Tuesday, 1 March 2016


Frédéric Chopin
Today we celebrate the 206th anniversary of the birth of Frédéric Chopin, Poland’s Prodigal Son and virtuosic pianist who left an indelible mark on 19th century classical music, a prolific influence on both contemporary and future iconic masters of the piano, and who, quite literally, left his heart in Warsaw and and the soil of his motherland in Paris[1] – and who ultimately bequeathed to Western Classical Music an inspired legacy that continues to permeate through the ages across the globe to this very day.

The Polish and French (by paternal citizenship) pianist would perform at his first concert at the tender (and quite impressive) age of eight. A true wonderchild, Chopin’s aesthetic and skill as a musician and composer (he had already penned the Polonaise in G Minor at the age of seven!) would accomplish renown though acquiring both royal and aristocratic favor on a rapidly uphill march toward musical infamy. By the age of eleven, the pianist had already performed before the Tsar of Russia (Alexander I) and had composed a march for the Ruler of Russian Poland, Grand Duke Constantine.

By 1830, Chopin (then Fryderyk) would become a Polish émigré in France, at the height of the nation’s Romantic movement, rubbing shoulders with composers of the ilk of Franz Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, belcanto specialist Vincenzo Bellini and the French composer Hector Berlioz, all of whom idolized the Polish Immigrant, and where he would lead a lucrative (most impressive for that period) living as a composer and music teacher to students of affluence, quite rapidly earning for himself a distinction as a highly skilled and notable French composer and icon of the Romantic era.

Today, the music of Chopin continues to experience unyielding critical acclaim and worldwide recognition. His selection of preludes, impromptus, mazurkas, études, waltzes and polonaises hold their place as some of the most instantly recognizable music of the Western Classical repertoire, even making a historic trip into space in February of 2010 upon the Space Shuttle Endeavour, who’s commander, George Zamka, proclaimed the presence of the music of fellow Pole Chopin aboard the shuttle would “enhance the majesty of the cosmos.”

Trailer for Chopin: The Space Concert[2]

Indeed. As his legacy so clearly suggests, the music of Frédéric Chopin certainly does seem to transcend both space and time.

[1]Chopin, ever loyal to his beloved Poland, would carry with him to France a handful of soil from his birthplace of Warsaw, which he had sealed in a urn and which would later be buried alongside the composer at his death from Tuberculosis at Paris in October of 1849. Both Chopin and the urn lay at rest at Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in France.
 Likewise, the prodigal pianist’s heart lay in his native Motherland, preserved in a crystal urn containing Cognac, brought to Poland’s Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw, at the composer’s bequest prior to his passing by his sister shortly after his death.
Inscribed on a church pillar is a biblical verse from the Book of Matthew, 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

[2]...depicting the Space Shuttle Endeavour's flight into orbit in February 2010. On board was a CD of music by Chopin, and, for good measure, a copy of a manuscript of the composer's Prelude Opus 28, No. VII. The DVD (with CD) can be found on Amazon.

Joyeux anniversaire!

Enjoy below Chopin's famous Prelude in E Minor: 

Fun Miscellaneous Facts & Further Commentary:

The now retired Space Shuttle Endeavour currently rests at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center, it’s Canadarm lays further north, in Ottawa Canada, at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

If you are a lover of all things space and of aviation (like I am) you will love this spectacular image of the Endeavour riding piggyback atop a Boeing 747 en route to it’s final destination at California.

The February 8th, 2010 launch into orbit (Mission STS-130 to the International Space Station), complete with the music of Chopin combined the best of both ‘worlds’ for fellow space enthusiasts and melophiles stuck back on Earth: it is my position that mankind’s foray both into the heavens and into the realms of classical music and opera exceed that which we ought to have been capable. Both sciences (as I believe music to be) begin quite briefly at the very pinnacle of human reason and understanding before rapidly shattering their way through every existing boundary known to man, reaching ever-higher, stratospheric heights, leaving us goose-fleshed, breathless – in awe of what can only be described as superhuman acheivement.

Be it the exquisitely ethereal soprano solo of Mozart’s Kyrie from his "Große" Mass in C Minor, the rich polychoral stylings of Gabrieli’s Sanctus & Benedictus à XII, the soul-soothing larghetto of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor – or the first man to set foot on our Moon and the SUV sized(!) rover Curiosity now mapping the face of Mars 78 million kilometers away[±], our heroesour astronauts and our composers - transcend that which we thought possible, and remind us daily just how small – and just how GRAND - we really are, leaving us to marvel at our own seemingly infinite potential.

“Chopin’s Mission” (that’s what I’m calling it) into space reminds me of one of my most beloved quotes, this one by conductor Mariss Jansons, on classical music and it’s relative cohesion with the heavens:

“Why do I call this a ‘cosmic level?' Because when you leave the earth, when you escape the earth’s orbit, magnetism and gravity – then you are in the cosmos: and it is the same in music. If you can get there, you are in heaven.”

Maestro, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
[±]as of 2016. Source: I; II


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