Fryderyk Chopin (1810 .1849)
Complete Piano Music Vol. 3
Mazurkas Vol. 1
Fryderyk Chopin was born in Zelazowa Wola, near Warsaw,in 1810. His father,
Nicolas Chopin, was French by birth, but had been takento Poland in 1787, at the age of sixteen, working first as a clerk in a tobaccofactory, before taking part in the Polish rising against the foreign dominationof the country as an officer in the National Guard. After the failure of thisattempt, he was able to earn his living as a French tutor in various privatefamilies, and in 1806 he married a poor relation of his then employer, Count Skarbek.
Chopin was to inherit from his father a fierce sense ofloyalty to Poland, a feeling that he fostered largely in self-imposed exile,since the greater part of his career was to be spent in Paris. His early education,however, was in Warsaw, where his father had become a teacher at a newly establishedschool. He was able to develop his already precocious musical abilities withpiano lessons from the eccentric Adalbert Zywny, a violinist from Bohemia, whoshared Nicolas Chopin's enthusiasm for Poland and was able to inculcate in his pupila sound respect for the great composers of the eighteenth century. Chopin latertook lessons from the director of the Warsaw Conservatory, Jozef Elsner, andentered the Conservatory as a student in 1826. By then he had already developedhis own individual style as a pianist and had written, during the previous tenyears, a number of pieces for the piano.
Warsaw offered a restricted environment for musicalachievement, although Chopin was able to hear Hummel there in 1828 and theviolinist Paganini in the following year. He had already acquired aconsiderable local reputation when in 1830 he set out for Vienna, where he wasto pass the winter with very little to show for it. An earlier visit to Viennahad aroused interest, but this second visit, undertaken with a more seriouspurpose, produced nothing, and the following summer he set out for Paris, wherehe was to spend much of the rest of his life.
Chopin's attitude to Paris was at first ambivalent. As aprovincial he found much to shock him, while, at the same time, there was muchto impress in the splendour of the city and in the diversity of music there. Hewas to create a special place for himself as a teacher to some of the mostdistinguished families and as a performer in more intimate social gatheringsthan the theatres and concert-halls where his cruder contemporary Franz Lisztcould excel.
By 1837 Chopin had embarked on a liaison with the writerGeorge Sand, born Aurore Dupin, the estranged wife of Baron Dudevant, generallyspending the summer at her country estate at Nohant. The writer of 1838 wasspent with her in Mallorca, where an attempt to battle against a high wind serionslyaffected his lungs, already weakened by tuberculosis. Thereafter Chopin'srelationship with George Sand took a more conventional course, until the jealousiesand rivalry of her two children led to a final quarrel in 1847. George Sand andChopin were never to be reconciled, and he died in Paris in 1849, his health havingdeteriorated considerably during the course of a visit to England and Scotland theyear before, when Paris was undergoing revolution.
As a composer Chopin's achievement was remarkable. Heperfected his own idiomatic style of performance, in which technical problemsseemed not to exist, a style of delicate nuance and elegance. His music, suitedto his manner of playing, showed considerable originality in its exploration ofharmony and in its expansion of existing forms and creation of new ones, openinga world that later composers were to continue to develop. Highly characteristicwere the Polish dances that he transformed from folk-dance or society entertainmentinto vehicles of poetic expression, retaining still the original source ofinspiration.
The Mazurka takes its name from the Mazurs, theinhabitants of the province of Mazovia, near Warsaw. It is a strikingly rhythmicdance, based on certain rhythmic and melodic formulae that find their place inthe fifty Mazurkas of Chopin. Like the Polonaise, the Mazurka
had made its way from the villages of Poland to fashionable ball-rooms in thecities of the country, to Paris, to London and to Russia, enjoying still widerpopularity in the last. In Russia the dance had a modest success too in keyboardrepertoire, with contributions from Glinka, Borodin and Tchaikovsky. Nothingthere, however, could rival the variety of feeling and musical content that Chopinachieved in a form that he first attempted as a ten-year-old in 1820 and last touchedin the year of his death.
The four Mazurkas that make up Opus 6 were writtenin 1830 before Chopin left
Warsaw and published in Paris two years later with adedication to the composer's pupil Paulina Plater, daughter of a Polish emigre farnilyat whose house the mazurka was danced with all the full-blooded energy ofPoland, as Chopin's friend, the poet Juliusz Slowacki reported to his mother. 1831brought a set of five Mazurkas, published in the following year as Opus7 and dedicated to the American musician Paul Emil Johns.
The four Mazurkas of Opus 17 were written in Parisin 1832 and 1833, and published in 1834 with a dedication to the singer Lina Freppa,whom Chopin had met with Vincenzo Bellini, a visitor to Paris in 1833 and astrong influence on his melodic writing. In 1836 he published in Paris a set offour Mazurkas, Opus 24, written in 1834 and 1835 and dedicated to theComte de Perthuis, director of music to King Louis-Philippe.
Two sets of four Mazurkas were published in 1838.
The first, Opus 30, dedicated to the Polish-born Princes Maria Warttemberg,born Czartoryska, sister of Countess Zamoyska and a member of one of Poland'smost distinguished families, the Czartoryskis, whose thes dansants for childrenat the Blue Palace in Warsaw had often been attended by Chopin and who had settledin Paris in 1832, Here Prince Adam Czartoryski, a statesman of considerable experience,led the Polish community in exile. The second set published in the same year,Opus 33, was dedicated to Chopin's pupil Roza Mostowska, whose father had servedas Polish Minister of the Interior at a time when the young composer's applicationfor a grant for study abroad had been refused ten years earlier. The Mazurkain C Sharp Minor, Op.41 No.1 was the first of a set of three published in 1840.
Interpreting Chopin by Idil Biret
Although the romantic era in its music and itsperformances is not so far from our own time, for various reasons we seem tohave distanced ourselves from it. As a consequence, often composers very differentfrom one another like Chopin,
Liszt, Schumann and Wagner are brought under the sametitle of Romantic Composers. In this context it is quite normal to find Chopinand Liszt mentioned together as composers of similar style, while there are notwo s