such as Raoul
Koczalski) were to make recordings of his music. Other pianists and
composers influenced by Chopin's style include Louis Moreau
Gottschalk, Édouard Wolff (1816–1880) and Pierre Zimmermann.
Debussy dedicated his own 1915 piano Études to the memory of Chopin;
he frequently played Chopin's music during his studies at the Paris
Conservatoire, and undertook the editing of Chopin's piano music for
the publisher Jacques Durand.
Chopin statue, Łazienki Park, Warsaw
Polish composers of the following generation included virtuosi such as
Moritz Moszkowski, but, in the opinion of J. Barrie Jones, his "one
worthy successor" among his compatriots was Karol Szymanowski
(1882–1937). Edvard Grieg, Antonín Dvořák, Isaac Albéniz,
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff, among others, are
regarded by critics as having been influenced by Chopin's use of
national modes and idioms.
Alexander Scriabin was devoted to the
music of Chopin, and his early published works include nineteen
mazurkas, as well as numerous études and preludes; his teacher
Nikolai Zverev drilled him in Chopin's works to improve his virtuosity
as a performer. In the 20th century, composers who paid homage to
(or in some cases parodied) the music of
Chopin included George Crumb,
Bohuslav Martinů, Darius Milhaud, Igor Stravinsky and Heitor
Chopin's music was used in the 1909 ballet Chopiniana, choreographed
Michel Fokine and orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov. Sergei
Diaghilev commissioned additional orchestrations—from Stravinsky,
Sergei Taneyev and Nikolai Tcherepnin—for later
productions, which used the title Les Sylphides.
Chopin's music remains very popular and is regularly performed,
recorded and broadcast worldwide. The world's oldest monographic music
competition, the International
Chopin Piano Competition, founded in
1927, is held every five years in Warsaw. The Fryderyk Chopin
Poland lists on its website over eighty societies
worldwide devoted to the composer and his music. The Institute
site also lists nearly 1,500 performances of
Chopin works on YouTube
as of January 2014.
British Library notes that "Chopin's works have been recorded by
all the great pianists of the recording era." The earliest recording
was an 1895 performance by Paul Pabst of the
Nocturne in E major Op.
62 No. 2. The
British Library site makes available a number of
historic recordings, including some by Alfred Cortot, Ignaz Friedman,
Vladimir Horowitz, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Arthur
Xaver Scharwenka and many others. A select
discography of recordings of
Chopin works by pianists representing the
various pedagogic traditions stemming from
Chopin is given by
Methuen-Campbell in his work tracing the lineage and character of
Numerous recordings of Chopin's works are available. On the occasion
of the composer's bicentenary, the critics of The New York Times
recommended performances by the following contemporary pianists (among
many others): Martha Argerich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Emanuel Ax,
Evgeny Kissin, Murray Perahia,
Maurizio Pollini and Krystian Zimerman.
Chopin Society organizes the Grand prix du disque de F.
Chopin for notable
Chopin recordings, held every five years.
In literature, stage, film and television
Chopin's grave at Père-Lachaise cemetery, Paris
Chopin has figured extensively in Polish literature, both in serious
critical studies of his life and music and in fictional treatments.
The earliest manifestation was probably an 1830 sonnet on
Leon Ulrich. French writers on
Chopin (apart from Sand) have included
Marcel Proust and André Gide; and he has also featured in works of
Gottfried Benn and Boris Pasternak. There are numerous
Chopin in English (see bibliography for some of these).
Possibly the first venture into fictional treatments of Chopin's life
was a fanciful operatic version of some of its events.
Giacomo Orefice and produced in Milan in 1901. All the
music is derived from that of Chopin.
Chopin's life and his relations with
George Sand have been
fictionalized in numerous films. The 1945 biographical film A Song to
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).
Chopin's life was covered in a BBC TV documentary Chopin – The
Women Behind The Music (2010), and in a 2010 documentary realised
by Angelo Bozzolini and
Roberto Prosseda for Italian television.
^ Polish: [frɨˈdɛrɨk franˈt͡ɕiʂɛk ˈʂɔpɛn].
^ According to his letter of 16 January 1833 to the chairman of the
Société historique et littéraire polonaise (Polish Literary
Society) in Paris, he was "born 1 March 1810 at the village of
Żelazowa Wola in the Province of Mazowsze."
^ The Conservatory was affiliated with the University of Warsaw; hence
Chopin is counted among the university's alumni.
^ At Szafarnia (in 1824 – perhaps his first solo travel away
from home – and in 1825), Duszniki (1826),
Pomerania (1827) and
^ The Krasiński Palace is now the
Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts.
