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Smack-dab in the middle of Chopin’s Op. 25 Etudes lies this unique and memorable piece that is unlike any other Chopin creation. And one that has generated a considerable amount of ink over the decades.

Sometimes it’s called the “‘cello Etude,” due to the fact that the prominent melody is in the left hand, approximating the range of a cello. Others have called it “A Duet between a He and a She.” Or perhaps you prefer “Morbidly Elegaic?” Ballade-like? A Missing Nocturne?

Another school of thought says plainly: It’s an Etude. It’s supposed to help you with perfecting you piano technique. And the technique here is an exquisitely difficult phrasing and balance question – making the left hand carry the melody without being overpowered by the right — when the natural tendency is to go the other way.

Oh, and just to mess you up a little further, the left and right hand are playing quite independent musical lines that need to coincide at key moments.

So, for the final word, let’s transport you back to G.C. Ashton Jonson, author of the 1905 tome A Handbook to Chopin’s Works: (For the Use of Concert-Goers, Pianists, and Pianola Players):

Etude in C-sharp Op. 25 No. 7

Click on the piano to hear Chopin Project Artistic Director Arthur Greene perform Chopin’s unique Etude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 25, No. 7.

Read the Wikipedia entry here.

Read the Chopinmusic.net entry here.

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Marie WodzinksaIs this indeed Chopin’s “farewell” to his Polish fiancee Marie Wodzińska?  The autographed manuscript has the inscription “Pour Mlle Marie.”  We’ll let the “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” blog pick up the story…with a tip of the hat…
#1 — In 1835, while in Dresden trying to find a cure or some relief for his “consumption”, Chopin renews his acquaintence with the Wodzinski family, who had lived in his father’s boarding house back in Poland years before. Their young daughter Maria is an accomplished pianist in her own right and Chopin falls in love with her. She is 17, he is 25.#2 — They maintain a strong relationship by letter and see each other periodically as Chopin criss-crosses Europe giving concerts and teaching the aristocracy. Not long after on September 9, 1936, Chopin proposes marriage during a holiday together, chaparoned by Marie’s mother. Marie accepts.#3 — Marie’s family tells the couple that the engagement will not be “official” until Chopin proves that he is gonna live long enough to take care of their daughter! He gets a one year trial period to improve his failing health or all bets are off. He also needs to prove that he can provide a stable home environment. Due to continual travelling and performing, he has not yet set up a permanent home.#4 — So into this milieu marches Georg Sand. They meet approximately October 24, 1836, a month or so after Chopin proposes to Marie. Chopin is ill and realizes he just may be rejected by Marie’s family as decent husband material. Sand is separated and soon divorced from her Baron husband and has 2 children, a boy, Maurice and a girl, Solange.#5 — As luck would have it, Chopin cannot do what the Wodzinski family requires of him. He becomes very ill over the winter months and eventually meets Marie in Germany the early part of July, 1837 after a series of concerts in England and the Netherlands. Marie’s family sees the state of his frail health and instructs her to reject his proposal….by letter….later. By the time he returns to Paris toward the end of July, he receives word of the broken “unofficial” engagement. He wraps Marie’s correspondence and the rejection letter in a bundle and labels it “My Sorrow”.

Other factoids, courtesy of Wikipedia:

This song was heard in The Others and in an episode of Mad TV where Stuart gets piano lessons. It is prominently used in the PC game Alone in the Dark as both the game over music and as a song you can hear if you pick up a gramaphone and a certain record, though this version is played in a different tempo.

Chih-Long HuChih-Long Hu of the Chopin Project performs the Waltz in A-flat, Op. 69, No. 1 minor. To hear it, Click on the piano! Piano Player IconFor information on obtaining the sheet music to the Waltz from the Musicroom, Click on the cover page!

