Friday, 2 July 2010

Frederic Chopin in Paris

Chopin first went to Paris at the start of the 1830s. He was a quick success, and established himself as a teacher of aristocratics piano students.

Surrounded by the Parisian elite, Frederic Chopin made many famous and influential friends, from poets and authors to countesses and princesses. He knew everyone important in Paris, and was even called a bit "snobbish" in the later years of his life!

Chopin was happy in those years, enjoying a simple life of teaching, composing, and having fun. He used to chat merrily, imitate people (he was a very good mimic), and sometimes used to stand on his head! He was also very witty, and his letters are full of clever little jokes.

It was really his playing style which made him a lasting hit in Paris.

He was a lot more suited to playing in the drawing room or other intimate settings rather than the concert hall. This was because of his light playing style. This makes sense, since I think a lot of his pieces have much more power when they're performed in a cozy setting.

Since this was the case, he was almost always invariably invited to the latest and most fashionable soirees, where he would hobnob with all sorts of high circles, performing dazzling pieces such as a Chopin etude for them.

One story goes that Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt swapped places in the dark during a performance to trick the audience. Liszt said this wasn't true, but he did like to light-heartedly imitate Chopin's delicate playing style on occasion though!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Chopin Preludes

The Chopin preludes are a set of 24 short pieces. Chopin published them set in 1839. He'd written most of them before he went on his horrendous trip to Majorca with his lover George Sand. Once he was there, he finished the preludes up.

They're tiny pieces - the longest is only 5 minutes (the well-known Raindrop prelude)! About 8 or 9 of them are under one minute long. But each one manages to convey a very powerful emotion in that small space of time.

The preludes have a very improvised feel - they're like musical sketches. This is because of the way Chopin composed... he just made it up as he went along, trying out different things and writing down what worked.

Some of the preludes sound so free-flowing that publishers sometimes leave the pieces looking like a continuous stream of music on the page. It's as if Chopin just did a "brain-dump" on the page.

Chopin wrote these preludes in all 24 Keys, from A Major to G Minor. He was a dedicated student of Bach, who did the same in the important Well-tempered Klavier (which standardized the western musical keys).

For more detailed information, see this page about the Chopin Preludes.