Classical Music | Piano Music

Frédéric Chopin

Etude Op. 25, No. 2 in F minor  Play

Dinara Nadzhafova Piano

Recorded on 06/10/2011, uploaded on 07/10/2011

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Recorded during Round 1 of the Tchaikovsky International Competition, Moscow June 2011

Chopin’s first collection of études, published in 1833 as his opus 10, was a turning point in the development of piano technique. Four years later, his second set of études, opus 25, appeared in print. 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.

Composed mainly during 1834-36, Chopin dedicated his second collection of études to Franz Liszt’s mistress, Marie d'Agoult, a French author known by her pen name Daniel Stern. The composer’s choice of dedicatee is unclear and remains a matter of speculation. Comprised of twelve études, opus 25 also demands superb legato playing of the performer, just like its predecessor. The sole exception is the fourth etude in A minor. Also like opus 10, each of the études has come to be known by descriptive titles.

The first etude, in A-flat major and known by its epithet “Aeolian Harp,” is a graceful study in arpeggios mimicking the sounds of the harp. The second and third are both studies in rhythm, the former pitting triplet eighths and quarters against a duple time signature. As mentioned before, the fourth étude is the sole exception to the legato technique required of Chopin’s études. A constant staccato feel is here called for while also mastering wide ranging leaps in the left hand. No. 5 is affectionately known as the “Wrong Note” étude because of its persistent halfstep appoggiaturas. The sixth étude is a study in thirds while its counterpart, the eighth, is an even more daunting study in sixths. In between the two is a lyrical étude nicknamed “Cello” because of its beautiful tenor-voiced melody. The ninth, with the graceful flight of the right hand melody, is appropriately referred to as the “Butterfly.” No. 10 at first appears to be nothing more than a mere study in octaves but the introduction of sustained notes later in the piece make it one of the most challenging of Chopin’s études. In fact, Horowitz himself once remarked that this etude is nearly impossible to play as written. The eleventh étude is also equally challenging in its demand for endurance and the ability to bring out the right hand melody amidst the swirl of chromatic notes that have given the piece its nickname “Winter Wind.” Finally, the last étude in C minor is another study in arpeggios and to some extent completes the circle of both opus 10 and opus 25—the first étude of opus 10 being in C major. It is one of the stormiest of Chopin’s creations while its opening measures subtly recall the C minor prelude of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book I.      Joseph DuBose