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Archive for the ‘Musicology’ Category

Xiaofeng Wu in performance
This is one of the best-known (and arguably, the most difficult!) of the set of twelve études Chopin dedicated to Franz Liszt. The Études were published in a single volume in 1833, when Chopin was 23, although four of them are supposed to have been completed as early as 1829.
“Étude” literally means “study” or “exercise,” which is especially apparent in this particular work, which is designed to strengthen the “weaker” (that is, the third, fourth, and fifth) fingers of the right hand. But Chopin doesn’t stop there the thumb and index fingers have to play the accompanying chords to the dizzying “melody” going up and down the keyboard on those “weak” fingers.
Just to underscore the technical nature of this étude, Chopin even takes a page from the J.S. Bach playbook and indicates the fingering – note by note — of the almost 800 notes in this piece!

Hear Chopin Project pianist Xiaofeng Wu perform Chopin’s Étude in A minor, Op. 10, No. 2

Some other links to Chopin Études, courtesy of Wikipedia:

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Ballade in G minor, Op. 23 In the previous post we discussed an all-time Chopin favorite, the Nocturne in E-flat, Op. 9, No. 2. What then, is left to say about another Chopin classic – this Ballade in G minor?Plenty, it would appear. There’s an extremely technical description in the La Folia online music reveiew by Beth Levin:

…..A rhythm of 6/4 suggests an underlying waltz, as does the set of chords that plays off each melody note. Further, the chords lie under portamento slurs which give them shape, gently tug at the second and third beats, and increase the inherent dance quality. However, a waltz in G minor is colored by the key and therefore imbued with a tender poignancy. One dances, but with a heavy heart….

Then there’s an entire dissertation by a Swedish graduate student. Here’s his abstract:

The purpose of this work is to make a general presentation of Chopin, the age in which he lived, his G minor Ballade and selected editions of the Ballade. I will also compare five recordings of the G minor Ballade, and make a presentation and a recording of my own interpretation of the G minor Ballade. This work discusses his life up to the time the Ballade was published, Chopin’s development as a composer, and the period in his life when the Ballade was composed. Background material on the history of the Ballade as a genre and its development is included to give the reader an enhanced contextual understanding. The issue as to whether Chopin had a literary model when composing the G minor Ballade and his relationship with the Polish writer Adam Mickiewicz is discussed. This work considers the issue of form in the G minor Ballade, Chopin’s personality, how Chopin played, his use ofthe term ‘tempo rubato’, and how he used improvisation and composition.

Make what you will of this interpretation of an Arturo Benedetti Michalangeli fansite:

Miracle seems really a shortfall, rather than a longfall, when it is applied with Michelangeli’s Chopin (especially the Ballade in G minor, op. 23; Deutsche Grammophon 413 449-2): water seem to be loosing ground against the lack of distance. With proper distance however, there is a possibility the water might fall with greater flow and maturity. Michelangeli drive for that aim is to have more miracle and less than a human spirit is ultimately tested against the harsh background where one finds a waterfall equipped with sophisticated break-system.

Chopin primarily conceived the Work to be played out amongst the adult fellowship society of his peers nonetheless amounting to no fewer than the very composer himself as the sole guest. Chopin somehow wanted the work to be played by grownups; yet he himself when he conceived all this was a child. His excess employment of piano’s sustaining pedal is no justification for the larger framework thereof. He might have been using the principle to get beyond the fantastic element in the piano: he incorporated it into the Work very stylishly that the importance of the pedal desists when it is fused into the work as a whole. Sophistication still is called for. It is up to the individual pianist to start where it gains ground and appears appropriate to begin constructing the superstructure.

Last word goes to Arthur Greene:

The G minor Ballade, if I play it correctly, should need no introduction.

Listen to Arthur Greene’s performance of the Chopin Ballade in G minor, Op. 23

View and download the sheet music here.

Want more? Deeper into the Web we go. How about this “Interpretation of the Narrative Grammar of Chopin’s Ballade in G minor?”

