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- Chopin: The Man and His Music - 20/43 -


which might well be named "Inquietude."

As regards technics, two things are to be studied: the staccato of the chords and the execution of the cantilena. The chords must be formed more by pressure than by striking. The fingers must support themselves very lightly upon the chord keys and then rise again with the back of the hand in the most elastic manner. The upward movement of the hand must be very slight. Everything must be done with the greatest precision, and not merely in a superficial manner. Where the cantilena appears, every melodic tone must stand apart from the tones of the accompaniment as if in "relief." Hence the fingers for the melodic tones must press down the keys allotted to them with special force, in doing which the back of the hand may be permitted to turn lightly to the right (sideward stroke), especially when there is a rest in the accompaniment. Compare with this etude the introduction to the Capriccio in B minor, with orchestra, by Felix Mendelssohn, first page. Aside from a few rallentando places, the etude is to be played strictly in time.

I prefer the Klindworth editing of this rather sombre, nervous composition, which may be merely an etude, but it also indicates a slightly pathologic condition. With its breath-catching syncopations and narrow emotional range, the A minor study has nevertheless moments of power and interest. Riemann's phrasing, while careful, is not more enlightening than Klindworth's. Von Bulow says: "The bass must be strongly marked throughout--even when piano--and brought out in imitation of the upper part." Singularly enough, his is the only edition in which the left hand arpeggios at the close, though in the final bar "both hands may do so." This is editorial quibbling. Stephen Heller remarked that this study reminded him of the first bar of the Kyrie--rather the Requiem Aeternam of Mozart's Requiem.

It is safe to say that the fifth study in E minor is less often heard in the concert room than any one of its companions. I cannot recall having heard it since Annette Essipowa gave that famous recital during which she played the entire twenty-seven studies. Yet it is a sonorous piano piece, rich in embroideries and general decorative effect in the middle section. Perhaps the rather perverse, capricious and not altogether amiable character of the beginning has caused pianists to be wary of introducing it at a recital. It is hugely effective and also difficult, especially if played with the same fingering throughout, as Von Bulow suggests. Niecks quotes Stephen Heller's partiality for this very study. In the "Gazette Musicale," February 24, 1839, Heller wrote of Chopin's op. 25:

What more do we require to pass one or several evenings in as perfect a happiness as possible? As for me, I seek in this collection of poesy--this is the only name appropriate to the works of Chopin--some favorite pieces which I might fix in my memory, rather than others. Who could retain everything? For this reason I have in my notebook quite particularly marked the numbers four, five and seven of the present poems. Of these twelve much loved studies--every one of which has a charm of its own--the three numbers are those I prefer to all the rest.

The middle part of this E minor study recalls Thalberg. Von Bulow cautions the student against "the accenting of the first note with the thumb--right hand--as it does not form part of the melody, but only comes in as an unimportant passing note." This refers to the melody in E. He also writes that the addition of the third in the left hand, Klindworth edition, needs no special justification. I discovered one marked difference in the Klindworth edition. The leap in the left hand--first variant of the theme, tenth bar from beginning--is preceded by an appoggiatura, E natural. The jump is to F sharp, instead of G, as in the Mikuli, Kullak and Riemann editions. Von Bulow uses the F sharp, but without the ninth below. Riemann phrases the piece so as to get the top melody, B, E and G, and his stems are below instead of above, as in Mikuli and Von Bulow. Kullak dots the eighth note. Riemann uses a sixteenth, thus:

[Musical score excerpt]

Kullak writes that the figure 184 is not found on the older metronomes. This is not too fast for the capriccio, with its pretty and ingenious rhythmical transformations. As regards the execution of the 13Oth bar, Von Bulow says: "The acciaccature-- prefixes--are to be struck simultaneously with the other parts, as also the shake in bar 134 and following bars; this must begin with the upper auxiliary note." These details are important. Kullak concludes his notes thus:

Despite all the little transformations of the motive member which forms the kernel, its recognizability remains essentially unimpaired. Meanwhile out of these little metamorphoses there is developed a rich rhythmic life, which the performer must bring out with great precision. If in addition, he possesses a fine feeling for what is graceful, coquettish, or agreeably capricious, he will understand how to heighten still further the charm of the chief part, which, as far as its character is concerned, reminds one of Etude, op. 25, No. 3.

The secondary part, in major, begins. Its kernel is formed of a beautiful broad melody, which, if soulfully conceived and delivered, will sing its way deep into the heart of the listener. For the accompaniment in the right hand we find chord arpeggiations in triplets, afterward in sixteenths, calmly ascending and descending, and surrounding the melody as with a veil. They are to be played almost without accentuation.

It was Louis Ehlert who wrote of the celebrated study in G sharp minor op. 25, No. 6: "Chopin not only versifies an exercise in thirds; he transforms it into such a work of art that in studying it one could sooner fancy himself on Parnassus than at a lesson. He deprives every passage of all mechanical appearance by promoting it to become the embodiment of a beautiful thought, which in turn finds graceful expression in its motion."

And indeed in the piano literature no more remarkable merging of matter and manner exists. The means justifies the end, and the means employed by the composer are beautiful, there is no other word to describe the style and architectonics of this noble study. It is seldom played in public because of its difficulty. With the Schumann Toccata, the G sharp minor study stands at the portals of the delectable land of Double Notes. Both compositions have a common ancestry in the Czerny Toccata, and both are the parents of such a sensational offspring as Balakirew's "Islamey." In reading through the double note studies for the instrument it is in the nature of a miracle to come upon Chopin's transfiguration of such a barren subject. This study is first music, then a technical problem. Where two or three pianists are gathered together in the name of Chopin, the conversation is bound to formulate itself thus: "How do you finger the double chromatic thirds in the G sharp minor study?" That question answered, your digital politics are known. You are classified, ranged. If you are heterodox you are eagerly questioned; if you follow Von Bulow and stand by the Czerny fingering, you are regarded as a curiosity. As the interpretation of the study is not taxing, let us examine the various fingerings. First, a fingering given by Leopold Godowsky. It is for double chromatic thirds:

[Musical score excerpt]

You will now be presented with a battalion of authorities, so that you may see at a glance the various efforts to climb those slippery chromatic heights. Here is Mikuli:

[Musical score excerpt]

Kullak's is exactly the same as above. It is the so-called Chopin fingering, as contrasted with the so-called Czerny fingering-- though in reality Clementi's, as Mr. John Kautz contends. "In the latter the third and fifth fingers fall upon C sharp and E and F sharp and A in the right hand, and upon C and E flat and G and B flat in the left." Klindworth also employs the Chopin fingering. Von Bulow makes this statement: "As the peculiar fingering adopted by Chopin for chromatic scales in thirds appears to us to render their performance in legatissimo utterly unattainable on our modern instruments, we have exchanged it, where necessary, for the older method of Hummel. Two of the greatest executive artists of modern times, Alexander Dreyschock and Carl Tausig, were, theoretically and practically, of the same opinion. It is to be conjectured that Chopin was influenced in his method of fingering by the piano of his favorite makers, Pleyel and Wolff, of Paris--who, before they adopted the double echappement, certainly produced instruments with the most pliant touch possible--and therefore regarded the use of the thumb in the ascending scale on two white keys in succession--the semitones EF and BC--as practicable. On the grand piano of the present day we regard it as irreconcilable with conditions of crescendo legato." This Chopin fingering in reality derives directly from Hummel. See his "Piano School."

So he gives this fingering:

[Musical score excerpt] He also suggests the following phrasing for the left hand. This is excellent:

[Musical score excerpt]

Riemann not only adopts new fingering for the double note scale, but also begins the study with the trill on first and third, second and fourth, instead of the usual first and fourth, second and fifth fingers, adopted by the rest. This is his notion of the run in chromatic thirds:

[Musical score excerpt]

For the rest the study must be played like the wind, or, as Kullak says: "Apart from a few places and some accents, the Etude is to be played almost throughout in that Chopin whisper. The right hand must play its thirds, especially the diatonic and chromatic scales, with such equality that no angularity of motion shall be noticeable where the fingers pass under or over each other. The left hand, too, must receive careful attention and special study. The chord passages and all similar ones must be executed discreetly and legatissimo. Notes with double stems must be distinguished from notes with single stems by means of stronger shadings, for they are mutually interconnected."

Von Bulow calls the seventh study, the one in C sharp minor, a nocturne--a duo for 'cello and flute. He ingeniously smooths out


Chopin: The Man and His Music - 20/43

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