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Frédéric François Chopin (1810 -1849)

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Frédéric François Chopin (1810 -1849). Chopin was born in Zelazowa Wola , near Warsaw, Poland to a Polish mother and French father. His musical talents were recognised from an early age and he was playing piano concertos at the age of eight!

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fr d ric fran ois chopin 1810 1849

Frédéric François Chopin (1810 -1849)

Chopin was born in ZelazowaWola, near Warsaw, Poland to a Polish mother and French father.

His musical talents were recognised from an early age and he was playing piano concertos at the age of eight!

Following school, Chopin attended the Warsaw Conservatoire of Music to study as a performer and composer

In Vienna, Chopin made a name for himself as both a virtuoso pianist and a composer.

In 1832 he travelled to Paris and became a sought-after teacher and performer.

Chopin moved in influential social circles in Paris including such composers as Liszt and Berlioz,

Chopin met the authoress AuroreDudevant (known as Georges Sand) with whom he had a nine-year relationship.

During this period, he composed many of his finest piano works.

His piano music reflects his love of his homeland of Poland in its use of Polish folk melodies and dance rhythms (such as the mazurka and polonaise).

It was the modal nature of the folk melodies and the complex harmonies of the authentic Polish music that inspired him and can be found in evidence in the music he composed.

Towards the end of his life, Chopin suffered poor health and he became desperately ill with Tuburculosis, which eventually killed him.

In 1838, in an attempt to improve his condition in a warmer climate, he went to Majorca.

However, as the local inhabitants feared they would catch the disease, Chopin and his lover were forced to seek exile in an isolated and derelict monastery in Valldemossa. It was here that Chopin composed the 'Raindrop' Prelude and completed the set of 24 preludes as well as the famous C# minor Scherzo.

A year later, he had sadly split up from his lover and died at home in Paris on 17 October 1849.

virtuoso performer
Virtuoso Performer

In music, this person will be an excellent performer on their chosen instrument.

Composers will write music that will show off their playing skills

The development of the piano

The sound and tone of the instrument, invented during the Classical era, was improved considerably to give the instrument more power, which was vital in expressing the extreme dynamic ranges in Romantic music. The piano became the supreme solo instrument of the Romantic era.

This was achieved through the following developments:

The instrument was reshaped and enlarged to create a greater sound The number of notes increased in both treble and bass registers to seven octaves

Felt replaced leather on the hammers, producing a more rounded and fuller tone

Strings were longer, stronger and under increased tensions than previously

The body frame of the piano was constructed of metal (as opposed to wood) to cope with the increased string tensions

Thesustaining and soft pedals were developed

interesting romantic chords
Interesting Romantic chords
  • the use of extended vocabulary of chords to create 7ths, 9ths, llths.
  • Augmented 6th chord which contains an augmented 6th interval e.g. Ab, C, Eb, F#.
  • Diminished 7th a chord made up of superimposed minor third intervals e.g. B, D, F, Ab)
  • Dominant 13th chord V (dominant) with the added 13th note
  • Neopolitan chord: chord of the flattened supertonic (second degree) in first inversion. The fifth of the chord is also flattened.
background to the preludes op 28
Background to The Preludes (Op. 28)
  • The next set work, commonly known as the 'Raindrop', belongs to a body of works by Chopin called The Preludes, which was written between 1835 and 1838 and published in 1839.
  • At the time of publication, the works were criticised for a lack of recognisable structure and for their brevity.
  • The shortest prelude is only 13 bars long, while the longest runs to only 90.
  • The 'Raindrop' Prelude is one of the longest at 89 bars, and in it we can see a clearly worked out ternary ABA structure with a contrasting B section in C# minor.
  • Chopin composed his set of 24 preludes at a time when he was studying The Well-Tempered Clavier of J.S. Bach. This is a collection of 48 preludes and fugues in every key rising chromatically from C. As there are 24 different keys, Bach wrote two works in the same key. Chopin's arrangement of the 24 preludes is different in that they are arranged in a circle of fifths, i.e. keys a fifth apart.
  • A prelude is a brief 'opening' piece that sets a particular mood and is linked to a following fugue in the same key. We expect a prelude to be followed by something else! However, the 24 Chopin pieces are all stand-alone preludes, each in a different major and minor key. Each prelude is meant to depict a specific idea or emotion. Although all the preludes, nocturne and etudes had romantic titles in early editions, these were not actually given by the composer.
  • The 'Raindrop' Prelude was written during Chopin's period of recuperation at the deserted monastery in Valldemossa, Majorca. The piece was written during a storm and the title relates to the dripping of raindrops from the roof of the monastery.
form and structure
Form and Structure

Over half of the piece is made up of the middle section. The mood of this C# minor section is ponderous, dark and stormy, with the melody in the left-hand bass of the piano in thick chordal, almost chorale-like, movement. Yet the piece is remembered and acquired its nickname of the 'Raindrop' from the beautiful elegiac melody of section A!

Keyboard techniques used:

The piece is of moderate playing standard and is not virtuosic.

The keyboard range keeps mostly to the stave with a few ledger line notes. The top note is only Bb and the rhythms are quite straightforward.

Key playing techniques employed in this piece include:

cantabile legato (singing style and smooth) playing

careful expressive use of the pedals

use of rubato (pull back or speed up the tempo to show expression)playing.



arpeggiothe notes of a chord played one after the other rather than together, e.g. C-E-G-C etc

soft pedal pedal on a piano that, when pressed, softens the tone of the music

sustaining pedalthat, when pressed, sustains all the strings on the piano by removing the dampers from all strings and allowing them to vibrate

acciaccaturaliterally an ornament - 'a crushed in note' played as quickly as possible before the main note

dominant pedal a sustained (or repeated) note(s) on the dominant note of the key inner pedal a sustained (or repeated) note(s) in the middle of a musical texture

inverted dominant pedal a sustained (or repeated) note(s) as the highest part in a musical texture

pivot note a note common to both keys and used to pivot between two

fuguea musical texture involving polyphonic writing for instruments/voices. However, it is also known as a structure in which voice parts enter one after the other in imitation. The fugue has three sections: the exposition - middle entries -final entries