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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 Recital / Andrew Rangell
Release Date: 11/11/2014   Label: Steinway & Sons  
Catalog: 30038   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin, Schumann: Etudes / Valentina Lisitsa
Release Date: 11/10/2014   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 002224502   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Complete Waltzes / Garrick Ohlsson
Release Date: 01/12/2010   Label: Helios  
Catalog: 55381   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Chamber Music / Ohlsson, Brey, Josefowicz
Release Date: 01/12/2010   Label: Helios  
Catalog: 55384   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Complete Nocturnes / Earl Wild
Release Date: 11/18/2014   Label: Brilliant Classics  
Catalog: 94930   Number of Discs: 2
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Work: Berceuse for Piano in D flat major, B 154/Op. 57

 

About This Work
This is a late work in Chopin's oeuvre, coming at a time when the composer's output was in decline along with state of his health. He had spent the summer of 1843, when most of this work was written, in Nohant, at the residence of his lover, novelist Read more Aurore Dupin Dudevant, better known by her pseudonym, George Sand. Some have suggested that the inspiration for this Berceuse or lullaby was the young daughter of singer Pauline Viardot, who had left the child in the care of Sand during that summer. Ultimately this assertion must be considered conjecture, but the character of the music would hardly seem at odds with it.

Chopin's expressive language here is uncomplicated and the music quite straightforward. Moreover, there is something childlike in the simplicity and playful innocence of the main theme. Yet, the composer invests more in the work's mood and character than one might realize. The main theme sounds dreamy and innocent at the outset, but as it unfolds atop one of Chopin's ostinato basses it gradually takes on subtle changes, becomes more sophisticated -- perhaps more adult -- as it sprouts new ideas and gathers ornamentation. Still, it never loses its innocent demeanor, even if there is a feeling the piece is gradually fading or decaying. When the end is reached, the mood has turned wistful, even somewhat disconsolate. A typical performance of the Berceuse lasts from four to five minutes.

-- Robert Cummings, All Music Guide Read less

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