October 17, 2007

October 17 | Frederic Chopin

March 1, 1810 - October 17, 1849: Age 39

Chopin was the greatest composer for piano of all time, and was also a brilliant performer. He lived at a time when professional musicians could write and perform music for audiences that were larger than ever. Thanks to newspapers he was world-famous from a very early age: as a tyke he was known as a "second Mozart". He also showed great promise in sketching and writing.

In 1830, age 20, he left Poland to give concerts in Western Europe. In November of that year Poland went into revolt against the hegemony of Imperial Russia. The revolt was crushed, and Chopin remained in France, to be joined by thousands of Polish exiles. He was briefly engaged to a Polish girl, whose family called it off. Later he became involved with the writer Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, Baroness Dudevant, better known as George Sand.

In those days a journey was an ordeal, with no central heating either in conveyances or in hotels and slow progress on poor roads. During a journey in 1835 Chopin had his first severe bronchial attack. In the winter of 1838-39 Chopin stayed in Mallorca with Sand and her children. They were unable to find comfortable accommodations and the dank monastery where they did stay caused his health to deteriorate. Over the next 10 years his health and his relationship with Sand were both rocky, and she left him in 1847. By 1848 it was clear he had tuberculosis, and by 1849 he was unable to teach or perform. On October 17, he died in the very early morning. His friend made a death mask and casts of his hands, which can be viewed at the Polish Museum in Rapperswil, Switzerland (or by clicking here and here).

Chopin had a fear of being buried alive, so he requested that his heart be removed before burial. It was given to his sister in Warsaw, who had it sealed into a pillar of the Holy Cross Church. Chopin had also requested Mozart's Requiem be sung at his funeral, but it required female singers and the Church of the Madeleine did not permit them. It took two weeks of negotiations for them to relent, provided the females stayed behind a black curtain.

Sources: Wikipedia articles on Chopin, Sand, and Death Masks

1 comment:

Ulla said...

I have visited the house where Chopin and Sand lived in Mallorca. It seemed like a beautiful, romantic little place... Now I know that the relationship was rocky...
Ce la vie....