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Questions and answers are suggested by visitors and for reference purpose only.

Questions submitted using the form below will NOT be posted (except for answers to old questions 1 to 28). Please note that new questions should be posted in the Forum. 

1) What does "Spianato" in the Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise Brilliant Op.22 mean ?
2) Whom did Chopin fall in love with ? Please write down all persons you know.
3) How many works for piano & orchestra did he compose ? Please write down all you know.
4) How many works for piano duet did he compose ? Please write down all you know.
5) What was the reason that George Sand broke the relationship with Chopin?
6) To which social class did Chopin belonged and what was his political view like ? (by Van Dessel Kenny)
7) How tall and approximately how heavy was Chopin ? (by James Cunningham)
8) Statistic number of the key signatures he used ?
9) Events leading to the composition of the famous "Funeral march" of sonata Op.35 ? (by Diane)
10) Why Chopin was a Polish patriot ? What was in his music that made him a Polish patriot? (by Michael)
11) What is the color of the master's eyes ? (by Cherry)

12) What is the overall form of Chopin's minute waltz Op.64 No.1? (by Megan)
13) Chopin and Popular Culture: How many popular songs have been based on melodies drawn from Chopin's works? (by Tim)
14) What is the story behind Chopin's Fourth Ballade? (by Blossom)
15) How can you pronounce "Chopin"? (by Jim)
16) Who played Chopin's "Revolutionary" Etude Op.10 No.12 on his Magic Piano and enjoyed huge success? (by T.Roskill)
17) Why is Chopin remembered as a world-famous composer. What did he do which was new or different from others? (by Staci Isaacs)
18) How many of Chopin's Etudes had nicknames? (by Alexei)
19) What were Chopin's feelings about opera, and how are they reflected in his compositional style? (by Karen)
20) Which masterpiece is the most popular? (by Sarah)
21) Where did Chopin get his inspiration? (by Anastasia Gumns)
22) What is the story behind the Raindrop Prelude? What does it mean for Chopin himself? (by Michael Benjamin)
23) What is the role of the soft (una corda) pedal in Chopin's music (if used at all)? Specific examples from particular pieces would be helpful (by Jimmy)
24) How was Chopin's Polish heritage expressed in his music?? (by Karen)
25) What was the supposed Mickiewicz poem on which Ballade No 1 opus 23 in G was inspired? (by Bernard Gavoty)
26) Chopin is an important 'romantic' composer. What does this term mean with regard to composers, artists, writers? (by Tracey Lycho) 
27) What was the name of George Sand's novel in which a major character was based on Chopin, and what was the name of the character? (by Elene Gusch, Doctor of Oriental Medicine and music teacher, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA) 
28) Chopin, Sand and her son and daughter often called themselves by nicknames. Can you state the nicknames for Sand, Maurice, Solange and Chopin? (by Coke Scalloway)


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Answer question No.

Question 1

The term "spianato" derives from the Italian verb "spianare", means "to smooth out", "aplanir". That's why the piece is marked "Tranquillo".

Christie Colosa: According to Oxford's Concise Dictionary of Music, "Spianato" means "planed, levelled, smooth".

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Question 2

Paul Povey:  Only the famous novelist George Sand was the Chopin's lover.

Adam: Chopin was most definitely also in love with Delfina Potocka, an early sweetheart in Poland, whom he even intended to marry. However, her mother refused to consent to this after Chopin became so violently ill that rumors swept across Europe of his death. She felt his precarious health made him a poor choice for a husband. Jeremy Seippman, along with other sources, back me up in this.

Tim: The woman to whom Chopin proposed marriage when he was a young man was Maria Wodzinska, not the Countess Delfina Potocka. The exact nature of Chopin's relationship with Delfina Potocka is still apparently a subject of debate among his biographers. That the two of them were acquainted is a matter of historical fact, and it has long been believed by some that they were lovers. In 1945 a Polish musicologist named Pauline Czernicka announced that she had in her possession a number of letters written by Chopin to the Countess, and there has been much controversy over their authenticity.  For an interesting discussion of these purported letters (including the results of an examination of them by a forensic graphologist), as well as an evaluation of the likelihood of a romantic relationship between Chopin and the Countess, see the 1978 biography "Chopin," by George R. Marek and Maria Gordon-Smith.
The woman generally identified by Chopin's biographers as his first love (or at least his first infatuation) is Constantia Gladkowska, a singer whom he met when he was nineteen or thereabouts, when the two of them were students at the Warsaw Conservatory.  Chopin wrote about her in his diary and in letters to friends (at one point describing her as his "ideal"), and his feelings for her seem to have lasted for a year or two.   Some of Chopin's biographers say that he never made his feelings known to her, but Zamoyski in his 1979 book "Chopin: A Biography" states that before he left Poland, Chopin at least suggested to Constantia what he felt for her, and that they exchanged rings.  At any rate, when several years later Constantia married another man, Chopin received the news with equanimity.
To the list of Chopin's "loves" (depending on how one defines the term) might also be added a woman known to us only as "Teresa."  In a letter to one N. A. Kumelski, written by Chopin on November 18, 1831 shortly after he had arrived in Paris, he says that there are in Paris plenty of available young women who chase after men, but notes that the "memento" left to him by Teresa has left him unable to take advantage of such opportunities. Marek and Gordon-Smith, in their 1978 biography "Chopin," surmise that Teresa was a woman with whom Chopin had slept and who gave him some sort of venereal infection. Marek and Gordon-Smith state that the condition of which he complained might have been misdiagnosed as a venereal disease, and at any rate was soon cured.  (Chopin's medical history has probably been the subject of more speculation and discussion than that of any composer in history, and no writer seems to have thought that he suffered from a venereal disease, at least not for any length of time)

