Frédéric François Chopin was the master of the piano. All his works, and there are many of them, include the piano as the main instrument, and by far the majority are for piano solo.
What do we know of this great innovator and composer, who born just over 200 years ago (in fact 1 March 1810 according to him although the parish register records the birth as 22 February). His father was a French immigrant to Poland and his mother was completely Polish. They were a musical family with the father taking up a post as a French teacher at an exclusive school in Warsaw when he was still young and his mother giving music lessons to boarders at the school and some residing with them in their home, which was maintained as a boarding house.
His earliest music teacher was his oldest sister but by the age of 7 he was giving public concerts and published 2 of his earliest works; the Polonaises in G and B-flat Major. Such was his early fame that he was being advertized as a Polish Mozart or Mendelssohn. He became a star attraction at fashionable events in Warsaw during the formative years and while he was getting educated including study at the Warsaw Conservatory.
At the age of 21, already reasonably famous, he left Poland and went to Vienna, At this stage a Warsaw uprising occurred against the Russian occupiers, and his traveling companion returned to Poland, while Chopin stayed in Vienna, intending to go on to Italy. He now became a staunch supporter of Poland and was devastated when he heard that the uprising had been crushed. In this period he composed the Revolutionary etude in C minor (Opus 10) and the Scherzo in B minor (opus 20).
He then went to Paris where he remained for the rest of his short life. His first concert in Paris in 1832 (at the age of 22) confirmed him as a celebrity and was much sought after. Unfortunately he contracted Tuberculosis, which was a common ailment and sadly a killer. This was to end his life at the young age of 39.
But in those 39 years his accomplishments were legendary. His works include, apart from two piano concertos (both 1830) and four other works for piano and orchestra, 60 mazurkas, 27 études, 26 preludes, 21 nocturnes, some 20 waltzes, 16 polonaises, 4 ballades, 4 scherzos, and 3 sonatas. Many of these works are still part of the repertoire of today and there are many pianists who have become known a Chopin specialists before moving on to play other composers. Among there is Vladimir Ashkenazy, Maurizio Pollini and Valeri Kissin.
In Paris Chopin has a 10 year relationship with a famous French writer Aurore Dudevant, known as George Sand. His fame was confirmed and although suffering from failing health he continued performing and composing.
But an unfortunate vacation spent in bad weather with George Sand in Majorca, although productive composition wise, was disastrous for his Tuberculosis and from then on his health continually deteriorated. After George Sand left him in 1847 he lost interest in life. He did, however, make a trip to England where, amongst others, he performed for Queen Victoria.
He returned to Paris where he died on October 17 1849.