^ An 1837–39 resident here, the artist-poet Cyprian Norwid, would
later write a poem, "Chopin's Piano", about the instrument's
defenestration by Russian troops during the January 1863 Uprising.
^ The originals perished in World War II. Only photographs
^ Two neighbouring apartments at the
Valldemossa monastery, each long
Chopin museum, have been claimed to be the retreat of Chopin
and Sand, and to hold Chopin's Pleyel piano. In 2011 a Spanish court
on Majorca, partly by ruling out a piano that had been built after
Chopin's visit there—probably after his death—decided which was
the correct apartment.
^ In 1879 the heart was sealed within a pillar of the Holy Cross
Church, behind a tablet carved by Leonard Marconi. During the
German invasion of
Warsaw in World War II, the heart was removed for
safekeeping and held in the quarters of the German commander, Erich
von dem Bach-Zelewski. It was later returned to the church authorities
but it was not yet considered safe to return it to its former resting
place. It was taken to the town of Milanówek, where the casket was
opened and the heart was viewed (its large size was noted). It was
stored in St. Hedwig's Church there. On 17 October 1945, the 96th
anniversary of Chopin's death, it was returned to its place in Holy
^ Rosen (1995), p. 284.
^ a b c d e f Zamoyski (2010), pp. 4–5 (locs. 115–130).
^ Hedley (1980), p. 292.
Chopin (1962), p. 116.
^ Rose Cholmondeley, "The Mystery of Chopin's Birthday", Chopin
Society UK website, accessed 21 December 2013.
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 3 (loc. 100).
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chopin, Frederic François".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d), §1, para. 1.
^ Zamoyski (2010) p. 7 (loc. 158).
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 5–6 (locs. 130–144).
^ Szulc (1998), pp. 41–42.
^ Zamoyski (2010), 6 (loc. 144).
^ a b Michałowski and Samson (n.d), §1, para. 3.
^ Samson (1996), p. 8.
^ "The Complete Keyboard Works",
Chopin Project website, accessed 21
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 11–12 (locs. 231–248).
^ a b c Michałowski and Samson (n.d.), §1, para. 5.
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 21–22 (locs. 365–387).
^ Szklener (2010), p. 8.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d.), §1 para. 2.
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 19–20 (locs. 334–352).
^ Jakubowski (1979), pp. 514–15.
^ See Kuhnke (2010).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 43 (loc. 696).
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 50–52 (locs. 801–838).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 45 (loc. 731).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 35 (loc. 569).
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 37–39 (locs. 599–632).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 43 (loc. 689).
^ a b Jachimecki (1937), p. 422.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d), §2, para. 1.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d), §2, para. 3. The journal is now in
the National Library of Poland.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d), §1, para. 6.
^ A French passport used by
Chopin is shown at Emmanuel Langavant,
Passeport français de Chopin, Chopin – musicien français
website, accessed 13 August 2014.
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 128 (loc. 2027).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 106 (loc. 1678).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 137 (loc. 2164).
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d), §3, para. 2.
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 106–07 (locs. 1678–1696).
^ Schumann (1988), pp. 15–17.
^ cited in Zamoyski (2010), p. 88 (loc. 1384).
^ a b c Hedley (2005), p. 263.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d), §2, paras. 4–5.
^ Hedley (2005), pp. 263–64.
^ Conway (2012), p. 226 and n. 9.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d), §2, para. 5. For Schlesinger's
international network see Conway (2012), pp. 185–87, 238–39.
^ Niecks (1980), p. 313.
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 118–19 (locs. 1861–1878).
^ Szulc (1998), p. 137.
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 119–20 (locs. 1878–1896).
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 126–27 (locs. 1983–2001).
^ Jachimecki (1937), p. 423.
Chopin (1962), p. 144.
^ Hall-Swadley (2011), p. 31.
^ a b c d e Hall-Swadley (2011), p. 32.
^ a b c d Schonberg (1987), p. 151.
^ Hall-Swadley (2011), p. 33.
^ a b Walker (1988), p. 184.
^ Schonberg (1987), p. 152.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d.) §3, para. 3.
Chopin (1962), p. 141.
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 137–38 (locs. 2169–2186).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 147 (loc. 2318).
Chopin (1962), pp. 151–61.
^ Załuski (1992), p. 226.
^ a b c Michałowski and Samson (n.d.) §3, para. 4.
^ Cited in Zamoyski (2010), p. 154 (loc. 2417).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 159 (loc. 2514).
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 161–62 (locs. 2544–2560).
^ cited in Zamoyski (2010), p. 162 (loc. 2560).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 168 (loc. 2646).
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 168 (loc. 2654).
