Frederic Chopin was one of the renowned musicians. His composing style was very effective in the music world (Samson, 1994). Initially, he did many experiments to compose techniques of piano playing which later on brought revolutionary changes in music and well esteemed by all. He had a good-looking and polite persona. He was very systematic and liked to live in a stylish way. He always wanted to be in touch with the latest trend around him.
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These personality traits made him unique in society. He gifted to beginners the concertos and sonatas. Chopin composed all his music on the piano. His music is recognized not just for its brilliance, but also for being difficult to play. Chopin left a great impact on the public. People remember him today for his valuable music style and visualized as a poet of the piano for the stunning music he composed and played (Huneker, 1921). He was the player who had the managerial ability of the very highest order.
Frederic Chopin was basically a musician who was born in a village near Warsaw, in Poland, on the 22nd of February 1810. He was an only brother among three sisters. Since childhood, he showed great interest in music. At the age of nine, he made his first public appearance and played a concerto. It was characteristic of him that on this occasion he thought more of his personal look than concentrating on piano. Chopin’s favorite instrument was the piano from the beginning (Samson, 1994).
Observing such a keen interest in music, his parents realized that they must train him to choose music as a career and their decision was supported by Madame Catalani, the great vocalist, who gave the boy a watch with obsequious writing in eulogizes of his flair. Chopin was greatly influenced by his Polish mother and the culture of his country which inspired him in writing many Mazurkas and Polonaises based on Polish dances. The father of Chopin was French therefore he was also closely linked with France.
He lived in Paris and learned many things which were later reflected in his music. In France, he enjoyed his life in composing and playing. At an early age, he was fond of music and showed great interest in doing something creative in this field. He began to compose but he had received no training in composition therefore his father sent him to Joseph Elsner, the director of Warsaw Conservatoire, to get mastery over the theoretical side of his art. Elsner proved to be the best instructor in shaping Chopin’s talent. In Warsaw, he could not develop himself to be the best performer. So he visited Berlin.
He as a young artist heard many forms of music including Handel’s Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day, which he said awe-inspiring ideas for composing music. At a public meeting, he sat close to Mendelssohn, but he hesitated to share his inner feeling. Later, when Mendelssohn made his relationship, he bestowed on him the significant name of “Chopinetto.” After Berlin, he visited several places but his music interest was not fully satisfied. In his tour, Chopin landed one day at an inn to find a piano there. Chopin was eager to get at an instrument. He touched the keyboard with enthusiasm and played. His talent attracted all the travelers and all the people of the inn. During that time Chopin met Hummel, one of the older classics of the piano. He had naturally much interest in Chopin, whose style was influenced by him in a mild way.
The exceptional characteristic of Chopin was that he did not only write compositions but also assembled many of the scales and chords which are still used in music today. Chopin was phrased with the title “A Genius in music” when he produced his first work “Polonaise in G Minor.” Frederic Chopin developed his composing talent only with the backing of his family’s support and musical background, his compositions, and his passion for music. Chopin referred to music on three levels: intellectual, sentimental, and emotional. His works are clearly epitomized his own delicacy and sensitiveness, his inner sentiment for romance.
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His composition reflected his modest, retiring nature; something of his zealous nationalism and his disrespect for the plaudits of the public. He was stuck to the teaching profession which he could not easily avoid, in his capacity as an artist and with his social attachments in Paris. Chopin devoted all his potency for several hours a day with real satisfaction. Admittedly he placed great demands on the talent and industry of the student. There were often “lecons orageuses”, as they were called in school parlance, and many a lovely eye left the high altar of the Cite d Orleans, rue St. Lazare, in tears, yet without bearing the least resentment against the greatly beloved master. He shined through his sacred imaginative enthusiasm. Whatever he spoke, it stimulated and inspired the people (Carl Mikuli, 1879).
Technique and Style Chopin acquired a highly developed skill, had a command of the instrument. In all types of touch, the evenness of his scales and passagework was unmatched, indeed wonderful. He had the talent to blend the tones amazingly in any love song. The ability of a true pianist facilitated him to realize the most widely disposed harmonies and to perform extensive passagework which he pioneered into the idiom of the piano as something never before challenged and all without the slightest effort being apparent, just as overall pleasurable freedom and ease particularly characterized his playing.
He always made effort to draw a huge tone from the instrument especially in the cantabiles. Noble energy provided an overpowering effect to the proper passages, just as elsewhere he could captivate the listener through the tenderness without affectation of his poignant renditions. Such powerful personal affection in his playing was always moderate, pure, refined, and rarely even austerely reserved (Carl Mikuli, 1879).
Chopin’s piano-playing style has two important traits: rubato and classical basis. In rubato, Chopin played the main melody, usually the right-hand part, in a hesitant but very free manner. As a result, the melody tends to be slowed down a bit or accelerated. Rubato means a feature of performance in which strict time is ‘robbed’ from some notes in order to give others the time to be played slowly. This style has improved the expression of the particular melody.
