Friday, February 29, 2008

Frederic Chopin


Today's Friday Flashback is brought to you by Steinway & Sons. Wouldn't we all be concert pianists if we had one of them in our parlor?

Frederic Chopin, composer and piano virtuoso extraordinaire lived from 1810 to 1849. He was born in the village Zelazowa Wola, Poland to Nicolas Chopin, a French immigrant and a Polish mother, Tekla Justyna Krzyżanowska. Frederic Chopin lived only 39 years. But in those years, Chopin would influence music styles and composers for centuries to come (okay 1.5 centuries).
Chopin was born a prodigy and studied beneath his sisters until the age of 6. He later went on to study beneath Wojciech Żywny (like we're all supposed to know who that is). In his early years, Chopin would be compared to the talent and creativity of Mozart and Beethoven (the latter was living at the time but as we all know Beethoven to be deaf, he never "heard" Chopin). At the age of 15, Freddy was deemed the most accomplished pianist in Warsaw and at age 20, left Warsaw for the fruits of Paris.

Unlike most composers of the time, Chopin's creations were mostly for the Piano or for symphonies that featured a piano soloist. His style was revolutionary in sound and technique. His predominant use of tempo rubato (where the pianist is given free reign over how quickly or slowly they will play), chromaticism (interspersing diatonic pitches among other pitches in a chromatic scale) and counterpoints - made Chopin revolutionary in his sound and technique. Okay so I threw all that music theory mumbo jumbo in there to impress you all... did it work?

Chopin's music is passionate. It evokes emotions and moods without telling a story or painting a picture (as opposed to some musical compositions that do just that. But for some reason, since I've given up the dope, I haven't been able to see said story telling or picture painting in music). Chopin was very fond of nocturnes (a romance free-for-all for classical musicians), ballades (similar to a nocturne but poetic without the rhyming), mazurkas (waltzes for Pollocks), and etudes (short pieces of music designed to teach a particular skill).

And speaking of skill - Chopin's music is technically demanding. That's how I impress at parties. As I hover over the nachos and cream puffs, I'd inflate my flat chest and talk of the Chopin piece I'm learning to play. The listener would hear "Chopin" and think me a pianist of grandiose amplitude. They don't need to know it came from "Joseph Schnuckerman's Chopin Arrangements For Dummies" (I keep that next to "Beethoven for Bozos" and "Mozart for Morons" and "Liszt for Loosers" and "Schumann for Shmucks" and you get the idea.)

Towards the end of Frederic Chopin's life, he was rumored to have a lavish and promiscuous distinction - which led my militant 100-pound piano teacher to give me the above-the-reading-glasses-glare, then with pursed lips declare, "Never play Chopin at church."

He also has his own Asteroid - "3784 Chopin".


Staci Carroll said...

By the way, his greatest achievement is being played regularly on The Little Einsteins.

Staci Carroll said...

Oh yeah, and I read the statement to be "Mozart for Mormons" at first. I would like to get my hands on that one.

rabidrunner said...

Funny you should say that... because I had it as "Mozart for Mormons" first but decided it a little uh much.

So Mozart for Mormons, would you "Put Shoulder To Wheel" while you Minuete in G?

Staci Carroll said...

Nah, you'd have to have "how firm a foundation" sonata.

The McMillans said...

I love his concerto's, his orchestration is so simple, allowing for the piano to really showcase. I am particularly fond of concerto number one. What would the world be like without this kind of music?

Lois said...

I don't play the piano, but I did teach myself (after many agonizing weeks of torturing my family) Chopin's Prelude in C Minor (Op. 28, No. 20). I LOVE IT!!!