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 3 in A flat major, B 136/Op. 47

 

About This Work
This ballade, like its two predecessors, is assumed to draw on the poetry of Chopin's friend Adam Mickiewicz (Chopin never confirmed the precise sources or programs connected with these works). Dedicated to Princess Pauline de Noailles, one of the Read more composer's pupils, the piece is said to be inspired by Mickiewicz's "Undine." It's the tale of a water sprite who falls in love with a mortal; she cannot have him because her watery embrace would be fatal. (The sprite appears in another celebrated piano work, the first movement of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit.)

Far less turbulent than the other ballades, this one begins almost coyly, with a rising yet hesitant phrase in moderate tempo that gives way to a slightly more emphatic theme, dominated by its gently rocking rhythm, suggesting the waves of Undine's natural habitat. This material rises in volume and intensity, but quickly recedes into splashes and gentle cascades of notes in the keyboard's upper reaches.

This aquatic idyll gives way to a new section, still dominated by the rocking rhythm but now arising from a simple, almost childlike tune. Within a few measures this melody grows more complex and the music heaves with passion without becoming truly turbulent. The music ebbs, making way for a return of the section's opening material. Now more gradually, the tempo and filigree increase and recede again. The ballade's opening theme returns without overtly marking a new section; it's incorporated into the tempo and texture the music has already established, and propels a long, restless passage that builds to the most intense climax of all -- yet one that suggests frustrated, passionate love rather than the high tragedy of the other ballades. Read less

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