Jennifer Autrey: According to the several biographies I've read, Chopin has reportedly been in love with 4 women: Constanza Gladowska, Maria Wodzinska, George Sand, and Delphine Potocka.
- The first woman, Gladowska, was an adolescent crush of Chopin's. She was never aware of the fact that he was smitten with her until after the fact. She reportedly claimed that he would have never made a good husband because of his nervous nature.
- The second, Maria Wodzinska, was the woman he to whom he proposed marriage. They had a short engagement that did not result in matrimony. He was told by her mother that he could marry her on the grounds that he take better care of his health and assume a more routine lifestyle. He did not.
- The third, George Sand, is his most famous love affair, which ended when Chopin took the side of Sand's daughter Solange in an arguement over her (Solange's) betrothal to a dissolute artist named Clesinger.
- The last, Delphine Potocka, is controversial. Some critics and biographers assert that he never had an affair with Delphine, some believe that he had a platonic love for her, while the rest believe that he had an all-out affair with her. The emergence of some very interesting correspondance in the 1940's between Chopin and Delphine split the musical world at to the nature of the relationship between them, but the letters were discovered to be forgeries several years later (read Marek's biography). However, some still believe that they indeed had an affair.

Alexei: When I read this, many people had responded. but Tim is right, the woman Chopin intended to marry was certainly Maria Wodzinska. Unfortunately he could not get his wish as his health was bad. Evidence can be found in the Etude Op. 25 #2 in F Minor: Chopin imagined it to be a mirror of her soul.
Before this was Constantia Gladowska, but Chopin certainly did not get anywhere in their relationship: Gladowska was popular and had many(!) admirers. Evidence! We're talking evidence here: she inspired his Waltz Op. 70 #3 (posthumous).
After this was George Sand, as everyone knows.
I have doubts about Delphine Potocka, but Chopin did dedicate his Minute Waltz Op. 64 #1 to her.

Elene: There is actually some written evidence that Fryderyk and Delfina were lovers. His roommate at the time, Dr. Hoffman I believe, later told his wife that he had known the countess to stay for quite a while after her lessons, sometimes till the next morning. It's not solid evidence, but it does add some weight. Many people observed them spending time together and assumed that they were romantically involved. The letters which appeared in 1945 in Poland, supposedly written by Chopin to Delfina, are of course fake, but some people think that the scam may have been based on a few actual letters. It's unlikely that we'll ever be able to entirely sort this out. (It's none of our business, anyway!) What we do know for sure is that in one of Chopin's letters he refers to Delfina with the phrase "you know how much I love her" or "you know how fond I am of her." A note from near the end of his life mentions an item he had received as a gift from her, as "very precious to me." He did love her in some sense. If we are talking "in some sense," we must also mention Fryderyk's boyhood friend, Tytus Wojciechowski. Their relationship seems to have been quite an intense, and at least on Fryderyk's side, romantic friendship. It is not clear just how literally we should take Fryderyk's passionate and flowery letters to Tytus. It certainly wasn't a physical relationship, and Chopin's letters imply that his feelings made Tytus a bit uncomfortable. But during the time that Konstancja Gladkowska was Chopin's "ideal," his relationship with Tytus seems to have been much more central to his life. 

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Question 3

Minh Khoa & Ronaldo Alvarenga: 6 works for piano and orchestra:
- Concerto for piano and orchestra op.11
- Concerto for piano and orchestra op.21
- Variations on "La ci darem la mano" op.2
- Fantasy on Polish Airs op.13
- Rondo a la Krakowiak op.14
- Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise op.22

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Question 4

Tim: 2 pieces composed by Chopin for two pianos, or for two players on the same piano. His Op.73 is a Rondo in C major for two pianos, which was published in Berlin in 1855. Also, Brown in his 1972 revised catalog of Chopin's works lists a piano piece for four hands: an Introduction, Theme, and Variations in D major on a theme of Moore, which was published in Krakow in 1965.

