Deansgate, Manchester, England
By the end of February 1848, things looked bleak for the Polish composer and piano virtuoso, Fryderyk Chopin. Seventeen years earlier, in 1831, when Chopin was 21-years-old, he’d settled in Paris. And since then, his music had won the praise and love of the public and press alike. With his own talent, and the patronage of the super-rich Rothschild banking family, Chopin had established himself at the heart of Paris’s musical elite. And then, in February 1848, revolution erupted across France. Poor harvests and economic depression meant hunger amongst France’s poor was widespread, and King Louis-Philippe I just didn’t seem to care much. Neither did he care much for France’s ever-growing middle class. The middle classes wanted the right to vote. And Louis-Philippe didn’t want to give it to them. Fighting broke out, the king abdicated and was exiled to Britain. And this left Fryderyk Chopin with a problem. Because along with the king, the rich and well connected had also left Paris. Chopin suddenly found himself without an audience. And without an income. And as he’d never been sensible with money, Chopin was in hot water. But then, to his rescue came Jane Stirling. She was the daughter of a rich Scottish landowner and had become a devoted fan of the composer’s while traveling through France a few years earlier. He’d even given her a few piano lessons, and dedicated two of his nocturnes to her. Now, Jane invited Chopin to London and provided him with letters of introduction. Once arrived that April, Chopin ingratiated himself with London society and started giving a series of performances that at last secured him an income. He was the toast of the town. From London, he traveled to Edinburgh where once again he was the toast of the town. Wherever he went, people came from far and wide to hear his music, to see him play. On 25 August 1848, he arrived in Manchester, where he was to play for an audience of 1, 200 at Crumpsall House. And it’s to commemorate the excitement caused by the arrival of such a famous composer in Manchester that this dramatic statue by Polish sculptor Robert Sobocinski was put up in 2011, two hundred and one years after Chopin was born in Warsaw. Three months after his sensational performance in Manchester, Chopin returned to Paris. Chopin knew he was dying. And he wanted to see the city he loved one more time before he finally passed away a year later on 17 October 1849, at the age of 39. He’d never been a well man, and although the cause of death was listed as TB on his death certificate, modern scientists think it probable he had cystic fibrosis. Over 3,000 people came to the Church of the Madeleine for his funeral. Many from London, from Edinburgh and, of course, from Manchester. Fryderyk Chopin had struck a cord.