Born to French/Polish parents in the village of Żelazowa Wola Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849) stands out as Poland’s finest composer, and to this day remains a national icon.
The son of a well-to-do piano tutor and lecturer, he started learning the piano at the tender of age of four. By the age of eight he had already performed at what is now the Presidential Palace. Educated in Warsaw’s lyceum, and then the Warsaw Music Conservatory, he made his official debut in 1829 playing the Second Piano Concerto - allegedly filled with the pain of unrequited love, bless him.
Already recognised as an amazing talent, Chopin started showing the signs of illness that would continue to blight the rest of his life. A keen traveller (there are several records of him sightseeing in Dresden, Torun and Kraków), Chopin set off to play in Vienna in November 1830, following a farewell party in a Wola tavern. Unbeknownst to him, that was to be his last taste of Warsaw.
By the end of the month Poland had rose in rebellion against Russian rule. Dissuaded from joining the uprising himself Chopin drew inspiration from events to write his tortured masterpiece, Revolution. Passages of his Stuttgart diary record his torment: "Oh God, do you exist? Or are you yourself a Muscovite!"
Choosing to stay in exile Chopin settled in Paris where his musical talent led him to mix with high society,
Polish émigrés and upcoming composers of the calibre of Liszt and Bellini. A dapper dresser and natural charmer, he attracted a string of adoring females. Drawing on his Polish upbringing, the 1830s saw Chopin enjoy his most productive spell, composing a series of acclaimed polonaises and mazurkas.
The defining point of his life though can be pinned to his meeting with controversial author George Sand in 1837. In spite of being engaged to a 17 year old girl and some curious first impressions ("what an unpleasant woman"), the two embarked on a torrid nine year affair. Racked with ill-health and a near permanent cough, the faltering relationship hit stormy waters when Sand, an alleged nymphomaniac, serialised the novel Lucretia Floriani in a Paris newspaper. The selfish antihero is commonly recognised as being a parody of Chopin. Broke, ill and broken-hearted Chopin led an increasingly miserable life.
Dogged by tuberculosis he finally passed away in his Paris apartment aged just 39. If you believe the stories he carried a lock of Sand’s hair till the day he died (though by the same token he is also alleged to have carried an urn of Polish soil). Buried in Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, on his insistence his body was cut open (he was terrified of being buried alive) and his heart later buried in Warsaw’s Kościół Świętego Krzyża (see Churches).
The art-nouveau Chopin Monument was erected in 1926 and set in the rose garden of Łazienki Park. On May 31, 1940 it was dynamited by the occupying German forces. By the following day an unknown patriot had placed a placard on the site: ‘I don’t know who destroyed me, but I know why; so I don’t play the funeral march for your leader.’ A plaster-cast of the original model allowed the statue to be rebuilt and a faithful reconstruction was unveiled in 1958. An identical replica can be found at Japan’s Hamamatsu Academy of Music.The art-nouveau Chopin Monument was and set in the rose garden of Łazienki Park. by the occupying German forces. By the following day an unknown patriot had placed a placard on the site: ‘I don’t know who destroyed me, but I know why; so I don’t play the funeral march for your leader.’ A plaster-cast of the original model allowed the statue to be . An identical replica can be found at Japan’s Hamamatsu Academy of Music.
Chopin's Childhood (5 Krakowskie Przedmieście St., close to Warsaw University )
Restored in 1960, none of the original furniture survived the war so everything you see is a faithful reconstruction but based solely on one drawing from 1832. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of period furniture, including the writing desk owned by Chopin’s elder sister, a pianoforte dating from 1830 and some interesting pictures from the era.
Żelazowa Wola (Żelazowa Wola 15 - village outside Warsaw)
2010 - Year of Chopin
In 2010 there will be 200 birthday anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin.
More information: http://www.inyourpocket.com/poland/city/warsaw.html