Chopin’s Piano Music

Chopin wrote exclusively for the piano, whether as a solo instrument or highlighting the piano in a group setting. A vast majority of his more than 230 compositions are for solo piano. As the instrument evolved, so did the compositions. Many of his pieces are technically demanding. They are also very emotionally involved. Compositions range from a simple prelude, one of which is only 12 measures long, to a fully developed piano concerto.
Chopin did not name any compositions. Chopin gave the genre and number to each composition but others have added the titles. The “Revolutionary Etude”, in C minor, Op 10, No. 12, was written subsequent to the November Uprising; however, there is no proof it was written because of it. The last opus number used by Chopin was 65. Many pieces were published posthumously, despite Chopin’s wish that unpublished works be destroyed.
Chopin is regarded as one of the greatest Romantic music composers. Through his association with George Sand, Chopin was in contact with many of the day’s romantic writers and artists. It is easy to hear the influence of impressionism in the beauty of his compositions.
Employing much use of rubato, the variance of tempo at the musician or conductor’s discretion, Chopin’s compositions are emotional and he himself performed them this way. Some view the application of rubato as a way to disguise poor playing by slowing down the tempo through difficult passages and speeding up through easier measures. This has led some to believe many of his pieces are not played correctly due to the misuse of rubato.
Chopin’s compositions cover several genres. The mazurka was brought to the world from the folk music of Poland through Chopin. Sometimes referred to as the Chopin genre, Chopin expanded the mazurka while retaining the repetitive nature of the folk music making it acceptable for concert performances as well as dances. The use of his native Poland’s folk music inspired a renewed sense of nationalism that is later seen in many composers. The Polonaise is also a tribute to his Polish heritage.
An etude is a technical study piece, yet Chopin expanded the etude to include pieces well suited for performance. Technically challenging, Chopin used his own 23 etudes to teach and to strength the weak fingers of the hand. Chopin wrote 24 preludes, influenced by Bach, and many other individual pieces.
Most pianists are introduced to Chopin early in their instruction. Many pieces have been transposed to easier keys for beginner pianists and oftentimes a short excerpt is available that is less technical in nature. Entire books are dedicated to Chopin’s music. Modern lesson books include short excerpts from Chopin’s preludes and nocturnes and sheet music is available for nearly every composition.
Most Chopin pieces fall in the moderately difficult to difficult range, mostly due to unusual keys and elaborate embellishments. His earliest works are a few of the easier pieces, yet sound very unlike his later works. Opus 28, the collection of Preludes, offers several options for beginner students who wish to play unedited music.

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