This week in Great Music, I return to the world of Classical Music. Once Again I will feature the music of my favorite composer, Frederic Chopin. As I have written about Chopin before, to refresh your memories he was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1810. At age 20, he left Warsaw for Paris, then a city known as a hotbed of music for musicians.
Chopin was quite popular in Paris, giving numerous concerts, and being admired as an outstanding pianist. He lived with the famous writer who used as her pen name, George Sands. She adopted a male name because publishers were unlikely to publish books by women. It was in Paris that Chopin was at his creative heights in composing music.
Like many musicians, then as now, Chopin scratched out a living selling his compositions as well as taking students for piano lessons. He was always in poor health and this limited both his musical output as well as his economic well being.
In this music article I am focusing on Chopin’s Etudes in Opus 10 and 25. Each set of etudes comprise 12 pieces of music. These were designed to be technique exercises for his advanced piano students. However, when you listen to today’s choice of the Etude Op.25 #12 which musicians call “The Ocean” you will probably come to the same conclusion as I did – if you can play this you are already as advanced as it is possible to be as a pianist. To play this, one must go into physical training otherwise the arms get too tired to finish it. The etude is called the Ocean because when Chopin wrote he was mimicking the ocean waves from a trip he and Sands made to the island of Majorca.
Just to remind you a few details about Chopin, he died in Paris in 1849 at age 39, probably of tuberculosis. The image at the beginning of this article is his tombstone in a Paris Cemetery. Remember, this is where his body is buried but Chopin’s sister traveled to Paris to cut out his heart so his heart could return to his beloved Poland. She hid the heart in a bottle of cognac and the heart is now on exhibit in the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.