Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin

Born: 1 March 1810, Żelazowa Wola, Duchy of Warsaw (Poland)

Lived as Polish exile in Paris, 1831-1849



Adopts French citizenship and French version of his name, 1835

Died: 17 October 1849, Paris

Considered the greatest of all Polish composers, Frédéric Chopin was a composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic period. Revered through the centuries for both his poetic genius and unparalleled technique, he remains renowned as a leading musician of his time. His performances were prized for their expressive yet nuanced sensibility and the technical demands of his piano compositions redefined the limits of the instrument.

Born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin on March 1, 1810, in the Duchy of Warsaw (modern day Poland) in the small village of Żelazowa Wola, he was the son of a Polish mother and French émigré father who worked as a bookkeeper and later a tutor for aristocratic families. Through his father’s employment, young Chopin became acquainted with the high culture of Warsaw society; his mother, whose playing captivated the small boy, introduced him to the piano at an early age. By six years of age, Chopin was already displaying signs of genius, competent at piano and composing his own melodies. Observing their son’s gift, the family sought the instruction of professional musician Wojciech Zywny, whose lessons were soon outstripped by the able student in both technical execution and originality. By the age of seven Chopin was performing in salons of Warsaw’s high society and writing his own more advanced compositions. Amongst these included a Polonaise in G Minor, which was printed, and a march that so enchanted the Russian grand duke Constantine, that he had it scored for his military band to play on parade. Several different styles of piano pieces followed: mazurkas, polonaises, a rondo, variations, and ecossaises. By 1826 the sixteen-year-old Chopin was enrolled at the newly formed Warsaw Conservatory of Music where he studied for three years under Polish composer Jósef Elsner.

Chopin’s talents were destined to take him beyond the salons and conservatories of Warsaw. He left Poland at the age of 20, just ahead of the Uprising in November of 1830. In Vienna he made his debut performance and to spellbound audiences with his poetic eloquence and mastery of his instrument. In the years to follow, he performed throughout Poland, Germany, Austria, and France, settling in Paris in 1832, where he changed his name to Frédéric François Chopin. It was here that he formed friendships with other notable young composers, including Vincenzo Bellini, Felix Mendelssohn, and Franz Liszt. It was also around this time that he devoted himself to composing a number of piano and orchestral works that would showcase the originality and technical wizardry of his style. These included his two Piano Concertos as well as his first set of Études. Like many of his contemporaries, Chopin also supported himself through teaching and through the sale of some of his compositions. Over the last 18 years of his life, he performed in public only 30 times, eschewing the stage for the more intimate confines of the salon where his delicate way with the keyboard could be most fully savoured and appreciated.

Most of Chopin’s compositions were written for solo piano. The instrumental ballade (which he himself created as a genre), the mazurkas and polonaises inspired by Chopin’s strong nationalist sentiment, the waltzes, nocturnes, scherzos, impromptus, études, preludes and sonatas, counted amongst his major works, with some pieces only being published after his death.

While the ingenuity of his style and musical form were admired throughout the Romantic period, the association of his music with nationalism and thereby political insurrection brought him further notoriety. Chopin was also known for his high-profile romances, which included a failed engagement to Maria Wodzińska from 1836 to 1837 and his tempestuous affair with French writer Amantine Dupin (known by her nom de plume, George Sand). The romantic tumult he experienced with Sand would foment one of his most prolific periods of composition. For most of his life, Chopin was in poor health. But by the mid-1840s, both Chopin’s health and his relationship with Sand were crumbling. His behaviour became increasingly erratic, possibly stemming from an undiagnosed form of epilepsy. The affair ended in 1848. It was a Scottish admirer and amateur pianist by the name of Jane Stirling who financially support Chopin in his final years — a time during which he made an extended tour of the British Isles. Here he grappled with an intense schedule and failing health, appearing for the last time in public on November 16, 1848 at London’s Guildhall where he performed in support of Polish refugees. By this time gravely ill and weighing less than 100 lbs, he returned to Paris, where he died on October 17, 1849, at age 39. The cause of death was likely pericarditis — inflammation of the heart — aggravated by tuberculosis. His body’s final resting place was the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, but, at Chopin’s request, his heart was interred at a church in Warsaw, near the place of his birth.

