Chopin’s Etude, Opus 10, No.3

Étude Op. 10, No. 3, in E Major is a study for solo piano composed by Chopin in 1832. It was first published in 1833 in France, Germany, and England.

This is a slow cantabile created to assist students with their musical expressiveness and smoothness of playing. For me, it is simply one of the nicest wee tunes I’ve ever heard. Even the maestro himself believed the melody of the piece to be the most beautiful he had ever composed.

The melody became famous through numerous popular arrangements. Although this étude is sometimes identified by the names “Tristesse” (Sadness) or “L’ Adieu” (Farewell), neither is a name given by Chopin, but rather his critics. For me, it is rich in all sorts of feelings and, as such, irresistibly romantic.

I hope you enjoy my recording of this piece which I made some time ago for the “Wedding Album”

Frederick Chopin Etude Opus 10 No 3

The dominant feeling that comes across from the music is a deep sense of nostalgia. This is actually confirmed by some of Chopin’s students. One reported that, on hearing his student play the Etude, Chopin wept and said out loud “ My homeland!”.

It is claimed that Chopin altered parts of the Etude so that a poem by Marian Jozefovicz would fit better to the music. For this reason, I find the following performance of the song derived from the Etude and sung in Polish, very touching. You might also like the version sung by Janus Popławski, a tenor from 1934 which can be found here.

My Polish sister-in-law played the Etude beautifully. My French mother-in-law used to refer to it as Tino Rossi‘s “Tristesse”. I’ve always loved the French version because it reminds me of beautiful summer days in France so many years ago.

There have been many English versions of the song “So Deep is the Night”, heavily based on the Etude. These range from beautiful to mediocre to appalling. One version which is rather delightful sung by David Chittick, is presented below with clips from the film “A Song to Remember” a 1945 musical drama in which Chopin sacrifices everything, even love, for his native Poland.

Many films have used the Etude as background, one notable example being near the beginning of “Testament of Youth”, a highly acclaimed film based on the life of Vera Britten, the late Shirley Williams’ mother.

Frederick Chopin

This blog is the first in a series focusing on my favourite piano composers. 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.

Waltz Op. 69, No. 2. from Deux Valses

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!

Spring Songs of 2021

I adore Spring. It brings with it a sense of renewal and optimism. I have written some spring songs this year that celebrate the sense of renewal and freshness brought into this troubled old world. In particular, these little melodies “speak”of the warmth of the early-year sun and the fresh breezes blowing from afar. As I cross the fields and walk on the banks of the mighty Trent, my spirit feels refreshed and my resolve strengthened. My zest for life returns as I watch the buds appear and the newborn lambs play in the fields.

It is interesting to compare my songs of Spring 2021 with those of 2020. They are lighter and happier and they seem to express a calmness and peace I am experiencing within. The Spring songs of last year are sadder and speak of sorrow at losing two old friends to covid-19. I am intrigued by the way in which the scenes of spring around me present themselves in different guises as if mirroring my internal world of thoughts and feelings. These in turn find expression in the mood and tone of my little “sound” poems.

The new set of spring songs can be found on Spotify, Apple, YouTube (and most popular channels) and include:

“And Then The Sun Came Out”. “Under The Warm Skies”. “As I Roved Out” (February-March 2021)

I have created a short playlist on “Spotify” which contains some of my spring songs, old and new. I hope you will find time to listen to some of them. If you like one or two of them, it would be lovely if you would “like” them and “follow”.

I do hope you enjoy them. Why not add them to your Spring playlist?


Over the past six months I have written some new piano pieces. These “Songs Without Words” are relatively short and are unashamedly romantic in style.

Each track is a composition in its own right. However, they are connected to each other emotionally and intellectually. They are sincere expressions of my inner world, my “inscape” as it interacts with the “landscape” around me.

As I write this, we are still experiencing the demands of lockdown but, at least, there is a semblance of a return to some kind of normality in the not too distant future.

Music is a wonderful gift of communication and I have been touched throughout the pandemic by the way so many people have danced, sung and played music in order to keep everyone’s spirits high, bring us socially together and provide us with dreams of a better tomorrow.

I rather suspect it will take many years for people to absorb the enormity of the pandemic and its effects on our lives. Slowly but surely we will become less “anaesthetised” to the full social, psychological, cultural and economic damage and gradually awaken to the full horror of the death toll and of a world changed utterly. As with all change, however, it will bring positive outcomes as well. One thing for sure is that we will awaken gradually to a fuller awareness of the fragility of our existence.

I have always believed that communication through music can help us to come to terms with loss and bereavement and begin to dream again. It is in this spirit that I wrote these little pieces of piano music.

The songs have a different feel to my last album “Requiem” (2020). Whereas “Requiem” was about a world of loss and sorrow, hurt and anger, my latest set of songs is about a world of conciliation, new beginnings and tenderness.

“Where?” is a little melody that I found myself whistling. I wrote the melody down and then added a simple chord progression. I don’t do words – I’m useless with lyrics. This annoys me intensely because sometimes my little tunes suggest words and I hear little phrases in my head as I hum the song. As is characteristic of me, I select one of these little phrases as the basis for a title. Funnily enough, “Where?” seems to fit perfectly the sense of searching which I often experience as I walk in the woods.

If you are interested in my little piece “Where?”, it is available on most channels – Spotify, YouTube, Amazon, Apple and many more… click HERE

Comptine d’un Autre Eté. L’apres-midi

Composed as part of the soundtrack for the 2001 film Amélie, Comptine d’un autre été, l’après midi was written by Yann Tiersen. Loosely translated as “Nursery Rhyme from Another Summer – Afternoon”. This lovely and intriguing piano solo is the film’s most iconic track.

