ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Piano Music of Frederic Chopin

Updated on September 9, 2014
F. Chopin
F. Chopin | Source

The Music of Chopin

note: I’ll use youtube recordings below every genre of composition discussed

The Piano Music of Frederic Chopin. What can I say that hasn’t already been more eloquently stated by other writers, but I’ll try to put in my ‘two cents’ anyway. Many have called Chopin, the greatest composer for the piano that has ever lived; he is one of the giants of music, period. The only other composers for the piano that have fought to gain his supreme title (some of Chopin's fans would say they do not even come close...) are: Beethoven, Liszt and Debussy; Mendelssohn and Schumann, while also great composers of piano music in their own rights, scarcely come close to Chopin. Many music scholars have claimed, that after Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas, Chopin’s piano music is the greatest that has ever been composed for the instrument; many have placed Beethoven above Chopin in piano music; some have placed Chopin above Beethoven in piano music; many have placed both Debussy and Liszt above Beethoven and Chopin in piano music, etc...; however, few if anyone would argue Chopin’s greatness as one of music’s greatest poets, by reason of a refined, startling and very vivid imagination - when it comes to his music, it’s all simply about colors....

This article is not a biography of Chopin, but of his famous and great piano music. However and for all intents and purposes: Frederic Chopin lived from 1810 - 1849; he died of tuberculosis (back then known as consumption) at the early age of 39.

Although Chopin was primarily a miniaturist (a composer who writes in smaller musical forms, such as preludes, waltzes, nocturnes, etc), he also wrote large scale works for the piano such as Concertos, Sonatas, Ballades, Scherzos and, his Fantasy in F minor, which some have called it his Magnum Opus - greatest work.

Scherzos

Chopin wrote four Scherzos for the piano. What's interesting to know, is that before Chopin, the scherzo form was considered to be a simple bagatelle (short and light musical composition). Chopin expanded the ternary form and created works with deep emotional content. Many have argued if Chopin's Scherzos are true scherzos in the sense of the word - scherzo is the German word for "joke" or "fun." "Fun" might well describe the Fourth Scherzo, while strong emotional passions would best describe his Second Scherzo. Regardless, they are technically challenging compositions for even the greatest among pianists. Here's the most famous of the set:

Chopin's Scherzo No. 2

Nocturnes

Chopin is - hands down - the greatest composer of nocturnes that has ever lived. However, unlike popular believe, Chopin was not the progenitor of this musical form. We must give credit to the Irish composer, John Field, as he was the true progenitor of this musical form. Liszt's nocturnes pale by comparison to Chopin, although "Liebestraum" is without doubt the most famous nocturne that has ever been composed. Chopin's Op 27, No. 2 is one of the most pianistic composition ever written; it's simple gorgeous! And, here it is performed by the great Arthur Rubinstein:

Chopin - Nocturne Op, 27, No. 2

Preludes

Another genre in which Chopin reigns supreme is the prelude. One of the things which makes Chopin's preludes so special in contrast to say Rachmaninoff's for example, is their simplicity. Before Chopin, few composers managed to write short and simple bagatelles, while at the same time making them intellectual and interesting. Well, Chopin's Preludes have great emotional depth, yet are technically easy for even beginning piano students to learn to play. Chopin's Raindrop Prelude is one of his most famous and beautiful, and here it is:

Chopin's Raindrop Prelude

Piano Concertos

Chopin wrote two piano concertos. Because Chopin struggled with large musical forms (concerto's, sonatas, etc), his concertos aren't considered as eminent as his other piano music. However, the slow movement of this concerto is beautiful; it's really just a simple nocturne. The young lady performing was the winner of the 2010 Chopin International Competition:

Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 - Slow Movement

Mazurkas

Chopin wrote many short piano bagatelles which he called "Mazurkas." These short piano compositions are quite representative of his Polish Culture. Here's the great Vladimir Horowitz performing one of them:

Horowitz performing a Chopin Mazurka

Polonaises

Chopin wrote many of them. The most famous of all - hands down - is the A flat aka 'Revolutionary Polonaise'. All said, the polonaise I decided to feature is also very beautiful:

