Chopin, tutored at home until he was thirteen, enrolled in the Warsaw Lyceum in 1823, but continued studying piano under Żywny’s direction. In 1825, in a performance of the work of Ignaz Moscheles, he entranced the audience with his free improvisation, and was acclaimed the “best pianist in Warsaw”.

In the autumn of 1826, Chopin began a three-year course of studies with the Silesian composer Józef Elsner at the Warsaw Conservatory, which was affiliated with the University of Warsaw (hence Chopin is counted among the university’s alumni). Chopin’s first contact with Elsner may have been as early as 1822; it is certain that Elsner was giving him informal guidance by 1823, and in 1826 Chopin officially began studying music theory, figured bass, and composition with Elsner.

In year-end evaluations, Elsner noted Chopin’s “remarkable talent” and “musical genius”. As had Żywny, Elsner observed, rather than influenced or directed, the development of Chopin’s blossoming talent. Elsner’s teaching style was based on his reluctance to “constrain” Chopin with “narrow, academic, outdated” rules, and on his determination to allow the young artist to mature “according to the laws of his own nature”.

In 1827 the family moved to lodgings just across the street from Warsaw University, in the south annex of the Krasiński Palace at Krakowskie Przedmieście 5 (the palace is now the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts). Here the parents continued running their elite boarding house for male students. Young Chopin lived here until he left Warsaw in 1830. (In 1837–39, artist-poet Cyprian Norwid would live here while studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts; later he would pen the poem, “Chopin’s Piano”, about Russian troops’ 1863 defenestration of the instrument.) The Chopins’ parlor (salonik Chopinów) is now a museum open to the public; here Chopin first played many of his early compositions.

In 1829, Polish portraitist Ambroży Mieroszewski executed a set of five portraits of Chopin family members (the youngest daughter, Emilia, had died in 1827): Chopin’s parents, his elder sister Ludwika, younger sister Izabela, and, in the first known portrait of him, the composer himself. (The originals perished in World War II; only black-and-white photographs remain.) In 1913, French musicologist and Chopin biographer Édouard Ganche would write that this painting of the precocious composer showed “a youth threatened by tuberculosis. His skin is very white, he has a prominent Adam’s apple and sunken cheeks, even his ears show a form characteristic of consumptives.” Chopin’s younger sister Emilia had already died of tuberculosis at the age of fourteen, and their father would succumb to the same disease in 1844.

According to Polish musicologist and Chopin biographer Zdzisław Jachimecki, comparison of the juvenile Chopin with any earlier composer is difficult because of the originality of the works that Chopin was composing already in the first half of his life. At a comparable age, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven had still been apprentices, while Chopin was perceived by peers and audiences to be already a master who was pointing the path to the coming age.

Chopin himself never gave thematic titles to his instrumental works, but identified them simply by genre and number. His compositions were, however, often inspired by emotional and sensual experiences in his own life. One of his first such inspirations was a beautiful young singing student at the Warsaw Conservatory and later a singer at the Warsaw Opera, Konstancja Gładkowska. In letters to his friend Tytus Woyciechowski, Chopin indicated which of his works, and even which of their passages, were influenced by his erotic transports. His artist’s soul was also enriched by friendships with such leading lights of Warsaw’s artistic and intellectual world as Maurycy Mochnacki, Józef Bohdan Zaleski and Julian Fontana.