Frédéric Chopin – 12 Études Opp. 10 & 25. 3 Nouvelles Études. (Claudio Arrau, “The Philosopher of the Piano”, 1956) (2007 Digital Remastering)
Recorded: 15-22 & 29.VI. and 5.IX.1956, No.3, Abbey Road Studios, London. First issued in 1957 by Columbia Ltd. Mono/ADD
“Great Recordings of the 20th Century”. EMI Icons, EMI Classics, 2011 & Warner Classics, 2013.
I. Book No.1: 12 Etudes for Piano Op.10, 1830-32.
Before Chopin, there was a tradition of writing studies for the development of keyboard technique, but the pieces were primarily didactic. This set of 12 Études, dedicated to Liszt, represents a new form: concert pieces that serve a secondary function as development of advanced piano skills. Each étude begins with a pattern of pianistic figuration, which creates the specific technical problem for the étude and persists for the duration of the piece. That Chopin was able to create poetry in spite of such controlled and limited means of expression is a testament to his creative genius. The twelve Études published as Chopin’s Opus 10 are an indispensable tool of the modern pianist’s craft: they are a rite of passage that no serious pianist can ignore.
00:00 Nº 1 in C major. Allegro
01:59 Nº 2 in A minor. Allegro
03:23 Nº 3 in E major. Lento ma non troppo (Tritesse – L’intimite) – http://youtu.be/FKDir13g7ow
07:55 Nº 4 in C sharp minor. Presto (Torrent)
10:10 Nº 5 in G flat major. Vivace (Black Keys)
11:55 Nº 6 in E flat minor. Andante
14:49 Nº 7 in C major. Vivace (Toccata)
16:26 Nº 8 in F major. Allegro
18:51 Nº 9 in F minor. Allegro molto agitato
21:00 Nº 10 in A flat major. Vivace assai
23:14 Nº 11 in E flat major. Allegretto
26:17 Nº 12 in C minor. Allegro con fuoco (Revolutionary – Fall of Warsaw)
II. Book No.2: 12 Etudes for Piano Op.25, 1835-37.
This Op.25 collection bears a dedication to Liszt’s mistress, Countess Marie d’Agoult, a writer who used the pseudonym Daniel Stern (the Op.10 Études are dedicated to Franz Liszt). One reason Chopin attempted to capture Liszt’s sympathies with the dedications had to do with the performance design of the pieces in the two sets: each was written to highlight some facet of pianism.
28:57 Nº 1 in A flat major. Allegro sostenuto (Aeolian Harp – Shepherd Boy)
31:21 Nº 2 in F minor. Presto (Balm)
33:05 Nº 3 in F major. Allegro (Carwheel)
35:08 Nº 4 in A minor. Agitato
37:28 Nº 5 in E minor. Vivace
40:52 Nº 6 in G sharp minor. Allegro (Thirds)
43:00 Nº 7 in C sharp minor. Lento (Cello)
48:21 Nº 8 in D flat major. Vivace (Sixths)
49:30 Nº 9 in G flat major. Allegro assai (Butterfly)
50:35 Nº 10 in B minor. Allegro con fuoco
55:04 Nº 11 in A minor. Lento – Allegro con brio (Winter Wind)
58:41 Nº 12 in C minor. Allegro molto con fuoco (Ocean)
III. Trois Nouvelles Études for piano, 1839-40.
Chopin composed this set of etudes for the Méthode des methods, a publication of Ignaz Moscheles, a leading pianist and composer of his day who was not always in agreement with Chopin’s compositional techniques, and François-Joseph Fétis, a now largely forgotten Belgian musicologist.
1:01:26 Nº 1 in F minor
1:03:31 Nº 2 in A flat major
1:05:56 Nº 3 in D flat major
As always with Arrau, the Pianist takes a back seat to Music Making, are a prime example of how myth making regarding Arrau’s Recordings. Arrau approaches Chopin’s Etudes as a genuinely mature musician and sensitive interpreter. In Opus 10, No. 3, for instance, he infuses the music with a deep sadness that recalls its XIX Century title, “La Tristesse.” Incidentally, this record received the Grand Prix du Disque Frédéric Chopin from the Warsaw Chopin Society when it was re-released in 1990.
The 24 Études of Frédéric Chopin (divided into two separate opuses, 10 and 25, but actually composed almost simultaneously) remain the most significant entries in that particular musical genre. Chopin refers, in a letter dating from the fall of 1829, to having written a study “in [his] own manner,” and indeed, a great chasm stands between his achievements and the far drier études of his predecessors (one thinks of Moscheles, Czerny, and Hummel in particular). It was not Chopin’s intent, as it was with many nineteenth-century pianist-composers, to create studies of mere technique and raw dexterity; here, instead, are works with an inexhaustible array of textures, moods, and colors to explore. These are works meant for the concert hall as well as for the practice room
Despite the slightly cramped, airless sonics, Arrau’s characteristically warm and ample sonority makes itself felt in these 1956 recordings. The pianist uncovers layers of depth and disquiet in the slower Études that others merely prettify. The treacherous extensions in the E-Flat Étude, for instance, are distinctly projected and balanced, rather than strummed. Arrau’s spectacularly honest technique enables him to articulate Chopin’s sparkling figurations with a liquid legato unaided by the pedal.