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lilachopinnocturne.jpgArthur Greene:

“Today’s entry takes us into far more familiar Chopin territory. The Nocturne in E-flat, Op. 9 No. 2 comes from around 1830, -after Chopin had left Warsaw forever. But the version I’m playing here has a bit of a twist. There are some scores of Chopin’s works that he marked up for his piano students, and they’ve been a fascinating find for musicologists. You can see where he marked things on the scores, adding fingerings and other instructions for his students. And in some of them Chopin added extra notes – and even little cadenzas! So if you know this beloved Nocturne, listen extra closely, and you’ll hear some things that aren’t usually there.”

Click on the Piano Piano Player IconFrom Britton Recital Hall, listen to Arthur Greene perform Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Op. 9 No. 2 (original cadenzas)

Find the sheet music here.

Did we mention that this Nocturne is popular? Visit the 43things site to find out who wants to play this Nocturne to an empty concert hall.

How popular? Visit the online video agreggator FindInternetTV.com to see the 27 different video versions.
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Chopin Op. 1

Arthur Greene:

By the time he was 15, Chopin had developed has piano technique considerably, and he was writing pieces that were firmly in the virtuoso tradition of the early Romantic period. Now, the general aesthetic at the time was not particularly deep or profound — it was more about varied and pretty effects. Chopin later developed those techniques into some pretty profound utterances, but here it’s mostly surface charm. And I’ll bet you’ve never heard this piece before. In fact, even as a piano-faculty member who’s heard thousands of students playing untold thousands of piano works, I’ve never heard anyone play this piece. But I’ve really enjoyed getting to know it – and to play it.

Listen to Arthur Greene’s performance of Chopin’s Rondo in C minor, Op. 1 (1825)

Download the sheet music to Chopin’s Op. 1 (courtesy free-scores.com)


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As you look through the entries and listings of Chopin’s keyboard works on these pages, you may run into this funny “KK” designation, particularly in the early recitals.   It stands for the Kobylanska Katalog, and it’s assigned to works by Chopin that don’t have opus numbers.    It’s named after Polish musicologist (and former Curator of the Fryderyk Chopin Society Museum in Warsaw) Krystyna Kobylańska, who in 1979 authored Frédéric Chopin: Thematisch-bibliographisches Werkverzeichnis.  It is in essence a complete (and definitive) thematic catalogue of all the works by the Polish piano master – not unlike what Ludwig Koechel did for Mozart in the 19th century.

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The Chopin Project began as an ambitious live-concert-and-symposium series at the University of Michigan’s acclaimed School of Music, Theatre & Dance devoted to exploring the entirety of Fryderyk Chopin’s works for solo piano: Through a series of nine concerts at Britton Recital Hall, students from the piano studio of renowned teacher and performer Arthur Greene presented a complete traversal of Chopin’s works: from his earliest surviving work, a polonaise written at age 7, through his last mazurka penned in 1849. A complete list of participants in the U of M Chopin Project can be found here.

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The applause for the acclaimed concerts (check out the blog comments here) had barely died away when Arthur Greene and his top students went into the studio to capture their insightful Chopin interpretations for the Digital Age for Block M Records. For the first time ever, all 129 compositions – the complete solo piano works of Chopin – will be available for download via the iTunes music store, this site, and a number of other online destinations.

But we didn’t stop there. The Chopin Project is really just beginning. We want to share all the resources and the research that went into the recitals, pre-concert talks, and symposia, and add a whole lot more besides: Our goal to create a global online resource for all things connected to the unique, magical, and captivating world of Chopin and the piano. Research, commentary, program, notes, audio, video, even musical scores…we want the Chopin Project to be your “one-stop shop” for considering all Chopin things.

That means we need your help! Your ideas, suggestions and contributions will really make the Chopin Project site “sing.” So bookmark us and explore, discover, and savor the genius of Chopin’s timeless creations.

After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own. — Oscar Wilde

chopin-head.gifThe Chopin Project is proudly presented by Frederick Slutsky Arts, exclusive representatives for pianist Arthur Greene and other acclaimed performing, visual, and creative artists.

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