Frederic Chopin

Frederic Chopin

Piano's most popular composer.

Frederic Chopin is probably the single most influential composer for the piano who ever lived. The Polish composer, who lived near Warsaw for most of his life and died in Paris, popularized the mazurka, but also innovated the sonata, prelude and waltz. If you hear a piece of dramatic piano music in a movie or television show today, you can guess it's probably by Chopin (if it's not by French composer, Satie). In his short life--he only lived to the age of 39, Chopin accomplished a great deal.

Chopin was a composer for the masses. The Industrial Revolution changed the way instruments were produced. Now they could be mass produced—the entire instrument or parts of the instrument—so manufacturers could make more instruments, including pianos, more quickly. This mass production made instruments cheaper so more families could buy instruments for their homes. This mass-production of the piano could have influenced composers of parlor music, including Chopin, in creating music that amateur musicians could play at parties and gatherings.

Chopin's arguably most famous series of pieces, Nocturnes, were 21 short compositions written between 1826 and 1846. Critics most often described Chopin’s Nocturnes either in a positive light as dreamy and sentimental or more negatively as effeminate. Kallberg says that genres don’t just represent something musically, but also reflect the way society defines the genre. So Kallberg seems to say extra-musical ideas taken from society—like comparing Chopin’s Nocturnes to louder and boisterous and therefore manly music of Beethoven-- influenced the critics’ opinions of these Nocturnes

Amandine Lucile Aurore Dupin, better known by her pen name of George Sand, carried on a long relationship with Chopin. She writes about Chopin’s inspiration, his difficultly in working with that inspiration, and his belief that he should not always trust his first inspiration. This excerpt says that Chopin’s inspiration was something that was frustrating in its fragmentation as well as something that he didn’t always trust to be correct. Sand says that Chopin got inspiration in strange places, but when he went back to write it down, it took him many hours to put it on paper. This seems to say inspiration comes in fragments in unexpected places and the real struggle begins when the artist has to piece his inspiration together. Also, it’s interesting that Chopin didn’t trust his inspiration as something that could lead him.

Have you ever attempted to play Chopin's music on the piano?