the foe of the metronome: Does the right hand not know…

… what the left hand is doing?  Chopin, his life though it was marked by illness, was nonetheless, a success. His life brilliant and brief was much like his masterpieces for the piano. Masterpieces cloaked in the enigma  of his “Tempo rubato” , what was often called “this irreconcilable foe of the metronome,”  one of music’s oldest friends.The metronome  is older than the romantic school; older than Mozart; and older than Bach. Chopin’s music is the dualism of piano and forte, of elegance and power, of free-roaming right hand and strict left hand, of French and Polish; and the almost inscrutable ways in which Polish folk music shaped his whole thinking on questions of rhythm and melody, that put him ad odds with some interpretations of his sense of timing; a “secret law” that conceals something essential and valuable for the comprehension of his art.

Eugene Delacroix. "The painting is unfinished. Frédéric François Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish pianist and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the most famous, influential and admired composers for the piano. He was born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin in the village of Zelazowa Wola, Poland, to a Polish mother and French expatriate father. Hailed as a child prodigy in his homeland, Chopin left for Paris at the age of 20. In Paris, he made a career as a performer and teacher as well as a composer, and adopted the French variant of his name, "Frédéric-François". He had a turbulent 10-year relationship with the French writer George Sand from 1837 to 1847. Always in fragile health, he succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 39." Read More:

…It seems that only Chopin has been consistently exempt from the periodic waves of downgrading that is the lot of the romantic artist. He seems to straddle the Apollonian bloc of Mozart, Scarlatti and Bartok as easily as the Dionysian faction of Berlioz, Lizt and Debussey. He seems to be one of the few romantics that doesn’t exhaust with the typical crushing, trapping boredom of the agonizing reach to the final crescendo of ecstasy.

“Monday, Feb. 22, is Frédéric Chopin’s 200th birthday. That is, it’s Fryderyk Chopin’s birthday; the Polish-born, Paris-dwelling composer’s name is more commonly spelled these days with Ys. And that’s his birth date according to a baptismal certificate; the composer said he was born on March 1. Even 200 years after his birth, things that appear simple about Chopin are actually more complicated than they seem.

Including, and above all, his music. Chopin’s piano pieces — all of his pieces involve the piano: no symphonies or operas here — are lyrical and lovely, poetic and, therefore, seen as accessible. Yet they can also be harmonically intricate, technically challenging.” Read More: a

George Sand, mistress of Chopin. "George Sand (original name Aurore Dupin) was a free-spirited French Romantic writer. She scandalized 19th-century Paris when she defied convention and pioneered an independent path for women. She was noted for her numerous love affairs with such prominent figures as Prosper Merimée, Alfred de Musset, Frédéric Chopin, and others. Delacroix did not take her very seriously, but Chateaubriand was inspired of her work." Read More:

Both Liszt and Chopin were great virtuoso composers, but where Liszt was an extrovert, a show man and an adept at experimental theater, Chopin was inner-directed, and a man of the salons. It is regarded as almost impossible for a pianist to play both of them equally well. What fascinated someone like Andre Gide about Chopin was the element of chance that seemed to govern his music. The sense of never knowing where the next chord is going to fall. It sounded to Gide as though Chopin’s modulations were forming under his very figures, like a landscape revealing itself only gradually to the wanderer’s eye; the music surging up spontaneously.Read More: a

Death of Chopin. Felix Joseph Barrias. Read More:

This is what always intrigued the intellectuals and the literati, whether Heine, or Proust, or T.S. Eliot or Thomas Mann, though the point has often been missed by the pianists , whose main concern, after all, is to convey a sense of assurance rather than of uncertainty. Wh know that the young Liszt, already the greatest pianist of the century, was magically enthralled when he heard this style for the first time, and according to his pupil, Moriz Rosenthal, it was Chopin’s playing, rather than the experience of hearing Paganini, that sent Liszt back to the piano for four years, practicing six hours a day and trying to develop his individuality so he could reach Chopin.