Chopin focused on classical technique despite his supreme rubato and romantic style. In this style, he played in strict time with a monochrome on his piano and smoothly (legato). Physically, he played the melody singing and touching with very flexible wrists. He also used sustaining pedal competently to improve the singing tone as well as appeal to the dramatic sense (geocities.com). He even adopted Clementi’s piano method with his own students.
He was also impressed by Hummel’s development of virtuoso, yet Mozartian, piano technique. His taste in music was not too extensive. He respected Bach and spent many hours performing and teaching the great composer’s preludes and fugues (Lauber, 2000). Generally, Chopin enhanced his music talent through his favorite composers, J.S.Bach and Mozart. This shows that his works sound in a tonal way. From his performance, it can be analyzed that Chopin’s music is very high creative and pianistic. His piano works are composed exclusively for the piano unlike the piano works by Beethoven that could be recorded into other forms like orchestral work, chamber work, etc.
Chopin brought a revolution in piano music by taking stimulation from the singing human voice and transferred it into most of his works. Except for the singing and poetic music, it sometimes contained dissonances and thick harmonic structure that produced a rich, powerful sonority. Chopin made the piano popular in terms of a singing instrument; an instrument of endless color and poetry; a heroic instrument; an intimate instrument. Chopin composed “absolute” music to indicate that he only gave abstract titles to his music. In this sense, he was dissimilar from other composers like Schumann who always gave traditional titles to his music.
Chopin was not a fast composer like Mozart. But when he composed, his melodic ideas came fast and he played and managed continuously until he completed it as a piece. He always took great care in composing music such as thinking back on the original ideas that had been played recently, fitting them into proper form, keeping on altering and refining the phrases until he was satisfied with it (www.geocities.com).
When interpreting Chopin’s works, it can be realized that he was a skilled pianist and his works were concentrated on solo piano. Many of these works are fairly short in duration, such as the Preludes, Etudes, Waltzes, Impromptus, Nocturnes, and Scherzos. He also wrote a number of multi-movement works including of course several Piano Sonatas. He was competent in composing for other instruments and did so at times, for example, his two Piano Concertos for solo Piano and Orchestra.
There is an abstract approach in many of his works (e.g. Preludes and Etudes) which bear a relationship with some of the forms (e.g. Preludes, Inventions, and Fugues) that Bach used. These are abstract in the sense that they are heavily structured, but they did not reflect any emotion. On the other hand, Chopin played his works with a strong “rubato” and this was heavily required in his music. This gives the musician another dimension of expression which makes Chopin’s music very much of the Romantic era (mfiles.co.uk).
The main example of musical work- In 1839 Chopin published the 24 preludes, Op.28, which were the most important works of the Romantic collection. Each prelude is written in one of the 24 keys, in a characteristic tribute to Bach. Within each of these musical miniatures, the entire spectrum of the composer’s emotions is symbolized. It ranged from joy and light-heartedness to melancholy, even rage and anger. This is considered to be the greatest variety of moods ever assembled in a single set of pieces. The Etudes, Op.10 and 25, are the best example of piano technique, which was the most difficult sets for the instrument, especially when performed in their entirety.
He took the typical figurations (scales, broken chords, trills, double notes) which were found in the studies of Hummel and Clementi but vividly making them even more pianistically challenging. Canto style (as represented by Bellini) was the main string of his artistic vision. This made his idea of the piano above all vocal rather than orchestral (Lauber, 2001). Chopin composed the base of music for the piano which combined a unique rhythmic sense and frequent use of chromaticism, and counterpoint.
Using his technique, we can guide further generations to show outstanding performance. This mixture produces a particularly delicate sound in the melody and the harmony, which are however supported by solid and interesting harmonic techniques. If anything was perceptive or modern in Chopin’s approach to the sound, it was certainly making interchangeable the physical aspect of playing from a thought concentration and hearing control. In composing music, he utilized the artistic views of Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffman and George Sand, who stated that the language of music is the most indeterminable one against all the languages of the arts. It means music is a truly poetic language, free of words and written verse in its entirety.
To sum up, Chopin is the poet of the piano par brilliance and he was neither a copycat nor competitor. His music techniques were exclusive as Chopin always improvised new pieces on the piano before he composed them. He as a pianist had left such an impression in the music field that no one can stand with him. Chopin most firmly recommended ensemble playing, the cultivation of the best chamber music but only in the company of highly accomplished musicians (Carl Mikuli, 1879).
His great trade names were pearly scales, subtle voicing, and an unsurpassed legato. The hidden secret of his qualities and success in composing such breathtaking music is that he listened personally to the great singers of the day in order to recognize the true art of singing at the piano. His main characteristics such as dreamy, tender, womanish, elusive made him a successful musician. Today, after many generations, the birthright of Frederic Chopin lives on as one of the greatest pianists on record. His creations are as wise today as it was then.
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- Carl Mikuli. Chopin as Pianist and Teacher. 1979. Web.
- Tristan Lauber. Chopin: As Seen by a Pianist. 2000. Web.
- Jim Samson.The Music of Chopin. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of Publication: Oxford. 1994. Pp: 10.
- Huneker James. Chopin: The Man and His Music. Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Place of Publication: New York. 1921. Pp: 5-12, 86-91.