The music industry describes Frederic Chopin as one of the most music geniuses with remarkable talent that Poland has ever produced. The piano maestro touched the global music industry with fantastic masterpieces that made it impossible to compare him with his predecessors. From childhood, he depicted intelligence and mastery of what happened around him musically. Chopin loved the piano from the time he was a kid as he wept emotionally when his mother played it when he was as young as six years old. At this age, Chopin reproduced what he heard and tried coming up with new melodies as well. As scholars say he took to the piano as a duck does to water. A piano stood in his room and he often got up during the night and played it baffling his parents and the maid (Anonymous, Frederic Chopin, The Poet of The piano, 2005).
At the age of seven, Chopin composed his first work, comprising two Polonaises one in G minor and another in B-flat major. He published the first in Father Izydor Jozef Cybulski’s engraving workshop while the second as Chopin’s manuscript. They posed great rivalry to the pieces of established Warsaw composers. He also performed at his first public concert at this age. It proved difficult comparing Chopin to his predecessors owing to the originality of his pieces at such a tender age. At a similar age, Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were apprentices while Chopin depicted mastery showing an example to the upcoming artistes (Samson, 1994, p. 87).
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Chopin never gave his instrumental works thematic titles; instead he identified them by genre and number. Emotional and sensual experiences of his life inspired his works. Chopin indicated in his mail to his colleague Tytus Woyciechowski the number of works and passages influenced by influential erotic transports of a musical student at the Warsaw Conservatory. Intellectuals like Maurycy Mochnacki, Julian Fontana and Jozef Bohdan Zaleski enriched Chopin’s friendship (Anonymous, Frederic Chopin, The Poet of The piano, 2005).
Chopin’s music depicts some notable contrasts in the period of their development with his last four ballads showing differences from the pieces developed earlier. In his first ballade, Chopin starts with unfamiliar Largo piece in 4/4 and suspicious chord D G Eb suggesting irresolvable issues promoting coming first narrative in D minor. Simple and subtle conversation sustained busts to a stormy as well as agitated section. The violent octaves usher in a silent spree in which the C and F welcome quiet and bright scene. The second leitmotif is simple yet magnificent in Eb major with ‘bel canto’ showing its best. Once again, the first subject’s question arises in A major, predicting major controversy responded in the first alteration. This variation becomes more intricate with octaves leading to mysterious dialogue and higher pitched dance. The F sharp minor is still questionable and evocative following modulation through triplets and octaves to the music running down with bass Bb reinforcing it. One more variation of the second subject begins in lower octave recalling regretful previous moments. The first leitmotif reappears in its former D minor at the last moment ending the coda. This magnificent coda captures all existing dramatic musical elements and resolves every query with the slowing down of music. Double glissando passages usher in climax in which the cascading octaves conclude all possible resolutions. This piece compares with Chopin’s earlier work in the sense that it develops a topic and handles it to the end. The motivational gist in it is similar to the previous works. On the other hand, there is evident contrast in the development of this ballade with earlier works. In this one, Chopin changes from note to note in relation to the message and tone intending communication (Anonymous, Frederic Chopin, The Poet of The piano, 2005).
Chopin dedicates his second ballade composed in 1939 to Robert Schumann for his dedication of Kreisleriana Op. 16 to Chopin. This ballade bases on “The pilgrim”, the story of invading warlike nomads and young maidens struggling as water lilies. It has a clear organisation of two contrasting leitmotives, double repeats and a concluding coda. Subject one in F major shows a time of peace characterized by the magnificent beauty in the meadow. This music sounds elegant, subtle, and not monotonous. The modulation that concludes the ballade brings about the change of the key to A minor possessing repetitious A notes warning of the fading peace. The second subject is turbulent and stormy. There is a double repeat of the rising and falling arpeggio passages in various minor keys with gradual fading with series of slowing music phrases. The motif of the first subject resurfaces in major scales with diminished peace. It raises doubts prompting the second tempest that is heavier and more long lasting than the first one, having cold, bold, and single and double trills. This magnificent and dramatic coda grows through double note passages with two final tornado interferences. Suddenly, this storm ends and the leitmotif reappears for the final time, this round in A minor, depicting the restored optimism and calmness though in sad memories. The comparison of this second ballade with Chopin’s previous works shows the change in the key arrangement and transition from the given key to another in relation to the mood of the song. This contrast reveals how complex Chopin became with age, the ballade having up to three to four octaves in a single measure. Execution of such etude calls for proper fingering and wrist control with the smooth legato that Chopin intended.
