1: Frederick Chopin
This blog is the first in a set of weekly series focusing on my favourite piano composers. Over the next five days, I will be presenting some recordings of Chopin’s best loved pieces and I do hope that you enjoy this little encounter with one of the world’s greatest ever piano composers.
Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was born on 1st March 1810 in Warsaw and was to become one of the world’s best known composers and virtuoso pianists. He has maintained worldwide renown as a composer whose “poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation.” (Rosen, 1995).
Chopin was a musical prodigy and he had completed many glorious early works by the time he was 20 years old. This first blog focuses on an extremely popular waltz composed by Chopin in the year 1829 at the age of 19. Waltz Op. 69, No. 2. from Deux Valses (“Two Waltzes”) was only published posthumously in 1852. The main theme is in the key of B Minor and is marked with an overall tempo of Moderato.
Chopin’s music has had a broad appeal and many of his melodies are instantly recognisable today. When I was a young psychology student at Glasgow University in the early 1970’s a lovely friend, Anne, gave me a book of Chopin Waltzes. I have always felt daunted by the prospect of playing Chopin but my love of and respect for his music has led me to “try” one or two of his pieces and, now that I am retired, I have even managed to record my efforts.
The piece for me conveys a strong sense of underlying melancholia. There are three different sections. The waltz opens with a beautiful melody that is very popular. For right or wrong, I like to play the opening a bit slower than a lot of players because I genuinely feel that the slightly slower tempo conveys more of the underlying pathos of the piece. Soon the melody changes. It is quicker, lighter, smoother as if the load is lifted a little and is a little bit cheerier in tone. The change to a major key assists this. Then the melancholia returns with the opening theme reestablished toward the end. I suspect my fondness for this piece is due to the way the music seems to mirror perfectly the switches in mood Chopin is purported to have experienced throughout his life.
Although it has achieved great popularity, ironically, it is one of several works that the composer hoped would be burnt upon his death. Thankfully, it wasn’t!