12 Etudes : Work information

Composers
Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Daniel Smith (Bassoon), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ettore Stratta (Conductor)

This work

Work name
12 Etudes
Work number
Op. 10
Key
n/a
Genre
A
Composed
1832-01-01 02:01:00

This recording

Label
ASV
Producer
Jeffrey Kaufman
Engineer
Brian B. Culverhouse
Recording date
n/a

The Composers

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin

Since all that survives of Chopin is the brilliant music that he wrote, it's all too easy to forget that he was also a great performer. He wrote difficult and innovative music so that he could perform it himself.

Chopin’s father was a French schoolteacher, and his mother was Polish. He grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and studied music as a child, and then at the Warsaw Conservatory between 1826 and 1829. He had already published several pieces of music, and during 1829 and 1830 he became well-known as a pianist, giving concerts in Warsaw and Vienna. He composed almost all of his music for the piano (although sometimes with orchestral accompaniment). He tended to write his music actually at the piano, sometimes struggling to put his ideas onto paper. But he was unhappy in Poland and set off on a European tour, stopping in 1831 in Paris, one of the great musical centres of Europe. 

Here, Chopin was praised as a musician by such composers as Liszt and Schumann , among others, and rapidly became famous. He played mostly for private audiences, although he did give a few public performances, and he was particularly known for his skill at improvising. He would use many of the musical ideas and styles from Polish folk music, and many of his compositions are directly linked to Polish dances and musical forms, such as the Mazurka. Chopin also established himself as a teacher, and many of his compositions were written to be used by his pupils, such as studies, preludes, waltzes, nocturnes, mazurkas and impromptus. These pieces are not perhaps as difficult as the larger-scale works he produced for concert performance, such as the scherzos, ballades, sonatas and the barcarolle, which were written for himself to perform. 

Chopin was very inventive in the way he wrote music. While in form it was often quite simple - basically a tune and an accompaniment - it was often full of variation and interest. He used the sustaining pedal of the piano in a way which composers had not done before, and produced a delicacy both when playing and when composing which was considered highly innovative. This made it very popular, and his music was published in Paris, London and Leipzig. As a measure of Chopin’s popularity and fame, when he died of tuberculosis in 1849, 3,000 people attended his funeral.

Related Composers: Schumann, Field

Track listing

  • No. 3 in E: Lento ma non troppo 4:36 min

Notes

Spanning Chopin's final years in Warsaw, his time in Vienna, and the early Paris years, the 12 Etudes published as Op. 10 were one the major achievements of the composer's early period. They represent Chopin's mature piano style, drawing together aspects of Viennese bravura writing (MozartHummel) and the lyricism of French and English schools (Clementi, Field), laying the foundation for the French and Russian piano music of the later nineteenth century.

The etude, or study, had by the 1830s developed from its earlier pedagogical role, to be the principal channel for displays of artistic virtuosity. Having absorbed the features of the lyrical or character piece, the etude began to challenge the sonata as the essential keyboard genre. Chopin's Op. 10 set also retains a link with the earlier educational function, addressing one technical problem in each etude, while breaking new ground artistically.

The first two etudes, dedicated to Liszt, but harking back to the Baroque of J S Bach, are dated November 1830, the month Chopin left Warsaw for the last time. The remainder were completed by August 1832, by which time Chopin had cemented his reputation as a pianist in Paris and was in constant demand, socially.