Composed in the period 1840-41 as a dedication to Mademoiselle Pauline de Noailles, the third ballade describes heartbreaking narration of a man’s indecision and a cute maiden’s deception. Contrasting with the first two ones, this ballade starts with a long introductory dialogue before the appearance of the main theme. Flowing notes through A flat major and E flat major start off the second subject advancing through expressive trills and expressive modulations. This ballade is ranked as the most appealing musical gem of the ballades with the main melody capturing joy and happiness so elegantly whenever it appears. When the main theme reappears, it proposes a change of the key to C sharp minor from A flat major leading to turbulence and more agitation. The theme glooms and the storm does not completely disappear but becomes main theme’s reappearance background. Several rising chords and octaves, different from those of the introduction, welcome the climax of this ballade. A ashortened version of subject two concludes the piece triumphantly.
One more ballade is the epitome of romantic music that is likened to ‘Mona Lisa’ in art. This ballade not only highlights virtually all aspects of music but also the human expressions by means of just the piano. The ballade summarises the creative experience of Chopin’s lifetime. He composed the song in 1842-43 with dedication to Madame la Baronne C. Nathaniel de Rothschild who invited Chopin to her Parisian Estate to play. This ballade got inspiration from the story of the brothers who were sent to attack the foe by their father which ends up with their wedding parties instead. The ballade has an overall F minor as a key signature. However, it begins with a major key that eventually fades away to allow the main melody to appear. This depicts some contrast with Chopin’s earlier works that sustained almost the same key for the better part of the piece. The major transitions in the earlier pieces of Chopin only occurred when there was change of the subject. In this ballade, the main theme in F minor is so mysterious and haunting and a bit sad, requiring immense rubato for its successful interpretation. The serene and calming octave section precedes the repeated Slavonic theme. (Brown, 1972, p. 321) The development section uses a similar pattern but in an opposite manner, like a response to the proposed question by the main melody. The question remains unanswered evidenced in the disappearing Gb repeated thrice and once again turning to the main theme. For the third time, the main melody possesses further expression and modification still embracing elegantly powerful dramatic octaves that rise. This welcomes the second leitmotif in B flat major that appears to follow the second ballade motif, which restores peace. The next modulation in A flat major is a weak calling for a sound technique to comprehend the double notes and trills. This pretty long passage disappears and welcomes the opening theme in A major which moves the F sharp minor corresponding to sadness and restores the original bright key. A variation of the main melody appears in a strange tone suggesting irresolvable doubts sustained until the common theme in F minor returnes. Severally modified main theme occurs for the fourth time more quickly and the second subject as well. This recap of two major topics brings about climax of arpeggios and successive chords ending abruptly. The six pianissimo restore calmness with mysterious chords modulated temporarily into C major. Careful consideration of this ballade composed in Chopin’s late years reveals that the stormy coda calls for exceptional technical knowledge of double notes. This shattering exposure incites an image of horses running to the forest. This piece concludes with a three forte bass F and four strong termination chords.
Chopin’s pieces were and still are so emotional and musical in nature. The technical focus involved playing in three voices, which calls for the right hand playing the melody while the left one playing the accompanying notes. Nonetheless, the third sixteenth note accompanying melody and bass are played by both hands. The nostalgia and emotion that flow through the music make Chopin’s etude so notable. The piece Tristesse meaning sadness is a misnomer expressing nostalgia and Chopin’s love of his homeland. In terms of performances, Chopin preferred public concerts in his late days as opposed to earlier days when he had very limited public performances. He wanted to reach out to most of his fans in this way.
Indeed Frederic Chopin’s music is categorized as constituting a ‘late’ in the way Beethoven uses this term. Beethoven’s ‘late’ comprises performances of symphony and septet as compared to Chopin’s performances of the piano (Anonymous, Beethoven's Musical Style, 2012). Just like Chopin, Beethoven developed his own style. Both Beethoven and Chopin obtained inspiration from life experiences to compose their works. As a result, they dedicated most of their works to special people in their lives. Just like Beethoven, Chopin’s work revealed cyclic composition usually described as blatant functional reference to another movement’s theme.
In conclusion, in some aspects across his performance years, Chopin’s work compares with his motivating factors being life experiences all through. The elegance and superior composition of these masterpieces remain consistent throughout his music. In contrast, Chopin’s late music composition became more intricate than before as he introduced more and more key transitions from subject to subject.
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