Essay, Research Paper: Chopin


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Frederic Chopin is known to be one of the greatest composers of piano music of
all time. He spent most of his life in Paris and was good friends with famous
artists such as Ingres and Delacroix. His music is considered to be romantic in
content, but very different from the romanticism of the time. In fact is said
that he very much disliked the music under this classification, and he thought
most of it was quite vulgar. (Schonberg) At age 16 Chopin was already very well
known for his music, and at that time he was already enrolled in the Warsaw
Conservatory of Music. His teacher Joseph Elsner was said to have done a
brilliant job preparing him for his life in composition and music. Elsner was
able to see ChopinŐs potential as a great musician and did nothing to impede
his own personal progress, but at the same time he gave Chopin a solid
background in harmony and composition. (Britannica) ChopinŐs music is quite
different from anything the world had ever seen. One thing that sets it apart is
the fact that it received little or no criticism from anyone. It was universally
considered to be the work of a master, and its content has never been called
into question. His music has consistently received commendation from musicians
and the general public a like which is very uncommon. ChopinŐs work has given
him the status of somewhat of and immortal in the sense that no one before or
since has had such an ability to bring out the beauty of piano music. He has an
uncanny ability to grab and hold the attention of the reader, and also a keen
sense and understanding of the secret places inside the human soul. He uses this
understanding to move people with beauty and power of his work. (Britanica) Very
much unlike many other famous musicians, Chopin could not stand to preform in
concerts and as a result it is said that he performed in less than thirty over
the course of his entire life. Despite this lack of conformity to the
expectations of Parisian life, he was able to maintain a very extravagant
lifestyle through piano lessons. He commanded as much as thirty francs per
lesson, which at the time was a very large amount money. His reputation and
ability allowed him to request these sums with no problem. As a result he was
teaching only the richest members of Parisian society. (World Book Encyclopedia)
Chopin was known to be a very likable man whose personality and tastes allowed
him to be welcomed into the homes of the elite families of Paris. He was very
conservative in his private life as well. He was not at all effeminate, and he
lived a very modest life in terms of his lovers and affairs. There were a few
women in his life, but the number was apparently quite low considering his
stature and position in society. He did have a long lasting affair with famous
novelist woman who wrote under the pen name George Sand. She was described as
short and dumpy, but his love for her was strong, and she helped nurse him
through a a very hard fight with tuberculosis which later killed him. (Schonberg)
In SchonbergŐs book The Lives of Great Composers, he states: Chopin had no
false modesty about himself and his work. As early as 1831 he was writing about
his Ňperhaps too audacious but noble wish and intention to create for myself an
new world.Ó He did precisely that. As a pianist he created a style that
dominated the entire second half of the nineteenth century and was not
substantially changed until until Debussy and Prokofiev came along. It was a
style that broke sharply from everything that went before it. For the first time
the piano became a total instrument: a singing instrument, and instrument of
infinite color poetry, and nuance, a heroic instrument, and intimate instrument.
SchumannŐs piano music, wonderful as it is, original as is, sounds thick by
comparison. ChopinŐs music flowered naturally out of his own way of playing the
piano, as a pianist he was light years ahead of Schumann, exploiting the
instrument in an idiomatic and completely modern manner. In any case, the piano
music of Schumann, exerted relatively influence in its day, whereas the new
ideas about pedaling, fingering, rhythm, and coloristic resource that Chopin
invented were immediately taken up by every one of the younger pianists. (Schonberg
171-172) This passage gives a nice summation of the importance of ChopinŐs
contributions to the music world. He was a man who knew his value, and did his
best to educate the future musicians of the world. It is difficult to choose one
of ChopinŐs works as being his defining contribution because so many of them as
great. All in all he is one of the greatest pianist to ever live.
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