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Episode 158: A Study in Heaven & Hell

Etude in B minor, Op. 25 No. 10

rc-heaven-hell-200Sure, it’s about improving your ability to play certain octaves in unison, but biographer Frederick Niecks also has it right when he calls the Etude in B minor, Op. 25, No. 10 “real pandemonium: ”

At the top of the score Chopin wrote allegro con fuoco – meaning, play quickly and with fire.

After two pages plastered with patterns so dense you can hardly see the paper for the ink, Chopin’s “driving whirlwhind of tone” suddenly lets up. Here, the score is marked Lento – play very slowly - and the meter changes to ¾ time. Though you couldn’t waltz to it, it does sound like a nice place to be. James Huneker asserts, “Chopin never penned a lovelier melody than in…the middle section of this etude….It is sweet, sensuous music and about it hovers the hush of a rich evening in early autumn.” Some hear a chorale tucked in the inner voices. A choir of angels? Niecks notes, “…for a while holier sounds intervene.”

But, this is Chopin, and, as Niecks adds,”…finally hell prevails.”

Hell for whom? For the pianist practicing chromatic octaves-in-unison? Likely! But Chopin has also created real music within a formal study by infusing it with fire from his own private one. - Jennifer Foster

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Radio Chopin Episode158: A Study in Heaven & Hell

Etude in B minor, Op. 25, No. 10

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