A Little On Frederic Chopin

chopinbustThis Saturday, May 1, 2010, California Ballet Company will be performing a Chopin Tribute as part of the Chopin Bicentennial Festival. We’ve put it in a press release, it’s been on the radio, you’ve seen it in our Blog and on Facebook.

But, do you really know anything about the man we’re celebrating? The great composer who was born two hundred years ago? Well, let us enlighten you!


Born in a village near Warsaw, Poland on March 1, 1810, Frederic Chopin was the second child and only son of a French expatriate father and a Polish mother. He began his music training at an early age, and before long it became apparent that he was not only gifted, but a child prodigy! Chopin composed his first piece of music by the age of seven, and by age eight he was performing in aristocratic salons.


                                             Joseph Elsner

Chopin studied with the Warsaw Lyceum from 1823 to 1826. In 1826, he entered the tutelage of Joseph Elsner, the founder and director of the Warsaw Conservatory. Under Elsner’s instruction, Chopin received an excellent theoretical education. Elsner realized early on that Chopin’s prodigal genius shouldn’t be reined in by a controlled, classical education. Instead, he allowed his young student to explore and develop his own style, and as a result Chopin developed his own personal musical style early on – a style that stayed with him and didn’t change for the rest of his life.



Deciding that he couldn’t further develop as a musician if he didn’t leave Warsaw, Chopin left in 1830 to tour Europe and finally settle in Paris. The twenty-year-old Chopin was already experiencing declining health, and a a result he deigned to not perform in public in the presence of such other virtuosos as Liszt. Instead, Chopin became on of the foremost piano instructors in Paris, with his clientele being made up, almost exclusively, of rich Parisian aristocratic ladies.


The place that Chopin made his biggest mark, however, was in the world of music composition.  The great majority of his works were written for the piano as a solo instrument, and all of his extant works feature the piano in one way or another. Chopin is famous for having pushed the limits of the piano, further developing theory and technique to where it is today. He was the first pianist to experiment with using the fifth finger and thumb on the black keys, as well as sliding the same finger from a black key to a white. He redefined harmonies and raised the etude from a practice piece to a performance piece. Chopin was instrumental (pun intended) in making the musical shift from the Classical era to the Romantic era (coinciding with the same in ballet).

In 1848, revolution broke out in France and Chopin fled to England and Scotland. He played several private concerts in London, and even played for Queen Victoria on May 15, 1848! After a brief rest in Scotland, he returned to London in the fall of 1848, where he played for a benefit for Polish refugees at Guild Hall. In the midst of frailty and fever, this ended up being Chopin’s final performance.


The composer returned to Paris shortly after the Guildhall concert and, after a prolonged fight with pulmonary tuberculosis, died on October 17, 1849 at the age of 39.

Frederic Chopin was a gifted composer and a virtuoso pianist with a gift for melody and adventurous harmony. His contributions to music, and his explorations of the piano’s dynamics changed the way the world experiences music for all time.

It’s with indebted gratitude and light feet that California Ballet Company presents his music with dance this Saturday. In the spirit of Chopin’s piano virtuosity, we will be presenting three of the pieces with live pianists of the highest caliber. Don’t miss your chance to see this great composer come to life!

Ticket may be purchased by telephone at (858) 560-6741 (mention the blog when you call this number for a 20% discount)

or online at www.californiaballet.org

**Note: you will only receive a discount when you call the California Ballet ticketing office and mention the blog!


-The California Ballet Staff


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