Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
Piano Favourites, Vol. 2
Fryderyk Chopin was born in 1810, the son of a French fatherand a Polish mother. He spent his early life largely in Warsaw, where he hadhis musical training at the Warsaw Conservatory and gave his first successfulconcerts. He left Poland in 1830 to seek the kind of opportunities that his ownnative country could not then offer. He spent a winter in Vienna, where he hadearlier won brief success on the occasion of another visit, but now that he wasin earnest pursuit of a career, he achieved nothing. He then moved to Pariswhere he would live for the rest of his life.
In Paris, Chopin established himself as a pianist, generallyperforming to private audiences in the elegant salons of the capital, ratherthan competing with more ostentatious performers such as Liszt, Thalberg orKalkbrenner. Instead he found a more congenial position for himself as ateacher with a socially distinguished client?¿le.
Through Liszt, at whose way of life he had previously lookedaskance, Chopin met the blue-stocking writer George Sand (Aurore Dudevant),recently separated from her husband. The two became lovers and in the winter of1838-39 travelled together to Mallorca, where the climate had a deleteriouseffect on his health, with signs of tuberculosis that were alarming not only tothe couple but also to the local people, who had already nurtured suspicions ofthe strange couple, accompanied, as they were, by George Sand's two children.In France again he returned to his life in Paris, generally spending the summermonths at George Sand's country-house at Nohant. The complications ofinvolvement with George Sand's now adult children led to their separation in1846. During the political disturbances of 1848, when normal life wasimpossible in Paris, Chopin accepted an invitation to Britain, but the climategreatly affected his weakened health. He returned to Paris, where he died in1849.
Chopin's compositions were mainly for the piano. He was ableto use the instrument to convey subtle tone-colours, creating new forms to suithis genius. His two Piano Concertos were written before he left Warsaw and wereintended as material for his career as a virtuoso performer. Much of his laterwork, however, was for solo piano, composed in forms that he adopted anddeveloped, such as the Nocturne, the Waltz, the Polish Mazurka, and thePolonaise.
The waltz, a German country dance in origin, had, by the endof the eighteenth century, won considerable popularity in the ball-room, inspite of the warnings of doctors and moralists. With Lanner and the Straussfamily in Vienna it became even more fashionable, making its way into opera andinto ballet. With composers like Chopin it found a further home in the salon,and later, with Mahler and others, in the concert hall. Chopin had first turnedto the form in Warsaw in 1827, having already adapted Polish dances for his ownartistic purposes. The present collection includes two examples, the Waltz in Eminor , with its E major central section, written in 1830 and publishedposthumously, and the more elaborate and adventurous Grande Valse in A flatmajor, Op. 42 , written in 1840.
Among the forms that Chopin made his own was the Nocturne,at one time synonymous with the Serenade, but with the Irish pianist John Fieldand Chopin, his successor, a lyrical piano piece, offering, nominally at least,a poetic vision of the night. Chopin's Nocturne in F sharp major, Op. 15, No. 2, was one of a set of three published in Paris in 1833 with a dedication toMendelssohn's friend Ferdinand Hiller. Here the relatively tranquil outersections enclose a passage of greater intensity. The Nocturne in C sharp minor, was written in Warsaw in 1830 but published posthumously in 1875.Something of its character is indicated in the direction Lento con granespressione.
Chopin's single Barcarolle, Op. 60 , in F sharp major andwritten in 1845-46, is an extended treatment of the original Venetianboating-song, an example of the composer's later style in its complexity. Therocking motion on which it is based still provides scope for elaboratechromatic figuration above. The Berceuse, Op. 57 , in D flat major andwritten in 1843, elevates the cradle-song into a higher art form, setting here,as elsewhere, an example to later composers.
The four Ballades of Chopin are said to have been derivedfrom poems by the exiled poet Adam Mickiewicz. The third of these  waswritten in 1841 during an uneasy summer spent, as had become his custom, withGeorge Sand at her country house at Nohant. The Ballade is said to draw on the poemUndine by Mickiewicz, telling again the story of the mermaid, a subject ofopera and of other musical manifestations, whose love for a mortal would provefatal. The moderate voice of the narrator is heard at the outset, introducingthis tale of love, against the gentle rocking of the waves, leading to acentral development and a recapitulation of greater passion and intensity.
Chopin completed his set of 24 Preludes, Op. 28, during thewinter of 1838-39 spent in Mallorca, handicapped there at first by the lack ofa satisfactory piano and by the conditions in which he and Geroge Sand wereliving. The Preludes, individual pieces rather than introductions to anythingelse, as their title would have suggested, are in key order, each one followedby its counterpart in the relative minor key, as the cycle proceeds through thecircle of fifths, the most complex keys at the heart of the whole work. ThePrelude No.17 in A flat major , an Allegretto in 6/8, is a lyrical work,while the Prelude No. 20 in C minor  is in a slower and more sombre mood.
Chopin wrote his first set of a dozen Etudes between 1829and 1832 and dedicated them to his friend Liszt. The second group of twelveEtudes, Op. 25, were written between 1832 and 1836 and dedicated to Liszt'smistress, the blue-stocking Comtesse Marie d'Agoult. The Etude in A flat major,Op. 25, No. 1 , popularly known as 'The Aeolian Harp', has a melodyaccompanied by arpeggiated chords held by the sustaining pedal of the piano,creating a subtle mist of sound. The Etude in G flat major, Op. 25, No. 9 ,known to many as 'The Butterfly', brings contrasts of legato and staccatowithin each group of notes.
The Impromptu, in title at least, was typical of its periodin its suggestion of immediate inspiration, abandon and freedom. Chopin wrotethe first of his four works under this title, the Impromptu in A flat major,Op. 29 , in 1837. Its delicate and lively outer sections frame a moresustained F minor section, which is at the heart of the work. He also wrotefour Scherzi, pieces that expanded beyond recognition the original scherzoform, making what had been a little musical joke into a work of extendedvirtuosity. Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31 , written in 1837, startswith a summons to attention, before the principal melody emerges. There is acentral oasis of A major tranquillity, before the original key and mood return.
The Mazurka takes its name from the Mazurs, inhabitants ofthe province of Mazovia, near Warsaw. The dance is strikingly rhythmic, basedon rhythmic and melodic patterns followed by Chopin in his fifty odd versionsof the form. The Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17, No. 4 , with its A majormiddle section, is a slower version of the dance, finding a place for apoetically nuanced piece of writing.
The Fantasia in F minor, Op. 49 , was written in 1841.It starts with a solemn march, through which the sunlight shines from time to