Frederic Chopin a biography in words and pictures.
The places where Chopin worked and the most important people of his life.
Biographic timetable (Click for more informations)
Chopin is born to a Frenchman and a Polish woman on a country estate where his parents are employed.
Chopin’s talent becomes apparent early and he plays early as a child prodigy in the salons. At the age of 18, he already composes his two piano concertos. Due to the threat of war, Chopin leaves Warsaw.
Chopin reached Vienna together with his friend Titus Woyciechowski. But his hopes for a successful career are dashed. His works do not meet with any interest. After seven months, he decides to continue his journey to Paris.
Chopin frequented primarily the salons of Paris and became a sought-after piano teacher among the upper ten thousand.
Chopin repeatedly travels to Germany and cultivates friendships with Schumann and Mendelssohn.
The longed-for mild winter in the Mediterranean turned into a rainy winter in damp walls, which took its toll on Chopin’s health.
In George Sand’s house, Chopin found the peace to compose. Here he and George received many friends from Paris.
Jane Stirling organizes a trip to Great Britain. Chopin returns to Paris seriously ill.
His sister rushes to Paris, but soon Chopin dies in his apartment from his tuberculosis illness.
Chopin’s sister smuggled the heart to Poland, where it has been in the Holy Cross Church ever since.
A rough overview on Chopin’s work.
BIRTH IN ŻELAZOWA WOLA
Chopin was born here in 1810, the son of a Frenchman and a Polish woman. Father and mother worked as tutor and governess respectively for a noble family and lived in a side wing.
The family moved to Warsaw in the same year, where the father had taken up a new position.
The main house fell victim to a fire and the side wing of the Chopins had an eventful history. It functioned as a warehouse, a military hospital, and was even occupied by Germans during the Second World War. It was bought by a Chopin society in 1928 and rebuilt as a mansion, no longer showing the modest outbuilding that the Chopins inhabited.
The interior furnishings were lost during World War II and were subsequently restocked with 19th century items to recreate the atmosphere of that century. Some of Chopin’s memorabilia are displayed, but overall it is more of a tribute than a museum. A music hall where music is regularly performed, a beautiful park and 2 sculptures complete the property.
A look inside the museum:
Chopin’s baptistery St. Rochus in Brochow
Chopin was baptized in this church. It is idyllically situated on a small river, 11 km from Żelazowa Wola and was built in the 16th century as a part of the fortification architecture. It was severely damaged (the interior was devastated) during the First World War, when the little river was a front section.
THE POLISH MOZART – CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH IN WARSAW
The Chopin family settled in Warsaw with their firstborn Fréderic seven months after his birth in 1810. Chopin’s father made a satisfactory living at the Lyceum, where he, a native of France, served as a French teacher.
They lived in the middle of Warsaw and Fréderic, whose talent was quickly recognized, received a good musical education. He began composing at a tender age, at seven he created his first polonaise, and at eight he was already performing at the Palais Radziwill with a piano concerto by a Polish composer and was “passed around” in the salons as “the Polish Mozart.”
After a stay of several months in Vienna, at the age of 19, he played the two piano concertos he had just composed, in E minor and F minor, at the old National Theater (which had been torn down in the meantime) with great success.
On November 2, 1830, Chopin left Warsaw together with Titus Woyciechowski. His father urged him to leave before the threatening revolt in the direction of Vienna and finally reached Paris. On the last evening, friends presented him with a jar of Polish soil and sang him a farewell song. Chopin never returned to Warsaw.
Chopin appartment (Kaszimierz Palais)
At Krakowskie Przedmieście Street 26/28 the Chopin family lived in the side wing of Kazimierz Palace, where Chopin’s father worked as a French teacher. Today, the rooms serve as a workplace for the University, and a memorial plaque in front of the entrance to the side wing commemorates the famous resident.
Here Chopin lived the last years in Poland with his family. In this place he had his own room and composed his two famous piano concertos. The rooms serve as a workplace for the university.
Hier spielte Frederic Chopin die Orgel für den Kirchenchor, wo auch Konstancja Gładkowska gesungen haben soll, in die Chopin sich 19-jährig verliebte. Sie sang für ihn bei seinem Abschied von Warschau, und sie schrieben sich noch während eines Jahres.
Visitationist Church by Canaletto:
At the age of 15, Chopin played in this church for the Russian Tsar Alexander and received a diamond ring as a gift. Chopin also sang in the church choir here. This building had excellent acoustics, but burned out completely in the 2nd World War caused by an aerial bomb. It was rebuilt true to the original and still serves as a concert venue with excellent acoustics.
