Frederick Chopin
The 1830s have been called "the decade of the piano" because during
that period the piano and the music written for it played a dominant role in

European musical culture. The piano had, of course, already been popular for
more than half a century, but by the third decade of the nineteenth century,
changes in the instrument and its audience transformed the piano\'s role in
musical life. As the Industrial Revolution hit its stride, piano manufacturers
developed methods for building many more pianos than had previously been
feasible, and at lower cost. Pianos ceased to be the exclusive province of the
wealthy; an expanding middle class could also aspire to own them and make music
at home. Thousands of amateur pianists began to take lessons, buy printed music,
and attend concerts. Virtuosos like Friedrich Kalkbrenner, Sigismund Thalberg,
and Franz Liszt became the first musical superstars, touring Europe and
astonishing audiences with music they had composed to display their piano
technique. Frederick Chopin was born in a small village named Zelazowa Wola
located in Poland on March 1st, 1810. His passionate love of music showed itself
at an early age. There are stories, for instance, of how when his mother and
sister played dances on their grand piano he would burst into tears for the
sheer beauty of the sounds he heard. Soon he began to explore the keyboard for
himself and delighted in experimenting. By the age of seven he had become
sufficiently good for his parents to try and find him a teacher. Their choice
fell on Adalbert Zywny, a Bohemian composer then aged sixty-one and now
remembered solely as Chopin’s first teacher. Within a few months of beginning
his studies with Zywny, Chopin began to play in public, and by the end of 1817,
at the age of seven, had already been described by many as ‘Mozart’s
successor’. Chopin began to compose around this time, and continued to do so
throughout his student years, but only a handful of these works were printed. In
the autumn of 1826, Chopin began studying the theory of music, figured bass, and
composition at the Warsaw High School of Music. Its head was the composer Józef

Elsner. Chopin, however, did not attend the piano class. Aware of the
exceptional nature of Chopin\'s talent, Elsner allowed him, in accordance with
his personality and temperament, to concentrate on piano music but was unbending
as regards theoretical subjects, in particular counterpoint. Chopin, endowed by
nature with magnificent melodic invention, ease of free improvisation, and an
inclination towards brilliant effects and perfect harmony, gained in Elsner\'s
school a solid grounding, discipline, and precision of construction, as well as
an understanding of the meaning and logic of each note. This was the period of
the first extended works such as the Sonata in C minor, Variations, on a theme
from Don Juan by Mozart, the Rondo á la Krakowiak, the Fantaisie, and the Trio
in G minor. Chopin ended his education at the High School in 1829, and after the
third year of his studies Elsner wrote in a report: "Chopin, Fryderyk,
third year student, amazing talent, musical genius". After completing his
studies, Chopin planned a longer stay abroad to become acquainted with the
musical life of Europe and to win fame. Up to then, he had never left Poland,
with the exception of two brief stays in Prussia. In 1826, he had spent a
holiday in Bad Reinertz (modern day Duszniki-Zdrój) in Lower Silesia, and two
years later he had accompanied his father\'s friend, Professor Feliks Jarocki, on
his journey to Berlin to attend a congress of naturalists. Here, quite unknown
to the Prussian public, he concentrated on observing the local musical scene.

Now he pursued bolder plans. In July 1829 he made a short excursion to Vienna in
the company of his acquaintances. Wilhelm Würfel, who had been staying there
for three years, introduced him to the musical environment, and enabled Chopin
to give two performances in the Kärtnertortheater. He enjoyed his tremendous
success with the public, and although the critics censured his performance for
its small volume of sound, they acclaimed him as a genius of the piano and
praised his compositions. Consequently, the Viennese publisher Tobias Haslinger
printed the Variations on a theme from Mozart (1830), a piece he performed at
the Kärtnertortheater. This was the first publication of a Chopin composition
abroad, for up to then, his works had only been published in Warsaw. Upon his
return to Warsaw, Chopin, already free from student duties, devoted himself to
composition and wrote, among other pieces, two Concertos for piano and
orchestra: