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Music Talks > 2015 Spring

Music Club: Wednesday 27 May 2015 (7 pm)

 Title:                4 Scherzo and 4 Ballads
Composer:      Chopin
Performers:    Kissin, Horowitz, Zimmerman,  Lang Lang, Pletnev and more
Facilitator:      Akram Najjar
Chopin: (adapted from Wikipedia Click Here)
Frédéric François Chopin (1810 - 1849), was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era, who wrote primarily for the solo piano. 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 many of his works in Warsaw before leaving Poland at the age of 20, less than a month before the outbreak of the November 1830 Uprising.
At 21 he settled in Paris. During the last 18 years of his life, he only gave some 30 public performances, preferring the more intimate atmosphere of the salon. In 1835 he obtained French citizenship. After a failed engagement to a Polish girl, from 1837 to 1847 he maintained an often troubled relationship with the French writer George Sand. A brief and unhappy visit to Majorca with Sand in 1838–39 was one of his most productive periods of composition. In his last years, he was financially supported by his admirer Jane Stirling, who also arranged for him to visit Scotland in 1848. Through most of his life, Chopin suffered from poor health. He died in Paris in 1849, probably of tuberculosis.
All of Chopin's compositions include the piano. Most are for solo piano, though he also wrote two piano concertos, a few chamber pieces (including a most wonderful cello sonata), and some songs to Polish lyrics. His keyboard style is highly individual and often technically demanding. His major piano works also include ballads, sonatas, mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, études, impromptus, scherzos, and preludes, some published only after his death. Many contain elements of both Polish folk music and of the classical tradition of J. S. Bach, Mozart and Schubert, the music of all of whom he admired. His innovations in style, musical form, and harmony, and his association of music with nationalism, were influential throughout and after the late Romantic period.
The Ballads: (adapted from Wikipedia Click Here)
It was Chopin who created the instrumental Ballad as a new form. (This was followed by 4 wonderful ballads by Brahms and some by Liszt). The 4 ballades are one-movement pieces for solo piano, composed between 1831 and 1842. They are some of the most challenging pieces in the standard piano repertoire.
The term ballade was associated with an old French verse-form used for grand and rhetorical subjects, but may also have connotations of the medieval heroic ballad, which was sung and danced. There are dramatic and dance-like elements in Chopin's use of the genre, and he may be said to be a pioneer of the ballade as an abstract musical form. The four ballades are said to have been inspired by poet Adam Mickiewicz.
Besides sharing the title, the four ballades are entities distinct from each other. According to composer and music critic Louis Ehlert, "Each [ballade] differs entirely from the others, and they have but one thing in common – their romantic working out and the nobility of their motifs." Modern theorists have shown, however, that the ballades do have much in common, such as the "ballade meter" (6/4 or 6/8) and certain formal practices like the mirror reprise and delaying the structural dominant.
For more analysis:
Click Here (Analysis of the G minor – No. 1)

The 4 Scherzoz (adapted from The Frederyk Chopin Institute Click Here)
The scherzo appeared on the threshold of the Baroque era (e.g. Monteverdi's Scherzi musicali, 1607), initially as a vocal-instrumental genre of a cheerful character. Chopin, however, referred to the much later, classical, instrumental scherzo of tripartite, A B(trio) A, construction, in a rapid tempo and triple time, usually forming part of a larger work (sonata, symphony). In keeping with their name, most scherzos before Chopin were marked by brightness and levity. Only with Beethoven did the scherzo sometimes gain a different expression: full of anxiety and unbridled energy, almost demonic.
Chopin turned to this second variety of scherzo, but imparted to it a new and unique shape. He rendered the genre autonomous, expanded it considerably and lent it a new, Romantic expression-startling, supremely dramatic, creating the impression of extraordinariness, the dimension of tragedy, a shiver of terror. "It should be a house of the dead", Chopin is supposed to have said of the opening motif of the Scherzo in B flat minor.
Scherzo No 1 Click Here
Scherzo No 2 Click Here
Scherzo No 3 Click Here
Scherzo No 4 Click Here

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