Frédéric François Chopin, christened Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin (surname pronounced [ʃɔpɛ̃] in French, usually /ˈʃoʊpæn/ in English, sometimes written Szopen in Polish; 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849), was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He was one of the great masters of Romantic music. Chopin was born in the village of Żelazowa Wola, in the Duchy of Warsaw, to a French-expatriate father and Polish mother. He was considered a child-prodigy pianist. On 2 November 1830, at age twenty, he left Warsaw for Austria, intending to go on to Italy. The outbreak of the Polish November Uprising seven days later, and its subsequent suppression by Russia, led to his becoming one of many expatriates of the Polish Great Emigration. In Paris, Chopin made a comfortable living as a composer and piano teacher, while giving few public performances. Though an ardent Polish patriot, in France he used the French versions of his given names, and traveled on a French passport, possibly to avoid having to rely on Imperial Russian documents. After ill-fated romantic involvements with Polish women, from 1837 to 1847 he had a turbulent relationship with the French novelist Aurore Dupin, better known by her pseudonym, George Sand. For the greater part of his life Chopin suffered from poor health; he died in Paris in 1849, aged thirty-nine, of pulmonary tuberculosis. Chopin's compositions were written primarily for the piano as solo instrument. Though technically demanding, they emphasize nuance and expressive depth rather than sheer virtuosity. Chopin invented musical forms such as the instrumental ballade and was responsible for major innovations in the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, polonaise, étude, impromptu and prélude.
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights. In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states. Text by Steve Smith.