Chopin Teaches How to Play Chopin

Chopin as a teacher

By The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Paweł Bień (Chopin Institute)

Polonez-Fantazja As-dur op. 61 (1845 - 1846) by Fryderyk ChopinThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Chopin in Paris

In order to make a living in Paris, Chopin had to take up a job that gave him regular income that would allow him to live on a level corresponding to his ambitions. Unfortunately, living off composition did not provide such a guarantee. However, Fryderyk found another solution...

Italian Opera House, Paris by Charles MottramThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Performing virtuoso

Of course, Chopin could earn money as a concert virtuoso, but he was reluctant to perform in public in front of a wide audience. So, how did he handle it?

List do Juliana Fontany, Moje kochanie. Jestem w Palmie, między palmami…The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

The teacher

Fryderyk became a teacher. Over time, his lessons became one of the most expensive in Paris. Among his students were wealthy aristocrats and representatives of the bourgeois world. 

Experienced pianists such as Julian Fontana or wunderkinder such as Carl Filtsch would also take advantage of Chopin's instructions.

Portait of Carl Filtsch (19th Century) by Adolf EybelThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

The Wunderkind

Carl Filtsch was one of Chopin's youngest students. A mention has been preserved that the composer valued the young Transylvanian virtuoso's skills so highly that he would play four-hands with him.

Unfortunately, Filtsch did not live to see his career flourish. He died when he was barely fifteen years old.

Portrait of Jane Stirling (1842) by Philipp Hermann EichensThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

My brave Scottish ladies

One of Chopin's most talented pupils was the Scottish aristocrat Jane Wilhelmine Stirling. It was to her that Fryderyk dedicated his Nocturnes, Op. 55. In his letters, he described her and her sister affectionately as "my good-hearted, brave Scottish ladies." 

Sometimes her protectiveness was apparently excessive, since the composer wrote: they are suffocating me with kindness, and I will not refuse them out of politeness.

Drawings nad notes Page with drawings 2The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Personal calendar

To this day, in the composer's personal calendars that have survived, we can find penciled annotations of students' names, the dates of lessons and the amount of fees due to the pianist.
 

Fryderyk Chopin giving instructions to Pauline Viardot (19th Century) by Maurice SandThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Chopin's comments

An extraordinary source about Chopin's teaching methods are not only the students' accounts, but also the sheet music that belonged to them. Chopin would make comments and suggestions on the ways of performing he recommended on his printed works.

Piano playing methodThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

The piano textbook

Fryderyk also intended to create a piano playing textbook of sorts. Although he never brought the idea to full accomplishment, single sketches for the planned work are held in the Warsaw museum devoted to the composer.

Chopin Frederik Francois 1810-1849.LIFE Photo Collection

How to play Chopin?

Do Chopin's comments on the performance of his works, known to us today, have to be a binding model? The variety of interpretations by pianists from all over the world shows they are rather a suggestion than an obligation.

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