CHOPIN, Frederic (1810-1849)
Plaque erected in 1981 by Greater London Council at 4 St James's Place, St James's, London, SW1A 1NP, City of Westminster
Music and Dance
From this house in 1848 FREDERIC CHOPIN 1810-1849 went to Guildhall to give his last public performance
Frédéric Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist, and one of the great masters of Romantic music.
FAME AND LOVE
Born near Warsaw to a French father and Polish mother, Chopin was an accomplished musician by the age of seven and made his début in Vienna in 1829. Two years later he settled in Paris, where he made his name as a great Romantic pianist-composer, working particularly in the genres of nocturne, étude, waltz and mazurka.
In 1838 Chopin embarked on an affair with the French novelist George Sand (Madame Dudevant), and these years proved his most productive. However, the relationship broke down in 1847 and Chopin’s health rapidly declined.
CHOPIN IN LONDON
In April 1848, in flight from revolutionary Paris, he travelled to England at the invitation of his Scottish pupil, Jane Stirling. He initially took lodgings at 48 Dover Street in Mayfair (now demolished) but on 31 October of that year – after a string of concerts and a trip to Scotland – he settled at 4 St James’s Place, his home until 23 November. Originally part of a brown brick terrace, the house dates from a development of 1685–6 and was stuccoed in the early 19th century before being refaced in the 1970s.
Chopin’s residence here, marred by illness, came at a particularly poignant moment towards the end of his life. A fervent Polish nationalist, he wrote on 19 November 1848, ‘Since Nov. 1st I have been in my room, in my dressing-gown, and have been out only on the 16th, to play for my compatriots.’ It was on this occasion that he braved the London fogs to drive to the Guildhall in the City and give his very last public performance at a gala benefit for the Friends of Poland.
Chopin left London for Paris a few days later, suffering from the final stages of the consumption that would kill him the following year.