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Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) was a Romantic Period composer from Poland who created music primarily using the keyboard (Chopin et al. 43). As a pianist, Chopin possessed unmatched abilities and talent that had great impact on the careers of numerous musicians. In regard to the piano’s repertoire, Chopin was a teacher and is historically honored as a musical genius (Karasowski 34). He wrote primarily for the solo piano and is globally renowned as one of the greatest musicians of the Romantic Period.
His poetic style of composition was characteristic of the styles of composers who lived before him. During his lifetime, Chopin only made 30 public performances and the largest potion of his compositions involved the piano (Karasowski 37). Chopin was a musical genius who contributed greatly to the growth of music during the Romantic Period.
Chopin was born on 1 March 1810 of a polish mother and a French dad (Karasowski 36). He started learning piano at a young age and benefited from the tutorship of Wojciech Zywny between 1816 and 1821 (Chopin et al. 43). His mother also contributed to his learning because she gave him some piano lessons. Chopin learned harmony and counterpoint under the guidance of Jozef Elsner (Wheeler 27). His musical genius led to his first public performance at the tender age of 8. His earliest works were composed in 1817 and he began performing by the age of 7 (Karasowski 40). He composed two polonaises at the age of 7 (Wheeler 28). Both pieces were created in G minor and B-flat major keys.
Travelling was an important aspect of Chopin’s musical success because he learned a lot from visiting cities such as Berlin and Paris, as well as countries in Western Europe (Wheeler 31). In 1828, Chopin travelled to Berlin and while there, attended concerts and operas by other musicians of the Romantic Period. His encounter with Niccolo Paganini in Poland motivated him to commence work on his Etudes (Chopin et al. 45). His prowess in composing music set the stage for him to explore and perform in several countries in Western Europe such as Italy and Austria. Chopin felt that his career was not growing exponentially, and as a result, he moved to Vienna where he lived and performed for a few months before leaving for France.
He never returned to Poland. He moved to Paris from Vienna where he interacted with other artists who helped to grow his music career. They included Franz Liszt, Alfred de Vigny, Heinrich, Heine, Hector Berlioz, and Eugene Delacroix among others (Karasowski 46). His career grew rapidly because at the time he relocated to Paris, the country had become one of the most important destinations for European culture. For example, great talents had emerged in letters and arts. Moreover, it was a center for Romanticism in music because several musicians lived there.
Chopin and the piano
Chopin went down in musical history as the most talented composer to devote his time and efforts to the mastery of playing the piano. All his musical pieces were composed with the aid of the keyboard. Majority of Chopin’s compositions are in shorter forms and are evidence of his great prowess. His musical pieces include 20 nocturnes, 17 waltzes, 27 etudes, 25 preludes, 15 polonaises, and 58 mazurkas most of which are culminations of great emotional expression (Karasowski 49). He also composed long pieces that were uncharacteristic of his musical style. One of his most prominent accomplishments in the romantic era music is the reinvention of scherzo and the invention of the ballade (Wheeler 38).
After inventing the ballade, he went ahead to compose several historical pieces. In that regard, his four ballades are considered some of the best compositions of the Romantic Period. His music was laden with emotions owing to advanced incorporation of harmony and rhythm into his composition (Hanning and Palisca 67). The incorporation of emotions and sensitivity into his music is one of the reasons why his pieces are still widely listened to and revered today (Wheeler 33). His music was unique and special because he used luminous melodies to express his emotions.
In contemporary society, more than 230 works of Chopin tell about his musical genius. Several pieces that he composed during his childhood cannot be traced and even though the ones that exist suffice to put him in the history books. As mentioned earlier, all his compositions involves the piano and were either performed with the piano or together with other instruments (Wheeler 44). Pieces that he composed without the piano were either piano concertos or chamber music. His music style was greatly influenced by several classical composers including Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and Clementi (Burkholder and Palisca 124).
For example, he taught his students to play the piano using Clementi’s method. He was influenced primarily by Mozart’s technique of playing the keyboard (Wheeler 48). In his own words, Chopin stated that Bach and Mozart were the most influential composers in his musical journey. He embraced John Field’s nocturne genre and improved its sophistication with regard to music composition. Chopin was the first musician to write ballades as music pieces to be performed publicly during concerts (Wheeler 53). His free-standing preludes pioneered as a new genre of music that reflected his great musical abilities.
Chopin’s long pieces occupy a special place in the realm of piano music composed during his era. They include sonatas, the four ballades, the Fantaisie, the Barcarolle, Op. 49, Op. 60, and the four scherzos (Karasowski 66). Shorter compositions comprise majority of his pieces and include nocturnes, mazurkas, polonaises, impromptus, and waltzes (Karasowski 66). The Etudes and the preludes are among his most famous musical collections that form part of his immense contribution to classical music during the Romantic Period. His involvement in music stagnated in the18830s due to his involvement with a writer known as Aurore Dudevant.
During the period of their friendship, Chopin suffered a bout of Tuberculosis that did not deter him from composing music. His long period of illness compelled him to leave Paris for holiday in England and Scotland. After his return, he was feeble and weak, and did not create new compositions until his demise.
Chopin was one of the most accomplished music composers who lived during the Romantic Period. He is historically renowned as the greatest composer to create music primarily for the solo piano. He was a virtuoso pianist whose genius influenced many other musicians and contributed to the growth of Romantic music as well as its spread to other parts of the world. His compositions were created with the piano even though he composed two piano concertos and several chamber pieces. His big break came when he left his native country (Poland) for Paris. He is a leading symbol of the Romantic Period because of his focus on the piano and the numerous pieces he composed that were unrivaled by any other musicians of that era.
Burkholder, James Peter, and Claude Palisca. Norton Anthology of Western Music: Ancient to Baroque. 6th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. Print.
Chopin, Frederic, Palmer Willard, and Valery Lloyd-Watts. Chopin: An Introduction to His works. New York: Alfred Music Publishing, 2004. Print.
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Hanning, Barbara Russano, and Claude Palisca. Concise History of Western Music. New York: W. W. Norton, 2014. Print.
Karasowski, Maurycy. Frederic Chopin: His Life, Letters, and Works. New York: BiblioLife, 2015. Print.
Wheeler, Opal. Frederic Chopin, Son of Poland, Early Years. New York: Zeezok Publishing, 2007. Print.