Frédéric Chopin

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About Frédéric Chopin

The piano was Chopin’s musical soulmate and emotional safety valve. Of the 260-plus pieces he composed, from free-wheeling ballades and firebrand scherzos to the delicate melodic tracery of 21 nocturnes and the sonatas that shatter conventional norms, it was central to his creative universe. Launched as a prodigy pianist in his native Poland, Chopin eventually settled in Paris, where he became a cult figure on the fashionable salon circuit. Remarkably, for one of the all-time great pianists, he only gave around 30 public concerts, as he felt suffocated by an audience’s “eager breath, paralyzed by its inquisitive stare, silenced by its alien faces.” Taking piano technique to new heights of poetic fantasy in two sets of 12 Études Op. 10 (1829-32) and Op. 25 (1832-35), he transformed and rejuvenated three popular dance genres: the Polish polonaise and the mazurka (he once described his mazurkas as having been wrenched “from a heart that was inwardly torn”), and the Viennese waltz. Spurred on by his stormy relationship with female novelist George Sand (the literary alias of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin), Chopin then broke loose in a set of 24 Preludes, Op. 28 (1835-39), whose seismic mood changes sent out shock waves still felt more than half a century later in the music of Russian maverick composer Alexander Scriabin.

Zelazowa Wola, Poland
March 1, 1810
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