The Solo Piano

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DG 472883

The Strauss music is pretty good but now it is time to move on to something different.  Let's try some solo piano. 

The piano is the instrument of choice for composers.  Elton John uses the piano to compose his music as does almost every composer has for the last few hundred years.  One of the most prolific and talented of the Classical pianists  was  Frederick Chopin who originally was from Poland. 

One of the greatest classical composers of the romantic era was a pianist by the name of Frederick Chopin.   He kept a portfolio of works that he did not consider finished or good enough for publication.  Lying on his deathbed he begged his sister Ludwika to promise to burn the whole lot and she did promise to do just exactly that.  After his death Ludwika looked at the contents of his portfolio.  Starting up at her was a piece of untitled music.  Ludwika was enough of a musician herself that she instantly recognized the significance of her brother's work.  She struggled for the next 10 years whether she should honor her promise to her dying brother or to have that work and others published anyway.   Finally,  she decided to have the works published.  It was a huge hit back then and then after a hiatus of over 100 years it was resurrected (borrowed) into a popular tune.  Words were put to it.  Judy Garland sang it and it sold millions of copies.  Perry Como sang it too. Several years after Garland and Como had their way with the song, Alice Cooper sang it on his album Alice Cooper - Going to Hell.  The title given by the publisher to this  work by Chopin?  Fantasie Impromptu.   The title of the borrowed tune with lyrics?  I'm Always Chasing Rainbows.  
We owe Louise a large debt of gratitude for not destroying her brother's "unfinished" works.   The Fantasie is a wonderful piece and I believe it's significance will be felt for a long time to come. 

 Frederick Chopin and his mother left Poland when he was quite young.  He was never to return.  Years later, Poland suffered an invasion and lost, and then suffered a revolution.  These event were quite traumatic for both him and to the people of Poland. These events did affect his music.  There are two pieces that immediately come to mind when recalling that bit of history.  One is a lament regarding the fall of his country into the hands of the invaders, and the other is a subtle or not too subtle call to arms.   These pieces are called Polonaises for obvious reasons.  I am sure you are wondering what an etude is.  The meaning is actually quite simple. It is a study piece for musicians to practice so that they may learn a particular technique.  Etude - Estudia - Study  are words in different languages that mean close to the same thing.  Valse - Waltz is another set of words like that.  Listen to his Etude #??? and his Heroic and hear the message Frederick is sending to his fellow patriots.

I recommend the recording pictured above because it has many of Chopin's best pieces and I think you will find it great music as well. 

One of his most famous pieces is is Sonata #2 Op. 35, funeral march.  It has been played countless times in movies, computer games, etc.,  and was  performed at Chopin's funeral.   A very somber piece and one that is very moving.

*Louise was not her real name.  It was Ludwika which I believe is the Polish version of the same name.