Chopin, Frederic Francois (b. Zelazowa Wola, March 1, 1810; d. Paris, October 17, 1849)
Frederic Chopin was a Polish-born pianist and composer of matchless genius in the realm of keyboard music. As a pianist, his talents were beyond emulation and had an impact on other musicians entirely out of proportion to the number of concerts he gave — only 30 public performances in 30 years of concertizing. No one before or since has contributed as many significant works to the piano’s repertoire, or come closer to capturing its soul.
Chopin’s mother was Polish, his father a Frenchman who had come to Poland as a young man and held jobs as a bookkeeper and tutor before marrying and settling in Warsaw. Young Frederic studied piano with Wojciech Zywny and harmony and counterpoint with Jozef Elsner, gave his first concert when he was 8, and rather quickly outdistanced his teachers. His name became known outside of Poland when his Variations, Op. 2, for piano and orchestra on Mozart’s “La ci darem la mano” — written when he was 17 — were published in 1830, prompting Robert Schumann’s famous accolade in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung: “Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!” In the spring and autumn of 1830, Chopin treated the Warsaw audience to a pair of newly composed, marvelously poetic piano concertos. Seeking to expand his horizons, he left Poland for Vienna in November 1830, and after eight months there, headed for Paris. He would never again return to his native country, but Poland’s loss would be Paris’ gain.