^ Fiona Govan, "Row over Chopin's Majorcan residence solved by piano",
Daily Telegraph 1 February 2011, accessed 31 August 2013.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d.) §3, para. 5.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d.) §4, para. 1.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d.) §4, para. 4.
^ Rottermund (2008), p. 82.
^ Goldberg (2004), p. 8.
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 197 (loc. 3100).
^ Cited in Atwood (1999), p. 315.
^ Zamoyski (2010) p. 212 (loc. 3331).
^ Eddie (2013), p. 8.
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 227 (loc. 3571).
^ Sara Reardon, "Chopin's hallucinations may have been caused by
epilepsy", The Washington Post, 31 January 2011, accessed 10 January
^ a b Michałowski and Samson (n.d.), §5, para. 2.
^ Samson (1996), p. 194.
^ Chen (2009), p. 32.
^ a b c d Jachimecki, p. 424.
^ a b c Chen (2009), p. 34.
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 233 (loc. 3668).
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d.), §5, para. 3.
^ Załuski (1992), pp. 227–29.
^ "Review: Frédéric
Marietta Alboni perform in
Manchester", The Manchester Guardian, 30 August 1848; also singing was
Amalia Colbari; the conductor was Charles Seymour, who was later first
The Hallé orchestra. The Manchester Concert Hall is now
the site of the Midland Hotel.
^ Załuski, Iwo and Pamela (2 June 2009). "Chopin's Scottish
autumn – Frederick Chopin". Contemporary Review. Retrieved 4
^ Zamoyski (2010), p. 279 (loc. 4385). Letter of 30 October 1848.
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 276–78 (locs. 4340–4357).
^ Turnbull (1989), p. 53.
^ a b Michałowski and Samson (n.d.), §5, para. 4.
^ Zamoyski (2010), pp. 283–86 (locs. 4446–4487).
^ Zamoyski (2010) p. 288 (loc. 4512).
^ "Frederic Chopin's heart exhumed in secret mission in Poland".
cbc.ca. 17 November 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
^ Zamoyski (2010), 291–93 (locs. 4566–4591).
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^ a b Zamoyski (2010), pp. 293–94 (locs. 4601–4616).
^ a b Zamoyski (2010), p. 1 (loc. 70).
^ Niecks (1902), loc. 11118.
^ "Funeral of Frédéric Chopin", in Revue et Gazette Musicale, 4
November 1847, printed in translation in Atwood (1999), pp. 410–11.
^ a b Barcz (2010), p. 16.
^ "Funeral of Frédéric Chopin", in Revue et Gazette Musicale, 4
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^ a b Samson (1996), p. 193.
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^ Majka et al. (2003), p. 77.
^ Kuzemko (1994), p. 771. See also Kubba and Young (1998), passim.
^ McKie, Robin (4 November 2017). "Examination of Chopin's pickled
heart solves riddle of his early death". The Guardian. Retrieved 5
^ Hedley (1980), p. 298.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d.), §6 para 7.
^ Michałowski and Samson (n.d.). §6, paras 1–4.
^ Scholes (1938), "Ballade".
^ Ferguson (1980), pp. 304–05.
^ Jones (1998b), p. 177.
^ Szulc (1998), p. 115.
^ a b Jones (1998a), p. 162.
^ Hedley (2005), p. 264; Kennedy (1980), p. 130, Chopin, Fryderyk.
^ Hedley and Brown (1980), p. 294.
^ Kallberg (2001), pp. 4–8.
^ "Chopin's Works – Complete list". Piano Society. Retrieved 14
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^ de Val (1998), p. 129.
^ Temperley (1980), p. 306.
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^ Jones (1998a), pp. 160–61.
^ Jones (1998a), p. 161.
^ Rosen (1995), p. 83.
^ Hamilton (2008), pp. 101–02.
^ a b Michałowski and Samson (n.d.), §9 para. 2.
^ Rosen (1995), pp. 294–97.
^ Temperley (1980), pp. 302–03.
^ Samson (1994), p. 136.
^ Cited in Eigeldinger (1988), p. 18.
^ Cited in Eigeldinger (1988), p. 23.
^ Eigeldinger (1988), pp. 18–20.
^ Bellman (2000), pp. 149–50.
^ Cited in Bellman (2000), p. 150; the pupil was Emilie von Gretsch.
^ Bellman (2000), pp. 153–54.
^ Cited in Eigeldinger (1988), p. 272.
^ Cited in Bellman (2000), p. 154.
^ Latham (n.d.).
^ Rosen (1995), p. 413.
^ Müller-Streicher (1949).
^ Cited from Szymanowski's 1923 essay, "Fryderyk Chopin", in Downes
(2001), p. 63 and n. 58.
^ Schumann (1988), p. 114.
^ Cooke (1966), pp. 856–61.