DISAPPOINTMENT IN VIENNA
After the looming uprising in Warsaw, Chopin decided to go to Vienna with his friend Titus Woyciechowski. However, his hopes for a successful career were dashed. He was unable to sell his first works, and in the seven months of his stay in Vienna he was able to give only one concert, which was also a benefit concert.
In the meantime, the Warsaw Uprising had broken out and Titus left to join the fight. The lonely Chopin decided to leave Vienna and seek his fortune in Paris.
The young Chopin:
THE SALONS OF PARIS
Chopin arrived in Paris in 1830 at the age of 20. His reputation had preceded him and he was soon able to make a living giving piano lessons to wealthy piano students. His first public concert in the Salle Pleyel was enthusiastically applauded by the elite of the Parisian art world. Chopin excelled in the salons (but gave only a few public concerts, which took place in the two Salle Pleyel) and befriended many personalities of the Parisian art world, especially Franz Liszt.
Because Chopin gave few public concerts, he earned his living to a considerable degree as a piano teacher to the wealthy class. He was a sought-after teacher and could charge high fees to finance his upscale lifestyle.
He loved expensive clothes, had employees and his own carriage, and worked intensively on his works. In 1837 he had plans to marry Maria Wodzińska, but they failed due to her parents’ opposition. Thereupon he met George Sand, whom he initially met with rejection (“What an unsympathetic woman she is! Is she really a woman? I almost doubt it”), but she became his companion for 10 years, which meant a small scandal for Parisian society, since this writer was divorced and led an unseemly life.
Daguerreotypie of Chopin:
In his 18 years in Paris, Chopin lived in 10 different apartments. Many of the houses are no longer standing.
First he moved into a small apartment in the Rue de la poissonnière. The house is no longer standing. An impression gives a painting of this street, which was made 3 years later.
Rue de la poissonnière, 1834:
Soon Chopin had some piano students from the better society and the income allowed him in 1832/33 to move into a more spacious, furnished apartment at 4,Cité Bergère, a beautiful enclosed alley. Today, number 4 is a hotel, Chopin’s appartent was on the first floor (in the photo on the right, the building with the beautiful iron portal).
From 1842-1849 he lived in Square Orléans. In this place lived many artists such as Kalkbrenner, Delacroix and Franchehomme. Chopin lived at number 5, on the first mezzanine. Near him, at number 9, George Sand lived until they separated in 1847. There are commemorative plaques for the respective residents on both buildings (access via Rue de Taitbout 80).
Musée de la vie romantique
This house is one of the rare contemporary witnesses of the world of Parisian salons. In this house the artist Ary Scheffer received the artistic and literary society, such as Chopin, George Sand, Liszt, Rossini, Delacroix, Pauline Viardot and many others. The house shelters on the lower floor an apartment arranged with furniture from the estate of George Sand, on the upper floor there is a furnished salon, as well as an art exhibition of the painter.
Musée de la vie romantique:
A look inside the museum:
9, rue Cadet (L’Hôtel Cromot du Bourg)
This was the first large showroom of the Pleyel piano company with an adjoining concert hall. It was the place where Chopin had given the first public concert on February 25, 1832 (in front of about 100 people) and had an illustrious crowd of guests as listeners, such as Liszt, Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann. In the first part he played, among others, the first piano concerto accompanied by a string quartet in the second part he participated in a show in which a third-party composition was played with 6 pianos in order to demonstrate the quality of the Pleyel pianos. The audience gave enthusiastic applause to the Polish newcomer. Chopin subsequently entered into a business relationship with Pleyel and preferred to play on his instruments, whose light touch he greatly appreciated and supported his nuanced playing.
On December 25, 1834, Chopin gave a duet with his friend Franz Liszt, and one more time in 1835 he played in the same room with Hiller. In 1839, Pleyel moved to a new location, rue de Rochechouart which became the most important concert hall in Paris for almost 100 years (that no longer exists, the current Pleyel Hall is in a different location). Chopin gave two acclaimed concerts in this hall.
Today the rooms are used commercially.
9, rue Cadet:
FRIENDSHIPS IN GERMANY
In 1834 and 1835 Chopin visited Germany twice. First, he renewed his artistic friendship with Mendelssohn at the Lower Rhine Music Festival. He had met the German in Paris and the two spent a few days together as a trio with Ferdinand Hiller. The following year, Chopin visited Mendelssohn in Leipzig. While the two were from two different planets artistically, both acknowledged and rejoiced in the genius of the other. From this meeting, Mendelssohn described Chopin’s piano playing as rosy in pink, which enchanted him, even if he would have liked a stronger grip in some places.
