Frederic Francois Chopin, Polish-born composer and renowned pianist, was the creator of 55 mazurkas, 13 polonaises, 24 preludes, 27 etudes, 19 nocturnes, 4 ballads, and 4 scherzos.
Frederic Chopin was born in Zelazowa Wola, Poland, on February 22, 1810, to a French father and Polish mother. His father, Nicholas Chopin, was a French tutor to many aristocratic Polish families, later accepting a position as a French teacher at the Warsaw Lyceum.
Although Chopin later attended the Lyceum where his father taught, his early training began at home. This included receiving piano lessons from his mother. By the age of six, Chopin was creating original pieces, showing innate prodigious musical ability. His parents arranged for the young Chopin to take piano instruction from Wojciech Zywny.
When Chopin was sixteen, he attended the Warsaw Conservatory of Music, directed by composer Joseph Elsner. Elsner, like Zywny, insisted on the traditional training associated with Classical music but allowed his students to investigate the more original imaginations of the Romantic style as well.
As often happened with the young musicians of both the Classical and Romantic Periods, Chopin was sent to Vienna, the unquestioned center of music for that day. He gave piano concerts and then arranged to have his pieces published by a Viennese publishing house there. While Chopin was in Austria, Poland and Russia faced off in the apparent beginnings of war. He returned to Warsaw to get his things in preparation of a more permanent move. While there, his friends gave him a silver goblet filled with Polish soil. He kept it always, as he was never able to return to his beloved Poland.
French by heritage, and desirous of finding musical acceptance from a less traditional audience than that of Vienna, Chopin ventured to Paris. Interestingly, other young musicians had assembled in the city of fashion with the very same hope. Chopin joined Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn, Vincenzo Bellini, and Auguste Franchomme, all proponents of the "new" Romantic style.
Although Chopin did play in the large concert halls on occasion, he felt most at home in private settings, enjoying the social milieu that accompanied concerts for the wealthy. He also enjoyed teaching, as this caused him less stress than performing. Chopin did not feel that his delicate technique and intricate melodies were as suited to the grandiose hall as they were to smaller environments and audiences.
News of the war in Poland inspired Chopin to write many sad musical pieces expressing his grief for "his" Poland. Among these was the famous "Revolutionary Etude." Plagued by poor health as well as his homesickness, Chopin found solace in summer visits to the country. Here, his most complex yet harmonic creations found their way to the brilliant composer's hand. The "Fantasia in F Minor," the "Barcarolle," the "Polonaise Fantasia," "Ballade in A Flat Major," "Ballade in F Minor," and "Sonata in B Minor" were all products of the relaxed time Chopin enjoyed in the country.
As the war continued in Warsaw and then reached Paris, Chopin retired to Scotland with friends. Although he was far beyond the reach of the revolution, his melancholy attitude did not improve and he sank deeper into a depression. Likewise, his health did not rejuvenate either. A window in the fighting made it possible for Chopin to return to Paris as his health deteriorated further. Surrounded by those that he loved, Frederic Francois Chopin died at the age of 39. He was buried in Paris.
Chopin's last request was that the Polish soil in the silver goblet be sprinkled over his grave.