^ Liszt (1880), loc. 1503.
^ Golos (1960), pp. 439–42.
^ Milewski (1999), pp. 113–21.
^ Taruskin (2010), pp. 344–45.
^ Taruskin (2010), p. 346; see also Rosen (1995), pp. 361–63.
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^ Bellman (2000), pp. 150–51.
^ Wheeldon (2009), pp. 55, 62.
^ Jones (1998b), p. 180.
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No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58
Polonaise brillante in C major, Op. 3
Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante in E-flat major, Op. 22
2 Polonaises, Op. 26
2 Polonaises, Op. 40 (Military)
Polonaise, Op. 44 (Tragic)
Polonaise, Op. 53 (Heroic)
Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61
3 Polonaises, Op. posth. 71
Posthumous polonaises without opus numbers
No. 1 in C major
No. 2 in A minor
No. 3 in G major
No. 4 in E minor
No. 5 in D major
No. 6 in B minor
No. 7 in A major
No. 8 in F♯ minor
No. 9 in E major
No. 10 in C♯ minor
No. 11 in B major
No. 12 in G♯ minor
No. 13 in F♯ major
No. 14 in E♭ minor
No. 15 in D♭ major
No. 16 in B♭ minor
No. 17 in A♭ major
No. 18 in F minor
No. 19 in E♭ major
No. 20 in C minor
No. 21 in B♭ major
No. 22 in G minor
No. 23 in F major
No. 24 in D minor
Prelude in C♯ minor, Op. 45
Prelude in A♭ major (ded. Pierre Wolff)
Devil's Trill Prelude
Rondo in C minor, Op. 1
Rondo à la mazur in F major, Op. 5
Rondo in E-flat major, Op. 16
Rondo in C major, Op. posth. 73 (versions for solo piano and two
Rondo à la Krakowiak, Op. 14
No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20
No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 31
No. 3 in C-sharp minor, Op. 39
No. 4 in E major, Op. 54
Grande valse brillante in E-flat major, Op. 18
3 Waltzes, Op. 34
Waltz in A-flat major, Op. 42
Waltz in D-flat major, Op. 64, No. 1 (Minute)
Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2
Waltz in A-flat major, Op. 64, No. 3
Waltz in A-flat major, Op. 69, No. 1 (Farewell)
Waltz in B minor, Op. 69, No. 2
3 Waltzes, Op. posth. 70
Waltz in E minor, Op. posth.
Waltz in E major, Op. posth.
Waltz in A minor, Op. posth.
With opus numbers
Variations brillantes in
B-flat major on "Je vends des scapulaires"
from Hérold's Ludovic, Op. 12
Boléro, Op. 19
Tarantelle in A-flat major, Op. 43
Allegro de concert, Op. 46
Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49
Berceuse in D-flat major, Op. 57
Barcarolle in F-sharp major, Op. 60
Marche funèbre in C minor, Op. posth. 72/2
Three Écossaises, Op. posth. 72/3
17 Polish songs, Op. posth. 74
Without opus numbers
Album Leaf (Moderato) in E major, B. 151
G minor (arr. of the piano part of the song Wiosna), B.
2 Bourrées, B. 160b
Canon in F minor, B. 129a
Cantabile in B-flat major, B. 84
Contredanse in G-flat major (doubtful), B. 17
Fugue in A minor, B. 144
3 Fugues; arr. from Cherubini's Cours de contrepoint et de fugue, KK.
Galopp in A-flat (Galop Marquis), P. 2/13
Introduction, Theme and Variations in D on a Venetian air, for piano
4-hands, KK. IVa/6
Klavierstück in B-flat (1834), P. 2/6
Klavierstück in E-flat (1837), P. 2/5
Klavierstück in E-flat (1840), P. 2/10
Largo in E-flat, B. 109
2 Polish songs, B. 51, 132
Variations in A, Souvenir de Paganini, B. 37
Variation in E for Hexameron, B. 113
Variations in E for flute and piano on "Non più mesta" from Rossini's
La Cenerentola, B.9, KK. Anh. Ia/5
Variations in E major on the air "Der Schweizerbub", a.k.a.
Introduction et Variations sur un
Lied allemand, B. 14
Ballets to music by Chopin
Dances at a Gathering
In the Night
A Month in the Country
Les Sylphides (Chopiniana)
Youth of Chopin
Musical Moments from Chopin
Chopin Piano Competition
List of compositions by Frédéric
Chopin by genre
List of compositions by Frédéric
Chopin by opus number
Gothic Revival (architecture)
Hudson River School
Romanticism in science
Opium and Romanticism
A. v. Arnim
B. v. Arnim
P. B. Shelley
« Age of Enlightenment
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