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Olga KleiakinaToday the Chopin Project spotlight falls on Russian-born Michigan pianist Olga Kleiankina, performing the First Impromptu (in A-flat, Op. 29, No. 1) by Chopin. By its very title “Impromptu” is supposed to mean just that — just a perky, playful little ditty that Fryderyk would dash off at the keyboard without a lot of forethought or consideration. The reality is, of course, anything but that! Chopin’s Impromptus are eternally popular, and devilishly difficult to pull off. Olga Kleiankina adds, “I felt a lot of pressure preparing for these concerts and was more than a little anxious. But the audiences were very warm, and it turned out to be such a pleasure. Even though I didn’t happen to play any major works, (many of them were almost unknown, in fact!), I came to love all my pieces, and I felt the audience did too. Even though they were miniatures, I felt that each one was perfectly organized from the very inside – in a way, a microcosmos….part of the transcendental world of Chopin’s imagination.”
Piano Player IconCLICK ON THE PIANO to hear to Olga Kleiankina play Chopin’s Impromptu in A-flat, Op. 29, No. 1. before an appreciative Ann Arbor audience.
Feeling ambitious? Download the sheet music here from pianosociety.com.
And read more about the Impromptus on Chopinmusic.net

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Chopin Mazurkas The Mazurkas, like the Polonaises, are the compositions closest to Chopin’s Polish roots. In fact, many Chopin scholars say the Mazurkas are Chopin at his most personal, experimental, and confessional: In his Mazurkas, you get to know the very soul of Poland and Chopin never forgot his home land or the poor farmers singing the Mazurkas during the time of harvest. Chopin started his composing with a Polonaise and ended with a Mazurka, thus closing the circle.”PianoSociety.com This is also what makes people study Chopin’s 58+ Mazurkas intently. Check out The Mazurka Project – a British site offering comparative study of 3000 recordings of Chopin Mazurkas!xiaofang wuListen to Xiaofeng Wu perform Chopin’s Mazurka in A minor, Op. 68, No.2 in concert at the University of Michigan’s Britton Recital Hall.Get the music at Sheet Music Plus.

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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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Chopin - Barcarolle in F-sharp, Op. 60 This is one of the last pieces that Chopin played in public. The excellent notes from the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s website sets the stage:

When in 1846 Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) completed the Barcarolle, the last work of its relatively large size to come from his pen, he was already laid low by the fatal illness that three years later would take his life. He must have had deep affection for the piece, for he included it on the program of a concert he gave in Paris, February 16, 1848, his last appearance in his loved adopted city. Reports of the event tell of this physically depleted man unable to play much above the level of pianissimo even in the Barcarolle’s most expansive sections, a depressing experience for his many friends in the audience.The Barcarolle is the single work of its type in his catalog, which is not surprising considering the limitations imposed by the necessity to maintain a “boat” accompaniment and to invent suitably artless – gondoliere – melodies. In light of these specific guidelines, Chopin has created a composition of remarkable continuity and diversity having, in this temperate context, unexpected dramatic intensity in a soaring climax. (Sudden storm on the Venice canal?) Read more of the notes here.

The Vancouver Chopin Society also has an interesting perspective of the performance challenges of this piece, along with some recording recommendations:

“…It has been the despair of many fine artists, being difficult to interpret successfully. It is easy to sound affected, as does [Claudio] Arrau, or nervous, as does [Vladimir] Horowitz, or too plain, as did [Walter] Gieseking. Chopin must have been its ideal interpreter… The Barcarolle displays Chopin’s ornamental genius in full bloom. Ravel wrote, “Chopin was not content merely to revolutionize piano technique. His figurations are inspired. Through his brilliant passages one perceives profound, enchanting harmonies. Always there is the hidden meaning which is translated into poetry of intense despair. . . . The Barcarolle is the synthesis of the expressive and sumptuous art of this great Slav.”

Hear Arthur Greene perform Chopin’s Barcarolle in F-sharp minor, Op. 60

Read the Wikipedia definition of Barcarolle

Find more recordings

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rev_greene03.jpg “The very first piece on the program is a piece that Chopin wrote when he was seven years old. It’s very typical of the music that was being written at that time in Warsaw…a little Polonaise…with even a little virtuosic flourish in it. But Chopin was too young to write the notes down on the page..his father wrote it for him. He had probably written some things before this, but this is the first surviving piece that we have.”Arthur Greene.

Hear Arthur Greene perform the Polonaise in G minor – Chopin’s first piece

Publishing Information from Pianopedia

Download the score from the Werner Icking Archive

Watch “Charlie” (5 yrs 11 months) play it on YouTube

Title Page - Chopin’s Polonaise in G minor

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