Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) was the Romantic composer most closely identified with the piano, and his solo piano music won him enormous popularity. He was born near Warsaw, Poland, to a French father and a Polish mother. After studies at the Warsaw Conservatory, he performed in Vienna and toured Germany and Italy. When abroad he heard of the failed Polish revolt against Russian domination and decided to settle in Paris, where he established ties with other composers, including Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz and, briefly, Felix Mendelssohn. His Polish roots always remained strong in exile, and Polish national themes influenced his music. He became the most fashionable piano teacher for wealthy students. The rarity of his public appearances as a pianist (he made only about 30 in the course of his lifetime) increased his cachet and allowed him to charge very high fees for lessons. Already weakened, he went on a tour of England and Scotland and made his last public appearance on a concert platform in London in 1848. He died from tuberculosis in Paris, France, in 1849..- - - - - - - - -
According to Peter Watson, “Chopin invented a new kind of piano playing, the one that we are familiar with today. He had certain reflexes in his fingers which set him apart from other players, at that time at least, and this enabled him to develop piano music that was both experimental and yet refined. ‘Cannon buried in flowers’ is how Schumann described it. (The sentiment was not returned.) Chopin introduced new ideas about pedalling, fingering, and rhythm, which were to prove extremely influential. (He preferred the English Broadwood pianos, less advanced than some available.) His pieces had the delicacy and yet the vivid colourings of impressionist paintings, and just as everyone knows a Renoir from a Degas, so everyone knows Chopin when they hear it….The piano cannot be fully understood without Chopin. Or without Liszt. Like Chopin he was a brilliant technician (he gave his first solo at ten), and like Beethoven (whose Broadwood he acquired) and Berlioz, he had charisma. Good-looking, which was part of that charisma, Liszt invented bravura piano playing.”
The Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was the greatest piano virtuoso of his time. When only nine he made his first public appearance as a concert pianist in what is now Bratislava, Slovakia, and moved with his family to Paris at the age of twelve. There he came into contact with many leading writers and artists, including author Victor Hugo. In 1830 he first met Hector Berlioz and in 1831 he heard Niccolò Paganini play for the first time. At this time he also met Frédéric Chopin. As a pianist Liszt was the first to give complete solo recitals, and between 1839 and 1847 he gave over one thousand solo concerts, touring Europe from Portugal and Ireland in the west to Romania and Russia in the east. His reception at times rivaled the hysteria sometimes afforded rock and pop superstars at the turn of the twenty-first century, and women adored him.
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