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Chopin’s ‘Soul and Heart’

March 11, 2010

Byron Janis in the WSJ:

March 1 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great composer and pianist Frédéric François Chopin. Or was it? Not according to his sister Ludwika, Franz Liszt and Chopin’s close friend Jules Fontana. They all said, at one time or another, that he was born on March 1, 1 809, despite Chopin’s insisting his birthday was a year later. To add to the mystery, there is a birth certificate issued by the parish church in Brochów, Poland (and on display there to this day)—near Zelazowa Wola, the small town outside Warsaw where Chopin was born. It gives us still another date: Feb. 22, 1810, the same date inscribed on Polish monuments and on his burial site at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Chopin was born of a French father and a Polish mother, and though he lived half his life in Paris, his heart and soul were always with Poland. His passion for music showed itself early—even at age 3 he would cry whenever he heard it. His mother, an amateur pianist, decided to give him lessons and taught him what little she knew. Fortunately, both his later piano teachers recognized the boy’s genius and did not try to force the conventional methods of playing on him. They let him go his own way, freeing him to become the unique, great pianist he was. [More]

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