Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849)

''My dear corpse...''

“He was dying all his life.”

On this day, in the year 1810 was born the greatest of all Polish Composers and among the very greatest of Composers for the Piano, the instrument for which he wrote almost exclusively.

He was born as Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, adopting the French variant Frdric-Franois when he left Poland for Paris at age twenty, never to return. His surname is also sometimes spelled Szopen in Polish texts.

He was one of the extremely rare child prodigies, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Felix Mendelssohn.

Chopin`s Music for the Piano combined a unique rhythmic sense (particularly his use of rubato, chromatic inflections, and the style of Johann Sebastian Bach), as well as a Piano technique which was of his own creation. This mixture produces a particularly fragile sound in the melody and the harmony, which are nonetheless underpinned by solid and interesting harmonic techniques.

He took the new salon genre of the Nocturne (invented by Irish Composer John Field) to a deeper level of sophistication and endowed popular dance forms – such as the Polish Mazurka and the Viennese Waltz with a greater range of melody and expression.

Chopin was the first to write Ballades (a genre he invented) and the Scherzi as individual pieces – Chopin also took the example of Bach`s prludes and transformed the genre.

Several melodies of Chopin`s have become well known; because of their unique melodic shape they are instantly memorable and easily recognized. Among these are the Revolutionary tude, the Minute Waltz and the third movement of his Funeral March Sonata – which is used as an iconic representation of grief.

Interestingly, the Revolutionary Etude was not written with the failed Polish uprising against Russia in mind, it merely appeared at that time.

The Funeral March was written for funerals, but it was not inspired by any recent personal loss of Chopin`s.

Other melodies have even been used as the basis of popular songs, such as the slow section of the Fantaisie-Impromptu. These pieces often rely on an intense and personalized chromaticism, as well as a melodic curve that resembles the operas of Chopin`s day – the operas of Gioacchino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, and especially Vincenzo Bellini. Chopin used the Piano to re-create the gracefulness of the Singing Voice, and talked and wrote constantly about singers.

Chopin`s style and gifts became increasingly influential: Robert Schumann was a huge admirer of Chopin`s Music (although the feeling was not mutual) and he took melodies from Chopin and even named a piece of his Carnaval Suite after Chopin.

Franz Liszt (another great admirer of the Composer) transcribed several Chopin songs for unaccompanied Piano. Liszt later dedicated a movement of his “Harmonies Potiques et Religieuses” to Chopin, titling it “Funrailles” and laconically dedicating it “October 1849.” The mid-section recalls, powerfully, the famous octave trio section of Chopin`s Polonaise.

All of his works, without exception, involve the Piano, whether solo or accompanied. They are predominantly for solo Piano but include a small number of works for Piano and secondary instruments, including a second Piano, Violin, Cello, Voice, and Orchestra. Chopin`s compositional output consists mainly of Music for solo Piano. His larger scale works such as the ballades, scherzos, the barcarolle, and sonatas have cemented a solid place within the repertoire, as well as shorter works like his impromptus, mazurkas, nocturnes, waltzes and polonaises.

Chopin regarded the Romantic movement with indifference, if not distaste, and rarely associated himself with it directly. Even so, today Chopin`s Music is considered to be the paragon of the Romantic style.

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