Joona L�tti:
1. Duo Concertant from Meyerbeer's "Robert le Diable", E major, piano and cello
2. Rondo, C major, Op. 73, for 2 pianos
3. Sonata, G minor, Op. 65, piano and cello
4. Songs, Op. 74, voice and piano (17 songs)
5. Variations, E major, on a theme from Rossini's 'La Cenerentola', for pianoforte & flute
6. Variations, D major, on a theme of Thomas Moore, piano 4 hands

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Question 5

Jennifer Autrey: The break between Chopin and sand was long coming, due to the vast differences in their personalities (he was fastidious and concerned with appearance, she wrote about women's liberation and wore men's clothing in her younger days). However, the 'straw that broke the camel's back'occured when Solange, Sand's daughter, announced her engagement to a minor French noble by the name of DePreaux. He lavished her with attention, and fickle Solange soon became bored, and broke the engagement. Soon after, Solange became engaged to a young dashing artist named August Clesinger. She was smitten and, although Sand at first opposed the marriage, she gave in. Chopin was never informed about the engagement by the Sand family, but heard the news through hearsay. This disturbed him, but he made no move to break with Sand. As a further slight, Chopin was not invited to the wedding. Soon after the wedding, Solange's marriage began to fall apart, and Clesinger began to threaten and act very uncivilly toward Sand. This caused a breakdown in Sand's relationship with her daughter. This situation came to a head when Clesinger hit Sand, and Sand kicked them both out of the house, ordering them never to return. Solange then wrote Chopin, asking for permission to use the carriage that he kept at Nohant, Sand's estate, in order to leave comfortably. Chopin granted permission, feeling sorry for Solange (she was pregnant), and wanting to slight Sand as well. Sand thought that this gesture meant that Chopin loved her daughter more than she, and broke contact with him. Although Chopin still loved Sand, he never discounted Sand's claims. They were never reconciled.

Tim: As Ms. Autrey said, the immediate cause of the break between Chopin and George Sand was that he sided (or seemed to side) with Sand's daughter Solange at at time when Solange and her mother had quarreled. Solange was by most accounts a headstrong and difficult young woman, and in May 1847 she married a hard-drinking, deadbeat sculptor named Auguste Clesinger, against the advice of Chopin and other friends of the family. The next month the couple came to Sand's estate at Nohant for a visit. The particulars of this visit vary as told by Chopin's biographers, but the consensus seems to be that Solange and Clesinger behaved badly toward Sand and the other guests, and that Solange in particular did her best to stir up trouble. Ultimately a brawl took place in which Clesinger and George Sand exchanged blows, and Sand's son Maurice nearly shot Clesinger before order was restored. The newlyweds left Nohant the next day and went to a nearby inn. Solange wrote to Chopin (who had been in Paris the whole time), giving him her version of what had happened and asking him to send his carriage to bring herself and her husband to Paris. When Chopin did so, this seemed to Sand like a betrayal, and their relationship quickly deteriorated. Her last letter to him was dated July 28, 1847.
Although the precipitating cause of the break was this family quarrel, the Sand-Chopin relationship had been cooling for some time, at least on her part.  (Marek and Gordon-Smith in their 1978 biography "Chopin" state that in 1845 Sand had a brief affair with a philosopher named Louis Blanc, which Chopin never knew about). The ardor of their early times together had passed, and by 1847 they probably had not had sexual relations for several years. (This appears to have been Sand's decision, which she later defended on the grounds of Chopin's health). Moreover, as the years went by, friction arose from the fact that Chopin seemed to regard himself as a member of Sand's family and entitled to take a hand in the governance of her household and children. At certain times (most notably when she gave her consent for Solange to marry Clesinger), Sand went behind Chopin's back in domestic matters to avoid confronting his disapproval and to get done what she thought ought to be done!
Eventually she probably came to resent what she regarded as his meddling in matters that were none of his business. Even if the quarrel between Solange and her mother had not caused the final break between Sand and Chopin, something else might well have done so sooner or later.

Elene: I think that the fundamental problem in the relationship between Sand and Chopin was her insistence on treating him as her third child rather than as an adult man who had at least half a brain and was her equal as a domestic partner. Part of this was the cessation of their physical relationship, which, in my opinion, directly led to the wild jealousy that she complained so bitterly about. I'll just leave this complex subject at that for now.

Brittaney: From a source by Hedley, he claims that Chopin and Sand's break was circumstantial. Solange was rebelling against her mother and Chopin cared for the family as a whole and chose to side with her. Hedley asserts that Chopin and Sand cared about each other very much, but the circumstantial problems with family and health drove them apart, not from them destesting one another.

