Centre for Continuing Education

Great Composers Course: The Life and Music of Chopin

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Appreciate and learn about music the smart way with Music courses at the University of Sydney.

Chopin’s music has delighted music lovers for nearly two centuries. Perhaps no other composer is so closely associated with the piano, newly finding its voice in Chopin’s time. His too-short life had its own drama and turmoil, with his exile from Poland, his battle with illness, and his relationship with French authoress George Sand.

This one-day music course explores the life and music of Chopin. We will explore what makes his music so special, so rich and so innovative. We will listen to some of his greatest works, and also some lesser-known and under-appreciated ones. We also delve into the story of his life, his background, his struggles and his triumphs.

No prior musical knowledge is necessary.


Upon successful completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  • identify some aspects of Chopin’s musical style
  • describe how Chopin’s music is related to the Romantic period
  • identify some of the genres of music composed by Chopin
  • list some of Chopin’s major works, and describe their place in his musical output
  • list some significant events in the life of Chopin.


Topics we will cover:

  • What do we think of when we think of Chopin?
  • Chopin’s place in music history
  • Chopin’s musical style: what makes Chopin sound like Chopin
  • The Romantic period: Music in Chopin’s time
  • Major events in the life of Chopin
  • Chopin’s early years in Poland
  • Trips to Berlin and Vienna
  • Early love: Constantia Gladkowska
  • Making a name in Paris
  • Engagement to Maria Wodzinski
  • Chopin’s illness
  • Relationship with George Sand
  • Chopin’s last years

Music we will listen to:

We will listen to many Chopin compositions, including:

  • Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
  • Preludes, Op. 28 (1836-1839), including No. 15, "Raindrop"
  • Etude in C minor, Op. 10, No. 12, "Revolutionary"
  • Etude in A flat major, Op. 25 No. 1
  • Waltz No. 9 in A flat, Op. posth. 69, No. 1, "Farewell"
  • Waltz No. 6 in D flat major, Op. 64, No. 1, "Minute Waltz"
  • Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 9 No. 2
  • Fantasie-Impromptu in C# minor, Op. 66
  • Polonaise No. 3 in A major, Op. 40, No. 1, "Military"
  • Polonaise No. 6 in A flat major, Op. 53, "Heroic"
  • Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
  • Mazurka No. 23 in D major, Op. 33, No. 2
  • Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52

Intended Audience

This course is designed for those who are interested in and enjoy listening to classical music and piano music, beginners and experienced listeners alike. No prior musical knowledge is required.

Delivery Style

Lecture/seminar style. Questions from participants will be encouraged, with room for discussion throughout the course.


Handouts will be provided in class.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion