Chopin's Music & Stories by Kayo

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24 Preludes - the world of imagination
The second album from the “Chopin's music & stories by Kayo” series. The record consists of a series of paintings made with sounds, sprouting from the admiration and love for the piano ever-present in the composer's music. The richness of prelude styles, their proportion and harmonization, is the essence that bewitches the listener with music written out in all possible keys.

Fryderyk Chopin: 24 Preludes Op. 28

 

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Fryderyk Chopin, dubbed “the poet of the piano”, is one of the most popular classical music composers. Notice how all of his works, over 230 pieces of music, were written for piano. Most of them are solo pieces.1)

In Chopin’s times there was a belief that a composer gained recognition only when he was successful as an opera author. For this reason the Honorable Professor, the Family, friends and acquaintances, wishing the best for Fryderyk, advised and encouraged him to compose an opera.2) He loved going to the theatre to see operas himself. What is more, he staged an opera in his youth, with his sisters’ and friends’ participation. For some reason the encouragement didn’t work though, and Chopin stubbornly refused to compose an opera.

Fryderyk simply loved and admired the piano.3) For all his life he was searching for the right combinations of sounds, using the instrument comprising of a set of white and black keys and his ten fingers. Thanks to its extensive scale, the piano can play the sounds of the whole orchestra. It has got the possibilities inaccessible to any other musical instrument. A single performer can play both the melody and the accompaniment. The piano’s versatility could be the reason of Chopin’s affection to this particular instrument. Orchestral pieces require verbal communication, and operas rely largely on the visual and vocal elements, so they both fail to convey the idea of creating sounds out of imagination, without words, out of pure emotion.

We can feel the stories in Chopin’s music. There is a whole palette of colors, landscapes, seasons, there are many heroes and various themes. It happens that there are several leading roles in a single piece. Sometimes the actor with the supporting or walk-on role gets the most attention, sometimes the background becomes the most important element. It’s too hard and complicated to stage and keep the proportions right. Every pianist is required and expected to be the actor of the spectacle, the stage designer, the lighting technician, and also to direct the whole at the same time. In Chopin’s music, the possibilities are endless. If a pianist manages to harmonize all this, we can feel euphoria. After experiencing that, one becomes bewitched by Chopin’s music forever.

I have included 24 Preludes on this record. Twenty four short pieces, utilizing all the 24 keys, the score of each no longer than four pages.4) These miniatures, played in the right order, create a fascinating and colorful whole. Chopin detested other people’s attempts of naming his pieces or adding scenarios to them. Upon hearing a sound, each listener can imagine a completely different scene, but a certain sound can evoke a common feeling. Using the sound as it is before conversion into words, Chopin left us music that touches deep within, without the need of definition or objectification.

The 24 Preludes, Op. 28 are the essence of Fryderyk Chopin’s work.

February 2013

Kayo Nishimizu

 

 

1) Exceptions include two piano concertos (E minor, Op. 11 and F minor, Op. 21), four pieces for piano and orchestra (Variations in B-flat major on “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” opera, Fantasy on Polish Airs in A major, Op. 13, Rondo à la Krakowiak in F major, Op. 14, and Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante in E-flat major, Op. 22), a Sonata (in G minor, Op. 65) and two other pieces for piano and cello (Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C major, Op.3, and Grand Duo Concertant), a trio for violin, cello and piano (in G minor, Op. 8), and 19 Polish songs for voice and piano.


2) Fryderyk was characterized by profound respect and humility towards teachers, whereas the professors absolutely loved and respected their pupil. Below, I’m quoting a letter written by Chopin in Vienna after his first success abroad.


“(…) Nobody wants to teach me here. Blahetka said that nothing astounds him more than how I have learned all of this in Warsaw. I replied that Mr. Żywny and Mr. Elsner could teach that any fool (…)”.
(August 19, 1829. Fryderyk to Feliks Wodziński)


Professor Elsner approached teaching work and pupils with great wisdom. Having finished his studies in Warsaw, young Chopin left for Vienna. There he met a famous pianist, virtuoso and composer, Kalkbrenner , who offered the debuting Fryderyk free piano lessons for three years. Elsner wrote:

