Sunday, February 28, 2010

Frédéric Chopin, born 1. March 1810

Frédéric François Chopin was born 200 years ago on 1 March 1810 and died 17 October 1849. He was a Polish composer and pianist and one of the great masters of Romantic music. Chopin was born in a village in the duchy of Warsaw, his father was French and his mother Polish. At age twenty, he left Warsaw for Austria, intending to go on to Italy. The outbreak of the Polish November uprising a month later, and its subsequent suppression by Russia led to his becoming one of many expatriates of the Polish Great Emigration. He moved to Paris, where he made a comfortable living as a composer and piano teacher, while he also gave some public performances. From 1837 to 1847 he had a turbulent relationship with the French novelist Aurore Dupin, better known by her pseudonym George Sand. He suffered from poor health most of his life, and he died in Paris in 1849 of pulmonary tuberculosis, aged thirty-nine.
Chopin's compositions were written primarily for the piano a solo instrument. Though technically demanding they emphasize nuance and expressive depth rather than sheer virtuosity. Chopin invented musical forms such as the ballads and was responsible for major innovations in the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocture, polonaise, étude, impromptu and prélude. He formed friendships with many authors and composers like Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, Heinrich Heine, Eugène Delacroix etc.
In 1835 Chopin went to Carlsbad where, for the last time in his life, he met with his parents. He went through Saxony on his way back to Paris, where he met old friends from Warsaw, the Wodzińskis. He had met their daughter Maria, now sixteen, in Poland five years earlier, and fell in love with the charming, artistically talented, young woman. The following year, in September 1836, Chopin proposed marriage to Maria. She accepted, and her mother Countess Wodzińska approved in principle, but Maria's tender age and Chopin's tenuous health (in the winter of 1835–1836 he had been so ill that word had circulated in Warsaw that he had died) forced an indefinite postponement of the wedding. The engagement remained a secret to the world and never led to the altar. Chopin finally placed the letters from Maria and her mother in a large envelope, on which he wrote the Polish words "Moja bieda" ("My sorrow") His feeling for Maria is shown in his waltz in A-flat-major "The Farewell waltz", Op. 69, No.1. On his return to Paris he composed the Étude in F minor, the second in the Op. 25 cycle, which he referred to as "a portrait of Maria's soul." He sent Maria seven songs he had set to the words of Polish poets.

In 1836 at a party hosted by a countess, a mistress of his friend and fellow composer Franz Liszt, Chopin met the French author and feminist Amandine Aurore Lucille Dupin, the Baroness Dudevant, better kown by her pseudonym George Sand. One of her former lovers was Alfred de Musset. Chopin felt at first an aversion for Sand. He said to a friend:"What a repulsive woman Sand is? But is she really a woman?" Sand sent a letter to a count, friend of both her and Chopin, in which she expressed her strong feelings for the composer.

In the summer 1838 Chopin's and Sand's involvement was an open secret. In their time together they had a winter on Majorca, where they - with Sand's two children - had gone, hoping to improve Chopin's bad health. Caused by peoples' inhospitality when they discovered that the couple was not married, they took lodgings in a cold, former Carthusian monastery in Valldemosa. During that winter the bad weather had a serious effect on Chopin's health, and in order to save his life they left the island. They first went to Barcelona and then Marseille , and in May 1839 they went to Sand's estate at Nohant. In autumn they returned to Paris where Chopin soon left his apartment at 5 rue Tronchet to move into Sand's house at 16 rue Pigalle. Here they lived together with the children from October 1839 to November 1842, in most summers they were at Nohant. In 1842 they moved to rue Taitbout living in adjacent buildings. During the summers at Nohant Chopin composed many works, which include his great Polonaise in A-flat major op. 53.

As his illness progressed, Sand gradually became more of a nurse and less of a lover to Chopin. She called him her third child. In 1845 Chopin was even worse of health, and a serious problem came up in his and Sand's relationship. In 1847 Sand published a novel Lucrezia Floriani , which could be interpreted as Sand and Chopin, the story was not a compliment to Chopin . In 1847 he did not visit Nohant. Mutual friends tried to reconcile them, but Chopin was unyielding. The year 1847 brought to an end the relations between Sand and Chopin that had lasted ten years, since 1837.

On April with the revolutions of 1848 on its way in Paris, he left for London. He performed several concerts and had receptions in great houses. Toward the end of the summer he went to Scotland, where he stayed in a castle in Renfrewshire of his former pupil and great admirer Jane Wilhelmina Stirling and her sister. In late October 1848 in Edinburgh at the home of a Polish physician, Chopin wrote out his last will and testament. He made his last public appearance on a concert platform at London's Guildhall on 16 November 1848, when he played for the benefit of Polish refugees.

At the end of November Chopin returned to Paris. He was very ill that winter , but he was still seeing his friends, yet he no longer had the strength to give lessons, but was still keen to compose. He was in lack of money for essential expenses and for his physicians, so he had to sell his valuable furnishings and belongings. He felt even more poorly and wanted to have one of his family with him, and in June 1849 his sister Ludwika agreed to come to Paris. He had taken up residence in a beautiful sunny apartment at place Vendome 12. Here, a few minutes before two o-clock on the morning of Wednesday 17 October 1849, Chopin died. He was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery. At the graveside the Funeral marh from his Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 35 was played.
Chopin's grave with its monument attracts numerous visitors and is consistently decorated with flowers even in winter.
Source: Lademanns Lexicon and Wikipedia

photo: grethe bachmann

1 comment:

Kittie Howard said...

So interesting. Thank You! I didn't know Chopin had created the ballad. Such a talented composer. And he died so young. Somehow, I had thought he was much, much older.