Online Performances

Musical selections curated by our founding director, Professor Franz Szabo.

Polonaise in A major, Op. 40, No. 1, “Military”
Paweł Wakarecy, piano
Live from the winners recital, 2005 International Chopin Competition, Warsaw

Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53, “Heroic”
Rafal Blechacz, piano
Live from the 2010 International Chopin Competition, Warsaw

Polonaise-fantasy in A-flat major, Op. 61
Daniil Trifonov, piano
Live from the 2010 International Chopin Competition, Warsaw

Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49
Szymon Nehring, piano
Live from the 2014 International Chopin Competition, Warsaw

Fantasy-impromptu in C sharp minor, Op. 66
Anastasia Huppmann, piano
Live from the Barock Saal, Altes Rathaus, Vienna, 2016

Scherzo in B-flat minor, Op. 31 
Arthur Rubenstein, piano
Filmed by Unitel in HD video

24 Preludes, Op. 28
András Schiff, piano
Recorded in the Concert Hall of the Ancien Conservatoire, Paris, 2013

Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat major, Op. 18
Valentina Lisitsa, piano
Studio recording, Hannover, Germany, August 2011

Ballade in G minor, Op. 23
Krystian Zimerman, piano
Recorded for Deutsche Grammophone in Vienna, 1987

Waltzes, Op. 64, Nos. 1 to 3
Jan Lisiecki, piano
Live from the Verbier Festival, Verbier, Switzerland, July 2014

Nocturne E-flat major, Op. 9, No.2
Valentina Lisitsa, piano
recorded for Deutsche Grammophone in Hannover, August 2010

Nocturne in D-flat major, Op. 27, No. 2
Stanislav Bunin, piano
Live from the the Munich Philharmonie, 1987

Nocturne in F Minor, Op. 55, No. 1
Virna Kljaković, piano
Recorded in the Music academy, Zagreb, 21 December 2013

Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No.1 
Łukasz Piotr Byrdy, piano
The Fryderyk Chopin Institute competition , 2015

Études, Op. 10 & Op. 25
Sviatoslav Richter, piano
Recorded live at the Barbican Centre, London, 29 March 1989

Mazurkas Op. 7, Nos. 1-4
Yulianna Avdeeva, piano
Live from the Gustav Mahler Saal, Toblach, South Tyrol, 16 July 2017
Gustav Mahler Festwochen

Mazurkas Op. 33, Nos. 1-4
Christine Kim, piano
Recorded at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 23 October 2014

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35
Yulianna Avdeeva, piano
First Prize Winner
The XVI International Chopin Piano Competition
Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw, 2010

Piano Sonata No 3 in B minor, Op. 58
Ingolf Wunder, piano
Second Prize Winner
The XVI International Chopin Piano Competition
Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw, 2010

Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 65
Sol Gabetta, cello
Nelson Goerner, piano
Live from the Church in Saanen, Gstaad, Switzerland, 17 July 2016

Variations on Mozart’s “La ci darem la mano” in B-flat major, Op. 2
Yuya Tonouchi, piano
Orchestra del Conservatorio “G. Nicolini” di Piacenza
Domenico Tondo, conductor
Concerto per l’inaugurazione dell’Anno academia 2015/2016

Fantasia on Polish Airs in A major, Op. 13
Justyna Gabzdyl, piano
National Philharmonic Orchestra of the Republic Of Moldova
Silvia Tabor, conductor
Live from Philharmonic Hall, Chisinau, Moldova, 4 May 2014

Rondo à la krakowiak in F major, Op. 14
Nelson Goerner, piano
Orquesta del Siglo XVIII
Director: Frans Brüggen
Live from the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, 26 Februrary 2010

Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante in E-flat major, Op. 22
Dominika Grzybacz, piano
Symphony Orchestra of the Wladyslaw Zelenski State Secondary Music School, Krakow
Joanna Natalia Ślusarczyk , conductor
Polish Nationwide Music Schools’ Symphonic Orchestras Competition 2014

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 
Arthur Rubinstein, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
André Previn, conductor
Live from Fairfield Hall, Croyden, 1975

Watch the full collection of performances on YouTube Channel