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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > Frédéric Chopin


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biography
Frédéric Chopin exploited the resources of one instrument to open a whole universe
by Thomas May

Much of the music of 19th-century Romanticism was strongly inclined toward making the Big Statement. The quest for monumentality went hand in hand with a taste for epic forms as well as ever-more-grandiose expansions of the traditional orchestra. Yet Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)--whom many consider one of the most archetypal of Romantics--achieved lasting greatness by concentrating, for the most part, on a variety of small forms written for a single instrument. In fact, no other composer of similar stature worked within such a limited domain. From his mastery of the piano, however, Chopin explored an entire universe of self-expression. He developed a unique, highly refined style, exploiting the instrument's resources to such an extent that it could serve as a self-sufficient medium to voice a tremendous range of emotional experience. [read more...]

recommended recordings
Chopin: Etudes, Préludes, Polonaises / Maurizio Pollini

Composer: Frédéric Chopin
Performer: Maurizio Pollini
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #31221 / March 12, 1991

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Chopin may have distrusted romanticism, yet no other romantic composer has worn as well. His music both stings and sings with harmonic adventurousness, together with an uncanny instinct for the geography of the keyboard. The Op. 28 Préludes exemplify Chopin's genius for telegraphing big ideas into snug spaces, while his Études provide an index to his pianistic idiom. Pollini fares best in the Préludes, where his aristocratic pacing and cool control allow the music's mood...Read more


Chopin: Impromptus, Fantasie, etc / Murray Perahia
Composer: Frédéric Chopin
Performer: Murray Perahia
Sony Classics - #39708 / January 1, 1987

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Chopin's Impromptus have something of a reputation as "salon music," largely because the form itself seems to imply something improvised, transient, or insignificant. But when you play them like the greatest music in the world--which is exactly what Murray Perahia does--it's hard not to believe that the music actually is the greatest in the world, or in any event so fine as to make no difference. If other pianists treat them like pieces of fluff, that's their problem. The other two pieces are...Read more


  Chopin: 26 Préludes, etc / Marth Argerich
Composer: Frédéric Chopin
Performer: Martha Argerich
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #31584 / June 18, 1991

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Is Chopin a romantic, mercurial, tempestuous composer? For me, definitely. That's why Argerich's performance of the Preludes speaks to me in a way no other performance does. She is so natural and spontaneous that all other versions seem ponderous and staid. If you're looking primarily for "dignity" in Chopin, you should probably try someone else.

The Legendary 1984 Moscow Concert - Chopin / Evgeny Kissin

Composer: Frédéric Chopin
Conductor: Dmitri Kitayenko
Performer: Evgeni Kissin
Ensemble: Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Bmg/Rca Victor - #68378 / October 10, 1995

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Recorded live at the Moscow Conservatory, this is a truly legendary performance. Any experienced veteran could be proud of it; that a boy of 12 should possess the necessary technique, the musical understanding and maturity, and the sustained concentration, is almost beyond belief. Reveling in his own limitless virtuosity, Kissin seems to be playing with--as well as on--the piano with elfin grace and delicacy; yet his command of the keyboard--his warm, singing, powerful, varied tone--are only...Read more


Chopin: Nocturnes / Ivan Moravec

Composer: Frédéric Chopin
Performer: Ivan Moravec
Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch - #79233 / March 26, 1991

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If Moravec had made only these recordings, he would still be esteemed as one of our greatest pianists. He makes the piano sing throughout this set--coloring the music with exquisite tonal shadings, reflecting the changes of mood with total conviction, and providing moment after moment of revelatory beauty. Many critics consider this the greatest set of the Chopin Nocturnes ever recorded, even finer than the superb stereo set by Rubinstein on RCA. The 1966 recordings, made in two different...Read more


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