By Austin Hennen Vigil
Frédéric Chopin was a Polish music composer and pianist of the Romantic era who wrote mainly for the solo piano. He was born on March 1st, 1810 and grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and then lived in Paris for his adult life. His life unfortunately ended early, and will be discussed in this article. Here are 10 facts you may not know about the legendary Chopin:
- Chopin played the piano in the dark throughout his entire life. He would always put out the candles in the room, and even when playing at an event or party, he would ask to extinguish the light in the room. He was shy, and only gave around 30 public concerts in his lifetime; he preferred to play to small gatherings in the salons of wealthy Parisians.
- Chopin was a child star; he was writing and composing poetry at age 6, and performed his first public concerto at age 8. By the time he was 12, Chopin had already performed in the drawing rooms of countless Polish aristocrats and created original compositions. He inherited the music genes from his parents, his mother was a piano teacher, and his father was a flute and violin expert.
- In 1824, he spent the summer months in Szafarnia, the mansion which is now called the “Chopin Centre,” equipped with a concert hall and small museum. It was during this time that he wrote a series of letters for his parents, known as the “Kurier Szafarnia,” parodying the “Kurjer Warszawski,” which was the daily pre-WWII newspaper in Chopin’s hometown of Warsaw.
- In 1826 Chopin became a full-time student at Elsner’s conservatory, where he received a great foundation in music theory, harmony, and counterpoint. Elsner, after recognizing that Chopin’s style was too original to force into traditional patterns, granted him the freedom to develop along distinctly personal lines. Chopin is one of the few composers whose style formed and remained the same during his youth and never changed throughout his lifetime.
- As a way of making money while living in Paris, Chopin built up a network of wealthy people he would give piano lessons to. He was very modest, however, so he would not ask them for money, instead, his pupils would leave the money on his mantelpiece while he turned away.
- Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” doesn’t mean minute, as in small, but minute as in the unit of time measurement. The 138 bars of music, however, take around 90 to 120 seconds to play. Chopin’s publishers decided on the nickname.
- Chopin’s partner of 10 years, George Sand, was 32 when she met Chopin, and he was 26. Sand had already divorced and had 2 children, Solange and Maurice. Solange is said to have been somewhat responsible for the split of Sand and Chopin. George Sand accused Chopin of siding with Solange in the dispute of the marriage of Solange and sculptor, Auguste Clesinger. George Sand, because of this, thought that Chopin had actually been in love with Solange the whole time, not her, which lead to the split.
- Chopin’s favorite piano maker was “Pleyel”. When he was recuperating from tuberculosis in Majorca, Spain, his Pleyel piano was to go with him. However, the piano took too long to go through the Spanish customs, so he had to play on an inferior piano when he was in Spain during his final years. However, some of his most famous pieces were composed on his Pleyel piano.
- As Chopin was on his death bed, he was surrounded by friends and admirers for some days. When he knew he wasn’t going to make it, Chopin asked Delfina Potocka, a Polish countess who had been tending to him, to sing the National Anthem of Poland. It is believed that he gave his last breath as she finished the anthem. His last words were, “mother, my poor mother.”
- Chopin died on October 17th, 1849, at the young age of 39, most likely from tuberculosis. His heart was removed from his body after his death and remains preserved in Poland. He is buried near his friend, composer Cerubini, at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Mozart’s “Requiem” was performed at his funeral.
I hope you enjoyed the article, please feel free to comment if you have more interesting facts about Frédéric Chopin that I may have missed!
Austin Hennen Vigil is a marketing intern at Sheet Music Plus, and holds a degree in Business Marketing from Arizona State University.