Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin (Frédéric François Chopin) was born on March 10th, 1810 in Żelazowa Wola, Poland. His mother, Tekla Justyna Krzyżanowska, was of Polish descent and his father, Mikolaj Nicolas Chopin, was a French expatriate. Both Mikolaj Nicolas and Tekla Justyna Chopin played a major role in Fryderyk's academic and musical tutelage by ensuring that he was well taught by means of home schooling. Being that both his parents were musicians, his mother a pianist and his father a violinist, Chopin was encouraged to develop and expand his already apparent musical gift. He was called a "child prodigy" and "little Mozart" and at the age of seven he had already composed two Polonaise, the first in G and the second in B flat. As a result of his inventive and somewhat complicated pieces, Chopin was considered one of the most prolific and imaginative composers in the Romantic Era who had a tremendous impact on piano music. His influences included Haydn, Mozart, Clementi and Beethoven. He transformed instrumental genres into solo piano pieces and wrote specifically for the solo piano. No other composer has enhanced and augmented the perception of Western piano music during the Romantic Era than Chopin. Chopin officially began piano lessons at the age of seven with Wojciech Żywny and this lasted for five years but ended thereafter with the realization that Chopin surpassed his teacher's own abilities. At the age of thirteen, he enrolled in the Warsaw Lyceum where his composition teacher, Josez Elsner, called him a piano genius. It was at this time that Chopin had an opportunity to socialize and interact with the country folk and examine their customs and traditions with his friends Dominik Dziewanowski and Julian Fontana. He was later accepted to the Warsaw Conservatory of Music, where his father taught as a professor and was instructed by Wilhelm Würfel, who was a renowned pianist and scholar. During this crucial time in his life, Chopin published his first Mazurka in B flat, which made way for many more traditional dance pieces to be composed. The Mazurka, a polish traditional dance in triple meter, was one of Chopin's primary focus at the beginning of his compositional life. He regarded Mazurkas as serious piano pieces, not meant to be danced to. However, his pieces incorporated the appropriation of dance gestures, with melodic and modal influences from the traditional Mazurka dance tradition. What inspired this barrage of traditionalism and nationalism was Russia's rule in Poland. There was a renewed sense of patriotism in Poland during 1830 and 1831 despite their defeat against the Russian invasion. The Poles were forced to examine their culture and separate themselves from the Russians that were now in control of their country. Chopin was deeply saddened by the Russian rule in Poland and out of this depression came a new Polish identity. The Mazurka was now spreading to different countries via the Russian aristocrats in Poland. Chopin was in demand to play at many salons and concerts, though he preferred the intimate setting of the salon to the concert hall. One of his most recognized Mazurkas is Mazurka in C minor Op. 30 No. 1. Chopin composed 58 Mazurkas and was the sole catalyst to expose Mazurkas to the public on a major scale.
Chopin's Mazurkas embodied different feelings. Some were composed for weddings, village events, political and social gatherings, as well as martial and
historical occasions. However, Chopin's Mazurkas evoked an emotional and intimate side to the music. Robert Schumann, one of Chopin's contemporaries, is quoted as saying, "some poetic trait, something new, was to be found in everyone of Chopin's Mazurkas".
Another genre of piano music that Chopin composed many pieces for was the Viennese Waltz. This was in direct relation to his trip to Vienna in 1929, where he performed a free concert in order to get his manuscript of variations on "La ci darem la mano" by Mozart...