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
Chopin Edition Vol 9 - Piano Sonatas / Eugene Mursky
Release Date: 01/29/2013   Label: Profil  
Catalog: 4074   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: 24 Preludes, Etc / Louis Lortie
Release Date: 02/17/1998   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 9597   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Piano Concerto No 2, Etc; Respighi / Cherkassky, Kempe
Release Date: 07/19/2005   Label: Profil  
Catalog: 4015   Number of Discs: 1
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Louis Lortie Plays Chopin Vol 3
Release Date: 04/29/2014   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 10813   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: The Complete Études / Louis Lortie
Release Date: 10/28/1992   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 8482   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66

 

About This Work
Chopin wrote four impromptus -- a French word suggesting improvisation -- but affixed the word "fantaisie" (fantasy) only to the last one, perhaps implying a clearer form for the first three and a more rhapsodic nature for the last. In Read more fact, though, it's in a fairly straightforward ABA pattern, with an unexpected twist in the coda. Chopin asked that this work, along with several others, be destroyed after his death (obviously his executors ignored him); it's speculated that he felt the piece was too derivative of the Op. 89 impromptu of Ignaz Moscheles. Chopin's manuscript carries the French inscription "Composed for the Baroness d'Este," which some people, notably pianist Artur Rubinstein, have interpreted to mean that the baroness commissioned the work for her exclusive use.

Following a dour, imposing opening note, the piece begins with fast, rippling figures in both hands. A second section, moving to D flat over left-hand triplets, offers a broad, lyrical melody with just a few touches of filigree near the ends of phrases. It serves as the basis of a couple of short quasi-variations, never straying far from the original theme. This melody, incidentally, was used about a century after its composition as the tune of the pop song "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows." The perpetual-motion opening section returns for what seems will be a fleet finale, but just before the end the music devolves into a swirling figure from which emerges a firm bass restatement of the second section's romantic theme, and the Fantaisie-Impromptu ends with a gentle arpeggio and a quiet chord.

-- James Reel, All Music Guide Read less

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