There is something I find absolutely remarkable,
incomparable, in the Etudes by Chopin when compared to others in the
genre, like the ones by Liszt for example. With Chopin, there is an
impossibility to draw a line between the musical idea and the pianistic
My Recording Of The Chopin Etudes
Reflexions about the
Etudes opus 10, 25 and the "Trois nouvelles etudes" by Frederic Chopin.
I mean by that, generally, there is a musical concept on one side and a
pianistic realization on another. With more or less success, composers
did realize their musical ideas on the instruments of music or
orchestra. In Chopin there is something out of the ordinary which only
exists in a few other composers. That is, with Chopin, the musical idea
seems to be born out of the pianistic thought without being
subordinated to it. I mean by that, with the Studies by Czerny or
Moscheles there are instrumental ideas with subject matters like
arpeges, scales and so on. Then, those studies have taken a musical
form, more or less genuine, which gave them their final aspect.
With Chopin, of course we have those pianistic "subjects" like arpeges,
thirds, sixths and so on that we all know, and there is the "musical
idea", which itself is great, because it is a musical idea by Chopin.
The correlation between this musical idea and the pianistic one is so
dense and abundant that we cannot see where one stops and the other
gets in. We have, for instance, great composers where the realization
of the musical conception on the music instrument seems to be somehow
forced. For example: Beethoven.
Everything which makes Beethoven troublesome to play at the piano comes
from the fact that he never submits his musical conception to the
realities of the keyboard. His musical conception seems to be molded
with constraint into the keyboard. On the other side, we have composers
like Stravinsky where musical concepts (ideas) seems to be "made" for
the instrument. We cannot distinguish where the instrumental
realization of his musical concept do occurs. Where one starts, ends
and the others starts? This is absolutely unattainable to see.
At Chopin, especially in the Etudes we have that. We have a pianistic
concept and we have a musical idea but the question: did the musical
idea is born out of the instrument or the inverse remains wide open.
No, the musical idea is not generated by the instrumental one, as that
would have been the case with Moscheles, for example. So did the
musical view fitted into a pianistic form instead? No, because that
would have given the Etudes by Liszt, for example, which are terrific
musical poems by themselves but they are not "etudes" in the classical
meaning of it. So we have here a musical concept which has been
simultaneously formed with the instrumental one.
We can not see where one ends and the other takes in, they all seem
one. This is what I find absolutely charming, in Chopin and specially
in his Etudes.
Born in Zelazowa-Wola, near Warsaw on the March 1st, 1810, died in
Paris on the 17 October 1846, Frederic Chopin is at the same time the
national glory of Poland and the "adopted" composer of France.
According to Andre Gide, Chopin did mixed over a typically Polish root
a not less common French style. His early years, spent in Warsaw have
been centered on music.
When he entered the Warsaw conservatory of music, at the age of 14 he
seemed not needing to learn anything more about piano playing. When
fifteen, he published "Rondo" op.1, his very first creation. Chopin
journeyed to Vienna, Berlin, Prague during the years 1828-29. At the
same time he enjoyed a good reputation of being the best pianist in
Warsaw. "Zal" is a Polish term for a very special kind of nostalgic
dreamy and melancholic feeling. An incredibly sensitive artist like the
young Chopin got into it very soon.
Frederic Chopin left Warsaw in 1830, just on the wedge of the Warsaw
uprising. He settled down in Paris, devoting his time to creation and
revealing. The concert career seemed inadequate for his temper. Chopin
composed the majority of his most vital pieces at the home of George
Sand in Nohant where he was spending the summer months throughout the
years 1836-1840. Chopin's friends, in his "romantic" Paris of the
nineteenth century were Delacroix, Liszt, Meyerbeer, Heine, Balzac.
Disliking traveling, he once made a trip to Germany.
He encountered Schumann and Mendelssohn. In his last year he also got
to London once. The rather secluded life of Chopin is nevertheless a
source of many stories and legends. Chopin's like affairs with Marie
Wodzinska, his passionate liaison with George Sand and the image of a
pianist and music composer which is graceful, sensitive and romantic
are positively proper. On the other hand, the fabulous music usually
used to enhance the stories, be it in the book reader's mind or in
movies, also served a great deal to boost their appeal and
effectiveness. He was buried, accompanied with his own "Marche Funebre"
on October 30, 1849. His tomb is in the cemetery "Pere-Lachaise. "The
music by Chopin is one of the most graceful ever created. By the very
nature of his genius he refuses all categorizations." said Claude
Except for a few chamber music compositions, a book of seventeen songs
op.74 and his diverse piano and orchestra compositions, among them the
two beautiful Concertos op.11 and op.21, Chopin has generally been a
"piano composer". Between his last musical sketching: Mazurka opus 68
n.4 just prior to his demise in 1849 and since the opus 1 "Rondo" of
1825, written when he was 14, Chopin almost exclusively authored for
the piano, all the time and in all aspects of the musical instrument.
With the massive list of his piano compositions, Chopin, unlike Liszt
never followed or evidently displayed any literary connection with his
He was a follower of Mozart and Bach whose creations he kept studying
all his life. "A romantic inspiration and sensitivity which shows up in
a very classical formal structure" this is generally how all
musicologists describe Chopin's genius. Even if it is very much
elaborated, the music phrase by Chopin remains "simple", direct and
highly successful. Chopin described several times that the simplicity
must be goal in artistic creation. The ornamentation which he wanted to
be performed as if improvised was an integral and structural piece of
the melody. It was related to the ornamentation of the Italian singers
as well as to the French "clavicembalo" style, specifically Francois
Couperin to whom, Wanda Landowska did not hesitate to connect Chopin.
The singers of the Italian Theater of Paris gave Chopin inspiration.
He normally listened to them and loved their natural style and
easy-going manners. "You need to sing if you wish to play the piano" he
was saying to his pupils. Chopin was playing with an ideal equality of
That was the end product of an incredible mastering of the fingering
and the touch. He wrote once: "as many sound as there are fingers, the
thing is to know how to finger [numbering] them best." Another peculiar
aspect of his playing was that unique "rubato" which has been broadly
discussed. In his "Memoires", Berlioz wrote: "Chopin was unable to play
regularly [i.e. keeping the beat], he pushed too far the rhythmical
freedom of the melodic parts." Hector Berlioz, who never performed
piano can be too severe when criticizing Chopin's playing "out of the
All who heard Chopin play said his "rubato" was continuously natural
sounding, never too much, never in a pathos but elegant and refined.
The peculiar "rubato" of Chopin is best described by Liszt. He made an
analogy with the wind making the branches and leaves of trees
oscillate, level forcibly at times, yet the trunks never moves with
The music by Frederic Chopin is also characteristic with its harmonic
sophistication and sophistication. The piano pedaling, in the music by
Chopin gets, an importance never achieved before. Not only an accessory
neither a utility, the pedal, with Chopin is one of the most
fundamental tools in achieving expressibility.