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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 Nocturnes / Earl Wild
Release Date: 11/18/2014   Label: Brilliant Classics  
Catalog: 94930   Number of Discs: 2
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Chopin: Complete Piano Music Vol 15 / Idil Biret, Et Al
Release Date: 09/28/1999   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8554541   Number of Discs: 1
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Chopin: Préludes; Mompou / Alexandre Tharaud
Release Date: 03/11/2008   Label: Harmonia Mundi  
Catalog: 901982   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Nocturne for Piano in D flat major, Op. 27 no 2

 

About This Work
The Nocturnes, Op. 27, dedicated to Mme. la Comtesse d'Appony, are Chopin's third publication in the genre. Many feel these two works to be among the very best of his compositions; they are certainly two of the most powerful -- and famous -- Read more nocturnes he ever penned. The composer's conception of nocturne form (and sentiment), as embodied here, is virtually unrecognizable as the same genre he inherited from its inventor, the Irish composer John Field.

The first of the pair is cast in the melancholy, brooding key of C sharp minor, and employs the typical ABA form with coda. There is a piquant alternation between the minor and major third scale degrees throughout the opening gesture; the arpeggiated left-hand figuration, common throughout the Nocturnes, adds perhaps more to the atmosphere, in this case morbid and intentionally grating, than does the accompaniment of any other Nocturne. The central section is of a far more overtly passionate nature; the resigned coda is of its composer's finest silk.

The Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27/2, is of a different sentiment altogether, exploring the many sides of just one basic mood rather than presenting the kind of dramatic conflicts contained within its immediate predecessor. Two strophes are repeated three times each, varied with ever greater ingenuity upon each reiteration (the piece is one of the composer's most graceful essays in fioritura ornamental practices). The opening melody will be familiar to many who nevertheless cannot identify it by name (a fragment of the gesture melody even found its way into one of the James Bond movies, cleverly used in conjunction with deep-sea imagery). The static atmosphere of the opening (a wandering melody floating upon an unchanging D flat major background) is broken up by the unexpected intrusion of the minor subdominant a few bars later. The powerful main cadence of the piece (near to its end, but not actually the final cadence) is surely one of the most glorious moments in Chopin's entire output: the elaboration of an otherwise elementary 4-3 suspension by means of arpeggiation in the right hand is magical -- the actual acoustic effect is more like that of stacked fourths.

-- Blair Johnston, All Music Guide Read less

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