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
Beethoven, Schubert & Chopin / Menahem Pressler
Release Date: 11/19/2013   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1999   Number of Discs: 1
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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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Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2; Polonaises; Mazurkas / Pressler
Release Date: 02/12/2013   Label: Doremi Records  
Catalog: 7989   Number of Discs: 2
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Gyorgy Cziffra: Piano Recital, Vol. 2 - Bach/Busoni, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt
Release Date: 03/11/2014   Label: Fabula Classica  
Catalog: 12101   Number of Discs: 1
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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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Work: Ballade for Piano no 1 in G minor, B 66/Op. 23

 

About This Work
Chopin is credited with originating the Ballade genre for the piano. The Ballade had previously been associated exclusively with the literary world; it is found in the works of Goethe, Schiller, and other poets. In this Op. 23 effort, Chopin was said Read more to have been inspired by the poem "Konrad Wallenrod" by Adam Mickiewicz. Mickiewicz, like Chopin and many other Polish artists, lived as an exile in Paris in the 1830s. Regardless of any programmatic comments associated with the Ballade No. 1, it is almost certainly not a depiction of specific events associated with this or any other Mickiewicz poem, but rather an expression of emotions associated with them.

The piece opens with a ponderous, somewhat hesitant introduction, and then the composer presents a melancholy theme that maintains the uncertain air of the opening. Gradually the tempo quickens, the emotional pitch turning fiery and passionate. Chopin then offers one of his most memorable melodies, a lovely, Romantic outpouring of rather simple, yet ingenious, construction: the theme revolves mainly around a three-note pattern, which sings and soars in its arch-like contour. The main theme returns briefly, but mostly to serve as a bridge; it builds up to a powerful statement of the alternate theme in one of Chopin's most passionate climactic moments in any of his works. The melody returns once again, now serene and confident in its demeanor. But a stormy and dark return of the main theme leads to a tragic and anxious ending, full of color and ambivalence. Without question, this is one of the composer's greatest compositions from his early Paris years. There would be three more Ballades, with perhaps only the Ballade No. 4, composed in 1842, equaling this first effort. Like many of Chopin's works, this First Ballade contains many technical and interpretive challenges for the soloist.

-- Robert Cummings, All Music Guide Read less

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