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 4 in F minor, B 146/Op. 52

 

About This Work
Unlike its predecessors, this ballade has no clear link to the poetry of Adam Mickiewicz. Some observers have suggested as inspiration Mickiewicz's The Three Brothers Budrys, about siblings who go off to capture sables, disappear for a while, and Read more ultimately return sharing a wife. It would be very difficult, though, to trace this story through Chopin's music, and the ballade's sequence of moods could easily apply to many other stories, or no particular story at all.

The F minor ballade, dedicated to Baronne Nathalie de Rothschild, follows the general pattern of its predecessors in relying on episodes of contrasting mood and thematic transformation, alternating very simple phrases with passages of great elaboration. The gentle opening is harmonically ambiguous, but settles into a delicate, wistful, decidedly F minor Slavic theme. Chopin repeats the theme, but not exactly; he alters the phrasing and the elaboration of the melody in subtle, expressive ways. The theme's next appearance is more troubled and fragmented; it becomes more agitated with the addition of an ornamental countermelody. After a climax, a lilting chordal section arrives. This material grows increasingly elaborate, and soon begins to intertwine with the first theme. Chopin thins the musical texture, brings everything to a brief halt, then reintroduces the first theme in a particularly dark, desolate mode. From this point, he essentially repeats the patterns he established in the work's first half, except that now the music is always more restless, with more complex accompanying lines and a higher pitch of excitement. The final section is particularly turbulent, ending with four feverish chords. Read less

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