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
Favorite Chopin / Vladimir Ashkenazy
Release Date: 01/19/1993   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 436389   Number of Discs: 2
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Chopin Edition Vol 9 - Piano Sonatas / Eugene Mursky
Release Date: 01/29/2013   Label: Profil  
Catalog: 4074   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: 24 Preludes, Etc / Louis Lortie
Release Date: 02/17/1998   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 9597   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Piano Concerto No 2, Etc; Respighi / Cherkassky, Kempe
Release Date: 07/19/2005   Label: Profil  
Catalog: 4015   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin Edition Vol 8 - Preludes & Variations / Eugene Mursky
Release Date: 08/30/2011   Label: Profil  
Catalog: 4073   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Waltz for Piano in C sharp minor, Op. 64 no 2

 

About This Work
The Trois Valses, Op. 64 (published in 1847) were the last set of such works to be published during Frédéric Chopin's lifetime and were among the very last works sketched by his prodigious pen before his disease rendered further work Read more impossible. Each of the three is among the shortest of his entries in the waltz form, making them entirely unsuitable for effective use in the ballroom, a use that at this stage in his life, would have been unthinkable to the composer. They are, rather than actual dances, dance-poems that reflect the weakened composer's attitudes from three very different points of view. It is as if Chopin's latter-day musical personality were put through a prism, with the light of the resulting, rather distinct persona cast upon three separate sheets of music-paper...

More subdued (and strikingly Slavic in tone, with undercurrents of mazurka-rhythm mingling with the characteristic waltz figure) is the Valse in C sharp minor, Op. 64/2, that follows. Although the opening is marked Tempo giusto, one hardly ever hears this work played without a heavy dose of rubato. The "veiled melancholy," as Huneker called it, of the primary melody is unrivalled among Chopin's works. The sad protagonist is called to the dance floor by a spinning passage in running eighth notes (which returns two times throughout the piece, each time its tiny antecedent-consequent phrase pair being stated twice), while the piu lento, D flat major middle section offers some consolation.

-- Blair Johnston, All Music Guide Read less

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