Chopin's Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brilliante

Etudes

If nothing else, know this, Chopin and Liszt made the "Etude" what it is today - Liszt turned it into a 'Tour de Force' for piano solo to be reckoned with; and, Chopin turned it into an actual piano composition, instead of a mere exercise - hence its name's sake "etude/study." Well, Chopin wrote many Etudes for the piano, but this one I featured is by far the most famous and loveliest of all:

Chopin's Etude Op. 10, No. 3

Waltzes

Before Chopin, C. M. v Weber, and a small handful of other composers attempted to conquer this genre, but Chopin was the first composer who made it cool for future composers to write piano waltzes. ...not only is this one of Chopin's most famous waltzes, but it's also one of the most famous classical compositions of all times - and here it is:

Chopin's "Minute Waltz"

Sonatas

Here's an area of composition in which some may say Chopin felt short. He was arguably the greatest miniaturist that has ever lived, but Chopin did have a few problems in tackling larger and more ambitious musical forms. All said, Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 3 is very beautiful and melodic. Of course, one can hardly discuss Chopin's Sonatas, without playing his most famous/infamous of all and here is that famous slow movement:


P. S. this famous movement is in ternary form aka "ABA" - the "A" or first section of the movement, is dark and gloomy, whereas the "B" or second section of the movement, is quite lyrical and typical Chopin.

Chopin's Sonata No. 2, 3rd Movement

Impromptus

Chopin wrote just a few impromptus, but this one is by far most famous of all:

Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu Op. 66

Final Thoughts:

In addition to these compositions, Chopin also wrote miscellaneous works for piano and orchestra, a Fantasie for solo piano, and much more.... All said, it's Chopin's simple and lyrical style that has made him so famous and well loved. True, Beethoven, Liszt and Debussy (the composers whom I discussed in the beginning of this article), unlike Chopin, all excelled in different musical genres - large and small forms alike; however, Chopin's niche was always in his unique, poetic and startling approach to piano music, which has yet to be surpassed by any other composer.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Lisa, and thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Yes, indeed Chopin was great. He's also one of my personal favorites.

      Thanks again!

      John

    • LKMore01 profile image

      LKMore01 

      4 years ago

      This is amazing, John Sarkis! Thank you for putting this extraordinary piece together. I can see it has already been shared on FB, eleven times. Chopin was a genius. There is a deep admiration I have for anyone who can master the piano. Brilliant work.

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Audrey,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed my playing.

      Take care of yourself

      John

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      4 years ago from California

      Beautiful John and so wonderful to hear you play!

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Chris, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

      Chopin is one of my favorite composers: "I still have enough of the Pole in me if I can only keep Chopin." Nietzsche said this in Ecce Homo and I agree!

      Thanks again and enjoy your upcoming weekend

      John

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Chopin is one of my favourite composers and you have presented us here with a selection of dazzling enchantment. Thankyou John.

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Audrey, and thanks so much for stopping by.

      Yes, that's me playing the finale of the 3rd Ballade....

      Take care and enjoy your Tuesday evening!

      John

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      5 years ago from California

      You picked beautiful pieces in this article John--do you play?

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Mhatter99, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub!

      Take care,

      John

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi pstrabie48, and thanks so much for stopping by.

      I love Chopin; he's one of my favorite composers. Chopin is very difficult to play, but much of his difficulty lies more in expression than virtuoso prowess; however, he's can also b technically challenging.

      Thanks again and take care

      John

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Bill, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub.

      Thanks again and take good care of yourself

      John

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. I never considered myself good, but I knew my way around a keyboard,

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      The first piece of classical music I learned to play was by Chopin. I thought I would never get it. And needless to say I did not go on to become a concert pianist but it was thrilling to learn to play complex music.

      Thank you for this salute to him

      Sending you Angels this evening. :) ps

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am happy to report that I have heard of Chopin and even recognized some of his works on the videos. Thank you for continuing my education.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)