Frédéric Chopin was born near Warsaw on March 1, 1810. The son of a French father and a Polish mother, he spent his first twenty years in Poland and most of his adult life in France. Although he was one of the greatest pianists of his time, he disliked performing in concert halls, preferring to play for small groups of friends in more intimate settings. He supported himself primarily by selling his compositions, which were always in demand, and by giving piano lessons. He suffered from chronic poor health throughout his life, and he died in Paris in 1849, when he was only 39 years old.
Chopin composed his Étude Op. 10, No. 12 in C minor, known as the “Revolutionary Étude,” in 1831. He had left Warsaw in early November of 1830, just weeks before the outbreak of what came to be known as the November Uprising — an attempt by Polish nationalists to oust their Russian occupiers. The uprising went on for almost a year, ending with the Poles and their allies being crushed by the numerically superior Russians. The Polish defeat devastated Chopin, whose emotions found expression in this étude.