Frédéric Chopin


The Parisian reviewer Ernst Legouvé remarked, not without humour: “To the question of who is the greatest pianist in the world – Liszt or Thalberg – there is only one answer: Chopin!”. Felix Mendelssohn was also impressed: “As a piano player”, he wrote in a letter to his mother in May 1834, “Chopin is now one of the very first of all. He produces new effects, like Paganini on his violin, and accomplishes wonderful passages, such as no one could formerly have thought practicable”.

Frédéric Chopin, who was born in a small village west of Warsaw in 1810, was a musical prodigy. In 1829, he completed his studies under Józef Elsner, whose last assessment of his pupil laconically states: “exceptional talent, musical genius”. After the Polish ministry of education rejected a scholarship application from the 19-year-old pianist and composer of the century, Chopin travelled to Vienna on his own account to present himself to the musical public. He made his debut as a pianist and composer at the Kärntnertortheater in August 1829 – with tremendous success. After equally acclaimed visits to Prague and Dresden, Chopin returned to Warsaw. His first public concert in the city in March 1830 caused a sensation. Due to the escalating political crisis, Chopin left his homeland for good on 2 November 1830 – barely a day too early, as the uprising against the Russian occupation began on 11 November with the storming of the Belvedere Palace in Warsaw, which was brutally suppressed the following autumn. After his debut in Paris in February 1832, which was even attended by Mendelssohn and Liszt, Chopin became one of the most famous musicians of his time and was universally recognised as a virtuoso and highly innovative composer: “Hats off, gentlemen, a genius”, was the verdict of composer and music journalist Robert Schumann. On 16 February 1848, Chopin gave his last concert in Paris. After the revolution which broke out a few days later, and a seven-month stay in Great Britain, he returned to the French capital in poor health. At his own request, Mozart’s Requiem was performed in the Église de la Madeleine after his death on 30 October 1849.


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