Between 1772 and 1795, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Monarchy divided and annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth amongst themselves in a series of three partitions.
Though one of the largest and most populous countries in 16th– and 17th-century Europe, decades of protracted political, military and economic decline led the country to the brink of civil war, made it vulnerable to foreign influences, and ultimately rendered it unable to withstand the onslaught brought by the encroaching powers, even in spite of a revolutionary new constitution, a war in its defense and an uprising led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko. (As a side note, Kosciuszko was also a decorated hero of the American Revolutionary War and an accomplished military architect who designed and oversaw the construction of state-of-the-art fortifications, including those at West Point.)
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish French composer and pianist of the Romantic period, who was best known for his solo pieces for piano and his piano concerti. Although he wrote little else but piano works, he ranks as one of music’s greatest tone poets. It was clear that his love for music developed from a very young age. Young Chopin studied piano with Wojciech Zywny and gave his first concert when he was 8, and rather quickly outdistanced his teachers. By the age of 16, he had composed several piano pieces in different styles, and his parents enrolled him in the Warsaw Conservatory of Music. Chopin only gave 30 public performances in 30 years of concertizing. While seriously ill with tuberculosis, he managed to complete the 24 Preludes, Op.28. He has composed 20 nocturnes, 25 preludes, 17 waltzes, 15 polonaises, 58 mazurkas and 27 etudes.