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In the early nineteenth century in Warsaw, Poland, music teacher Professor Joseph Elsner receives a letter from Louis Pleyel, a celebrated Parisian music publisher and impresario, offering to audition the professor's pupil, child prodigy Frédéric Chopin. The Chopin family is poor, however, and consequently, cannot afford their son's passage to Paris. When the eleven-year-old Chopin becomes preoccupied with his country's struggle for freedom against the Russian Czarists, the professor inspires the boy by telling him that his fame as a pianist will pave the way for Polish freedom. Eleven years later, Chopin is summoned to play at a concert for a count. When the Russian Governor General of Poland unexpectedly appears at the concert, Chopin denounces him as "a Czarist butcher" and storms out of the room. His life endangered by the outburst, Chopin is forced to flee Poland, and the professor suggests taking refuge in Paris. As the professor and Chopin prepare to depart, Constantia, one of Chopin's comrades, presents him with a pouch of Polish soil. In Paris, the professor takes his protege to see Pleyet, but the impresario is only interested in Chopin, the child prodigy, not Chopin, the grown man. As Pleyel and the professor argue, composer Franz Liszt sits down at the piano and begins to play Chopin's unfinished composition, a Polanaise. When Chopin joins Liszt in a duet, Pleyel recognizes the composer's genius and offers him a concert appearance. To celebrate his pupil's success, the professor takes him to a famous café frequented by artists. There, Liszt introduces them to the poet Alfred de Musset and the novelist Georges Sand, who is garbed in men's attire. On the night of Chopin's concert debut, word arrives from Poland that two of the composer's friends have been executed for aiding his escape. Deeply troubled, Chopin fumbles his piece on the keyboard and runs off the stage. Despite the devastating reviews of his performance, Georges proclaims that Chopin is a true genius. Determined to prove her hunch, Georges invites Chopin to attend Liszt's performance at the Duchess of Orlean's salon. When Liszt requests that the room be darkened, Chopin uses the cover of blackness to take his place at the piano. After Georges enters the room carrying a candelabra and illuminates Chopin's presence, the audience erupts in applause. After the concert that night, Georges convinces Chopin to leave for her country estate before signing contracts with Pleyel. Although the professor objects, Chopin is enamoured by Georges and ignores his old friend's advice. At her country estate, Georges talks Chopin into joining her on the island of Majorca, arguing that his only allegiance should be to composing. As Chopin and Georges isolate themselves on Majorca, the professor loyally awaits his pupil's return to Paris. Evicted for non-payment of rent, he moves to humble lodgings and begins to teach again. When the dank climate of Majorca causes Chopin's fragile health to deteriorate, the composer asks Georges to go back to France with him. Upon learning of Chopin's homecoming, the professor hurries to Georges's country house where he argues with her about what is best for Chopin. Georges jealousy guards Chopin, and as a result, the professor leaves without seeing his protege. When Liszt encounters the dejected professor on a Paris street one day, he invites him to attend a salon at which Chopin will be playing. As news of the suppression of the Polish uprising sweeps the country, Constantia visits the professor to ask his help in enlisting Chopin in their cause. Reluctantly agreeing to approach Chopin, the professor attends the salon. Upset by his teacher's presence, Chopin leaves the room and is followed by the professor. When the professor mentions the uprising in Poland, Georges insists that Chopin's only obligation is to his own genius. Retorting that genius should serve mankind, the professor throws down the pouch of Polish soil and departs. Aroused by his teacher's words, Chopin decides to undertake a grueling concert tour of European capitals, the proceeds of which are to be donated to Polish resistance. Angrily denouncing Chopin's decision as certain suicide, Georges severs their friendship. Driven by patriotism, the frail Chopin embarks upon a whirlwind tour and collapses in Paris after completing his final concert. When Georges refuses to visit Chopin on his deathbed, the composer expires in the presence of his two longtime friends, the professor and Constantia.