Royalty Free Music > Public Domain Music > Composers > Frederic Chopin (1810 - 1849)
Frederic Chopin is Poland's most famous composer, best known for his music works written for the piano. His compositions are considered by most to be some of the best in all of piano repertoire, and he is known to be one of the major figures in nineteenth-century classical music and the Romantic period.
Born in a small town outside of Warsaw, Poland on March 1, 1810 of Polish and French parents, he was considered a child prodigy for both his keyboard and music composition talent. In 1810, his family moved to Warsaw, where he quickly established a reputation as the second Mozart. At seven, Chopin had already written two polonaises, the first of which was in G minor and published by the director of the School of Organists, one of only several music publishers in all of Poland. He was often featured in the newspapers in Warsaw and became the main attraction in aristocratic circles, performing often at salons in the capital. He played his first full-length piano concert at just eight years old, years before he had any formal piano training.
He began his first official piano lessons in 1816, which were delivered by the Bohemian violinist Wojciech Zywny, and continued until 1822. Chopin spoke highly of his first teacher, although when he began lessons his playing skills and musical knowledge were already equal to if not better than Zywny's.
Chopin's training continued at the Warsaw Conservatory with Wilhelm Wurfel, renowned pianist. Wurfel gave him lessons in organ and piano while he attended the Warsaw Lyceum, where his father also taught, from 1823-1826. It was not until the fall of 1826 that Chopin began to formally study music theory and composition, once again at the Warsaw Conservatory.
Chopin's life changed significantly when he heard Pagannini play in Warsaw in 1829 along with the German pianist and composer Hummel. It was also during this time that he met the first love of his life, a singing student who moved him to start using the human voice in his music compositions. It was during this year that he traveled to Vienna to give piano performances, often criticized for their quietness, but also praised for their dynamic sensitivity.
Chopin spent a great deal of time traveling between Vienna and Warsaw during 1829, and debuted his Piano Concerto in F minor, followed by his Piano Concerto in E minor in 1830. It was in Vienna that the young composer learned of the struggles in Poland and opted not to return. In October, having already composed a large amount of his most important works, he settled in Paris, where he remained largely for the rest of his life, even changing his name to its French version, Frederic-Francois.
While in Paris, Chopin met many of the major figures in piano music, including Hiller, Franz Liszt and Kalkbrenner. He became personally acquainted with other composers, including Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn and Vincenzo Bellini, and all greatly respected his music. Robert Schumann even wrote a series of glowing reviews about his works and performances. In the 1830's, Chopin toured extensively in Europe with other musicians, including Mendelssohn to learn more about his craft and perform group concerts. His life back in Paris was rich, thanks to the predominance of the arts in the city during that time. He gave many performances of his own work and the works of Bach and other great composers for members of the aristocracy and for the public.
In 1836, Chopin met French romantic writer George Sand, and the couple developed a relationship that lasted until two years before his death. This time in his life was turbulent and full of travel, but he continued to compose. In 1839, he completed his famous "Preludes" on an old rented piano while traveling with Sand in Mallorca, Spain. It was during the winter of 1838-1839 that Chopin began to fall into ill health, and he developed chronic lung disease.
Chopin spent the summers of 1839 - 1843 at Sand's French estate, where he composed many piano works. In 1845 his relationship with Sand deteriorated along with his health. In 1846, Sand's book Lucrezi Floriani painted an incredibly unfavorable portrait of Chopin, and they ended their relationship in 1847.
In 1848, Chopin delivered his final concert in Paris and attempted to travel to England and Scotland to perform, but he was so ill he only gave a few concerts. He returned to Paris in 1849, and unable to compose or perform, he called on his sister to take care of him until he died on October 17, 1849. The composer requested Mozart's Requiem to be held at his funeral at the Church of the Madeleine, an event attended by almost 3,000 people. Even though Chopin is buried in a cemetery in Paris, he requested that his heart be removed and sent to Warsaw. It is sealed inside an urn in a pillar there at the Church of the Holy Cross.
Chopin's piano music is characterized by unique rhythms with interesting variations on chromatic scales, a combination that offers the effect of transient melodies and harmonies. His greatest contribution to musical form was the transformation of the nocturne as well as popular dance forms including the mazurka and the Viennese waltz. He is credited with creating the Ballade.