Frédéric Chopin

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Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.

Frédéric Chopin (22 February 181017 October 1849) was a Polish pianist and composer of classical music who lived in Paris from age 21. He wrote almost solely for piano and remains the most widely played composer for that instrument. He also wrote for violin and viola. His music ranged from patriotic, melancholy, passionate to simple and beautiful, and he was known as a great teacher of piano.


  • My piano has not yet arrived. How did you send it? By Marseilles or by Perpignan? I dream music but I cannot make any because here there are not any pianos . . . in this respect this is a savage country.
  • I'm a revolutionary, money means nothing to me.
  • I wish I could throw off the thoughts which poison my happiness, but I take a kind of pleasure in indulging them.
    • As quoted in Chopin.[2]
    • Variant translation: I wish I could throw off the thoughts which poison my happiness. And yet I take a kind of pleasure in indulging them.
  • One needs only to study a certain positioning of the hand in relation to the keys to obtain with ease the most beautiful sounds, to know how to play long notes and short notes and to [attain] certain unlimited dexterity... A well formed technique, it seems to me, [is one] that can control and vary a beautiful sound quality.
    • As quoted in Chopin : Pianist and Teacher as Seen by His Pupils.[3]
  • Sometimes I can only groan, and suffer, and pour out my despair at the piano!
    • As quoted in Chopin and the Swedish Nightingale.[4]
  • Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.
    • As quoted in If Not God, Then What?[5]
  • How strange! This bed on which I shall lie has been slept on by more than one dying man, but today it does not repel me! Who knows what corpses have lain on it and for how long? But is a corpse any worse than I? A corpse too knows nothing of its father, mother or sisters or Titus. Nor has a corpse a sweetheart. A corpse, too, is pale, like me. A corpse is cold, just as I am cold and indifferent to everything. A corpse has ceased to live, and I too have had enough of life.... Why do we live on through this wretched life which only devours us and serves to turn us into corpses? The clocks in the Stuttgart belfries strike the midnight hour. Oh how many people have become corpses at this moment! Mothers have been torn from their children, children from their mothers - how many plans have come to nothing, how much sorrow has sprung from these depths, and how much relief!... Virtue and vice have come in the end to the same thing! It seems that to die is man's finest action - and what might be his worst? To be born, since that is the exact opposite of his best deed. It is therefore right of me to be angry that I was ever born into this world! Why was I not prevented from remaining in a world where I am utterly useless? What good can my existence bring to anyone? ... But wait, wait! What's this? Tears? How long it is since they flowed! How is this, seeing that an arid melancholy has held me for so long in its grip? How good it feels - and sorrowful. Sad but kindly tears! What a strange emotion! Sad but blessed. It is not good for one to be sad, and yet how pleasant it is - a strange state...
    • As quoted by his fellows when he was in deathbed, a several hours before he died.[citation needed]
  • Here you doubtless observe my tendency to do wrong against my will. As something has involuntarily crept into my head through my eyes, I love to indulge it, even though it may be all wrong.
  • I could express my feelings more easily if they could be put into the notes of music, but as the very best concert would not cover my affection for you, dear daddy, I must use the simple words of my heart, to lay before you my utmost gratitude and filial affection
    • As quoted in Chopin's Letter.[6]
  • How great a joy I feel in my heart. That a day so pleasant, so dear and glorious begins, a day that I greet with the wish. That long years may pass in happiness. In health and vigour, peacefully, successfully. May the gift of heaven fall richly upon you
    • As quoted in his letter to his father, dated December 6th 1817[citation needed]
  • You already know when I'm writing, so don't be surprised if it's short and dry, because I'm too hungry to write anything fat
  • I have met Rossini, Cherubini, Baillot, etc.—also Kalkbrenner. You would not believe how curious I was about Herz, Liszt, Hiller, etc. — They are all zero beside Kalkbrenner. I confess that I have played like Herz, but would wish to play like Kalkbrenner. If Paganini is perfection, Kalkbrenner is his equal, but in quite another style.
    • His letter to Tytus Woyciechowski in Poturzyn. Paris, 12 December 1831.
  • I astonished Kalkbrenner, who at once asked me, was I not a pupil of Field, because I have Cramer's method and Field's touch. (That delighted me.)
    • His letter to Tytus Woyciechowski in Poturzyn. Paris, 12 December 1831.
  • But why should one be ashamed of writing badly in spite of knowing better – it’s results that shows errors[citation needed]
  • Play Mozart in memory of me— and I will hear you.
    • Murmured by Chopin on his death-bed.[7]
  • Concerts are never real music, you have to give up the idea of hearing in them all the most beautiful things of art.
    • Said to one of his students, according to "Chopin: Pianist and Teacher: As Seen by His Pupils" by Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger

