Frederic Chopin, the Polish composer and pianist, was born on March 1,1810, according to the statements of the artist himself and his family, but according to his baptismal certificate, which was written several weeks after his birth, the date was 22 February. His birthplace was the village of Zelazowa Wola, part of the Duchy of Warsaw.
The musical talent of Frederic became apparent extremely early on, and it was compared with the childhood genius of Mozart. Already at the age of 7, Frederic was the author of two polonaises, the first being published in the engraving workshop of Father Cybulski. The prodigy was featured in the Warsaw newspapers, and little Chopin became the attraction and ornament of receptions given in the aristocratic salons of the capital. He also began giving public charity concerts. His first professional piano lessons lasted from 1816 to 1822, when his teacher was no longer able to give any more help to a pupil whose skills surpassed his own. Wilhelm Würfel, a renowned pianist and professor at the Warsaw Conservatory, supervised the further development of Frederic’s talent. Würfel would offer valuable, although irregular, advice as regards playing the piano and organ to young Chopin.
Frederic later attended the Warsaw Lyceum where his father was one of the professors. He spent his summer holidays in estates belonging to the parents of his school friends in various parts of the country. The young composer listened to and noted down the texts of folk songs, took part in peasant weddings and harvest festivities, danced, and played a folk instrument resembling a double bass with the village musicians; all of which he described in his letters. Chopin became well acquainted with the folk music of the Polish plains in its authentic form, with its distinct tonality, richness of rhythms and dance vigor. When composing his first mazurkas in 1825, as well as the later ones, he resorted to this source of inspiration that he kept in mind until the very end of his life.
Chopin soon began studying the theory of music, figured bass and composition at the Warsaw High School of Music, which was both part of the Conservatory and, at the same time, connected with Warsaw University. Its head was the composer Józef Elsner. Chopin, however, did not attend the piano class. Aware of the exceptional nature of Chopin's talent, Elsner allowed him, in accordance with his personality and temperament, to concentrate on piano music but was unbending as regards theoretical subjects, in particular counterpoint. Chopin, endowed by nature with magnificent melodic invention, ease of free improvisation and an inclination towards brilliant effects and perfect harmony, gained in Elsner's school a solid grounding, discipline, and precision of construction, as well as an understanding of the meaning and logic of each note. During this period of time, Frederic composed a series of extended works, and after the third year of his studies...