“His 24 Op. 10 and Op. 25 Etudes, far from being simple “studies” for students, are so difficult that the great pianist and Chopin specialist Artur Rubinstein avoided playing some of them. And they can be elliptical to the point of impenetrability (take the final movement of the Second Sonata: a whirling cloud of sound less than two minutes long). Taken together, Chopin’s pieces represent a towering hurdle, the benchmark against which a classical pianist is measured — in part because of the difficulty of finding a way to plumb the music’s depths while sounding simple” Read More: a

"The prodigy was featured in Warsaw newspapers, and “little Chopin” became an attraction in the capital’s aristocratic salons. He also began giving public charity concerts. He is said to once have been asked what he thought the audience liked best; the witty seven-year-old replied, “My shirt collar.” He first appeared publicly as a pianist

n he was eight." Read More:

What was it precisely, that people called “le secret de Chopin” and other pianists found impossible to duplicate? It reposed in the “fluctuations” the wavy undecided motion of his playing, according to Liszt. Chopin’s manuscripts somtimes carry the words “tempo rubato” – which means robbed or stolen time- to indicate that he wanted them to deviate from a strict metrical beat. Yet outside of the academia of dry musicology, his particular sonority and fluidity seem somehow to be central to his whole work. The oft-repeated criticism of Chopin was that his “secret” lay in an inability to play in time. Chopin is said to have given his pupils the advice to play freely with the right hand, but to keep time with the left. …Paderewski labors to show that in many of Chopin’s pieces the left hand did not play the part of a conductor, but “mostly that of a prima donna ;” and, as supplementing this, he repeats the old story that in the opinion of some of his contemporaries, Chopin really could not play in time. THE FOE OF THE METRONOME.Read More: a

---Jacques Froment-Meurice (French, 1864-1947): Frédéric Chopin, 1906, marble, Parc Monceau, Paris, France.---Read More:

Hadden : But it is perfectly clear that, while Chopin looked to tempo rubato as a means of emotional expression, he never intended that it should obscure the rhythm never, certainly, in his own practice, fell into that error. One hand might be unfettered; it must be the function of the other to mark the beat. He was with Mozart at least in the maxim: “Let your left hand be your conductor, and always keep time.” His own form of the maxim was: “The left hand should be like a capellmeister; not for one moment ought it to be uncertain and hesitating.” The assertion that he could not himself keep time is too ridiculous to demand serious notice. To be sure, it was made by Berlioz, but Berlioz had a weakness for exaggerated statement, and was, besides, not sympathetic towards either Chopin or Chopin’s style. We have the authority of Henry Charles, the eminent London critic, for saying that Chopin could be “as staid as a metronome” in compositions not his own, and there is ample testimony to corroborate this. Read More:

There is always a fascination to nibble into a bit of the riddle of the historical Chopin, this curiously misunderstood composer about whom so much has been written, and who said so little about himself.

The trouble with the typical image of Chopin is that it takes into account only the tragic consumptive side , the nocturne Chopin and not the composer of the polonaises. It was easy for his friends to see him as the archetype of the doomed, romantic artist because he was so perfectly cast for the role. They saw the sensitivity without failing to hold a regard on his extraordinary inner strength.

But a composer who dies of tuberculosis at thirty-nine and yet produces what Chopin did cannot have been dying all his life; he had to possess heroic energy and even a kind of cunning, the hard-headed managerial sense generally attributed to captains of industry rather than artists. For despite all the hindrances that man and nature could contrive to place in his path, Chopin created more than two hundred works: not all of the masterpieces, but with a far higher ratio of the imperishable to the ephemeral than is usually the case.


Andy West:The piano settled on by the composer was a state-of-the-art instrument that had a range of over six and a half octaves. The soundboard and cast-iron frame were design to tolerate high tension from the steel strings, and a right pedal was included to prolong sound and notes, while a left-hand, or una corda pedal made for more gentle sounds. The new design of the hammer allowed rapid repetition of notes that made the piano more versatile in the range of sounds it could produce.

The new capabilities of the piano during that time could have led people to believe there were secrets to his romantic music. The sounds coming out of the instrument were likely never heard by anybody at the time, making Chopin seem like even more of a master, not to play down the composer as the genius that he was.

…Despite situations where more advanced piano designs were not available, Chopin still composed innovative and to this day, well-known and respected, pieces of music. Somebody with such phenomenal talent can create music on any instrument that is available; expressing their talent and emotions on whatever there is to communicate their musical virtuosity. The composer’s ability to play and harmonize by ear at a young age and also master the piano so quickly is also proof of his capacity for talent. Read More:

Arthur Greene :“In Warsaw, when Chopin was growing up, the social scene was extremely active, and anyone who wasn’t sick or crippled would go to dance parties almost every night. And the star of these events was usually Chopin, because he was both a great dancer himself – and he played for all of the other dancers. He would usually improvise at one of these events….sitting at the piano and playing for hours, coming up with mazurkas, waltzes, and ecossaises. (“eh-koh-SAY”) Nobody dances ecossaises anymore, but these are the types of dances that Chopin would have improvised at a party, and if he really liked it, he’d then go home and write it down.” Read More:

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Miscellaneous, Modern Arts/Craft, Music/Composition/Performance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>