Quotes about Chopin[edit]

His creation was spontaneous, miraculous. He found it without searching for it, without foreseeing it. – George Sand
Alphabetized by author
  • Music was his language, the divine tongue through which he expressed a whole realm of sentiments that only the select few can appreciate... The muse of his homeland dictates his songs, and the anguished cries of Poland lend to his art a mysterious, indefinable poetry which, for all those who have truly experienced it, cannot be compared to anything else... The piano alone was not sufficient to reveal all that lies within him. In short he is a most remarkable individual who commands our highest degree of devotion.
    • Franz Liszt, "Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris", May 2, 1841, pp. 245f.[8]
  • According to a tradition—and, be it said, an erroneous one—Chopin’s playing was like that of one dreaming rather than awake—scarcely audible in its coninual pianissiomos and una cordoas, with feebly developed technique and quite lacking in confidence, or at least indistinct, and distorted out of all rhythmic form by an incessant tempo rubato! The effect of these notions could not be otherwise than very prejudicial to the interpretation of his works, even by the most able artists—in their very striving after truthfulness; besides, they are easily accounted for.
    • Carl Mikuli, Introductory Note of his edition of Chopin's works
  • In keeping time Chopin was inflexible, and many will be surprised to learn that the metronome never left his piano. Even in his oft-decried tempo rubato one hand—that having the accompaniment—always played on in strict time, while the other, singing the melody, either hesitating as if undecided, or, with increased animation, anticipating with a kind of impatient vehemence as if in passionate utterances, maintained the freedom of musical expression from the fetters of strict regularity.
    • Carl Mikuli, Introductory Note of his edition of Chopin's works
  • His creation was spontaneous, miraculous. He found it without searching for it, without foreseeing it. It came to his piano suddenly, complete, sublime, or it sang in his head during a walk, and he would hasten to hear it again by, tossing it off on his instrument. But then would begin the most heartbreaking labor I have ever witnessed. It was a series of efforts, indecision, and impatience to recapture certain details of the theme he had heard: what had come to him all of a piece, he now over-analyzed in his desire to write it down, and his regret at not finding it again "neat," as he said, would throw him into a kind of despair. He would shut himself up in his room for days at a time, weeping, pacing, breaking his pens, repeating and changing a single measure a hundred times, writing it and effacing it with equal frequency, and beginning again the next day with a meticulous and desperate perseverance. He would spend six weeks on one page, only to end up writing it just as he had traced it in his first outpouring.
  • It was Chopin who properly set romantic pianism on its rails and gave it the impetus that shows no signs of deceleration. He did this all by himself, evolving from nowhere the most beautiful and original piano style of the century.
  • Chopin was a romantic who hated romanticism.
  • In his day he was a revolutionary. To many his music was exotic, inexplicable, perhaps insane. Critics like Rellstab in Germany, Chorley and Davison in England, dismissed much of Chopin’s music as eccentricities full of earsplitting dissonance.
  • Hats off, gentlemen — a genius!
    • Robert Schumann. "Opus 2" Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 7 December 1831
  • If the mighty autocrat of the north knew what a dangerous enemy threatened him in Chopin's works in the simple tunes of his mazurkas, he would forbid this music. Chopin's works are canons buried in flowers.
  • After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own.
  • Chopin has done for the piano what Schubert has done for the voice.
    • 'The France musicale' review of Chopin's concert held on 26 April 1841. As quoted in Nocturne: a life of Chopin.[11]

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  1. (21 November 1838); published in Fryderyk Chopin, Korespondencja Fryderyka Chopina (1955), edited by Bronisław Edward Sydow, (2 vols.), Vol. 1, p. 443
  2. Chopin (1978) by George Richard Marek, Arthur Maling, and Maria Gordon-Smith
  3. Chopin : Pianist and Teacher as Seen by His Pupils (1986) by Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, Roy Howat, Naomi Shohet, and Krysia Osostowicz, p. 16
  4. Jorgensen's Chopin and the Swedish Nightingale (2003), p. 26
  5. If Not God, Then What? (2007) by Joshua Fost, p. 93
  6. Chopin's Letter (1988) by Henryk Opieński,E. L. Voynich, p. 4
  7. The opera reader, Biancolli, 1953, p. 271
  9. Oeuvres autobiographiques, ed. Georges Lubin, 2 vols. (Paris, 1978); Vol. 2: Histoire de ma vie, p. 446. I (Jeffrey Kallberg) have modified somewhat the English translation printed in George Sand, Story of My Life: The Autobiography of George Sand, group translation ed. Thelma Jurgrau (Albany, 1991), p. 1109. Note: The chapter on Chopin dates from August or September 1854.
  10. Oscar Wilde Quotes
  11. Nocturne: a life of Chopin (Jordan, 1978), p. 186.