04/04/14 Romanticism: Chopin, the Poet of the Piano

Frédéric François Chopin, 1810-1849
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Has been called the “Poet of the Piano:”
– His music is extremely expressive and lyrical — he made the piano sing
– He composed very idiomatically for the piano: his music is technically challenging but well-suited to a player’s hands and to what the piano can do

– Born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin. Born in Poland; lived in France from age 20 til his death at age 39, from tuberculosis.
– Lived in Paris, was part of a circle of important artists including fellow composer Franz Liszt
– Composed almost exclusively for the piano
– Gave 30 public performances as a pianist during his lifetime; preferred small salons rather than large concert halls — he was physically frail, and tended to play very softly
– 10-year relationship with French writer Amandine Dupin, who used the pen name George Sand
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Impromptu: 1991 film depicting Chopin & Sand’s relationship and their circle of artist friends

Musical elements Chopin is particularly known for:

Rubato: “robbed time:” a way of varying the tempo for expressive purposes: the accompaniment keeps strict time while the melody fluctuates — similar to vocal techniques in jazz

He wrote several types of single-movement piano pieces:
Prelude: a short piece with an improvised feel; originally an introduction to other pieces, but eventually a stand-alone piece (similar to the overture)

Prelude 15 in D-flat major, “Raindrop”

Etude: French word meaning “study:” a piece designed to help a student practice a particular technique, but Chopin’s Etudes are musically interesting as well as educational

Etude 12 in C minor

Nocturne: “Night” piece: often melancholy or meditative, with extensive use of roulades and rubato

Nocturne 1 in B-flat minor

Dance forms:
Waltz: ballroom or folk dance in triple time

“Minute” Waltz

Mazurka: Polish folk dance named for the region of Poland Chopin came from
Polonaise:Polish folk dance
Ballade: Named for a type of narrative poem: a musical story. Chopin’s Ballades were some of his longest, most virtuosic pieces.


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