Episode 47: The Student Stops Here

Etude in C minor, Op. 10, No. 12, 'Revolutionary'

rc-student-200Chopin's Opus 10. It's a set of twelve etudes. Studies - to push and polish pianists' skills… "but in my own style," Chopin emphasized. A la Chopin, Schumann added.

And how.

All of the Opus 10 etudes are what the twelfth is described to be: Revolutionary.

Before Chopin, etudes were about technique. Music was about emotion. Etudes, by definition were not music. But Chopin didn't just play the piano, he thought about the piano. No one was pondering pianism the way Chopin was when he composed these studies. He approached the instrument and the human form that sets it into motion like Darwin approached mockingbirds on the Galapagos Islands. There was something there--more than had met the eye or ear to date--and he was driven to figure out what.

The results are radical. Chopin's etudes are some of the most evocative, compelling and demanding pieces in all of piano literature. They're...music. It seems unfair only one of them should be labeled, "Revolutionary". The name has been attached to Chopin's twelfth Opus 10 etude because it was written just as his Polish compatriots were getting crushed by the Russians in the failed November Uprising of 1831.

But the real revolution is this: No serious student would ever play the piano according to former standards again. With this first collection of etudes, Chopin emerges in full bloom. He is no longer the student; he has become the teacher.

Is it any wonder, then, that this final etude in his first dozen doesn't end?

Instead, it stops. - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 47: The Student Stops Here

Etude in C minor, Op. 10, No. 12