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Frédéric Chopin
Solo Piano Works

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) is the only one of the world's great composers whose music is devoted entirely to the piano. Of the 169 works he created in his tragically short lifetime, most are devoted to solo piano exclusively, with his few other masterworks using the piano either with orchestra, in a chamber music setting, or as vocal accompaniment. His compositions, full of moonbeams and longing, sweeping passion and revolutionary outburst, are among the favorite literature of all pianists today.

Rich with innovative harmony and singing bel canto lines, Chopin's music was far in advance of its time, ranging between deep melancholy and passionate outburst, dissonance fading into otherworldly elegance. "He confided…those inexpressible sorrows to which the pious give vent in their communication with their Maker, " wrote Franz Liszt about Chopin. "What they never say except upon their knees, he said in his palpitating compositions."

Using captivating melodies and rhythms rooted in the folk songs of his beloved Poland, Chopin developed the form of the nocturne, ballade, scherzo, impromptu, waltz, fantasy, etude and other musical forms into resplendent, perfect pieces both grand and miniature. The ties to Polish folk music are most evident in his mazurkas and polonaises, but nearly all of Chopin's masterpieces contain some phrase, some melodic connection to his native country. The furious opening theme of his epic C minor "Revolutionary" etude, said to be inspired by the fall of Warsaw, became the country's battle cry.

Of his four compositions in the fantasy form, the Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49, is one of his highest achievements, moving from start to finish through a relentless course of drama and dreams. Some have called it his "fifth Ballade" for its musical narrative and melodic flow.

Among Chopin's most imaginative (and popular) works are the beautiful Berceuse, the composer's only lullaby, and the stunning Barcarolle, with its rocking rhythms and hints of the splendors of old Venice. The Barcarolle has also been called the "sixth Ballade" for its rich complexity of musical invention and harmonic development.

Chopin's four ballades are rooted in the musical form of an old story (stanza) and refrain, a "sung narration" that in the case of his particular compositions has given rise to various programmatic tales about each piece. Some say the first Ballade in G minor was inspired by a poetic work of Adam Mickiewicz (the "Shakespeare of Poland"), based on a tale that centers around an incident of a wife killing her husband and ending with the laugh of the devil.

The second (F major) Ballade is supposedly rooted in another Mickiewicz poem entitled Switez ("The Enchanted Lake") and the graceful, elegant third Ballade, (A-flat major) in Undine. Whatever the story behind the fourth (F minor) Ballade, this last masterpiece is one of Chopin's most emotional works, which the American critic James Gibbons Huneker described as "irresistible witchery."
Chopin's scherzos, also four in all, include the stormy C-sharp minor Scherzo, Op. 39, full of anger, protest and fighting spirit. Composed in 1839 during the composer's miserable stay on the island of Majorca with George Sand, this work is also interlaced with zal, an almost untranslatable Polish word meaning "sorrow," and is also, according to Huneker, a subtle quality that is "ironical, sad, sweet, joyous, morbid, sour, sane and dreamy."

In the final analysis, zal permeated all of Chopin's music, his life as well as his death, after which his heart was removed and buried in Poland, while his precious silver urn of Polish earth was buried with his body in Paris. "Poland, Poland," wrote the French music essayist Georges Jean-Aubry, "how many nights has he held her to his heart."

The heart of Chopin continues to permeate all of his works, and his genius changed the concept of piano composition forever.





Audio CD - $16.97



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