Chopin: “Études”, opus 10

by richibi

if I haven’t brought up Chopin much in this series
it’s that I think of him more as a decorator than
as an innovator, he was developing a sensibility
that had been defined by the earlier Beethoven,
adding texture and style, form instead of function,
the wheel had been invented, now it remained to
be artfully applied
 
some break new ground, others decorate it, make
it enchanting, Chopin makes things enchanting 
 
he is also the first composer we think of when we
think of Romanticism, which says quite a lot about
the quality, the universality, of his gift 
 
 
here are his opus 10, “Études”, or “Studies”, 12 of
them, they are not sonatas, for not having more
than one movement, they are “études” , “studies”,
called by that name for being what they are, then
given numbers to differentiate them, also their
key, the convenience of universally attributing
titles not having quite caught on yet though a
couple of these do have them, the 5th, the
“Black Keys”, for obvious reasons, and the last,
the “Revolutionary”, again for reasons you’ll find
obvious once you’ve heard it 
 
tonality however remains, no apparent discords,
that’ll come later  
 
 
note that in comparison to Mozart the notes are
a shimmer, the same alphabet is used, the one
set up by Bach, but where Mozart made these
into narratives to follow, and even sing along to,
with Chopin the same flurry of notes becomes
a wash of sound you could never vocally keep
up with, a texture rather, an enveloping caress,
prefiguring incidentally the Impressionists, the
lush soundscapes of for instance Debussy 
 
 
though you’ll find the same prerequisite opening
musical statement as in Mozart, followed by the  
contrasting one, often these will be in altogether
constrasting rhythms as well, tempi, compared
to the single strict beat throughout of the 
foundational Classical model    
 
the tempo itself is also much more lax, some
passages surrendering formal rhythmic strictures
to greater emotional content, more self-expression,
less attention to rules, in accord with the newly
installed ideal of individual human rights 
 
hence Romanticism, the fruit of the Revolution 
 
 
note also that the musical argument is no longer
in the Mozartean playground but of a more mature
understanding, Chopin has known love 
 
 
Richard
 
 
 
 
 
 
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