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Music / Fryderyk Chopin

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Daguerrotype, c. 1849

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin note , also known by the French version of his name, Frédéric François Chopin (his father was French-born) (1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer from the Romantic Era of Classical Music.

Born in 1810 in Poland, he wrote almost exclusively for the piano, and his works are well-known for both their lyrical content and technical demands. When Russia invaded Poland, he left his home country, never to see it again. He nevertheless kept his national spirit through his writing of some of the best-known mazurkas and polonaises.

He had an affair with French writer Amantine de Francueil (better known by her nom de plume George Sand) at some point, before dying unfortunately young in 1849 of tuberculosis.

Some of his more famous works include:

  • the Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66.
  • the "Marche funèbre" that serves as the slow movement of his Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35, colloquially known in modern times as "The Funeral March", an adaptation of which was The Undertaker's entrance music for much of his career.
  • the "Revolutionary Etude," the Étude in C minor, Op. 10 No. 12
  • the Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9 No. 2
  • the Waltz in D flat major, Op. 64, No. 1, popularly known as the Minute Waltz (Valse du Petit Chien)
  • the Polonaise in A flat Major, Op. 53. Also known as the "Heroic Polonaise".
  • the Ballade in G minor, Op. 23, No. 1

Chopin's music and life provide examples of:

  • Buried Alive: He was terrified of the idea, like many people of his era. The quote on the page is him asking to be dissected to ensure he was actually dead before they buried him.
  • Downer Ending: The last two movements of Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor consist of a slow movement "Marche funèbre" and a bleak, enigmatic "perpetual motion" finale that is mostly hushed in feel and definitively ends in a minor key.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: So many of Chopin's piano pieces are soft, lyrical, and melancholy, or at least have quiet melancholy moments amidst the other performance fireworks. In particular the Preludes, Nocturnes, and Waltzes are often used to underscore quiet moments.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Chopin's relationship with author George Sand exemplifies this trope. Sand (real name Amantine de Francueil) was an openly bisexual woman who wore male attire and smoked cigars, all three of which were at least frowned on by Parisian society, while Chopin was the frail, sensitive, retiring type.
  • Never Trust a Title: The so-called "Minute Waltz" has nothing to do with its performance duration, instead using the work "minute" to mean "small." In fact, Chopin gave the work the title Valse du petit chien (Waltz of the Little Dog) because he got the idea for the piece after watching a small dog chasing its tail.
  • Older Is Better: Chopin's Preludes are essentially modeled after Johann Sebastian Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier minus the fugues.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Chopin was born in Poland, but spent most of his life in Paris. Nevertheless, several of his compositions display a strong affinity for his country of birth. He wrote several examples of works derived from Polish dances such as the polonaise and mazurka, and his Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20 quotes the Polish Christmas carol "Lulajze, Jezuniu." Chopin was one of the first overtly nationalist Romantic period composers.
  • Romanticism: One of the major exponents of this ethos in nineteenth century piano music. Much of his music can be described using terms such as dreamy, haunting, lush, lyric, heroic, or emotional. His keyboard writing is often showy, sometimes containing passages of florid right-hand figuration in an improvisatory manner called "fioritura."
  • Standard Snippet: The "Marche funèbre" third movement of Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor is often used to underscore scenes involving death, funerals, and similar subjects.

Chopin in fiction:

Alternative Title(s): Frederic Chopin