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Frédéric Chopin

Biography

Born: 1810   Died: 1849   Period: Romantic
Frédéric Chopin has long been recognized as one of the most significant and individual composers of the Romantic age. The bulk of his reputation rests on small-scale works that in other hands would have been mere salon trifles: waltzes, nocturnes, preludes, mazurkas, and polonaises (the last-named two groups reflecting his fervent Polish nationalism). These works link poetically expressive melody and restless harmony to high technical demands. Read more Even his etudes survive as highly appealing concert pieces by emphasizing musical as well as technical values.

His birth date is a matter of controversy; the town registration of his birth specifies February 22, but Chopin always gave the date as March 1. His father was French, his mother Polish; he was raised in Warsaw by a family that mingled with intellectuals and members of the middle and upper classes, and as a teenager he spent two summers in the country, where he was exposed to Polish folk music. By the age of eight he was recognized as a child prodigy, performing in elegant salons and beginning to write his own pieces. Early on he studied composition with Josef Elsner, then took classes in various other music subjects as well as art and literature at the Warsaw Lyceum. In 1826 he enrolled at the University of Warsaw. He gave his first recital in Vienna in 1829, and over the next few years he performed at home and through much of German and Austria as well as in Paris. Feeling limited by Warsaw's cultural provincialism and uncomfortable with the publicity surrounding his performances there, he settled in Paris in 1832 and established himself as an exorbitantly paid piano teacher. In Paris he composed extensively, but limited his performances mainly to private salons.

In 1838 he began an affair with French novelist George Sand. The couple, along with Sand's children, spent a harsh winter in Majorca, where Chopin's health plummeted and he was diagnosed with consumption (tuberculosis). Chopin settled in with Sand in France, composing steadily although his increasing perfectionism slowed his output. By the mid-1840s, though, his health and romantic situation both had deteriorated. The affair ended in 1847 after, among other things, Sand had portrayed their relationship unflatteringly in her 1846 novel Lucrezia Floriani. Chopin then made an extended visit to the British Isles, but returned to Paris to die in 1849. Read less
Chopin Recital / Andrew Rangell
Release Date: 11/11/2014   Label: Steinway & Sons  
Catalog: 30038   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin, Schumann: Etudes / Valentina Lisitsa
Release Date: 11/10/2014   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 002224502   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Complete Waltzes / Garrick Ohlsson
Release Date: 01/12/2010   Label: Helios  
Catalog: 55381   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Chamber Music / Ohlsson, Brey, Josefowicz
Release Date: 01/12/2010   Label: Helios  
Catalog: 55384   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Complete Nocturnes / Earl Wild
Release Date: 11/18/2014   Label: Brilliant Classics  
Catalog: 94930   Number of Discs: 2
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Work: Etudes (12) for Piano, Op. 10: no 5 in G flat major "Black Keys"

 

About This Work
The 24 Études of Frédéric Chopin (divided into two separate opuses, 10 and 25, but actually composed almost simultaneously) remain the most significant entries in that particular musical genre. Chopin refers, in a letter dating Read more from the fall of 1829, to having written a study "in own manner"; indeed, a great chasm stands between his achievements in the genre and the far drier attempts of his predecessors (one thinks of Moscheles, Czerny, and Hummel in particular). It was not Chopin's intent, as it was with many nineteenth century pianist-composers, to create studies of mere technique and raw dexterity; here, instead, are works with an inexhaustible array of textures, moods, and colors to explore. These are works meant for the concert hall as well as for the practice room. The 12 Études published as Chopin's Opus 10 are an indispensable tool of the modern pianist's craft: they are a rite of passage that no serious player can ignore.

Op. 10, No. 5 is the famous "Black key study" in G flat major: the right hand plays only the pentatonic group of pitches found on the black keys of the piano. Chopin himself was not fond of this étude, remarking that it is "the least interesting for those who do not know that it is written for the black keys alone." It has become fashionable among virtuosi to perform the work at lightning-fast tempos; the Étude, however, is not a showpiece by nature, and would be better served if performers instead emphasized its rather coquettish humor. Read less

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