In the words of one biographer, the August, 1833 publication in Paris of a young Polish pianist’s Twelve Grande Études “established Chopin as an outstanding composer for all time at a single stroke.” You could say he started a revolution.
In his Opus 10 Etudes, Chopin had broken the mold of the keyboard study, transforming it from a mundane training exercise to an extroverted vehicle for virtuoso performers. But Chopin was just getting started bending and blurring the lines between teaching technique and creating pure art. For all of their inventiveness, Chopin’s first set of etudes follow a fairly conventional A-B-A pattern: Think of the Op. 10 No. 3 Etude – sweet at the beginning and end, wild in the middle.
But beginning with the very first of his Op. 25 Etudes, Chopin has added depth, color, and disguises to similar melodic territory: still with a middle section, but more blurred…and more beautiful. Yes, they’re still called Etudes, but in the opinion of pianist and author Charles Rosen, Chopin has now created “pure piano sound – abstract piano sound, in fact.” And there are eleven more to come! - Benjamin K. Roe