Episode 4: Chopinomics

Polonaise in F minor, Op. 71, No. 3

chopin-money-150How much would you pay for a piano lesson with Chopin? His fee in 1832 was 20 francs. Highway robbery if you’re an ordinary piano teacher - but the instructor in question was The Genius in Vogue, and the price was considered a bargain.

“I'm a revolutionary, money means nothing to me.” – Chopin, quoted by author Arthur Hedley in his 1947 biography of Chopin.

So, just how much was a franc worth in Chopin’s day? Debatable, but estimates range from $2.50 to $4.80 in modern dollars. That would put the price tag on a piano lesson with Chopin between $50 and $96. Sound reasonable for a piano lesson with the man about whom Robert Schumann shouted, “Hats off, gentlemen — a genius!”? Hats off is right. Dinner’s off, too, considering the average daily wage for an unskilled laborer in Paris was one franc. That’s three weeks’ wages to pay for one lesson if you don’t eat.

In 1982 Chopin and the first two bars of this Polonaise in F minor appeared on the Polish 5000 zloty bill. This year, The National Bank of Poland is adding their two cents’ worth with a release of special, collectible Chopin banknote valued at 20 zloty - about $6.77. Fourteen of the new notes if you want a lesson from the old poet of the piano! - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 4: Chopinomics

Polonaise in F minor, Op. 71, No. 3