The relationship with Schumann was of a different nature. Schumann often wrote about Chopin in his capacity as a music journalist, and he regularly raved about him in the highest terms. His view of Chopin was highly romanticized and based only partly on fact, which irritated Chopin somewhat. They knew each other personally and met twice in Leipzig. Their mutual artistic appreciation was high and they dedicated works to each other (Kreisleriana op. 16 and Ballade F major, respectively).
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy:
NIGHTMARE IN MALLORCA
Chopin and Georges Sand’s stay in Mallorca became one of the most famous episodes of Chopin’s life. It was here that he composed the Raindrop Prélude, which became a symbol for the messed-up stay in the supposed paradise.
Chopin had just fallen in love with George Sand when the two decided to spend the winter of 1838/39 in the supposedly mild Mallorca. The reason was Sand’s son’s health problems and Chopin’s hope for recovery or at least relief from his lung disease. On November 7 they arrived in Palma de Mallorca and the whole thing started well. When they arrived at Villa Son Vent in Establiments on November 15, they began by enjoying the mild temperatures.
Soon the weather turned and an icy wind blew through the unheated house. Possibly the owner of the house expelled them for fear of tuberculosis and forced the couple to pay for the furniture, which he had burned for fear of infection. In any case, the son Maurice and Chopin caught cold and they moved to the monastery of Valldemossa, from which the monks had been expelled in riots three years earlier. They lived in an empty building surrounded by cemeteries, which stimulated their romantic imagination, but they continued to suffer in this stone building from the cold and rainy weather that never let up. Added to this were the hostile reactions of the locals, who were suspicious of the unmarried inhabitants of the sacred place and who feared infection from the coughing Chopin.
On February 13, they left Mallorca unnerved in direction of Marseille and later Paris. Chopin had been violently ill for a long time, and George Sand, to her chagrin, was not only a mother and writer, but also a nurse. She later described this stay in the famous essai “A Winter in Mallorca”.
Son Vent in Establiments
This place a few kilometers outside Mallorca seems almost unchanged. Finca Son Vent (171 of Carrer des Clot) still stands, but has long been abandoned and in a state of disrepair. Memorial plaques commemorate the famous couple.
Carthusian Monastery Valldemossa
The Charterhouse of Valldemossa is today the most visited building in Mallorca after the Cathedral of Palma and is privately owned. Among other things, you can visit the two cells including memorabilia, which Chopin and Sand inhabited. In Chopin’s cell there is even Chopin’s Pleyel piano, on which he composed his Préludes. He had to have it brought from Paris, because he could not find a decent instrument in Mallorca and it had to be laboriously hauled up by donkeys.
The view from the Charterhouse is wonderful and the building and the village have preserved their beauty. In addition to the Chopin souvenirs, in the Charterhouse you can also admire the church, a historical library and a historical pharmacy. The village is located about 30 minutes by car from Palma.
A Chopin Festival is held annually at the Charterhouse in August.
Raindrop Prélude (Nr. 15 op. 28):
PRODUCTIVE SUMMERS IN NOHANT
In June 1839 Chopin left Paris and began his first summer in Nohant. From now on he was to spend the next 7 summers on the estate of the Sand family.
Here in the countryside he found the peace to compose and created about 40 works. Variety was brought by visitors such as Liszt, Viardot, Balzac, Flaubert and Delacroix, who even had his studio in the attic. Chopin had productive summers, but steadily deteriorating health led to an almost complete cessation of compositional activity by the age of 36.
Georges Sand and Frederic Chopin, Painting by Delacroix (Mounting):
Maison George Sand in Nohant
Fortunately, the mansion still stands and is furnished as a museum in the style of Chopin’s years, with some memorabilia. The literary activity of George Sand occupies a large space. A granddaughter of George Sand had bequeathed the estate to the state in 1953. The estate is in good condition and the park is inviting for a walk.
Maison George Sand:
FATAL JOURNEY TO GREAT BRITAIN
In the meantime, Georges Sand and Chopin had grown apart and separated.Chopin’s trip to Great Britain was an stopgap. The July Revolution had broken out in Paris, the king was overthrown and the royal family fled to England. The rich families left Paris and Chopin was left without a piano student, without savings and in poor health. It suited him that Jane Stirling, a former piano student (she must have been quite talented, he had dedicated two Nocturne to her), offered to organize piano students and performances in London.
