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Frederic  Chopin

Chopin's music for the piano combined a unique rhythmic sense (particularly his use of rubato, chromatic inflections, and counterpoint), as well as a piano technique which was of his own creation. This mixture produces a particularly fragile sound in the melody and the harmony, which are nonetheless underpinned by solid and interesting harmonic techniques. He took the new salon genre of the nocturne, invented by Irish composer John Field, to a deeper level of sophistication, and endowed popular dance forms, such as the Polish mazurka and the Viennese waltz with a greater range of melody and expression. Chopin was the first to write Ballades (a genre he invented) and the Scherzi as individual pieces. Chopin also took the example of Bach's préludes and transformed the genre.

Several melodies of Chopin's have become well known; because of their unique melodic shape they are instantly memorable and easily recognized. Among these are the Revolutionary Étude (Op. 10, No. 12), the Minute Waltz (Op. 64, No. 1), and the third movement of his Funeral March sonata (Op. 35), which is used as an iconic representation of grief. Interestingly, the Revolutionary Etude was not written with the failed Polish uprising against Russia in mind, it merely appeared at that time. The Funeral March was written for funerals, but it was not inspired by any recent personal loss of Chopin's. Other melodies have even been used as the basis of popular songs, such as the slow section of the Fantaisie-Impromptu (Op. 66). These pieces often rely on an intense and personalized chromaticism, as well as a melodic curve that resembles the operas of Chopin's day - the operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and especially Bellini. Chopin used the piano to re-create the gracefulness of the singing voice, and talked and wrote constantly about singers.

Chopin's style and gifts became increasingly influential: Schumann was a huge admirer of Chopin's music — although the feeling was not mutual — and he took melodies from Chopin and even named a piece of his Carnaval Suite after Chopin; Franz Liszt, another great admirer of the composer, transcribed several Chopin songs for unaccompanied piano. Liszt later dedicated a movement of his Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses to Chopin, titling it Funérailles and laconically dedicating it "October 1849." The mid-section recalls, powerfully, the famous octave trio section of Chopin's Polonaise, op. 53.

Chopin had strong opinions of how his music should be performed and many common performances practices of Chopin today are at odds with his aesthetic. Arguably, some of the best records of Chopin include those by Koczalski, Friedman, Cortot, Rubinstein, Malcuzynski, Janis, Magaloff, Pollini, Zimmerman, and Samson Francois.

Chopin performed his own works in concert halls but most often in his salon for friends. Only later in life, as his disease progressed, did Chopin give up public performance altogether.

Several of Chopin's piano works carry with them their own technique: his préludes (Op. 28) and études (Op. 10 and 25) rapidly became standard works. They also became influential, inspiring both Liszt's Transcendental Études and Schumann's Symphonic Études.



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