Johann Straus II - Vergnügungszug (Pleasure Train), op. 281

Johann Strauss II , known for his waltzes and lively compositions, had a unique approach to his creative process. He consistently sought contemporary and relevant themes to serve as the driving force behind his new musical compositions. This approach ensured that his work remained fresh and connected with the audiences of his time.  One notable instance of this creative approach was the composition of this polka, composed in 1864. This piece of music was specifically crafted for a summer concert held in the picturesque Russian town of Pavlovsk. It's fascinating to note that Strauss drew inspiration for this composition from the world around him. In this case, he found it in the emerging technology of the time, namely, the steam locomotive. The composition itself is a testament to Strauss's ability to capture the essence and energy of the subject matter. The rhythm of this dance piece mirrors the rhythmic chugging and movements of the old-fashioned steam trains that were prevale

Chopin - The Cursed Perfectionist

A painting with a portrait of Chopin at a relatively young age
Chopin lived an intense emotional life and allowed his emotions to express themselves in the elegance and elaborate style of his music.

Frédéric Chopin showed his musical talent at a very young age. He was born in Poland on March 1, 1810, the son of a French immigrant teacher. His family was artistic, so his ability to compose piano music at the age of six, came as no surprise.

He started piano lessons when he was seven years old and showed such talent that he was invited to play at their private gatherings of high society Warsaw families. He gave his first piano concert at the age of eight.

First love

From his childhood he was weak and that's why his father sent him in the summers to the countryside near Warsaw, to get stronger in the fresh air. There he loved the music of the villagers and in many of his early compositions the influence of these folk melodies appears.

A sketch of Chopin's house in Zelazowa Wola
The residence in Zelazowa Wola, a 
village in the province near Warsaw, 
where Chopin grew up among the
talented and artistic members of his 
At sixteen his father enrolled him at the Warsaw Conservatory, where his teacher saw his unique genius and sent him to Vienna to broaden his musical horizons.

He returned to Warsaw where he fell in love with  Konstancja Gladkowska, a young vocal student, in September 1829. During this romance, Chopin was inspired by the musicality of the human voice and conveyed its purity and melodicity in many of his pianistic compositions.

Chopin was popular in Warsaw. He was polite and kind, with an immediate sense of humor, while his pale face offered him an extraordinary charm. With dazzling piano craftsmanship, he was responding to the widespread idea of the time for the fragile genius marked by death.

His intense personality often led him to disappointments. When he visited Vienna in the 1830s, he was outraged by the shallowness of the public's musical preferences. Worse still, the preferences of the Viennese had changed and he was less in demand than his previous visit. Over the course of eight months he played in public just twice.

This was not necessarily catastrophic for the sensitive Chopin, who preffered friendly company, playing in friends' houses or giving private lessons to several students.

Emotional insecurity

The Polish people's dramatic uprising against Russian rule in 1830 changed the course of Chopin's life. He was on tour in Europe and since he could not return home, he decided to go to Paris. There he met the family of the wealthy Rothschild bankers who introduced him to their aristocratic friends, in whose homes Chopin gave many recitals. His refines behavior and sensitivity made him extremely popular and ensured his livelihood.

Emotionally, he was very insecure. During a trip to Germany in 1835, where he visited some of his old friends from Poland, he fell in love with their sixteen year-old daughter, Maria Wodzinska. Her mother opposed this marriage because of 25 year-old Chopin's apparent ill health.

Portrait of the writer George Sand
The writer George Sand who's been Chopin's mistress for nine years.

He returned to Paris disappointed, where he accepted the proposal of one of the French capital's most notorious women. The writer George Sand, whose real name was Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, had a reputation as a woman with a rich love life, indifferent to the opinion of the reputable society. Chopin initially denied her sexual suggestions.

She insisted and eventually became lovers in 1838. That same winter, Chopin traveled with her and her son to Majorca, where the milder climate would help his declining health. This relationship was very strange and gave rise to various gossip.

When Chopin had a severe tuverculosis crisis, they went to Paris, where his life was saved thanks to the excellent doctors who took care of him. But he was never going to regain his health. Although he was about 1,73 m. tall, he barely weighed 45 kilos. His mistress did everything for him. In the summer, they went to the countryside like his father used to in Poland. There, Chopin channeled as much energy as he could into the composition. The rest of the time, in Paris, he earned his living by giving piano lessons.
George Sand's office with two chairs
George Sand's office in bedroom of
her cottage. Chopin spent many 
happy summers there with her
and composed some of his best

The last years

The romance wasn't meant to last. George Sand's adult children became increasingly irritable towards Chopin, causing a great deal of tension in their relationship. It all ended with a letter to Chopin in July 1847. He fell into depression from which he never really took over.

Chopin attempted to forge another relationship, this time with a former student, Jane Stirling, who invited him on a tour of England in April 1848, but his brutal concert programme in London shattered his health.

He returned to Paris in November almost dying.

He spent most of 1849 in the Parisian suburb Chaillot, where in October 17 he died at the age of just 39. His last wish was for Mozart's Requiem to be played at his funeral. He was buried on October 30th.

His short life was overwhelmed by illness, erotic frustration and artistic anxiety. Yet his sensitivity and creative genius radiate through his music. His rare gift of composing melodies full of emotion and his ability to draw from the piano an almost magical spectrum of psychic moods puts him among the immortals of music.