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Question 6

He relished his position at a very center of Parisian high society (at the time where musicians entered the best houses only through the tradesmen's entrance). When still in his 20s, he consorted on equal terms with princes, countesses and the greatest cultural personages of the day.

Jennifer Autrey: Chopin belonged to the upper middle strata of society. Politically, he considered himself a revolutionary, but he never officially sided with any one faction. Ironically, he never 'conspired' with his Polish contemporaries for Polish liberation, and as 'revolutionary' as his political outlook may have been, that didn't stop him from socializing and becoming friends with the nobility.

Elene: I hate to say this, but if Chopin were living in the US today, he'd probably be a Republican! Chopin was politically conservative, and his livelihood depended on the aristocratic status quo.

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Question 7

Tall: approximately 1m60, Weight: less than 50 kilos. So he's rather small, suspiciously an elegant man! Khoa says that he's tall and big. Can anyone give a reliable info?

Autrey: According to a few books I've read, Chopin was anywhere between 5'5" to 5'8" tall. He never weighed more that 100 lbs. In one book I read (I, unfortunately, can't remember the name or the author, sorry, but it's at the Furman University Music Library), he once took Solange, George Sand's daughter, to a fair where they both had themselves weighed. The receipt containing his weight read 98 lbs. If I remember correctly this was about 1845 or 1846. According to the same book, at the time of his death he weighed about 88 or 90 lbs.

Teresa: Chopin was 1.70 m tall according to a passport issued to him when he went to England with Pleyel in 1837. According to that same passport, his eyes were blue-grey. This evidence is far more reliable than "souvenirs" after his death. His weight is given in one of the volumes of Sand's correspondence edited by G. Lubin...

Elene: In English measurement, though he would have been thinking metric, he was about 5'7" tall. He was at times under 100 lbs and probably never much more than that. This was an extremely flexible body with little muscle mass, very well suited for its owner's musical proclivities. It's said that Chopin was able to do contortions quite easily. His insistence on "souplesse" (suppleness) was probably a lot easier for him to achieve than it was for his students.

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Question 8

Top: A flat major :-)

C major


A minor


G major


F major


E minor


D minor


D major


Bb major


B minor


G minor


A major


Eb major


F# minor


C minor


E major


Ab major


C# minor


F minor


B major


Db major


G# minor


Bb minor


F# major


Gb major


D# minor


Eb minor


C# major


Cb major


A# minor


Ab minor


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Question 9

Tim: The third (funeral march) movement of the Op. 35 piano sonata was composed in 1837, which was also the year in which Chopin's quasi-engagement to Maria Wodzinska ended. (Jim Samson writes in his 1996 biography, "Those inclined to relate Chopin's works directly to incidents in his life will have no difficulty with the Marche funebre.")
The other three movements of the Op. 35 sonata were written in 1839.  Samson states that Chopin probably worked on them during his winter in Majorca with George Sand, and Chopin also mentions working on the sonata in a letter he wrote in the summer of 1839 (his first summer at Nohant with Sand).

Veronica: I read somewhere that chopin was having a little party and then there was a storm, obviously inspired he sat in the darkness and composed it with so much passion that he fainted. how intriguing.

Norn Jornsen: Chopin's funeral march is the slow movement of his second sonata. It is modeled after Beethoven's twelfth sonata which contains a funeral march "on the death of a hero." Chopin loved that Beethoven sonata, and it was the only one he ever performed in public. I do not know the specific story, if there is one, but Chopin was certainly influenced by Beethoven.

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Question 10

Autrey: Chopin considered himself a 'nationalist' and is considered by Poland to be one. However, Chopin was not actively or blatantly nationalist. He never used his status as a means of aiding Poland in a political sense. Politically, his national stance came from his voluntary exile from Poland. I suppose you could call him conscientious objector to the Russian regime in Poland. His music, however, is what makes Chopin a nationalist. He drew from Polish folk music for inspiration and, though some musicologists would argue, wrote his despair for Poland into his music. For more info, read Marek's or Sculz's biography about Chopin.

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Question 11

Autrey: Surprisingly, this is a difficult question to answer. For some reasons there seems to be a lot of controversy over the details of his physical appearance. Some say that his eyes were dark brown, almost black. Biographer George Marek believes this to be true. However, others believe that his eyes were very light --- blue or blue green, as biographer Tad Szulc believes. Others still believe that his eyes were hazel. Although I've never read a work by any Chopin biographer who asserts this point of view, many contemporary accounts state that his eyes were hazel, including the accounts of several childhood friends. Many of the portraits of Chopin show that his eyes are a light brown/hazel color. I've also seen portraits that show Chopin's eyes a dark grey. Most of the portraits that show his eyes as dark brown are copies of lost originals, which lead me to believe that dark brown was not his eye color. I believe the contemporary accounts over the biographers --- his eyes! were hazel

Teresa: Chopin's eyes were blue grey, as stated in the passport he obtained in 1837 to go to England with Pleyel.

