Recorded on 05/12/2004, uploaded on 05/02/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Etudes, Op. 10, No. 11, 4, 5
Chopin was primarily a piano performer, and his dedication to the instrument is shown in the repertoire he wrote for it. His pieces were written to be played using new techniques of pianism Chopin developed, and these techniques took the instrument to new, unexplored horizons; Chopin set up a new language which was to be the inspiration for many pianists and composers to come. His Etudes Op.10 were composed between 1829 and 1832, when Chopin was in Vienna. He learned of the Polish uprising in Warsaw against the Russian Tsar, and one can hear a patriotic flavor in some of the études. Each one is dedicated to an element of Chopin's technique (for example thirds, arpeggios, black keys) but these pieces shouldn't be considered as mere technical exercises; they are more like small poems. (Daniel del Pino)
Chopin’s first collection of études, published in 1833 as his opus 10, was a turning point in the development of piano technique. Extensive sets of exercises had been commonplace since the latter part of the 18th century with the most notable collections being composed by Muzio Clementi, J.B. Cramer and Carl Czerny. However, these pieces were exactly that: exercises—didactic compositions and nothing more. Chopin’s études, on the other hand, not only introduced new technical challenges to the performer but also elevated the form from a technical study to an artistic composition. For this reason, several of the études have become permanent fixtures in the concert repertoire as legitimate pieces of music. Furthermore, Chopin set the stage for other similar pieces by other composers. Franz Liszt was influenced by them in the composition of his own series of études and, later on, Johannes Brahms achieved a similar fusion of technique and artistry in his challenging Variations on a Theme of Paganini, op. 35.
Comprised of twelve études, opus 10 was composed during the years of 1829-33. This accentuates the technical challenges of the études because of Chopin’s young age. During these years, Chopin left his native Poland and travelled to Vienna. Shortly after arriving in the Austrian capital, news reached him and his friend, Tytus Woyciechowski, of the November Uprising. Woyciechowski returned to Poland, leaving Chopin in Vienna alone. Unable to adapt to Viennese society, he left for Paris arriving there in September 1831. En route to Paris, he learned of Poland’s humiliating defeat to Imperial Russia. It is believed that Chopin’s reaction to this news lead to the composition of the famous “Revolutionary” étude that concludes the opus 10 set. When published in 1833, the études were dedicated to Franz Liszt, whom Chopin had met in Paris. Like his preludes, the études have also acquired epithets, no doubt invented by others and of which Chopin likely did not approve.
The twelve études cover a broad spectrum of the pianist’s technique but all hold one trait in common: the development of a legato playing style, which Chopin considered to be crux of the pianist’s technique. For example, the first étude in C major demands this style while executing arpeggios in the right hand, many spanning more than an octave while the following etude in A minor develops the weak fingers of the same hand with a persistent chromatic scale also in a legato style. In E major, the third étude contains what Chopin considered his greatest melody. Drastically different from his other études, it is slow, demanding more in terms of expression than technique. Likewise, the sixth etude also proceeds at a somewhat slower pace (marked Andante) and focuses on the ability to perform and differentiate between two expressive melodies simultaneously. The remaining études, of which the “Revolutionary” is one, are exceedingly virtuosic, proceeding at quick tempos and demanding near superhuman abilities of the pianist. Joseph DuBose
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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