Chopin’s childhood

Chopin was named after his godfather, Fryderyk Skarbek, an 18 year old pupil of his father’s with connections to his mother’s family. Frédéric was the only son in a family of four children. He had one older sister and two younger sisters. From about six months after Frédéric was born, the family lived in Warsaw. As mentioned last week, they lived in the Saxon Palace where Frédéric’s father taught.

In 1816, at the young age of six, he started to take formal piano lessons with Wojciech Żywny, the same teacher as his older sister, He had most likely already done some piano playing as his mother taught piano and his sister played. At the tender age of seven, he was giving concerts and starting to compose. Frédéric was an occasional playmate for the son of Grand Duke Constantine, the Russian Poland ruler. He played the piano for the Duke at Belweder Palace and did write a march for him. Frédéric’s earliest surviving piece dates to 1821, when he was 11.

From age of 13 to 16, he studied at the Warsaw Lyceum, where his father was a teacher. Frédéric started his formal music studies at the Warsaw Conservatory in 1826. He stayed there until 1829. While pursuing his education from age 13 to 19, he continued to compose. His first published piece was written in 1825 when he would have been only 15. He performed as well during this time. Small concert and salon performances took place the various locations in Warsaw, including a performance for Tsar Alexander I during his visit to Warsaw. That performance resulted in Frédéric being presented with a diamond ring from the Tsar. A pretty nice set of accomplishments all before the age of 20!


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