Episode 181: The Chopin Curriculum

Franz Schubert: Divertissement a la Hongroise for Four Hands, Op. 54

rc-curriculum-200Fryderyk Chopin was notorious for his dismissive comments about his fellow composers. But perhaps a truer indication of his estimation of their abilities lies not in what he said, but what he taught.

Sure, Chopin admired Bach and Mozart. But he reserved the same admiration for Muzio Clementi. “The pupils of Chopin, no matter how advanced, were required to play with care the second book Clementi’s Preludes and Exercises, and above all to study the first Exercise in A-Flat,” recalled former student Maria Zaleska. Chopin rarely assigned a Mozart score, opting instead for works by Johann Baptist Cramer and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Another former student, Adolph Gutmann, recalled “Chopin held that Clementi’s Gradus ad Parnassum, Bach’s fugues, and Hummel’s compositions were the key to pianoforte playing.”

And what about Chopin’s contemporaries? You may be surprised. A few Nocturnes by John Field. Studies by Ignaz Moscheles. Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto. Carl Maria Von Weber: “Play his sonatas with extreme care,” said Chopin. Even a few works by Liszt. Oh, and not a thing by Schumann.

If you were an especially advanced student, the master might even let you take a crack at his own Etudes. And only a select few got to experience the biggest honor of all: To have Chopin join you at the keyboard to play….not Chopin…but the four-hand duets of Franz Schubert, a composer Chopin admired, according to prize pupil Camille Dubois, sans réserve, – that is, “without reservation.” - Mark Vogelzang & Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 181: The Chopin Curriculum

Franz Schubert: Divertissement a la Hongroise, Op. 54