Chopin’s Berceuse and the Music of Bill Evans

Listen to Frédéric Chopin’s D-flat major Berceuse, Op. 57, completed in 1844, and you might get the uncanny feeling that you’re hearing a jazz improvisation. As its title suggests, on one level, Chopin’s masterwork is a dreamy, gently rocking lullaby. Until the final cadence, it’s built on a sublime harmonic oscillation made up of just two chords. It begins with a serene melody which seems to anticipate the Gymnopédies of Erik Satie, published …

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New Release: Shai Wosner’s “Impromptu”

In music, an “impromptu” is a short solo work which suggests the qualities of an improvisation. Impromptu is the title of a new album by Israeli-born pianist Shai Wosner. The recording, released on the Onyx Classics label, features music by composers ranging from Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, and Liszt to Ives and Gershwin. The Ives, set in three movements, are literal improvisations which were recorded and later notated. Gershwin’s charming and soulful Impromptu in Two Keys pulls …

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New Release: Jan Lisiecki’s “Chopin: Works for Piano and Orchestra”

The newest album of 21-year-old Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki comes out today. Lisiecki is joined by the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester and Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański for Chopin: Works for Piano and Orchestra. (Watch the trailer here). This marks Lisiecki’s fifth Deutsche Grammophon release. The recording moves beyond Chopin’s two concertos (which Lisiecki recorded in 2009) to an assortment of the composer’s smaller works for piano and orchestra: Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante in G Major/E-Flat Major, Op. 22, Variations on …

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Happy Birthday, Frédéric Chopin

The Polish virtuoso pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin was born on this day in 1810. Chopin was a composer who wrote, almost exclusively, for the piano. His stylistic and harmonic innovations influenced later Romantic composers. Additionally, his music has been associated with Polish nationalism. In 1939, as Nazi troops advanced on Warsaw, Chopin’s music was played continuously on Polish radio. In a recent post, I offered a few thoughts on Chopin’s Second Piano …

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Maria João Pires and the Poetry of Chopin

There’s a really interesting moment at the end of the middle section (più lento) of Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne, Op. 48, No. 2 when the music stops. Throughout this section (which begins around the 2:40 mark), a recitative-like conversation between two contrasting voices has been unfolding. “A tyrant commands, and the other asks for mercy” is how Chopin described it. But then, with one haunting, heart-stopping chord (You’ll hear it at 5:02 in the clip below), all of the swagger …

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Recommended Recording: Szymanowski and Shostakovich Sonatas

Canadian violinist Frédéric Bednarz and pianist Natsuki Hiratsuka have released an exciting new recording featuring sonatas for violin and piano by two giants of twentieth century music: Karol Szymanowski and Dmitri Shostakovich. Polish composer and pianist Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is sometimes overlooked, but his music occupies an important position between Late Romanticism and the French Impressionism of Debussy and Ravel. Written in 1904, Szymanowski’s Violin Sonata Op. 9, grabs your attention with a powerfully brilliant opening. …

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Chopin’s Fourth Ballade

Frederic Chopin didn’t need to write monumental symphonies. His Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 reveals a universe of musical expression in just over ten minutes. Written between 1835 and 1842, Chopin’s four harmonically adventurous Ballades for solo piano inspired both Liszt and Brahms. Robert Schumann said that Chopin’s inspiration for the Fourth Ballade was Adam Mickiewicz’s poem, The Three Budrys. Let’s listen to a spectacular performance of Ballade No. 4 by pianist Krystian Zimerman. The piece …

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