Chopin: the self-taught virtuoso

and romantic composer

A very personal view of music on the piano

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) is a Polish songwriter and pianist who marked his time through a highly personal style. He is considered one of the greatest piano composers of the Romantic period. Today, the study of his works is essential to understanding the universal piano repertoire. His style and technique have influenced many other artists such as Maurice Ravel and Sergei Rachmaninoff . After starting his career in Poland, he finally decided to emigrate to France, where he remained for the rest of his life.  Although he had experienced health problems and disappointments in love throughout his life, the musician was able to reach the top at an international level thanks to a very personal view of music on the piano. His musical contributions are invaluable and Chopin knew how to master harmony and counterpoint to perfection, offering works full of delicacy and elegance. His techniques have revolutionised the piano world whilst providing a particular and easily recognisable melody of his own.

Chopin took on many roles throughout his life.

In addition to being a composer, he was the interpreter of his works and a concert performer. He was also a piano teacher even though he himself refused to attend classes during his teenage years. In fact, he taught himself to play from the beginning so that he could develop concept of piano playing: he did not want to imitate anyone in order to offer a unique piece of work. His passion for the keys became such that all his works included a piano, with or without an accompaniment.

Chopin's Nocturnes are 21 pieces for the solo pianist is still regarded as priceless works of the contemporary repertoire.

Although Chopin did not invent this type of musical structure, he popularised the genre with the success that it has today. As for the Preludes by Chopin (1835-1839), these 24 short pieces for the solo pianist were written in different tones. Chopin followed the circle of fifths: each major key is followed by its relative minor. To compose this series of works, Chopin was inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach and his Well-Tempered Clavier.

As for the Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor (Op. 35) by Chopin, it was written mainly in 1839, except the third and most famous movement called "Funeral March", which was written in 1837. This sonata is made up of four movements: Grave - Doppio movimento Scherzo, funeral March: Lento and Finale: Presto. The work was received poor reviews by critics because of a lack of consistency. Indeed, the first movement introduces a turbulent theme that is followed with a second theme much softer, whilst the second movement is more relaxed and melodic. The third movement consists of the funeral march. The last part of the work is a constant tempo mixture that does not include any chords or rests. The extremely popular funeral march, resounded in particular at Chopin's funeral which took place at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

On the other hand, 17 waltzes are among the most famous works of Chopin.

Yet his compositions in the field are not traditional, because only three of them can be danced to: the Grande valse brillante in E-flat major (Op. 18), which was the first waltz of the composer for piano, Waltz (Op. 64 , No. 2) and Waltz (op. 70, No. 2). Among the compositions of the same genre, Chopin also wrote the "Waltz of the little dog", also known as the "Minute Waltz" in D flat major, a work that is not considered as a "grandiose" waltz but is extremely short (one minute is scarcely necessary for interpretation).

From 1825 to 1849, Chopin also composed several mazurkas, like the Four Mazurkas in F sharp minor, C sharp minor, E major, E flat minor (1830/2, op. 6). These works are a tribute to the Polish traditional dance, very rhythmic, three-time and brisk tempo. Many other composers of Eastern Europe have decided to follow this model to expose and defend their national music.

Chopin was a passionate and meticulous composer that fought every day to successfully live off his art, and his success probably lies in all the energy and determination that defined his character and his work. Nevertheless, tuberculosis ends up gradually weakening him whilst his depression deepens until his death at the age of 39 years old.

On th our site we offer two Prelude and Nocturne n 20 to our students. Prelude number 4 of Chopin is available in both English and French. Prelude number 20 and Nocturne number 20,Chopin are available only in French for the moment.