With a duration of around 2.5 minutes, Comptine d’un autre été, l’après midi begins with a fluctuating lower line. The main melody then enters in groups of three. The piece’s simplicity and relentlessness creates a sense of both unease and sweetness. The result is utterly charming.

The overall effect it has on me is one of nostalgia, sadness and a profound sense of the irrevocable nature of existence. Nonetheless, I am left feeling hopeful and optimistic for the future as a result of listening to it.

I made a little film recently of a visit to a lovely spot close to my home on the River Trent. It was a beautiful afternoon and reminded me of summers past. Consequently, I decided to use Tiersen’s music as the backdrop to the images. Hope you enjoy both the video and the music.

An Afternoon in Foremark, Derbyshire
Music: Yann Tiersen
Piano: John McGuinness

Available on YouTube; Spotify; iTunes; Deezer; AppleMusic; Amazon & more

Run For Cover: All of Me

This love song, written in 2013, was one of the biggest hits of the decade and cemented John Legend as one of the most admired singer-songwriters of his generation. He co-wrote the song with Toby Gad.

‘All of Me’ was inspired by John Legend’s then-fiancée, now wife, model Chrissy Teigen. The couple met in 2007 on the set of his video for ‘Stereo’. They married on September 14, 2013.

When asked what the song was about, he said: “The song is saying things that balance each other out: even when I lose, I’m winning; my head’s under water, but I’m breathing fine; I give you all of me, you give me all of you. At the same time as you’re giving everything up, you’re gaining everything, and that’s what the whole song is about. If you’re in love and you connect, then even when you’re giving things up, you’re gaining so much from it.”

I was playing it one day on my old piano when my grandaughter came in. She and Carol started singing as I played. Such a lovely melody and such a lovely memory to take into lockdown.

I decided at that moment to record it as one of the tracks on my “Run for Cover” series. The cover track for piano solo can be found on Spotify, YouTube, ITunes, Apple Music, Tidal and other platforms. I hope you enjoy it and feel you can share it with your friends and family.

Spring 2020

Above is a link to the first single in my “Run for Cover” Lockdown 2020 series . It is a beautiful melody called “Hurt”, written by Christine Aguilera, Linda Perry and Mark Ronson . I hope it resonates with you.

I get the impression that things will never quite be the same again. Each of us, in hIs or her own way, will have been touched in some way by this pandemic. Many people will have lost loved ones, many their livelihoods and others their health and way of life. My heart goes out particularly to those who, for one reason or another, had very little to lose before the pandemic and have even less to lose now. All has changed utterly.

As for me, I will gradually return to some semblance of “normality” over the next few months. I feel humbled by the experiences of the last few weeks and sense more deeply than ever before my own vulnerability in the face of forces outside my control. I hope, however, that this deeply rooted sense will make me, in some lasting way, a better and more considerate person.

I have become aware of my changing perspective on life and of the things I should not take for granted: family, friends, the interconnectedness of people and the beauty of the world . Of course these changes did not begin with the pandemic – I’ve always seen myself as a pretty reflective kind of a guy – but somehow things have been brought into sharper focus.

Something I have always believed is that an awareness of my own vulnerability and fragility can provoke compassion in me for others. By being in touch with my own vulnerability, I can be more intensely aware of the vulnerability of others, making me, hopefully a little more attentive, empathic and compassionate towards them. Compassion has been much in evidence recently as many people put their lives on the line to nurture, care for and protect those more vulnerable than themselves. To me this is where hope and courage spring from and it is this, more than anything else, that restores my faith in the sheer “goodness” of humankind.

I try to express some of these feelings, thoughts and experiences through my musical compositions and to do this with immediacy. By this I mean that I do not spend endless hours creating a piece of music and crafting it to perfection or adding twiddly wee bits to make it sound clever. I simply compose directly from the heart with honesty and hope that there other hearts out there that not only listen but hear something of themselves reflected in the patterns of sound. It is in this deep sense that I consider music to be one of the profoundest forms of human communication and why I am, at rock bottom, unashamedly romantic.

Over spring I have been involved in a number of projects. Firstly, I have recorded a series of piano covers of popular contemporary music. They will be released over the next few weeks. Each reflects a mood of the times we live in and they have grown in meaning for me. I hope this is reflected in my interpretations of them.

Secondly, I have compiled two new albums, “Towards the Other Side of Nowhere” (Solo Piano) and “Pastoral” ( Piano with Orchestration) and these will be released later in the year.

Finally, I am in the process of writing a modern requiem in memory of two lovely friends who died recently due to Covid-19. This is still in process.

Run for Cover – a series of piano covers of popular contemporary music:

This is John McGuinness (Spotify Editorial playlist)

Delighted to have my own Editorial Playlist curated by Spotify – featuring a selection of my recordings most of which are my own compositions.

If you have access to Spotify – please add the playlist to your library! This will help get the music to a much wider audience – thanks in advance!

You can listen to a short extract of some of the tracks here:


I have been staying at home (apart from an occasional local walk) in order to protect myself, my family and friends and all the other people in my community. It has been an interesting experience and not a totally negative one.

It has been a time of reflection and tranquility. I have found it to be a highly creative time musically and I have compiled sets of my piano compositions into albums which I may release at some time in the future.

Carol and I have been able to keep in touch with our nearest and dearest through the magic of social media. I am also blessed with a garden, a piano, plenty of good books, Netflix and we have access to very pretty local walks (which we can do from home).

I have also filmed some interesting places close to my home in the country and have put these to my music. I hope you like these videos.

Afternoon at the Blackwater Pool music: Comptine d’un Autre Ete played by John McGuinness
Spring in Willington Music: The Month of May Composed & played by John McGuinness