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In the lead up to the world premiere broadcast of Chopin's Piano with Aura Go on December 16th, we took to Instagram polling to learn what our audience knows about the renowned Polish pianist.

From his teen years as a prodigious musician, to his beloved Preludes, his obscure performance rituals, and even his unique funeral requests, we asked a wide range of questions that perhaps only the most switched-on Chopin fan might answer all correctly. After gathering the data from our Chopin trivia, this is how the Musica Viva Australia audience fared:

Results:

  • 87% Poland 
  • 11% France
  • 1% Germany
  • 1% Italy

A vast majority of respondents selected the correct country, Poland! Born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin in Poland on 1 March 1810, the composer grew up in Warsaw. Chopin completed his musical studies and composed some of his earliest works in the capital city before leaving Poland at the age of 20. He settled in Paris at 21, where he formed a close friendship with Franz Liszt and rubbed shoulders with his musical contemporaries, such as Robert Schumann. Paris was to be the city where he completed his landmark Preludes.  

Results:

  • 78% chose Paris
  • 22% chose Berlin

A 50/50 choice between two of Europe’s biggest cities. Thankfully for our audience, 78% knew which city Chopin was fonder of. As mentioned above, he formed most of his closest relationships there and was a fixture of the city’s musical life. It was also where he met his lover George Sand, one of the most well-known French women novelists of the 19th century and his companion on the Majorca trip, where Chopin worked on the Preludes using a pianino fashioned by a local craftsman. The pianino would later be recovered by fellow countrywoman, Wanda Landowska, a noted harpsichordist and pianist who was a great admirer of Chopin’s.  

Results:

  • 37% chose 8
  • 41% chose 12
  • 9% chose 5
  • 13% chose 15

A close race between the choices of 8 and 12 years of age, but sadly most of our respondents were just off the mark. Chopin was 8 years of age when he gave his first public performance of a concerto at a charity concert, sealing his reputation as a child prodigy. Three years later he would perform in the presence of the Russian tsar Alexander I, who had travelled to Warsaw to open Parliament. Interestingly, Chopin gave only 30 public performances in 30 years of concertising, his compositional career far outpacing his performing one. 

Results:

  • 84% chose False
  • 16% chose True

The vast majority of our respondents are aware of Chopin’s love of small crowds! A canny man indeed, the composer realised that his essentially intimate keyboard technique did not shine in large concert spaces, preferring instead private salons that freed him from the pressure of public concert performance.  Above all, he preferred playing at his own Paris apartment for small groups of friends, sometimes partnered by the greatest musicians of the day – Liszt, Ferdinand Hiller, and Charles-Valentin Alkan were just some of the special guest stars.  

Results:

  • 80% chose True
  • 20% chose False

Much like his love of small crowds, Chopin is said to have much preferred a gloomy setting to the bright lights of the stage. Chopin is also said to have played the piano in the dark for most of his life, putting out the candles in the room at his Paris apartment or asking for the lights to be extinguished if performing at an event or party. Whether apocryphal or not, it’s reported this practice began in childhood.  

Results:

  • 58% chose 24
  • 22% chose 26
  • 17% chose 22
  • 3% chose 20

Arguably Chopin's most famous works, there were indeed 24 Preludes written by the composer — a fact that the 58% majority was well aware of. Partially composed in Majorca and finished in Paris as mentioned, they are recognised as among the composer’s best works. Inspired by Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Preludes are built around the 24 musical keys and are varied in terms of expression, dynamic, tempo and colour. Almost half of the Preludes last under a minute, and the rest are not much longer. Although George Sand named each individual work, the score with her inscriptions is lost. All titles that are used in present day are either based on Sand’s daughter’s Solange’s memories, or were given much later by Chopin scholars.  

Results:

  • 84% chose Tuberculosis
  • 9% chose Influenza
  • 5% chose Smallpox
  • 2% chose Measles

There was little confusion on this question. As most of our audience knew, Chopin's demise was sadly due to Tuberculosis, a common and often fatal disease at the time. He died a few minutes before two o’clock in the morning, with those present at his deathbed his sister Ludwika, Princess Marcelina Czartoryska, Sand's daughter Solange, and his close friend Thomas Albrecht. Chopin suffered from ill health throughout his life, including on his trip to Majorca where the wild weather exacerbated his existing problems. 

Results:

  • 50% chose 39
  • 22% chose 40
  • 20% chose 35
  • 8% chose 45

As exactly 50% of our audience are aware of, Chopin's death came at the age of 39. A devastatingly short life for one of the world's most brilliant composers, many of his closest friends visited him in his final days, and some provided music at his request. Among them were Delfina Potocka, a Polish countess and piano student of Chopin’s in her youth, who sang for him as she often did in happier days.  

Results:

  • 81% chose True
  • 19% chose False

81% of our audience knew Chopin was a big fan of Mozart's work, to the point where he wanted his own funeral sound tracked to one of Mozart's most poignant compositions. Held at the Church of the Madeleine in Paris, the funeral was restricted to ticket holders – however, over 3000 people arrived without invitations, travelling from London, Berlin, and Vienna. The pallbearers included the artist Eugene Delacroix, the cellist Auguste Franchomme, and the pianist and publisher Camille Pleyel, all of whom played important roles in the composer’s life. George Sand did not attend, the couple having separated after nine fractious but artistically fruitful years together.  


 

How did you fare in our Chopin trivia? Production is underway for the world premiere of Chopin's Piano, which will be broadcast on 16 December.

Tickets for the premiere are just $25, so learn more about the production and book your tickets here.