Elene: BLUE, despite Liszt's insistence that they were brown. In Maria Wodzinska's watercolor portrait (which is an impressive painting, especially considering her age of 16), one can clearly see the blue, and she was looking straight at him at the time. Even more convincing, to me, is the fact that Rosemary Brown, the famous medium who channeled works of Chopin, Liszt, and a number of other "dead" composers, perceived his eyes as "a beautiful clear grey-blue."

John: There are numerous errors in the above answers regarding the color of Chopin's eyes. Liszt did not state that Chopin's eyes were brown but rather that they were blue. There is also no documented record of Chopin's passport stating his eye color as being blue. I have yet to see prove of this particular passport.
Many books on the life of Chopin disagree on eye color. It is most probably either blue or brown. Frederick Nieck's book on Chopin's life references several of Chopin's childhood friends who all report a brownish color. Nieck's descredits Liszt's account of his eyes being blue.
It is most likely that Chopin's eyes were of a brown color.

Joe: Chopin's French passport does indeed exist and has been reproduced in many sources, notably on the official Warsaw Chopin site. It states his weight ( given in kilos) as 98 pounds, his height (given in milimeters) and just under 5'7", his hair as blond, his eyes as blue.

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Question 12

Tim: I regard the "Minute" waltz as being in ternary (ABA) form. However, Weinstock in his 1949 book "Chopin: The Man and His Music" says that it is in ABCAB form. I assume he reaches this conclusion by viewing measures 21-36 as a B-section.

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Question 13

Tim: popular songs
1. "No Other Love" (1950).  Based on the Etude in E, Op. 10, No. 3.   Words and music by Bob Russell and Paul Weston.  Recorded by Jo Stafford (Capitol).
2. "Till the End of Time" (1945).  Based on the Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53.  Words and music by Buddy Kaye and Ted Mossman.  Recorded by Perry Como (Victor).
3. "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows (1918).  Based on the middle section of the Fantasy-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66.  Words by Harry Carroll, music by Joseph McCarthy.  Recorded by various artists, including Perry Como (RCA), Benny Goodman (Columbia), and Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (Decca).

4. "To Love Again" (words by Ned Washington, Music by Morris Stoloff and George Sidney) was based on Nocturne Op.9, No. 2.


5. "Could It Be Magic" words by Adrienne Anderson music by Barry Manilow was inspired by the Prelude in C minor Op. 28, No. 20.

Lemon Incest (1984), by Serge Gainsbourg, based on the Etude in E, Op. 10, No. 3
Insensatez (1961), called How Insensitive in English, music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, based on Prelude, Op. 28, No. 4
Exit Music (For A Film) (1997), by Radiohead, based on Prelude, Op. 28, No. 4

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Question 14

Dawson: The fourth Ballade was inspired by Adam Mickiewicz's poem "The Three Brothers Budrys". It is a story of a Polish father who sends his 3 sons off to war and they come back, with one bride shared by all three. You can read the entire poem translated into English at

Teresa: There is no evidence whatever that any of the Ballades had a "story" behind it. It is all due to a suggestion made by Schumann. The only Ballade which may have had an intended "message" is the second one, which was referred to by a publisher's agent as the "Pilgrim's Ballade" (see the book by Kallberg)

Yeshe: The three sons did not share one bride, each son took a Polish bride, their deceased mother having been of Polish decent as well.

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Question 15

A lot of people said that his name should be pronounced "Show-pan". Alexei said that his name in Polish is FRYDERYK FRANCISZEK SZOPEN.

James Gath said the Polish pronunciation on Chopin's name was as follows: "Shop-an"; the French variant was pronounced as "Show-pan".

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Question 16

Alexei said that he is Dreyschock.

Jimmy: The question needs a little qualification.  What is a magic piano anyway?  If it were really Dreyschock, then the question should mention his "revolutionary" is done in octaves.

David: he performer was Sparky and he was an amazing success until his concert career abruptly ended when the Magic Piano let him know that "your time is up, I will no longer" and it all came crashing down around him. I grew up listening to that on LP and loved every minute of it. That and my father playing 10/12 and 25/12 on our piano as I lay under it.

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Question 17

Al Baffy: There are three reasons I can give that almost any music historian would agree with. The first reason is that Chopin used forms in new and original ways. The etudes are a fine example of this - while studies for piano certainly existed before Chopin, he endowed his with qualities of beauty that were never seen before in that form. Secondly, Chopin used harmonies that were, for the time, uniquely innovative. His use of chromaticism and other gorgeous harmonic effects still astonishes us today. Lastly, Chopin created a new type of music for the piano. He used the piano in ways that others before him never did, bringing out the qualities of the instrument that allowed a vast dramatic scope. In short, Chopin is great because he was so original.

