Frédéric Chopin


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: Piano Concerto No 2... / Nelson Freire
Release Date: 02/10/2015   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 002263802  
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Chopin - 1846, Derniere Annee A Nohant  / Bertrand, Amoyel
Release Date: 02/10/2015   Label: Harmonia Mundi  
Catalog: 902199   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Four Scherzi, Selected Preludes / Svaitoslav Richter
Release Date: 11/08/2011   Label: Musical Concepts  
Catalog: 1159   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Nocturnes / Maurizio Pollini
Release Date: 04/11/2006   Label: Deutsche Grammophon  
Catalog: 4775718   Number of Discs: 2
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Chopin: Favourite Nocturnes; Fantasie-impromptu; Barcarolle
Release Date: 09/14/2010   Label: Musical Concepts  
Catalog: 1119   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Heroic Polonaise, Op. 53


About This Work
This polonaise, nicknamed the "Heroic," is one of Chopin's most popular works. It was written during a happy period in his life: his love affair with writer George Sand (Aurore Dupin Dudevant) was in full bloom, and the unpredictable Read more tuberculosis which nearly killed him in early 1839 was temporarily behaving less lethally.

After a dramatic introduction, where the music immediately heightens the listener's expectations, the main theme of this polonaise is given, a defiant and heroic creation whose first several notes repeat emphatically before resolving in triumphant chords, which are usually arpeggiated by pianists owing to their wide span. The melody varies the second time around, providing a resolution of descending chords whose downward trajectory gives no hint of defeat or acquiescence. Indeed, the music remains optimistic and imparts a feeling of triumph even in the brief and defiant second subject.

The middle section offers a buildup in which the right hand's racing rhythmic figure, related to the main theme's repeating notes, prods the militaristic right hand onto further glories. A subdued, lyrical section of mysterious character follows, after which the main theme returns. The piece ends with an ecstatic, colorful rendition of the theme. Performances of the A flat major Polonaise typically last around seven minutes.

-- Robert Cummings, All Music Guide Read less

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