A 200th ANNIVERSARY : Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin
UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – has proclaimed 2010 “International Chopin Year”. This year, the world will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin.
Fryderyk Chopin was born in the small village of Zelazowa Wola, Poland located 56 km northwest of Warsaw. His father, Mikolaj (Nicholas) Chopin, left his native France at the age of sixteen and became a naturalized citizen of Poland. When the company he worked for went bankrupt, he went to Zelazowa Wola and was a tutor to the children of Count and Countess Skarbek. It was there that Mikolaj Chopin met and later married Tekla Justyna Krzyzanowska, a cousin of the Countess. The actual date of Fryderyk’s birth is in question. According to Fryderyk and other family members, he was born on March 1, 1810. Birth and baptismal registers, however, record Fryderyk Chopin’s birth on February 22, 1810. Nevertheless, the world will celebrate his birth on March 1, as did Fryderyk. Although he was born in Zelazowa Wola, the family moved to Warsaw when he was an infant and Fryderyk was raised in that city. At that time, the large, central area of Poland was known as the Duchy of Warsaw which was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807. With Napoleon’s defeat in Russia, the Duchy was dissolved and claimed by Russia in 1813.
It was his mother who introduced Fryderyk to the joy of music and he began piano lessons at the age of four. By the age of seven, Fryderyk had already composed several polonaises. He was a true master of the polonaise, an elegant, stately dance which originated in Poland. The word polonaise is French for Polish. Fryderyk Chopin was a child prodigy and musical genius who traveled throughout Poland and performed for Polish nobility including the Radziwill, Czartoryski, Sapieha, and Zamoyski families. He also performed at various courts throughout Europe. Fryderyk Chopin was in Paris when in November 1830, a Polish uprising against the Russian regime took place. At that time, Poland as an independent governing nation did not exist. With the exception of the Duchy of Warsaw (1807-1813), no European map between 1795 and 1918 included the country of Poland. It had been partitioned among its neighbors- Prussia (Germany), Russia and Austria. As with numerous uprisings in Poland, the one in 1830 failed.
Fryderyk Chopin loved his homeland but he never set foot on Polish soil again. In his music, the elegant polonaises, romantic waltzes and lively mazurkas, you can hear his longing for the Polish countryside and its people. This brilliant pianist and prolific composer was well received wherever he performed.
Winter months were difficult for Fryderyk Chopin. He was often ill during those months and in 1835, while recovering from an especially virulent illness, Fryderyk Chopin made the decision to write his will. However, he continued to persevere and was able to perform, compose beautiful music and even teach piano to the children of the aristocracy for several more years.
On October 17, 1849, at the age of 39, Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin died in Paris. The cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis. Cyprian Kamil Norwid wrote in the obituary-“A member of the family of Warsaw by nationality, a Pole in his heart and a citizen of the world by his talent has passed from this world.”
A funeral Mass was held in St. Magdalene Church in Paris. According to Fryderyk’s wishes, his “Prelude in E Minor and B Minor” as well as Mozart’s “Requiem” was performed. At Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, the “Funeral March” from “Sonata Op. 35 was played. Although Fryderyk Chopin’s body is buried in Paris, his heart, gently placed in an urn, was taken to Warsaw, Poland and rests in Holy Cross Church. Fryderyk is finally home.
Worldwide events will take place this year to honor Fryderyk Chopin. Concerts, recitals, piano competitions and much more are planned. Perhaps the most unique event began on February 7, 2010. The U.S. space shuttle Endeavor – STS 130 was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Commander, George David Zamka, is of Polish descent. On board that flight is a copy of Chopin’s manuscript “Prelude op. 28 no. 7” as well as various recordings of his music to be played while traveling through space. What a fitting tribute to Fryderyk Chopin, the “Citizen of the World” and now – beyond!
In May 2010, the shuttle crew will present the manuscript to the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage.
If at all possible, attend a Chopin event. Listen to his music and you will touch the soul of Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin.
http://en.chopin.nifc.pl/chopin/places/poland/id/562 Chopin’s Poland (part of above site)
http://www.mapofpoland.net/Zelazowa-Wola,photos.html about Zelazowa Wola
http://www.last.fm/music/Fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric+Chopin about Chopin with videos
http://www.culture.pl/en/culture/artykuly/in_mu_zelazowa_wola Chopin’s childhood home
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