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Chopin's life

In his lifetime

The second of four children, Chopin is born on probably 1 March in Zelazowa Wola, Poland, to a French father and Polish mother. In October the family moves to Warsaw where Chopin's father teaches French at the Lyceum. his mother is an amateur pianist and singer.
1810
1815
After Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo and banished to the island of St Helena, delegates at the Congress of Vienna redraw the political map of Europe, leaving Poland partitioned and effectively under Russian, Prussian and Austrian rule.
Aged only seven, Chopin publishes his first piece, a Polonaise in G minor. Despite being largely self-taught he proves himself a child prodigy on the piano, soon performing half-composed, half-improvised works in the salons of wealthy aristocrats.
1817
1819
Réné Laennec publishes a treatise on how to use his newly invented 'stethoscope', designed to eliminate the mutual embarrassment caused when putting his ear directly against the chests of female patients. It aids his research into tuberculosis, the disease that later kills both him and Chopin.
Tsar Alexander I presents Chopin with a diamond ring on hearing him perform. Chopin studies music theory with Jozéf Elsner at the Warsaw High School (Conservatory), graduating in 1829 with a report saying ‘exceptional talent, musical genius’.
1826
1829
Piano manufacturers Pleyel engage virtuoso pianist Frédéric Kalkbrenner to promote their instruments, a year later opening a concert salon where Chopin makes his Paris début in 1832. Chopin later says ‘when I feel in good form . . . I need a Pleyel piano’.
Stifled by the provincialism of Warsaw Chopin spends eight months in Vienna before settling in Paris where he achieves fame as a salon pianist and an inspired teacher. With two piano concertos to his name he writes mazurkas, études, nocturnes and ballades.
1830
1830
A few months after activists overthrow the Bourbon monarchy in France, Polish nationalists mount an anti-Tsarist revolution in Warsaw. However, Russian troops quash the rebellion and a period of harsh repression ensues.
Chopin starts an affair with the (married) novelist George Sand. Together with her two children (aged 10 and 15) they spend a cold winter in Majorca where he completes his aphoristic Préludes op.28 while battling against worsening tuberculosis.
1838
1839
Louis Daguerre launches a new type of photograph, the daguerreotype, which chemically fixes an image onto a polished silver-plated sheet of copper. Within months the French government buy the rights to his invention, declaring it a 'free gift to the world'.
Chopin divides his time between Paris and Sand’s home in Nohant where her bohemian circle includes Pauline Viardot, Delacroix and Balzac. He produces seminal works including the Fantasy in F minor Op.49 and Ballade Op.52.
1842
1845
The discovery of a fifth asteroid, 5 Astraea, by amateur astronomer Karl Ludwig Hencke triggers interest in, and the rapid identification of, thousands more such celestial bodies. The 3784th asteroid, discovered in 1986, is named after Chopin.
Sand’s unflattering and ill-disguised portrait of Chopin in her novel Lucrezia Floriani reflects the disintegration of their relationship. He completes his dramatic Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat before separating from her in 1847, never recovering his élan.
1847
1848
Starting in Palermo a wave of revolutions spreads through Europe as the middle and working classes protest against poor wages and working conditions, unfair taxes, censorship and lack of voting rights. In France the monarchy is deposed for good.
Chopin dies in Paris on 17 October of pulmonary tuberculosis. 3000 people attend his funeral at the Madeleine after which his remains are buried in Père Lachaise cemetery below a monument designed by sculptor André Clésinger, George Sand’s son-in-law.
1849
1850
Having penned over a hundred novels and a satirical essay on marriage in his collection La comédie humaine, fifty-year-old bachelor Honoré de Balzac finally weds his sweetheart, Polish noblewoman Ewelina Hanska. Sadly he dies just five months later.


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