Childhood & Early Life
Frederic Chopin was born as Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin near Warsaw, Poland. His date-of-birth remains disputed. The parish baptismal record gives his birthday as February 22, 1810 but according to the statements of the artist and his family, it is March 1, 1810.
He was the second of four children of Nicholas Chopin, a Frenchman, and his Polish wife, Justina, who was a well-educated but poor relative of the Skarbeks, a family Nicholas worked for.
Frederic received some piano instructions from his mother, and later studied piano from Wojciech Zywny, and harmony and counterpoint from Jozef Elsner.
The ruler of Russian Poland, Grand Duke Constantine often invited him as a playmate for his son. He played the piano and also composed a march for the Duke's army.
Frederic Chopin gave his first public concert at the age of seven and was compared to the legendary composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He also composed two polonaises the same year, one in G minor and the other in B-flat major.
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In 1821, Frederic Chopin composed a polonaise in A-flat major. He dedicated this to his tutor Zywny. The composition is his earliest surviving manuscript.
He attended the Warsaw Lyceum from September 1823 to 1826 and the Czech musician Wilhelm Wurfel gave him organ lessons in the first year.
In 1825, he performed with a new instrument called 'eolomelodicon' in front of the Tsar Alexander I who was visiting Warsaw. Impressed with the young boy's talents, the Tsar gave him a diamond ring.
On June 10, 1825, at an eolomelodicon concert he performed his Rondo Op 1. The performance was commercially published and earned him his first mention in the foreign press.
In 1826, he began a three-year course under the Silesian composer, Josef Elsner, at the Warsaw Conservatory. He studied music theory, figured bass and composition.
He attended harvest festivities and peasant weddings which exposed him to authentic rural folk-music for the first time. This left a deep impression on him and he decided to travel around Europe to have more exposure to other musicians and also to publish several of his works.
In September 1828, he visited Berlin and enjoyed operas directed by Gaspare Spontini and concerts of Carl Friedrich Zelter, Felix Mendelssohn and other celebrities.
In 1829, in Berlin, Frederic Chopin was the guest to Prince Antoni Radziwill, who was himself an accomplished composer and cellist. Frederic composed 'Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C major for cello and piano' for the prince and his daughter.
On August 11, 1829 he made his debut in Vienna with two piano concerts with favourable reviews. In one of these concerts, he premiered his 'Variations on La ci darem la mano, Op. 2' for piano and orchestra.
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On November 2, 1830 he set out for Western Europe with his friend Woyciechowski. They reached Austria, intending to go to Italy but the news of the 'November 1830 Uprising' reached them and his friend returned to Poland.
He reached Paris in September 1831 and never returned to Poland. In 1835 he received his French citizenship and he travelled on his French passport. But he never felt comfortable in speaking French and always considered himself a Pole.
In pursuit of inspiration and learning, he became acquainted with Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Ferdinand Hiller, Heinrich Heine, Eugene Delacroix, Alfred de Vigny and Adam Mickiewicz.
On February 26, 1832, he gave his debut concert in Paris at Salle Pleyel. With the help of the wealthy Rothschild banking family he got the chance to perform at other private salons. These performances earned him respect from his peers and established him amongst the Parisian musical elite.
He became financially independent after publishing his works and teaching piano to affluent students from all over Europe which liberated him from performing at concerts.
Chopin's music soon found success with publishers, and in 1833 he contracted with Maurice Schlesinger, who arranged for his works to be published in France, Germany and England.
Over a period of time, Chopin's output as a composer declined in quantity year by year. In 1841 he had written a dozen works, though only six were written in 1842, followed by six shorter pieces in 1843.
His health started deteriorating from 1842 and he had to decline several invitations for concerts. Modern research suggests he might have suffered from 'temporal lobe epilepsy'.
In February 1848, he gave his last Paris concert including three movements of the Cello Sonata Op. 65, with the cellist Auguste Franchomme.
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In April 1848 he left for London and performed at several concerts and receptions. He then travelled to Scotland and gave public concerts in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
His last performance was for the benefit of Polish refugees on November 16, 1848 in London's Guildhall.
His major works include sonatas, the four scherzos, the four ballads, the Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49 and the Barcarole in F-sharp major, Op. 60.
In shorter works, his major accomplishments were mazurkas, waltzes, polonaises, etudes, impromptus, scherzos and preludes.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was once engaged to Maria Wodzińska though the marriage was ultimately called off.
Later on he had a love affair with French novelist Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, better known as George Sand.
Frederic Chopin died on October 17, 1849 at the age of 39. Officially, it was said that he died due to tuberculosis but this is disputed. Other possibilities that have been attributed to his death include: cystic fibrosis, cirrhosis and alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency.
As per his Chopin’s wish, his sister Ludwika took his heart in an urn, preserved in alcohol, back to Poland in 1850.