Miniature Preludes, take 2

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 post features two short pieces by Frederic Chopin (1810-1849). A couple of days ago, I posted two of his Preludes for piano, which you can check out here. (You’ll also find more info there about Chopin and his style as a composer.) Today’s post includes two more preludes, with a similar contrast of darkness and light.

The first of these two, in C minor, is one of my favorites. Chopin’s music is often quick and light, full of flourishes, but in this prelude, he embraces a much more dense style of writing. The dark chords, heavily balanced to the bass, make this sound like a solemn hymn, full of great power and majesty. The second prelude, in F Major, is a bit more typical of what we might think of as Chopin’s signature style. It’s light and flowing, deliberately exploring the piano’s huge range by starting in the mid- to low register and moving up one octave, and then up another octave. (In the recording, my hands get so close to the camera at the top of the keyboard that you can’t see them anymore. 😉 ) I think these two preludes make a particularly good pairing.

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.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

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If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

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Miniature Preludes

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.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

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!

 

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme2/krisfaatz

Zen for Ten 28: Chopin and To Love A Stranger

Today’s post features an excerpt from Chapter 4 of To Love A Stranger, paired with two short excerpts from Frederic Chopin‘s Nocturne in B flat Minor, Op. 9 no. 1.

The excerpt from Stranger is told from the point of view of Jeannette Reilly, one of my two main characters. Jeannette has just started working as piano accompanist for the Richmond Symphonic Artists and has met their new director, Sam Kraychek. Jeannette is a shy, withdrawn woman who has overcome a lot to find her first “real” gig as a pianist.

She finds herself immediately attracted to Sam, who, like her, is passionately devoted to music. Her sister Veronica encourages her in this attraction, but Jeannette finds it dangerous and unsettling. She’s afraid to trust another person, especially one she barely knows.

Chapter 4 takes place during a break in a rehearsal Jeannette is accompanying for Sam. Right before the rehearsal, Jeannette’s sister Veronica insisted on giving Jeannette a makeover to make her more interesting to “that boy.” At rehearsal, Jeannette finds that Sam has in fact noticed her; he asks her to come early to the next rehearsal so they can play duets beforehand. Jeannette knows she ought to be thrilled about this, but her past experience has taught her how dangerous it can be to stand out and be noticed, and especially to make herself vulnerable by caring about someone.

During the rehearsal break, Jeannette finds a quiet space to get her thoughts together. At the same time, though, she takes in exactly what her sister has done to her looks. Jeannette’s new appearance brings back past shadows that she has tried to escape from, but can never completely leave behind.

Chopin’s B flat Minor Nocturne is a haunting, lyrical piece, less noticeable for the flashy writing Chopin often used than for a gentle, introspective quality that pairs well with this scene from Stranger.

As always, thank you for visiting the blog! Next time, the Storytelling and Sound series will feature work by Louise Marburg, whose debut story collection The Truth About Me launches this week. Until then!

Don’t have your copy of To Love A Stranger? Get it here.

Writers! Would you like to contribute your work for the Storytelling and Sound series? (You provide the words, I provide the live reading and the music.) Email me at kris@krisfaatz.com for info.