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Jozef Elsner
Birth: Jun. 1, 1769
Death: Apr. 18, 1854
Warsaw, Poland

Composer, Conductor, Educator, Author. An important precursor of Polish Nationalism in music, he pioneered in using folk elements in his work. Some of his operas have themes taken from Polish history and legend. Among his many students the greatest was Frederic Chopin. Joseph Anton Franz Elsner was born in Grottkau (now Grodków), Silesia, a region of Poland then under Prussian rule. His ancestry was German, he received a Germanic upbringing and did not learn to speak Polish until his 20s. He studied medicine and music in Wroclaw and was torn between the vocations when he went to Vienna in 1789 to earn a medical degree; the rich musical life of the Austrian capital, where Mozart and Haydn were still active, settled the matter. From 1792 to 1799 he was assistant Kapellmeister and staff composer of the opera house in Lemberg, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine), a period that changed the course of his career. Influenced by his friend, actor-playwright Wojciech Boguslawski, and marriage to a Pole, Elsner became enamored with Polish culture. Local folk music began to pervade his instrumental compositions and he wrote his first Polish-language opera to a Boguslawski libretto, "The Amazons, or Herminia" (1798). In 1799 he settled in Warsaw as music director of the National Theatre, a post he would hold for a quarter-century. He introduced many international operas to its stage and produced several of his own, enjoying his greatest success with "Leszek the White, or The Witch from the Bald Mountain" (1809). He continued to pursue his nationalist sympathies as founder of Warsaw's first music publishing firm (1802) and as editor of the monthly journal "Selected Beauties of Polish Music and Songs", which ran for 24 issues in the early 1800s. In 1816 he joined the faculty of the recently founded Warsaw Music School, which trained actors as well as musicians. Under his directorship from 1821, it expanded into the country's first real music conservatory, the Institute of Music and Recitation, affiliated with Warsaw University. (It still exists as the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music). Elsner's middle years were buffeted by professional intrigue and political upheaval. Although he had become polonized, he still regarded himself as a Silesian and this ambiguous status left him vulnerable to more zealous nationalists in the Polish arts. Chief among them was Karol Kurpinski, his deputy director (since 1810) at the National Theatre. Kurpinski owed his position to Elsner but turned it into a bitter rivalry, accusing the senior musician of favoring German opera; he finally succeeded in having Elsner dismissed in 1824. When the Polish Uprising began in November 1830, Elsner showed his support by providing the music for a revolutionary playlet, "The Insurrection of a Nation". The Russians crushed the rebellion the following year and shut down both Warsaw University and the Conservatory; the latter would not reopen until 1861. Elsner devoted his remaining years to composing, researching folk music, writing music textbooks, and compiling a detailed catalog of his output. His compositions include 45 operas (among them "Seven Times One", "King Lokietek" and "Jagiello in Tenczyn") and other stage pieces, 33 masses, four oratorios and some 150 smaller choral works, eight symphonies, two violin concertos and a flute concerto, and four piano sonatas. Outside of Poland Elsner is remembered for his association with Chopin, whom he taught privately from 1823 to 1826 and at the Conservatory from 1826 to 1829. From the start he noted in his diary, "Chopin, Frederic...amazing capabilities, musical genius". Elsner gave him a strong foundation in composition and theory but otherwise acted more as advisor than instructor, allowing the prodigy to develop his gifts on his own. Chopin's first large-scale piano work, the Sonata No. 1 (1828), was dedicated to him. Subsequent biographers (and Hollywood as well) greatly romanticized this relationship. The best known anecdote describes how Elsner gave Chopin a silver goblet of Polish soil to take with him shortly before he left Poland forever in 1830. In fact he was disappointed with the direction Chopin's career took in Paris, especially by his failure to write a Polish nationalist opera, as he had long hoped. He outlived his star pupil by five years, dying in Warsaw at 84. In the 20th Century Elsner's work was largely neglected while his reputation was manipulated by various regimes in Poland. During World War II, the occupying Nazis exploited his German background by issuing a Polish postage stamp with his image; he was virtually persona non grata under postwar communist rule. After the fall of communism in Poland, Elsner's oratorio "The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (1838) was unearthed and recorded in 1991. It was hailed as a major discovery and today is considered his masterpiece. The 2010 Chopin Bicentennial brought another surge of interest in his music, and more of it is finding its way into concert programs and recordings. (bio by: Bobb Edwards) 
 
Burial:
Powazki Cemetery
Warsaw
Mazowieckie, Poland
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Cuneyt Telli
Record added: Feb 21, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 65931800
Jozef Elsner
Added by: Bobb Edwards
 
Jozef Elsner
Added by: Cuneyt Telli
 
Jozef Elsner
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Added by: Cuneyt Telli
 
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