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Question 18

Op. 10
No. 2   Chromatic
No. 3   Tristesse
No. 4   Torrent
No. 5   Blackkey
no. 12   Revolutionary
Op. 25
No. 1   Aeolian Harp
No. 2   Bee
No. 5   Wrong Notes
No. 7   Cello
No. 9   Butterfly
No. 11   Winterwind
No. 12   Ocean
(Attn: No nicknames were given by F.Chopin)

It is said that Chopin did not formally name his etudes, rather the publishers who wanted to sell the songs better:

Etude Op.10 No.1 (Waterfall)
Etude Op.10 No.2 (Chromatic)
Etude Op.10 No.3 (Tristesse) - 'Tristesse' is usually refered to as a deeply sad grief, many musicians believe it was poorly named.
Etude Op.10 No.4 (Torrent)
Etude Op.10 No.5 (Black-Key)
Etude Op.10 No.7 (Toccata)
Etude Op.10 No.8 (Sunshine)
Etude Op.10 No.11 (Arpeggio)
Etude Op.10 No.12 (Revolutionary)

Etude Op.25 No.1 (Aeolian Harp)
Etude Op.25 No.2 (The Bees)
Etude Op.25 No.3 (The Horseman)
Etude Op.25 No.5 (Wrong Note)
Etude Op.25 No.6 (Thirds)
Etude Op.25 No.7 (Cello)
Etude Op.25 No.8 (Sixths)
Etude Op.25 No.9 (Butterfly)
Etude Op.25 No.10 (Octaves)
Etude Op.25 No.11 (Winter Wind)
Etude Op.25 No.12 (Ocean)

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Question 19

Philip Daniel: Chopin was greatly influenced by the Italian Bel-Canto style, of which Bellini and Donizetti were the main contributors. Chopin's melodies, which are very lyrical and expansive, seem to be a distinguished extension of Bellini's melodic style.

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Question 20

Sarah said that Polonaise in A-flat Major "Heroic" and Waltz in C-sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2 are the most popular. It is regarded by many advanced pianists as well as classicists. However, who can say which work is the best, because we're talking about art.

Alexei: It seems that the tougher a piece is, the more popular it is isn't it? Among the very popular of Chopin's masterpieces are the 'Heroic' Polonaise op. 53, the Fantaisie-Impromptu op. 66, and the 'Revolutionary' Etude op.10-12.

Paul:  Although the public may not associate it with Chopin, is any piece of his better known and more commonly heard than the Funeral March from the Sonata op. 35?

Stacie Todero: Well to me the most remembered piece is the "Sonata in "b" minor" because the way he played it was remarkable the way he wanted to stand out and be so original because he wasn't doing it for anyone, he was doing it perfectly for himself. To impress himself and that is significant in a musician.

Alex: I believe that the 'Fantasie' Impromptu Op.66 is the most popular to commoners (non-pianists) and renowned by pianists to be extremely overplayed. However, I also believe that the 'Polish' Ballade No.1 Op.23 is the most popular among professional pianists.

Jon: In addition to what has already been mentioned, the "Raindrop" prelude is pretty popular among non-pianists.

James Gath: The most popular and well-known masterpieces of Chopin's are the Minute Waltz Op. 64 No. 1, The Funeral March from his Sonata in B-flat minor Op. 35, Etudes Op. 10 No. 12 and Op. 10 No. 3, His Preludes Op. 28 No. 4, 7 and 15, His Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, the Fantasie-Impromptu Op. 66, the Heroic Polonaise in A-flat major Op. 53 and the first and fourth Ballades Op. 23 and Op. 52 respectively.

Halim:  the most popular masterpiece is the winter wind for its dynamic and enthousiam when you play the winter wind you feel a strange feeling inside as the wind of the winter is runnig inside and destroying the doors of your heart its such an extraordinary masterpiece !!

Nick: There are a few that stand out and have become extremely popular in movies and pop culture today. The most famous ones that I can think of right now are Fantasie impromptu, Etude op.10 no.3, Etude 0p.10 no.12, minute waltz, and nocturne op.9 no.2.
Peter: The pieces already listed are of course superb and very famous - however this is art, and ranking pieces as "the best / most popular"; is impossible - a very subjective matter, with popular tastes changing with time anyway. For me, the 4th Ballade in F minor, should have received more mention - amongst the finest pieces for piano ever written by anyone - and the Berceuse, Op.57, is also a staggeringly beautiful piece. Chopin's Nocturne in Db major, Opus 27 No 2, is also missing from the contributions above. And finally the Barcarolle, Op.60 - one of the most studied and admired pieces (by subsequent composers) that Chopin ever wrote.

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Question 21

William McCarthy said that Chopin got his inspiration from his senior who had 30 years on him, Irish composer John Field.  But later became Chopin's opposition due to they both wanted the same thing in their music.  A romantic Hazy sound from the piano.

Anh: I don't think this explanation is satisfactory. Any comment?

Coke Scalloway said that Chopin obtained his inspiration mainly from what he felt, not from what he saw, or heard, or read,etc. He was a unique composer for this. Yet he also was inspired by the love he felt when thinking of his many lovers, and also by the hallucinations he later on suffered. I think that Chopin got his inspiration from what he felt in the inside. He wasn't often inspired by something else than love and other emotions, except in the case of the Ballades, where he "transcribed" some of Adam Mickiewicz's poems.

Tim: I'm not sure what this question is getting at, but based on my personal experiences with composers and composition, I'd say that a composer doesn't need "inspiration" to write music any more than a lawyer needs inspiration to practice law, or a surgeon needs inspiration to perform surgery. Composers write music for pretty much the same reasons other people do what they do: (1) they want to, and (2) they know how. The idea that a composer or other creative artist must, unlike other people, somehow be "inspired" in order to do what he does for a living seems to me not provable and, perhaps more importantly, not useful.

Leona: Chopin was inspired by the melodies of the bel-canto opera, the polyphony of Bach, and the modal austerity of Polish folk music. He was also inspired by the French and American Revolutions to create his military pieces.

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Question 22

Teresa said that the story behind the so called (never by Chopin himself!). Raindrop Prelude is a fabrication by George Sand in her Histoire de ma Vie, where she describes a scene in Valldemosa (Majorca) when supposedly Chopin improvised the prelude while waiting for her during a storm. There is no reference to such an incident in her letters contemporary with the supposed event, and everything indicates that she invented the entire story. Therefore there is no point in trying to ask what the meaning was for Chopin.

Chantel: Tad Szulc in his biography of Chopin states that at the time that the "Raindrop" Prelude was written Chopin was suffering from hulluncinations. Consequently on a stormy night when he was by himself and waiting for Sand to come back he was playing the piano and the composition echoed the sound of the thunderstorm. It also says that he himself did refer to it as the "Raindrop" Prelude, however jokingly.

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Question 23

Tim: On page 127 of "The Chopin Companion," Robert Collet writes that as far as he has been able to discover, Chopin never indicated the use of the soft pedal. He adds that it would be pedantic and probably incorrect to insist that one must never use it in playing Chopin. The November/December 1983 issue of Keyboard Classics contained a retrospective on the life and career of Artur Rubenstein. In that article, Emanuel Ax and Janina Fialkowska, both of whom were coached by Rubenstein after winning prizes at the first Rubenstein International Piano Competition in 1974, recounted that Rubenstein used the soft pedal when playing Chopin (and other music) in a rather unorthodox way. In order to preserve the sonority of certain passages and still play them pianissimo, he would put the soft pedal down and then strike the keys as though he were playing forte. Fialkowska said he called this his big secret, and that he especially used it in Chopin.

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Question 24

Coke Scalloway said that Chopin's Polish heritage was present in almost EVERY SINGLE ONE of his compositions. The mazurkas can appeal to this, as well as the polonaises. Even Etudes, Valses, Nocturnes and all his compositions also have present their bit of Polish folk music. You can find bits of polish music in all of Chopin's music, except maybe the Barcarolle, certain Nocturnes or other scores.

Ebony Khadija Davis said that Chopin's Polish heritage is expressed in his music through the Polonaise and Mazurkas. These are tradtional dances forms of Poland.

Jeff: This is doubtful. His early Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 4 is "German" in style (echoes of Beethoven, Bach and Hummel), while his waltzes, with the exception of the dotted gesture in Op. 64/2, and the "Slavic melancholy (are Poles supposed to be sad all the time?)" of Op. 34/2, are actually rather devoid of references to Polish music. A few exceptions can be found in some of his less formally rigid pieces, such as (ironically) the Nocturnes (Op. 27/1 in C-Sharp Minor has a brief passage near the recapitulation, and the two unnumbered nocturnes in C and C-Sharp Minor are possible exceptions as well). On the flip side, concerning music that is decidedly non-Polish in style, his last two sonatas (Piano Sonata No. 3 Op. 58 and Cello Sonata Op. 65) both have stylized tarantellas as finales, and he wrote a Tarantella for solo piano. He also wrote two Bourees, three Ecossaises, and a Bolero, so I doubt that "nearly all" of his works are influenced at all by Polish folk music!

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Question 25

Teresa said that there is no reliable evidence indicating that any of the ballades were inspired by Mickiewicz (or any other poem). All his based on a reference by Schumann, who wasn't exactly a close confidant of Chopin. In any case Schumann did not specify any particular poem, he merely said that Chopin had told him that he was inspired by Mickiewicz. Any more detailed search is pointless.

