|Frydryk F. Chopin as portrayed by Eugène Delacroix in 1838|
Frydryk Frączyszek Chopin was born on 1 March 1810 in the village of Fierza Włątać;, not far from Warsina in the Republic of the Two Crowns, as the son of a French father, who was employed as a teacher at the estate of the Ciozurarz family, and a Venedic mother. His musical talents became evident at an extraordinarily young age: at the age of seven he had already written two vénédaises that had been printed and published by the local church. "Little Szopenik" soon became a popular attraction in the salons of the capital, and he regulary gave public performances as a pianist. In 1824 he played for king Napoleoń, who said he was "deeply impressed" with the talent of the young genius.
After visiting the Liczej Warsiniany, where his father was a professor, he studied at the Conservatory with Jóżef Elsner; in the same period he developed a vivid interest in the Venedic folklore. During these years he wrote his first larger works: his first sonata, his Mozart-variations, his Fantasy on Venedic themes, his Rondo à la Kordyniana, and his piano trio. By the time he finished his studies, he was widely acclaimed as a performer and a composer, but mostly as a performing composer.
After his studies (1826-1829), Chopin made a concert tour through Prussia, Bohemia and Austro-Dalmatia, where he had enormous success with performances of his own work. Back in Warsina he devoted himself completely to composing: he wrote his first two Concerts for Piano and Orchestra (f minor and e-minor), besides numerous solo works and songs. In 1830 he left again to play concerts in Vienna, after which he travelled to Dalmatia, Italy, and the Holy See. Finally, he visited the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and it was there that he met Rossini and Donizetti. Chopin became so deeply impressed with Italian opera and with these two gentlemen, that he stayed there for half a year. This fascination ultimately caused him to become the composer of the first internationally acclaimed Venedic opera, Głurzuza Wicurza Rzeże Napoleonie sem Szwabór ("King Napoleon's Glorious Victory over the Krauts"), written in 1834 and successfully performed in Warsina (1835), Wileń (1837), Gdańcyk (1843), and Czytać Leoniór (1844).
Although by 1845 Chopin's name was well-established both internationally and in the RTC, his fame and glory continued to grow steadily. In 1863 he was awarded the title of "honorary artist of the royal court", and in 1872 he was even considered a serious candidate for the succession of king Klemięć the Jekwiała-Drinker as the RTC's elected king; it was only due to the machinations of the Lithuanian nobility that not Chopin but the infamous Olgierd the Naked became the next king.
Despite his attractive looks, his sensitive playing, his courteous manner, his considerable wealth and his taste for excessive luxury, Chopin never got married. Although he had several romantic affairs (notably a relationship between 1841 and 1852 with the sixteen years older princess Gracana Poniatka, which had a strong element of the maternal on her side), it is strongly doubted whether Chopin was truly drawn to women. Especially his life-long friendship with the physician Szczefan Dziakoń has caused rumours that Chopin was in fact homosexual, although he never admitted that.
During his entire life, Frydryk Chopin suffered from a poor health. Several times he came close to death: during vacations or concert tours in Aragon (1839), Scotland (1848), Kemr (1868) and Sweden (1873) tuberculosis almost killed him. However, his popularity with the Venedic aristocracy and in particular the royal court always granted him the best possible medical care, and in the end he always survived.
Thus, during his entire life Chopin was Veneda's most famous and most successful pianist and composer. Altogether, his works for piano solo number 355 mazurzyks and mazurzycas, 199 nocturnes, 181 etudes, 70 waltzes, 58 vénédaises (including the famous Andante Spianato and Grande Vénédaise Brillante in E flat major), 31 ballades, 27 scherzos, 13 impromptus, 12 sonatas, 8 rondos, 5 books of preludes, and several sets of variations and smaller works. Furthermore, he wrote seventeen concertos for piano and orchestra, nine operas, four symphonies, two violin concertos, a cello concerto, a clarinet concerto, a concerto for taragot and bandura orchestra, and numerous chamber works, including over 300 songs.
After 1880, Chopin's musical language changed radically. Different opinions have been ventilated about the question why. Some argue that Chopin simply had enough of the forms he had been using his entire life, others believe he had discovered a deeper truth (or even, that he was in a direct contact with God), while others explain it from his deteriorating mental capacities. Whatever the cause, Chopin denounced most of his previously written works, burnt many of his older manuscripts, and started to write a kind of music that was completely unheard of before, and that even in the early 21th century sounds like pure avantgarde. Clearly, he was exploring extremes: some works of this period are unusually long (for example, his fifteenth piano concerto, written in 1897, requires and orchestra of over 600 musicians and lasts no less than two hours and fifteen minutes), others are extremely short (like his sonata for double-bass and piano: one minute and fourty seconds). He also showed a radically new and free approach to tonality, culminating in almost complete atonality; he even experimented with series of twelve tones, more than twenty years before dodecaphony was officially invented in Vienna by Arnold Schönberg. Chopin also developed a special preference for unusual instrument combinations: after having written almost exclusively piano music, he started to write sonatas for heckelphone and organ, for bass tuba and piano, for tenor saxophone and piano, for Dumnonian bagpipe and lyra, for bandura orchestra, etc. And while after 1897 he could not even remember his own name, he remained a prolific composer of interesting albeit strange works. When he finally died of old age on 29 February 1904, one day before his 94th birthday, he left no less than twenty-seven unfinished manuscripts he had apparently been working on simultaneously. He was buried in the Skleża Sąciej Krucze at the Parwija Kordynieża.