When most people hear the term “romantic,” thoughts of candlelight dinners, dramatic movies and love between two people come to mind. Rarely is the Romantic period of music thought about, and even less likely the composers who pioneered it. However, the Romantic period left a huge imprint on the world for centuries, as did its spotlight composer, remarkable pianist Frederic Chopin. His life and musical works impacted generations of musicians after him. His breakthrough style of writing and playing was emulated by many, and still prevailed in music today. Born not long after the transition from the Classical period to the Romantic period, Chopin broke through the barriers of previously established styles and paved his own path of inspirational music. Music prior to Chopin, Chopin’s life and musical compositions, his immediate effect on music and society and his music’s relevance today all managed to shape the legacy he would forever leave on music and history. It is important to understand the major concepts prevalent during the Romantic period and how they differed from previous ideals. The Romantic period was an international movement which influenced all forms of the arts beginning in the late 1700’s-early 1800’s. A major platform of this period was the idea of expressionism. Composers during the romantic period wrote music that varied in volume as well as speed (Shotwell, 2002, p. 1). Making these variations on the spot during a performance became known as playing with rubato (Shotwell, 2002, p. 4). Along with rubato, dissonant chords and syncopation were used. Composers decided when they wanted to crescendo, decrescendo, louden or soften their pieces without being directed to in the music. This vastly differed from the strict time and volume kept in music of the Classical period. During the classical period, all notes were played at the same time with the same emphasis. Based strictly on balance, control, proportion, symmetry and restraint, the classical period had less emotional resonance with listeners (Shotwell, 2002, p. 3). According to Shotwell (2002), “Romanticism cherishes freedom, movement, passion, and endless pursuit of the unattainable” (p. 1). Chopin gained this virtue from Romantic composers before him. He also channeled his passionate love for his country into his music to create its heartfelt, expressive quality. Frederic Chopin was born on March 1, 1810 in Zelazowa Wola, a village near Warsaw, Poland (Chopin, Frederic, 2001, p. 1). Surprisingly, he did not have the lineage of a talented musician. His father was an accountant and professor of French at the Warsaw Lyceum & Military School (Murgia, 1967, p. 13), and his mother was of Polish nobility. He began taking piano lessons at the age of 6 (Chopin, Frederic, 2001, p. 1). As amazing as it sounds, Chopin could compose music before he could write (Frederic Chopin, 1996, p. 1). In his youth, he was often called a musical genius by peers and scholars alike, and he published his first musical work at the tender age of 15 (Chopin, Frederic, 2011, p. 1).
Chopin was received extremely well in his hometown. He was seen as a very talented performer on the piano and was immediately recognized as the best composer in Warsaw (Chopin, Frederic, 2011, p. 1). As a teen he studied at the Warsaw Lyceum from 1823-1826 (Murgia, 1967, p. 13). His serious career as a pianist began with two solo concerts in Vienna, Australia at the age of 19 (Frederic Chopin, 1996, p. 1). These performances were well received and catapulted him into the serious world of music. In 1830, Chopin left his hometown in the midst of war and heads to Paris, France (Murgia, 1967, p. 16). Here he grew into an internationally acclaimed composer and slowly took the world by storm. While in Paris, Chopin felt overwhelmed by the beauty, charm and excitement of Paris (Murgia, 1967, p. 22). Although he loved Paris, much of his music was inspired by homesickness for Poland (Murgia,