Ondine: There is no documented evidence that Chopin based his Ballades on specific poems of Mickiewicz. However, Mickiewicz did write "ballads", Chopin was familiar with them and may have been influenced in a general way by the idea of a dramatic narrative. The two men did know each other in Paris, but had an uneasy relationship. They were both influenced by similar cultural aspects of the time, the unsuccessful uprising of the Poles against the Russians and the concept of "zal."

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Question 26

Tim said that the term "romantic," as applied to works of art, is generally used to mean an approach to art which is subjective, irregular, even exotic, as distinguished from the "classical" approach. Whereas classicism attempts to set up objective, universal standards of beauty from which an artist must not depart, romanticism exalts the artist's personal vision, which may find beauty, or at least meaning and truth, in things that many or even most people would not find worthy of exaltation.
One quote which I think is quite revealing of the classical approach to art comes from a letter written by Mozart. In it he says that regardless of what music is attempting to express, it must always be beautiful, or, in Mozart's words, it must never cease to be music. To Mozart, whose music is the apotheosis of classicism, nothing, not even the portrayal of ugly things, could justify the writing of ugly music. By contrast, several decades later Giuseppe Verdi wrote a letter concerning the casting of his opera Macbeth, in which he remarked that a certain singer was not well suited for the role of Lady Macbeth because her voice was too beautiful. Lady Macbeth, Verdi said, should sound like a witch.
Another example, also from Verdi, of the romantic approach to art is the opera Rigoletto, which was Verdi's first big success. The title character and central figure of the opera (one hesitates to call him a hero) is a hunchbacked servant who has his master murdered after the man more or less rapes his daughter. In a classical era, such a sordid story line would probably not have been deemed suitable for an opera. And a person like Rigoletto, if he appeared in an opera at all, would be a minor character and would not be drawn in such a manner as to engage the audience's feelings and sympathy. But Verdi's opera, written in the full flower of the Romantic movement, gives this man music as compelling as that of any character in opera, and draws the audience into his story and his suffering to a degree that no Classical composer would have done.
Stendhal said that all art is romantic in its own day. It's hard to know exactly what he meant by that. Certainly all true artists strive to be original, at least to some extent, and originality is at the heart of romanticism. The difference between a classical work of art and a romantic one is very likely just one of degree. But even so, I still think that artists at various times in history have approached their art in two fundamentally different ways, some of them feeling that their first allegiance is to widely accepted standards and models, and others being more ready to depart from the teachings of their elders in favor of a more personal vision, even if it is less likely to be shared by many people. This point of view is apparently held by enough people that the classical/romantic dichotomy continues to be widely viewed as a useful way of thinking about art.

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Question 27

Tim said that The novel was "Lucrezia Floriani," which Sand began publishing in serial form in the summer of 1846. The title character is a selfless, long-suffering woman whose lover, Prince Karol, is a jealous, petty, selfish man who drives her to an early grave. Chopin's and Sand's friends understood that in the character of Lucrezia, Sand was depicting herself, and that Prince Karol was based on Chopin. Chopin never indicated to anyone that he was aware of this, but an entry in his diary, made after his liason with Sand had ended, makes clear that he understood what she had done.

Brittany: In a book entitled "Chopin and the Boundaries," there is a story/novel (unsure) about Chopin and Sand entitled "Gabriel." It exemplifies Chopin's nature was more flighty and divinely inspired, rather than attributed to his sexuality. His compositions were airy and light, reflecting his sexuality, according to the author.

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Question 28

Jennifer Autrey said that George Sand's nicknames for Chopin invoked her sense of his boyishness and his physical frailty: Chip-chip (pronounced I think with a hard "ch" like in English, not like the French), Chopinet, and Chopinetto. Among friends and family, Chopin referred to himself as Fryc (pronounced "Fritz") or Frycek. George Sand referred to her family as the Piffoels, which I think means "long-noses." She often referred to Maurice as "Bouli." As far as I know, Solange had no affectionate pet names, but her mother often referred to her as "the lioness," a nickname that suggests her temper. Chopin often referred to Solange in letters as "Sol," but I'm not sure if this is simply an abbreviation, or if this was an actual spoken nickname.

Joe: Chopin referred to Solange as "Soli" in his letters, which definitely suggests a nickname, not an abreviation. He also addressed his friend and sometime pupil Adolph Guttman as "dear Gutt."

Phil: Sometimes Sand would joke to Chopin and called him "My dear Corpse", to play on Chopin's physical weakness.

Halim: For madam sand her nickname is Aurora, for Maurice his nickname is my son, for Solange: Sol,  for Chopin: little one.

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