regarded as the greatest piano composer to ever live, Chopin was one of
the greatest pianists in Paris during the Romantic Era. Frederick Chopin
was born in Poland and early in his young life exhibited his gift at the
piano, playing for some of the aristocratic families of Warsaw the age
of six. At the age of nineteen, Chopin moved away from Poland forever,
first to Vienna and then to Paris.
Chopin was readily accepted by the Parisian elite,
but his demeanor and melancholic temperament was often at odds with the
expectation of this circle. During his entire lifetime, Chopin gave only
30 public performances. Of his nearly 170 compositions, almost all of
them are exclusively for the piano. Chopin performed most of these compositions
for small private audiences. The intimate setting of these performances
is significant because it is emblematic of Chopin's music. Chopin loved
soaring melodies, particularly the singing-like playing of his right hand.
These melodies were not overwhelmingly ornamental, however, but minimalist
and traditional. Chopin was lauded for his ability to infuse traditional
forms like the sonata and the prelude (a short self contained piano piece)
with intimacy and emotional intensity.
Perhaps the most intense of his piano pieces dates
to the period when Chopin dated the famous progressive novelist George
Sand. He spend several years with her in Majorca, Spain in relative seclusion.
Chopin used this time for reflection and composition, but the city had
an ill effect on the health of Chopin, who suffered from tubercolisis.
On top of this, his relationship with Sand soured and they returned to
Paris. His music during this time took on a sad beauty.
Though only 39 at his death, Chopin's legacy as
a virtuous pianist and his poetic piano compositions remained. As Sadie
puts it, it would be wrong to underrate Chopin's influence because of
his dedication to the piano. With this instrument Chopin was able to communicate
a range from the graceful to the grandiose, fromt the tenderly poetic
to the tempestuously passionate.