Frédéric Chopin

Biography

Born: 1810   Died: 1849   Period: Romantic
Frédéric Chopin has long been recognized as one of the most significant and individual composers of the Romantic age. The bulk of his reputation rests on small-scale works that in other hands would have been mere salon trifles: waltzes, nocturnes, preludes, mazurkas, and polonaises (the last-named two groups reflecting his fervent Polish nationalism). These works link poetically expressive melody and restless harmony to high technical demands. Read more Even his etudes survive as highly appealing concert pieces by emphasizing musical as well as technical values.

His birth date is a matter of controversy; the town registration of his birth specifies February 22, but Chopin always gave the date as March 1. His father was French, his mother Polish; he was raised in Warsaw by a family that mingled with intellectuals and members of the middle and upper classes, and as a teenager he spent two summers in the country, where he was exposed to Polish folk music. By the age of eight he was recognized as a child prodigy, performing in elegant salons and beginning to write his own pieces. Early on he studied composition with Josef Elsner, then took classes in various other music subjects as well as art and literature at the Warsaw Lyceum. In 1826 he enrolled at the University of Warsaw. He gave his first recital in Vienna in 1829, and over the next few years he performed at home and through much of German and Austria as well as in Paris. Feeling limited by Warsaw's cultural provincialism and uncomfortable with the publicity surrounding his performances there, he settled in Paris in 1832 and established himself as an exorbitantly paid piano teacher. In Paris he composed extensively, but limited his performances mainly to private salons.

In 1838 he began an affair with French novelist George Sand. The couple, along with Sand's children, spent a harsh winter in Majorca, where Chopin's health plummeted and he was diagnosed with consumption (tuberculosis). Chopin settled in with Sand in France, composing steadily although his increasing perfectionism slowed his output. By the mid-1840s, though, his health and romantic situation both had deteriorated. The affair ended in 1847 after, among other things, Sand had portrayed their relationship unflatteringly in her 1846 novel Lucrezia Floriani. Chopin then made an extended visit to the British Isles, but returned to Paris to die in 1849. Read less
The Russian Archives - Evgeny Kissin Plays Chopin & Liszt
Release Date: 06/26/2012   Label: Brilliant Classics  
Catalog: 94397   Number of Discs: 3
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The Three Great Pianist Composers, Vol. 2: Frederick Chopin / Angela Brownridge
Release Date: 08/12/2014   Label: Cameo Classics  
Catalog: 9028   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Complete Mazurkas / Janina Fialkowska
Release Date: 09/09/2014   Label: Atma Classique  
Catalog: 22682   Number of Discs: 2
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Work: Minute Waltz, Op. 64 no 1

 

About This Work
The Minute Waltz is the most famous of Chopin's waltzes and ranks among the best-loved pieces in the entire classical repertoire. Its sprightly mood and kinetic energy belie the composer's personal situation at the time of composition: his health was Read more in serious decline and his relationship with novelist Aurore Dupin Dudevant, who wrote under the pseudonym of George Sand, was falling apart.

The theme of this waltz is its best-known feature. It begins as though hurriedly winding itself up; then, with the left hand anxiously maintaining the waltz rhythm, the right hand slithers elegantly upward and downward, finally resolving in quivering swirls of notes that ascend as they peak, then descend at the final climactic moment. The whole is held together by a little melodic cell and seems to shimmer in the hearing and before the eyes. This effervescent theme is perhaps indescribable, but that has not deterred the nickname-makers who have attached programmatic significance to the works of this determinedly abstract composer; the work is also known as the "Dog Waltz" because for some it suggests the image of a dog chasing its tail. (Legend has it that the waltz was inspired by Chopin's own pet.) The stately, singing middle section is more conventional, which is not to suggest that it is stale or hackneyed. Its nonchalance and relaxed manner provides the perfect contrast to the bustling energy of the opening theme. The piece closes with a restatement of its joyous and memorable initial creation.

Some of the work's popularity is due to its comparative technical simplicity; unlike much of Chopin's output, it is within reach of ambitious amateurs. Despite its nickname, the Minute Waltz lasts closer to two minutes in performance.

-- Robert Cummings, All Mujsic Guide Read less

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