Poland’s most famous musical son, Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), left his homeland at the age of 20 and settled in Paris where he made a name for himself as one of the leading composers of his time. Renowned for his music for solo piano – etudes, mazurkas, nocturnes, ballades, impromptus and so on – Chopin was himself a pianist, although he preferred to perform in private salons rather than public concert halls. He made his living primarily from sheet music sales and piano teaching. Despite composing a large quantity of piano music, Chopin wrote relatively little for piano and orchestra, and almost all of it was composed before he left Poland. In addition to the two piano concertos (rather confusingly, the Piano Concerto No 1 was written after the Piano Concerto No 2), his music for piano and orchestra includes the Fantasy on Polish Airs and Grande polonaise brilliante. As these titles indicate, Chopin drew upon the music of his homeland from time to time. Indeed, he was able to bring to the attention of Parisians Polish dissatisfaction with the country’s tripartite division (Polish territory was divided between Russia, Prussia and the Austrian Empire) and lack of home rule. Chopin died at the appallingly young age of 39. He is buried in Paris’ Père Lachaise cemetery (not far from the grave of Jim Morrison of The Doors). Fittingly, his heart was taken to Poland where it resides in the church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw.
© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra