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Chopin: Etudes Op. 10, Trois Nouvelles Etudes, Bercuese, Ecossaises

Ruth Slenczynska

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12 Etudes, Op. 10 1 No. 1 in C Major 1:59 2 No. 2 in A Minor 1:29 3 No. 3 in E Major 4:26 4 No. 4 in C-Sharp Minor 2:11 5 No. 5 in G-Flat Major "Black Key" 1:40 6 No. 6 in E-Flat Major 3:28 7 No. 7 in C Major 1:35 8 No. 8 in F Major 2:27 9 No. 9 in F Minor 2:17 10 No. 10 in A-Flat Major 2:16 11 No. 11 in E-Flat Major 2:23 12 No. 12 in C Minor "Revolutionary" 2:29 Trois Nouvelles Etudes (pour la Méthode de Moscheles) 13 I. Andantino in F Minor 2:15 14 II. Allegretto in A-Flat Major 1:45 15 III. Allegretto in D-Flat Major 2:03 16 Berceuse, Op. 57 4:21 17 Three Ecossaises, Op. 72, 2:04 (played without pause) I. Ecossaise in D Major II. Ecossaise in G Major III. Ecossaise in D-Flat Major RUTH SLENCZYNSKA, piano NOTES BY THE PERFORMER Eighteen-year-old Frederyk François Chopin announced in a letter dated October 29, 1829, “”I have composed a Study in my own fashion.” The music was the jubilant Etude Opus 10, No. 8. On Nov. 14th, to the same friend, “I have written two Studies; I could play them well for you.” The F Minor “Molto Agitato” (No. 9) was meant to contrast in musical content as well as key ; many of the Etudes were written in pairs. Young Chopin was a pianist as well as a composer; his instrument presented as yet unfathomed problems in technique. Keyboardists had learned to master the light touch of the harpsichord and yet the lighter touch of the clavichord, but the piano required greater dynamic gradations through different amounts of finger pressure. To bridge this gap “Etudes, Studies, or Exercises” had been written by Clementi, Cramer, and later, Czerny. Can it be that these musically unrewarding pieces combined with the pianist’s genuine need provided inspiration to compose in this idiom? Von Bülow said of Etude No. 10, “He who can play this study in a really finished manner may congratulate himself on having climbed to the highest point of the pianist’s Parnassus.” With the elegant “Arpegiatto” Etude in E-flat we have four gems completed within a two-month period. 1829-30 were wonderfully exciting years for Chopin. He went to Vienna where a large poster proclaimed him “the new star from the north;” when he returned to Warsaw after many concerts he was established as Poland’s most representative musician. Romance was a game, and he experienced his first schoolboy love for the singer Constantia Gladkowska who inspired the slow movement of his F Minor Concerto. In the summer of 1830 another contrasting pair of Etudes, feathery, airy No. 5 and dark velvet No. 6 were written in related keys. A letter dated April 25, 1839, to Jules Fontana refers to No. 5 as “Black Key Study. Chopin’s “Farewell” concert in Warsaw took place on October 11th, 1830; he played his E Minor Concerto to wild applause as his audience wished him well on his forthcoming concert tour of all western Europe. No one knew then that he would leave never to return to his native land. Etudes Nos. 1 and 2 were called “Exercises 1 and 2”; the second one, which reminds me of dry leaves flying in the wind, is dated Nov. 2nd, 1830, the day Chopin left Poland for the last time. Ossip Gabrilowitsch said of this Etude, “A pianist should work on this music for twenty-five years before playing it in public.” Of triumphant No. 1, Chopin told his pupil Mme. Streicher, "This Etude will do you very much good if you study it correctly. It will stretch your hand. . ." The stagecoach ride from Warsaw to Vienna took 20 days. Just a week after arriving came unexpected news: there had been an uprising of the people in Warsaw, Grand Duke Constantine and his Cossacks had abandoned the city, and the people of Poland were in arms. During the next months various of Chopin’s friends enlisted, yet his father begged him to do nothing rash, to think first of his career. A friend wrote, “You left in order to acquire glory for your country." Chopin's restless uncertainty is apparent in the B Minor Scherzo, Opus 20 of this period. We are told that on September 8, 1831, while the composer was traveling through Stuttgart, news of the final Repression by Russians of the Polish revolt inspired Etude No. 12, known as the “Revolutionary.” In the Album of George Sand, Chopin w rote Bars 9-17 of this Etude with the indication “Appassionato.” Etude No. 7 in C Major, written in spring 1832, presents a Toccata in the treble while the bass presents an underlying melody full of wit and charm. Tender, ballad-like Etude No. 3 and tempestuous No. 4 present another pair of compositions written for contrast; they are dated Paris, 25 August 1832. Of No. 3 (originally marked Vivace) Chopin said, "In my life I have never again been able to find as beautiful a melody." Many of these Etudes show the influence of Chopin's careful classical studies; as a boy he was taught to perform Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. A few instances: the classic purity of No. 5; the written-in rhythmic acceleration of Bars 25-28 in No. 9; the Baroque back-hand fingering necessary to per- form No. 2. There are also forward-looking touches in unexpected places, usually where they add piquancy to a more important melody: the offbeat accented bass phrases in Nos. 2 and 5; the sudden G natural last note of No. 6, which, like a magnificent sunset after a gray day, leaves an "after-feeling"; the on-be at off-beat accents in Bars 54-55 of No. 7; and again the off-be at F's in Bars 78-80 of No. 8. As a group, the Etudes, Opus 10 hold for me a sense of youthful achievement and joy. The delicate tone poems known as "Trois Nouvelles Etudes" were written in late autumn 1839 at the request of Ignaz Moscheles for inclusion in the third book called "Etudes de Perfectionnement," published in November 1840 in Paris. Chopin must have particularly liked No. 1 in F Minor; he re-worked it for a later edition, and wrote ten bars, dated 16 January 1841, into the album of the sculptor Jean Pierre Danton. The bass line of Chopin's Berceuse, Opus 57 reminds me of the sound of a wooden country cradle being rocked by a mother's foot. The composer performed this music first in February 1844, dedicated it in his own hand to "MIle. Elise Gavard, from her old teacher and friend, F. F. Chopin." It was first conceived as a set of Variations, later worked over in Nohant while the composer was writing his monumental B Minor Sonata. Only Three Ecossaises, Opus 72 remain of a group of several written in 1826, when the composer was fifteen. "Ecossaise" means "Scotch dance" but has nothing in common with genuine Scottish dance music; it is more like the English Country Dance, which enjoyed great vogue in the early 19th century. Beethoven and Schubert wrote collections of Ecossaises, all in quick 2/4 time, as are these infectious encore pieces of Chopin. --RUTH SLENCZYNSKA
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