He arrived in London in February 1848, where he was doing quite well, living in Dover Street (the house was a victim of the Second World War), giving semi-public concerts (see below) and giving lessons, however he suffered from the constant fog London. As summer approached, the rich people left town and Chopin found himself without a means of earning a living.Jane Stirling stepped in again and organized a tour of Scotland that took a toll on him physically. When he returned to London it remained for him to give his last concert at the Guildhall. He finally returned to Paris on November 23 in very poor health.
Chopin gave three semi-public concerts in London. The most glamorous was the concert on May 15 at Stafford Hose (now Lancaster House), where he played for the Queen. Lancaster House is a palace in St. James Square that could host evening parties of up to 1,000 guests. The highlight is the grand staircase of the hall, of which Chopin reported impressed to his family.
Lancaster House has retained its splendor and is used for state occasions or for large private events. The staircase hall has repeatedly been the setting for film shoots (e.g. “Kings Speech”, “The Crown”).
The room is is very rarely open to the public.
Staircase hall of Lancaster House:
4, St. James’ Place
On October 31, Chopin had returned deathly ill after the grueling journey through Scotland. He was quartered in St. James Place for the entire remaining month and was so weakened that he only left the house for the big concert in the Guildhall. A plaque commemorates the famous resident.
4, St. James Place:
In this magnificent building Chopin gave his last concert ever, his performance was part of a benefit for Polish refugees. Chopin was very weak and is said to have weighed only 50 kg.
Guild Hall is open for tours, please note limited opening hours.
DEATH IN PARIS
He did not have much time left after that. During a few performances at the beginning of 1849 he even had to be carried up the stairs.
Chopin’s last trip had taken him to England with Jane Stirling and took a toll on Chopin’s fragile health. Zurück in Paris blieb ihm nicht mehr viel Zeit. Bei wenigen Auftritten Anfang 1849 musste er gar die Treppe heraufgetragen werden.
When Chopin’s sister rushed to Paris to help her brother, they moved into a seven-room apartment together at 12 Place Vendome in September 1849. He was financially supported by his friends, especially Jane Stirling. His agony lasted a month. When he died on October 17, six friends sat around the bed. Chopin died of pericarditis caused by tuberculosis (as did many of his relatives, including his father).
After his death, Chopin was laid out in the Madeleine. 3,000 mourners came to bid him farewell. His heart was taken from his body before burial, which his sister smuggled to Poland. His remains were buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Deathplace 12, Place de la Vendôme
The rooms were luxuriously renovated and are now used commercially.
12, Place Vendôme:
At Chopin’s request, the Préludes in E minor and B minor, among others, were played, as well as Mozart’s Requiem at the end.
Cemetery Père Lachaise:
On Chopin’s grave Euterpe, the muse of music, is watching and crying in view of a broken instrument. The monument is by Auguste Schlésinger, husband of George Sand’s daughter Solange.
Chopin Portrait in the Louvre
This painting of Chopin was painted by the famous painter Eugène Delacroix, whom Chopin had met through George Sand. This portrait is taken from a larger portrait. Originally Delacroix had painted a scene with Chopin at the piano and George Sand next to him, but he cut the painting apart, expecting to get a higher price if he could sell two paintings. The large remainder of the painting could not be found. The portrait of Sand hangs in a Copenhagen museum.
Chopin Portrait by Eugène Delacroix:
Parc Monceau Chopin monument
There is an interesting monument from 1906 in Parc Monceau. It shows the composer with (presumably) the famous Jenny Lind at his feet. Jenny Lind became one of the greatest singers in the forties and met him on his London trip. She seems to have fallen in love with him and hoped to marry him.
Chopin Monument Parc Monceau:
THE HEART IN POLAND
Chopin’s heart is immured in the columns of this church. The journey there was adventurous, his sister had rushed to his deathbed and learned from her brother his wish that his body should return to Poland. This was not possible due to the political situation and the friends decided that she should smuggle the heart to Warsaw, preserved in cognac, where it was first stored in her apartment. Her baptismal church then accepted the heart, but stored it in the church basement because church officials did not believe Chopin was living a pious life in Paris. It was not until 40 years later that it found its way into the church, in a place of honor with a marble monument on the columned wall.
Destination Holy Cross Church
The heart was to be taken out two more times, the first time when it was brought to safety with the help of a German priest during World War II, before the church was blown up by the german troops. And the second time after the church was rebuilt, it was medically examined and the cause of death was recorded as pericarditis, which had its reason in his tuberculosis.
