Chopin's Music & Stories by Kayo


Fantasy of sound

Fryderyk Chopin (1810 - 1849) :
 Fantasy-Impromptu (5:22)
 Nocturne in B major, Op. 9 No. 3 (7:22)
 Variations in B flat major, Op. 12 (9:24)
 Rondo in E flat major, Op. 16 (12:36)
 Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49 (14:48)
 Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57 (6:03)
 Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat major, Op.61 (14:45)


Fantasy of sound

Improvising was Chopin's strong point even when he was just a child. He would sit down to the piano and tell stories to his family and friends by creating a certain melody, or changing a melody he had heard. Everyone would listen to these stories with delight, and sometimes even with tears of emotion. Improvisations played as encores during public performances were also remarkably well received.

Chopin's music is full of improvised elements. His early works include many Variations and Rondos. The Variations comprise of a short musical piece which is the theme, and consecutive pieces that rearrange the theme by changing the rhythm, key, harmony or time signature. In the Rondos, the melodic theme is repeated, constantly interweaving with other melodies. The Rondo and Variation as forms are nonexistent in Chopin's later works, yet many of these works preserve some elements of those forms. Final movements of famous Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 are rondos. The Berceuse, composed in Chopin's final years, is also an example of that. The artist even considered naming it Variations.

Without Chopin's fantasies there would be no spontaneous improvisations nor variations, with all their diversity. The Rondos and Variations, written during the composer's adolescence, are images of fairy-tales created with sound. Dramatic events, such as news of Poland's tragedy, longing for Homeland, which Chopin was not to see ever again, a broken engagement, as well as father's death and the composer's deteriorating health, had lead the artist to a world of profound musical fantasy. He consciously identified that world through his compositions' titles: Fantaisie, Polonaise-Fantaisie. And yet Fantaisie-Impromptu, a world-renowned piece, considered to be one of the finest in the composer's repertoire, was thought of by Chopin himself as a poor work, unworthy of publication. Luckily, Chopin's close friend, Julian Fontana, who prepared his manuscripts for publication, published it with the aforementioned title after the composer's death.

One can hardly ever hear a melody repeated twice in the same form in Chopin's music. Adding grace notes, punctuating the rhythm, slightly changing how the tones are slurred or altering the accompaniment are means of expression that the composer used with utmost artistry and subtlety. Nocturne in B major is an excellent example of this style. Chopin's music is like a road that we cross every day. Fixed at first glance, and yet different. Do we notice and cherish the smallest of changes? Do we casually pass them by, unaware of their existence? If we would learn to be aware of the subtleties, the experience would make us happier, and enrich our lives. There are treasures hidden in Chopin's music. Performers of varying personalities discover them to the extent of their skills. Do they succeed, and if so, to what extent? That is where the key to the difficulty and uniqueness of this music lies.

March 2014
Kayo Nishimizu


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