At a Glance
career that spanned less than two decades, Chopin revolutionized piano music in
dozens of nocturnes, waltzes, mazurkas, and other solo pieces that imbued the
superficial brilliance of the salon style with unprecedented poetic depth.
Schumann, who declared that “imagination and technique share dominion side by
side” in Chopin’s music, likened his playing to the sound of an Aeolian harp,
as exemplified by the undulating arpeggios that characterize the two Op. 27
Chopin deliberately set out to work on a grander scale in his ballades,
scherzos, and sonatas. As their names suggest, the Ballade in A-flat Major and Ballade
in F Minor can be thought of as tonal narratives: extended multi-section works
with sharply characterized themes and subtle tonal shadings. Their dramatic
energy contrasts with the intimacy of the Berceuse in D-flat Major, a tender
lullaby that wears its virtuosity lightly. The B-Minor Scherzo and the two Op.
55 Nocturnes further illustrate Chopin’s innovative approach to the keyboard,
as well as the extraordinary range and subtlety of his musical language.
Chopin demonstrated uncompromising independence in both his artistic and
his private life. Liszt characterized him as “one of those original beings” who
are “adrift from all bondage.” It was arguably the unparalleled range and
subtlety of his pianism that enabled him to cast off the shackles of musical
convention so successfully in works like the great Sonata in B Minor.