Notes found in successive annual evaluations by Chopin’s music professor, Józef Elsner:
“1827 - Exceptionally gifted.”
“1828 - Extraordinarily endowed.”
“1829 - A musical genius.”
When Fryderyk Chopin was sixteen, he became a regular student of Jósef Elsner, a Polish composer of German extraction and head of the conservatoire in Warsaw, who was an accomplished and influential figure in Polish musical life. Elsner gave Chopin lessons in counterpoint and harmony and taught young Fryderyk to write out his compositions himself.
One of the works Chopin wrote under Elsner’s tutelage was his first Sonata – Op. 4 in C minor – and he dedicated it to his esteemed instructor. While it is an immature work, there are many glimpses of Chopin’s originality and greatness to come.
Elsner was canny enough to catch those glimpses and realize he was working with no ordinary student. When others criticized Chopin for breaking the rules, Elsner said, “Leave him alone, he follows an unusual path because his gifts are unusual. He does not follow any traditional method closely because he has a method of his own, and he will reveal in his works an originality that has never been met before in such a high degree.”
Chopin was fortunate, and indeed WE are fortunate, that he had such a wise teacher willing to let him find his own path. - Rachel Stewart