Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chopin's Nocturnes, Preludes, and recordings

Chopin’s Nocturnes are in turn dreamy, stormy, languid, lush and touching. Chopin’s early nocturnes had influence of Field. It is often cited that Chopin’s nocturne style was affected by Italian opera, the melodies of his nocturnes display qualities of the Bel canto style of Italian opera. Contrapuntal practices, the influence of J. S. Bach, are a component of the texture in Chopin’s later nocturnes.

Many pianists recorded Chopin’s Nocturnes, listening to the Rubinstein’s recording is like going home, because he has the best sense of the phrase, ‘simply exquisite’. Rubinstein’s sense of rubato is perfect; affective and full of rhythm within rhythm, totally natural. Like Liszt said of Chopin’s rubato, “See the tree? See how the leaves move yet the shape stays the same?”

Arthur Rubinstein said the following about Chopin's music and its universality:
“ Chopin was a genius of universal appeal. His music conquers the most diverse audiences. All over the world men and women know his music. They love it. They are moved by it. It does not tell stories or paint pictures. It is expressive and personal, but still a pure art. His music is the universal language of human communication. When I play Chopin I know I speak directly to the hearts of people!

Chopin’s Preludes Op.28 had been compared to J. S. Bach’s preludes in WTC. Bach’s pieces were arranged chromatically, while Chopin’s were arranged in a circle of fifths.
The longest prelude is No.17 which has 90 measures, and the shortest is No.7, has 16 measures. These preludes are collected by small fragments and Chopin’s thoughts. Some preludes were written in the style of Mazurka (No.7), or choral like (No.13), or march like (No.20) etc.
I still prefer A. Rubinstein’s recording. Some other pianists are very good as well, such as M. Argerich, Sergio tiempo (Argerich’s students). Comparing with Rubinstein, Argerich’s Chopin is too dramatic sometime (specially in slow movements). She is good for fast technique fragments.

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