Holy Cross Church:
The Chopin Museum is an elaborately designed multimedia museum. In a beautiful palace, the visitor is introduced to Chopin’s life on 5 floors in thematic rooms. On display are treasures such as his precious Pleyel grand piano from his last years or his death mask. One room is dedicated to the women in his life.
Music is also played regularly in the museum. Students from the nearby university perform regularly, you can see the program on the website.
A look inside the museum:
Chopin Monument and open air concert
In 1926 the Chopin monument was unveiled in Łazienki Park.
Chopin concerts are held at this monument. The piano stands next to the monument and entrance is free of charge. The concerts take place on Sundays from May – September.
Concert at the Chopin monument:
OVERVIEW OF THE MUSICAL WORK
Chopin wrote 21 nocturnes for piano, all miniatures of 3-5 minutes in length. Over the swaying accompaniment of the left hand, dreamy, sometimes melancholy melodies unfold, possessing the singability of the human voice.
The most famous nocturne is Op. 9 No. 2 in E-flat major.
The four ballads for piano have a narrative character, certain sources refer to stories by Adam Mickiewitz, which are said to have served as inspiration for Chopin. They last between 8 and 12 minutes. The ballads have a sonata-like form and usually two beautiful noble main themes. They differ substantially among themselves.
The most popular ballads are No. 1 (op. 23) and No. 4 (op. 52).
Inspired by Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier”, Chopin wrote a cycle for piano, with one prelude for each of the keys. The individual preludes vary greatly in form, length and difficulty, but are all mood pieces expressing passion, melancholy, sadness or poetry.
The most famous prelude is number 15 in D flat major, the so-called Raindrop Prelude.
Chopin’s etude works deal with a technical difficulty of piano playing in each etude, but are to be understood as artistic works in their own right. They are great works of art and in some cases highly virtuosic. In total there are 25 etudes compiled in op. 10 and 25.
Chopin’s waltzes are classical salon music of 3-5 minutes in length, but artistically they far exceed the “Strauss Waltz” in that they were intended for concert use, not dancing. Chopin himself published only a third of the waltzes known today.
The most famous piece is the so-called “Minute Waltz” 64/1, which Chopin himself called “Valse du petit chien.”
Mazurkas were Polish social dances in ¾ time, based on peasant dances such as the kujawiak. However, Chopin emphasized that his mazurkas composed for the piano were art music and not written for dancing. In the mazurkas he processed his homesickness, especially during the initial phase of his stay in Paris, after the suppression of the Polish uprising. He wrote over 50 mazurkas, spread throughout his life.
The most famous mazurka is probably Op.17 No.4.
Like the mazurkas, the polonaises are based on a Polish social dance with a distinctive, dignified rhythm in ¾ time. Chopin also expressed his attachment to his homeland with the polonaises composed for the piano, and in some cases wrote heroic music.
By far the most famous polonaise is the A-flat Major Polonaise, Op. 53 (“Military”).
Chopin was closer to miniature forms, such as nocturnes or mazurkas. However, he also wrote three sonatas, possibly to emphasize the seriousness of his music. The sonatas are all in four movements and follow the symphonic form.
The most famous piece is the “Marche funèbre” from the second sonata.
Chopin took Beethoven’s Scherzo as a starting point with its ABA form and wrote four highly virtuosic pieces set in high tempo and passionate expression.
Probably the most famous scherzo is number 2 (op. 31).
Chopin wrote two piano concertos in his youth that are in the classical virtuoso concerto style. The piano treatment is masterful, while the orchestra has an accompanying function.
The Piano Concerto in E minor became a famous piece and is often heard in the concert hall.
Where was Chopin born?
What was his wife's name?
Chopin never married. He had a longer relationship with George Sand.
In what places did Chopin live?
, Żelazowa Wola, Warsaw, Vienna, Paris, he spent many summers in Nohant
What were his most important works?
His preludes, nocturnes, waltzes, mazurkas, polonaises, piano concertos, sonatas and scherzos
Where did Chopin die?
In Paris, in the apartment at Place Vendôme
Where is his grave?
In the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, his heart is in the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.
How old did Chopin live to be?
What was the cause of Chopin's death?
From pericarditis, which had its cause in his tuberculosis
What was the date of Chopin's death?
October 17, 1849
What was Chopin's most important rival?
Chopin did not cultivate rivalries as a composer.
With which artists did Chopin get along particularly well?
Chopin cultivated various friendships; he got along excellently with Liszt, who enjoyed playing Chopin's works. He also had personal contact with Mendelssohn and Schumann.