Frederic Francois Chopin | Sunday Observer

Frederic Francois Chopin

Ballade - Greatest solo Piano works - Ballade in G Minor
Ballade - Greatest solo Piano works - Ballade in G Minor

Frederic Chopin was born on March 1, 1810 in Zelazowa Wola – a village in the Duchy of Warsaw. His father was a French emigre named Nicholas Chopin and his mother was a Polish lady Justyna Kryzanowska.

The family was musical and his mother played the piano and sang while the father played the flute. Elder sister Ludwika too played the piano.

His mother introduced Frederic to the piano early and by the age of six he was reproducing music he had heard and was composing too.

His family realising his talent sent him to a reputed teacher Wojciech Zwny for lessons but young Frederic soon surpassed his teacher in both technique and imagination.

The wise teacher let his talented pupil go his own way unrestricted by academic rules or formal discipline. By 1818, Chopin was performing in elegant salons and continuing his composing. It was at this time that he wrote the Polonnaise in G minor.

By 1826, he had to his credit several different pieces of (polonnaises, marzukas, etudes, ecossaises)music composed by him and his parents enrolled him at the Warsaw Conservatory of Music where he studied for three years under Polish composer Josef Elsner .


 The Polonnaise – This is a Polish dance in 3/4 time. Polonnaise is the French name for Polish. It is a ceremonial dance which often was used to open court balls and other events from 17th -19th centuries. It was used as a musical form by composers such as Chopin, Beethoven and Handel.

The Marzuka (Polish Mazurek) is a Polish folk dance. It is danced by a circle formed of couples and is tradtionally danced to music by a village band. There is much stamping and clicking of heels. The music is in ¾ time or 3/8 time with a forceful accent on the second beat. The marzuka is a highly improvisatory dance with over 50 different steps. The music for the dance is also called Marzuka.

Chopin composed 59 marzuka’s. The other composers were Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.

His parents sent Chopin to Vienna to broaden his musical knowledge and he had his debut public performance here. In 1830, he was in Vienna when he heard about the outbreak of the November 1830 Polish Revolution against Russia. .

He went to Paris and never returned to his motherland, Poland, ever again. It is said that his love for Poland was so great that he carried some Polish soil with him always. This is disputed by some people who say there was no such thing.

Chopin is considered to be one of the greatest composers for the piano in the Romantic era.

Much of Chopin’s work was written for the piano and were solo piano pieces. Some were written for the piano and other instruments. He also wrote two concertos, a few chamber pieces and some songs to Polish lyrics.

Chopin also created the instrumental ballade along with the adding of new elements to piano sonatas, marzukas, waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, etudes, impromptus, scherzos and preludes.

Among his much loved works are the Fantaisie in F minor (1840 – 1841), Ballades in A- Flat major- (1840-1841) and F minor ( 1842) and Sonta in D minor (1844).

Chopin’s piano works are often considered to be tecnically difficult as they have deep expression and it is also important that each musical detail has to be considered .

Marzuka (Mazurek) Polish folk dance

As Chopin composed many piano pieces he was called the ‘Poet of the Piano’.

World famous Russian born, Amercan classical pianist Vladmir Horowitz said that Frederic Chopin was the only, truly great composer for the piano.

In the last 19 years of his life Chopin rarely gave public performances but played at private events, composed and taught music for a living.

In 1848, Chopin visited London and Scotland and gave his last public concert at the Guild hall in London for Polish emigres.

Frederic Chopin died in Paris on October 17, aged 39. He is buried at the cemetery of Pere Lachaise there. His heart was sent back to beloved Poland and is interred at the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw.