February 22, 2012 - Happy Birthday, Frederic Chopin

Ah, the Poet of the Piano!

Frederic Chopin was a virtuoso pianist and a composer of piano music. He was born in 1810 in Poland, but when Russia suppressed Poland in 1830, Chopin moved to Paris. (You may notice that his name looks French, not Polish—and indeed, his father had immigrated to Poland from France. When he was born, his name was Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin—but he used the French versions of his first and middle name once he moved to Paris.)

Chopin had a light touch on the piano, so he wasn't suited to playing grand music in a huge concert hall. Still, he became popular playing in the private salons of the rich—and he made quite a bit of money teaching piano to the children of the rich.

Sadly, Chopin died quite young—at age 39—of tuberculosis. It is quite appropriate that it was on his birthday, almost a century later, that Dr. Selman Abraham Waksman made an important announcement:

A Cure for Tuberculosis!

Waksman was a Ukrainian-American scientist who studied microorganisms that live in soil. One of his graduate students (Albert Schatz) realized in 1946 that Streptomycin, an antibiotic isolated from an organism Waksman studied, was effective against tuberculosis. (Waksman's studies led to the development of more than 20 different antibiotics useful for treating a variety of other illnesses, as well.)
I saw Chopin's lovely
grave when I went to Paris.
What I didn't know is that his heart
was removed before he was
buried--and it resides in an urn
in Poland!

Celebrate Chopin!

At Hey Kids, Meet Frederic Chopin, the composer's birthdate is given as March 1. Indeed, all his life, Chopin claimed March 1 to be his birthday. However, his baptismal record says his birthday is February 22.  Links below the short biography allow you to hear some music, so be sure to explore the webpage.

Piano Lessons 4 Children offers an amazing array of videos and audio files to help you learn about and enjoy Chopin's music! 

Classics for Kids also offers a “Hear the Music” button. 

Also on this date:

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