“(…) But as to you, and even to Nidecki, I would never have thought to make you my apprentices; (…) When teaching composition one should not teach formulas, especially to pupils whom abilities show; let them find the formulas themselves, so that they can outperform themselves now and again, let them have means to find what has not yet been found. (…) Mozart’s and Beethoven’s erstwhile fame as pianists is long gone, and their piano works, despite the enormous amount of classical substance they include, had to give way to new styles and tastes. Their other pieces, however, those that are not attached solely to one instrument, their operas, songs, symphonies, live among us still and coexist with modern works of art (…)”.
(November 27, 1831. Józef Elsner to Chopin)


The professor suggested considering Kalkbrenner’s offer. He also proposed giving thought to composing in musical genres other than piano pieces. Chopin’s friend and poet, Stefan Witwicki, to whose poems the composer added melody and accompaniment (and thus created beautiful songs, most recognizable of which include “Drinking song” and “A maiden’s wish”) also asked him to compose an opera. He wrote:


“(…) Beloved Mr. Fryderyk. Allow me to greet you and thank you for the beautiful songs. They appeal not only to me, but also to anyone familiar with them; and you would admit their beauty yourself, if you had heard your sister sing them. You must necessarily become a Polish opera author; I have a profound conviction that you are able to become one, and that as a Polish national composer you will enter an immensely rich field, on which you will earn extraordinary fame (…). I am sorry for writing that; do believe that these advices and wishes sprout from honest goodwill and respect that I have to your talent. (…)”
(July 6, 1831. Stefan Witwicki to Fryderyk)


Ludwika, the elder sister, wrote to Fryderyk:


“(…) Dearest Fryderyk. I am very aware that today’s letter will make you sorry somehow, because it expresses an opinion that partially differs from yours, and I feel sorry for you, should it bother you in any way. (…) Mr. Elsner would see you not only a famous piano performer and composer, for it is easier and less significant than writing operas, but he wants to see you becoming what nature is driving you to become, what it has prepared you to become. You have [illegible] a place among Rossini, Mozart etc. Your genius should not stop at piano and concertos, operas shall immortalize you. (…) Feeling what is good and right, you should pave your way yourself; your genius shall lead you. (…) In operas it shows better, everyone will get to know you, and it will make many admire you (…) Elsner desires for you to be loved because of your concertos, but he also says that it is not your final destination, for you have greatness. Your operas, and not only your piano music, are to make you the best. Oh, my dear Fryderyk! how miserable you are, for I predict that you shall encounter much unpleasantness, should you decide to refuse (…).”
(November 27, 1831. Ludwika Chopin to Fryderyk)


3) Chopin has spent much of his time teaching piano. He is rumored to have approached it with a sense of mission, and he even attempted to write a handbook, which was eventually unpublished. Drafts for the book did survive though, and in a chapter entitled “Keyboard structure – mechanism classes” it reads:


“There cannot be enough admiration for the genius that contributed to building a keyboard in such accordance to the shape of the human hand. What could be a greater discovery than the black keys designed for the long fingers, serving so perfectly as reference points. Alignment of the keyboard has been repeatedly and seriously proposed without second thought: it would mean abolishment of all the assurance the reference points create for the hand, and thus make it immensely difficult to use the thumb in all sharp and flat scales: legato thirds and sixths, it would generally make any legato playing extremely difficult (…)”.
(Chopin – Drafts to piano methods)

 

4)

No.

Key

Number of bars
(number of pages)

Duration

1

C major

33 (1)

0:49

2

A minor

23 (1)

2:26

3

G major

33 (2)

1:00

4

E minor

25 (1)

2:18

5

D major

39 (1)

0:34

6

B minor

26 (1)

1:58

7

A major

16 (1/3)

1:04

8

F-sharp minor

34 (2 i 2/3)

2:08

9

E major

12 (1)

1:38

10

C-sharp minor

18 (1)

0:37

11

B major

27 (1)

0:46

12

G-sharp minor

81 (3)

1:23

13

F-sharp major

38 (2)

3:53

14

E-flat minor

19 (1)

0:32

15

D-flat major

89 (3)

6:40

16

B-flat minor

46 (4)

1:16

17

A-flat major

90 (4)

4:32

18

F minor

21 (2)

1:03

19

E-flat major

71 (3)

1:34

20

C minor

13 (2/3)

2:26

21

B-flat major

59 (2 i 1/3)

2:20

22

G minor

41 (2)

0:46

23

F major

22 (2)

1:16

24

D minor

77 (4)

2:52

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Original spelling retained (where possible).

Chopin's letters are a property of The Fryderyk Chopin Institute and are available here: http://en.chopin.nifc.pl/chopin/letters/search

English translation: Kuba Wysocki

 

 

 

 
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