Welcome! 🙂 I hope the daily music posts here on the blog are giving you a boost, in these strange and unsettling times. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, you’ll find the first one here.
Today’s music is by a composer I haven’t featured on the blog before: Frederic Chopin (1810-1849). Chopin belongs to the Romantic era in music history (1825-1900) and is one of the generation of composers who came after Ludwig van Beethoven and had to decide what to make of, and how to build on, all the new ideas Beethoven had brought to music. (If you haven’t yet, you can check out one of my earlier posts on Beethoven here.)
The composers in the generation after Beethoven can be broadly divided into two camps. One camp, which included folks like Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann, believed that one of the most important things Beethoven did for music was to create a trend toward personal expression. This group of composers felt that music should convey emotion and should connect with the listener from that standpoint. The other camp, which included composers like Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, believed that Beethoven’s shift toward virtuosity, expanding the power and brilliance and scope of music, and pushing performers well outside their comfort zones, was the most important advance to carry on in their own writing. These two different approaches to composition created a period in music history that we call the War of the Romantics.
Chopin belongs to the Liszt-Wagner camp, at least mostly. He was a brilliant pianist whose compositions showcased both his own skills and all the power and flexibility of the piano, which by that time in history, had been developed into the instrument we know today. But although he was very much a virtuoso composer, some of his music shifts into the expressive, introspective camp. Today’s two pieces show that quieter side of Chopin.
These are two of his Preludes. Both are short (the second is less than a minute long). They’re musical miniatures that don’t call for much virtuosity or showmanship, but they both capture specific and deeply-felt emotion.
As you listen, if you’d like, consider the “stories” behind these two pieces. What do you think might have inspired the emotion of each one? Taken together in the order they’re given here, what kind of emotional shift happens between them? As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.
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P.S. If you’re on Facebook: tomorrow, Sunday 4/12, I’m going to do a short FB Live performance at 4:30 pm EST. If some music would brighten your day, I’d love to “see” you there!
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