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Fryderyk Chopin

A Life and Times

Alan Walker


Fryderyk Chopin Download image

ISBN10: 1250234824
ISBN13: 9781250234827

Trade Paperback

768 Pages



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Based on ten years of research and a vast cache of primary sources located in archives in Warsaw, Paris, London, New York, and Washington, D.C., Alan Walker’s monumental Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times is the most comprehensive biography of the great Polish composer to appear in English in more than a century. Walker’s work is a corrective biography, intended to dispel the many myths and legends that continue to surround Chopin. Fryderyk Chopin is an intimate look into a dramatic life; of particular focus are Chopin’s childhood and youth in Poland, which are brought into line with the latest scholarly findings, and Chopin’s romantic life with George Sand, with whom he lived for nine years.

Comprehensive and engaging, and written in highly readable prose, the biography wears its scholarship lightly: this is a book suited as much for the professional pianist as it is for the casual music lover. Just as he did in his definitive biography of Liszt, Walker illuminates Chopin and his music with unprecedented clarity in this magisterial biography, bringing to life one of the nineteenth century’s most confounding, beloved, and legendary artists.


Praise for Fryderyk Chopin

"Alan Walker does so brilliantly in Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times, a magisterial portrait of a composer who fascinated and puzzled contemporaries and whose music came to define the Romantic piano. (Walker uses the Polish variant of the first name.) Drawing on a wealth of letters and fresh scholarship, Walker creates a polyphonic work that elegantly interweaves multiple strands. He sketches key events in the history of Poland and portrays the burgeoning society of Polish exiles in Paris in a way that lends depth to Chopin’s oft-cited patriotism . . . Another thread that runs brightly through the book concerns virtuosity, and Chopin’s place in a music scene dominated by stage animals.”—Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times Book Review

"Alan Walker has produced the most comprehensive biography and musical analysis to date on Poland's most famous musician and composer . . . Highly readable and engaging . . . [Fryderyk Chopin] brings to life one of the 19th century's and Poland's most beloved, legendary, and celebrated artists. It deserves a place of merit at every university, music, and school library."Carol Katz, New York Journal of Books

"An ideal composer biography should combine several qualities: a deep knowledge of the artist’s life and milieu, fortified by a reexamination of all available sources; an intimate understanding of the composer’s personality (and, when possible, some affection for it, too); and an ability to speak of the creative work in a manner that will edify both scholars and the general public, and take us all back to the music. Alan Walker’s Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times manages this hat trick very well indeed . . . This is now the best biography of Chopin—meticulous, scholarly and well-told."—Tim Page, The Washington Post

"There is more than enough for everyone at this literary feast, and come awards time, it’s likely you’ll see this book short-listed for one of the top literary biographies of the year . . . Walker’s narrative style reflects the very music of his subject: He has a light, delicate touch when making apt inferences, and a soft and rather ornate style when providing descriptions of the artist . . . Walker remains faithful to his subject, which only 10 years of extensive research into vast archives of primary source material could manifest."—Richard Horan, Christian Science Monitor

“Adopting the same combination of broad perspective, wealth of telling detail, and musical expertise that he brought to his classic biography of Franz Liszt, Alan Walker has now produced a vast work on Fryderyk Chopin that is likely to remain the most important account of the great Polish master’s life for a long time to come. Walker vividly recounts Chopin’s happy childhood and youth in Warsaw, his unfortunate but artistically prolific adult life in exile from his native country, his loves, and his losing battle with the tuberculosis that killed him at the age of thirty-nine. The book also delves deeply into Chopin’s music. A must for musicians and music-lovers alike.”—Harvey Sachs, author of Toscanini: Musician of Conscience

"Walker, whose writing is as limpid and engaging as his subject’s music, punctuates a rich texture of biography and history with discussions of Chopin’s technical and compositional innovations and distinctions that neatly show why he is so highly regarded . . . Informed by the latest discoveries about the composer, Walker’s biography is a towering and beautiful achievement."Booklist (starred review)

"[An] expansive, authoritative biography . . . Packed with information and insightful analyses of Chopin’s major works that will interest professional musicians, and even nonspecialists will be entranced by [Alan] Walker’s piquant storytelling and graceful prose."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


The Child is father of the Man.

—William Wordsworth1


In 1787 a sixteen-year-old youth named Nicolas Chopin left his native France and journeyed a thousand miles across...

About the author

Alan Walker

Alan Walker’s definitive three-volume biography of Liszt, Franz Liszt, received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in Biography and the Royal Philharmonic Society Book Award, among others. His writing has appeared in journals such as The Musical Quarterly, The Times Literary Supplement, and Times Educational Supplement. A professor emeritus at McMaster University, Walker was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1986 and was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary in 2012.

Tom Horbett

Dr. Alan Walker