Chopin’s 24 preludes, Op. 28, are a set of short pieces for the piano, one in each of the twenty-four keys, originally published in 1839. Chopin wrote them between 1835 and 1839 with some of them worked on in Valldemossa, Majorca where he spent the winter of 1838–39.
The Prelude Op. 28, No. 4 is probably Chopin’s most well-known prelude. It was played at Chopin’s own funeral at his request, and has been remade and recorded by contemporary artists like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gerry Mulligan, the Classical Made Modern project and many more.
Frédéric François Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin (22 February or 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849), born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, was a Polish composer and a virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era, who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as one of the leading musicians of his era, whose “poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation.” Chopin was born in what was then the Duchy of Warsaw, and grew up in Warsaw, which after 1815 became part of Congress Poland. A child prodigy, he completed his musical education and composed his earlier works in Warsaw before leaving Poland at the age of 20, less than a month before the outbreak of the November 1830 Uprising.
Courtesy of World Library Foundation (2017)
Life of Chopin (1863) by Franz Liszt
Translated from the French by Martha Walker Cook
Chopin must be ranked among the first musicians thus individualizing in themselves the poetic sense of an entire nation, not because he adopted the rhythm of POLONAISES, MAZOURKAS, and CRACOVIENNES, and called many of his works by such names, for in so doing he would have limited himself to the multiplication of such works alone, and would always have given us the same mode, the remembrance of the same thing; a reproduction which would soon have grown wearisome, serving but to multiply compositions of similar form, which must have soon grown more or less monotonous. It is because he filled these forms with the feelings peculiar to his country, because the expression of the national heart may be found under all the modes in which he has written, that he is entitled to be considered a poet essentially Polish.
His PRELUDES, his NOCTURNES, his SCHERZOS, his CONCERTOS, his shortest as well as his longest compositions, are all filled with the national sensibility, expressed indeed in different degrees, modified and varied in a thousand ways, but always bearing the same character. An eminently subjective author, Chopin has given the same life to all his productions, animated all his works with his own spirit. All his writings are thus linked by a marked unity. Their beauties as well as their defects may be traced to the same order of emotions, to peculiar modes of feeling. The reproduction of the feelings of his people, idealized and elevated through his own subjective genius, is an essential requisite for the national poet who desires that the heart of his country should vibrate in unison with his own strains.
by Harriette Brower (1922)
What would the piano playing world do without the music of Frederic Chopin? We can hardly think of the piano without thinking of Chopin, since he wrote almost exclusively for the universal instrument. His music touches the heart always rather than the head, the emotional message far outweighs the intellectual meaning. It is vital music—love music, winning the heart by its tenderness, voicing the highest sentiments by its refinement, its purity, its perfection of detail and finish.
Chopin was preeminently a composer for the piano. With the exception of the Trio, Op. 8 and a book of Polish songs, everything he wrote was for his favorite instrument. There are seventy-one opus numbers in the list, but often whole sets of pieces are contained in one opus number, as is the case with the Études, of which there are twelve in Op. 10, and the same in Op. 25. These Études take up every phase of piano technique; each one has a definite aim, yet each is a beautiful finished work as music. They have been edited and re-edited by the greatest masters. The twenty-four Preludes were composed before the trip to Majorca, though they were perfected and polished while there. Written early in his career, they have a youthful vigor not often found in later works. “Much in miniature are these Preludes of the Polish poet,” says Huneker.
There are four Impromptus and four Ballades, also four Scherzos. In them the composer is free, fascinating, often bold and daring. The great Fantaisie, Op. 49, is an epic poem, much as the Barcarolle is a poem of love. The two Sonatas, not to mention an early effort in this form, are among the modern classics, which are bound to appear on the programs of every great pianist of the present, and doubtless of the future. The two Concertos are cherished by virtuosi and audience alike, and never fail to make an instant and lasting appeal.