This week, Rockport Music will be holding Chopin by Candlelight, a performance of the complete Chopin Nocturnes in a candlelit stage setting by London-based Australian pianist Piers Lane. While many know of Chopin for his famous compositions, less know about the details of his life and what led up to these pieces. For this week’s composer spotlight, get to know Chopin better with a timeline of his life from the Rockport Chamber Music Festival program notes.
1810 Born in Żelazowa Wola, nr. Warsaw, Poland, March 1, 1810. Family moves to Warsaw in October.
1816 First piano lessons from his mother, then from Adalbert Żywny.
1817 First Polonaise, in G minor published.
1818 Charity concert in Warsaw, then many recitals in aristocratic homes.
1822 First composition lessons, from Józef Elsner.
1824 Enrolls at Warsaw Lyceum, where his father teaches. Begins to study harmony.
1825 Plays before Tsar Alexander I, who gives him a diamond ring. Publishes his Op. 1 (Rondo in C minor).
1826 Enters Warsaw Conservatory.
1828 Visits Berlin.
1829 Graduates. Final report: “Chopin F., third year student, exceptional talent, musical genius.” Two successful concerts in Vienna. Declares his infatuation for singer Konstancja Gładkowska.
1830 Plays both piano concertos at his first public concerts in Warsaw. Leaves Poland for Austria, France and Italy.
1831 Unproductive time in Vienna. Homesick. Hears of Warsaw’s defeat by Russians. Writes his first 9 mazurkas. Arrives in Paris in October.
1832 First Paris concerts. Feels at home in Paris among Polish émigrés. Begins a lucrative teaching career to the aristocracy. Publishes Op. 9 Nocturnes.
1833 Joint concert with Liszt. Friendship with Bellini, Mendelssohn, Berlioz. Warm critical reception to the young Pole from the critics.
1834 Earliest Nocturnes and other works (Opp. 8-19) now published simultaneously in France, Germany and England. Composes large-scale compositions like First Scherzo and Ballade rather than salon pieces.
1835 Falls in love with Maria Wodzińska. Visits Schumann in Leipzig. Falls seriously ill in Heidelberg. Rumors of his death.
1836 Marriage proposal to Maria (17) accepted, but family forces secrecy. Meets George Sand.
“What an unattractive person La Sand is. Is she really a woman?” he says.
1837 Engagement severed by Maria’s family. Visits London, though increasingly declines concerts, viewing himself as composer, rather than pianist-composer. Focuses on Nocturnes, Op. 32, Second Scherzo, Etudes Op. 25.
1838 Begins 10-year liaison with Sand. Disastrous winter together in Mallorca. Completes Preludes Op. 28 in Valldemosa.
1839 A seriously ill Chopin and the Sand family leave Mallorca. Summer in Nohant. Finishes B-flat minor Sonata, Mazurkas Op. 41, Nocturne, Op. 37 No. 2.
1840 Entire year in Paris, composing in the day in his own apartment, other hours with Sand in Pigalle.
1841 Glittering concert in April. Productive Summer in Nohant culminates in completion of Op. 48 Nocturnes, A-flat Ballade and F minor Fantasia, Op. 49.
1842 Another productive summer in Nohant, partly in company of Delacroix, culminates in Mazurkas, Op. 50 and other major works.
1843 Continues his practice of Summer composition in Nohant and teaching and socializing the rest of year in Paris. Withdraws from concert-life for five years.
1844 Father dies. Completes Nocturnes Op. 55.
1845 His own health again deteriorates. His sister Ludwika’s visit brings solace. A major rift in his relations with Sand develops.
1846 Family tensions compound the rift. Sand’s novel Lucrezia Floriana, a “portrait” of the Sand-Chopin relationship, adds fuel to the fire. Completes his final Nocturnes, Op. 62.
1847 Chopin sides with Sand’s daughter Solange in entangled family relations, breaking with Sand. She describes it as “a strange conclusion to nine years of exclusive friendship.”
1848 Gives a final Paris concert. Concert tour and exhausting social round in England and Scotland under the guidance and sponsorship of a pupil, Jane Stirling, exhaust him further. Weighing less than 45kg, Chopin returns to Paris.
1849 Stirling offers more financial assistance. Ludwika and family arrive to nurse him through the summer. Chopin spends his final days in new rooms in the Place Vendôme where, celebrated singer Pauline Viardot remarks, “all the fashionable Parisian ladies considered it de rigueur to faint in his room.” Chopin dies there October 17, aged 39. At his own request, his heart is sent in an urn to Warsaw where it rests to this day. More than 3,000 invited guests attended his funeral at the Church of the Madeleine.
Chopin by Candlelight will be held on Friday, June 21, 2019 at 8 p.m.