The piano etude
s (studies) by Frederic Chopin
, a Polish composer
born in 1801
, are amongst the most well-known and, unfortunately, feared piano pieces around.
The list below continues the original writeup, The Chopin Etudes, Opus 10, and gives a brief explanation of 12 pieces which make up Opus 25 of the composer's work:
This piece consists of a simple, but beautiful melody in the RH, harmonised by chords in the form of arpeggioed grace notes. Towards the middle of the piece, the stretches become wider and need more attention, especially at full speed. There's also a section with triplets in the LH and quavers in the RH, which probably shouldn't be attempted if you've never practiced this with an easier piece before.
This, another beautifully flowing piece, consists of triplet quavers in the RH and triplet crochets in the LH throughout. The tempo marking is Presto, but it can still be enjoyed at a lower tempo during practice. Fingering is very important in both hands, but apart from this, the main difficulty will be increasing the speed, which should be taken gradually.
This piece sounds very 'jumpy', with a melodic pattern of semiquaver, dotted quaver throughout. However, as with all the etudes, the harmonic modulation is amazing and should be given special attention. The piece is quite lengthy, and again is quite difficult to play at full speed mainly due to the 'interrupted' nature of the playing; the hands cannot play this piece in a flowing manner.
Yet another unusual piece, this time the playing must be staccato and forceful. The main difficulty is in the rapid LH staccato jumps; the RH is slightly easier in this respect. Again, starting slowly should be the rule here, with sightreading made simpler due to the fact that the piece is in A minor.
A rarely-heard piece due to the discordant nature of the opening, this piece is nevertheless charming and not overly difficult, with the main problem being the execution of the same rhythm as mentioned in Op.25 No.3. The middle section is a contrast, with a flowing, graceful melody which will probably be familiar (maybe in a children's cartoon or something, I can't remember). There is a lengthy, floating melody in triplets before the piece descends back into the chromatic nature of the opening. The coda is completely different, and interesting to play.
Looking at this piece, it will immediately be obvious that the main exercise is that of parallel thirds, which are played almost throughout in the RH. The piece starts with an extended trill in thirds, after which there are repeated chromatic third scales, ascending and descending, while the LH plays a simple bass line. The middle is interesting and also looks impressive when played. Again, it will probably take a while to reach full speed with this piece, the benefit being that parallel thirds will never seem as forbidding again! Chopin has also managed to convey a beautiful melody in what at first sight seems like a boring exercise.
This piece must be one of the composer's most soul-searching and thoughtful pieces. There are occasional fast LH runs in this otherwise Lento piece, but the main object should be to express the melody in both hands. 'smorz.' and 'riten.' can be seen throughout, further emphasising the doleful nature of the piece.
Where parallel thirds were the object of attention in Op. 25 No. 6, here parallel sixths are played in both hands. The triplet quavers remain in both hands throughout the piece, lending a consistant and reassuring feel to the playing. Again, an interesting melody, where fingering comes naturally in some places, but must be carefully studied in others.
This light-hearted piece may seem easy at first, but when speeded up it presents new challenges. The melody is in the RH, and played in staccato octaves throughout. Keeping the mixture of phrasing and staccato consistant in the RH should be foremost on the mind; of course when playing the piece at parties (yes it is possibly the only etude which could be played at a party!) less attention can be paid to this.
This piece is furious, fast, and consists entirely of octaves in both hands. Of course the main idea is to use 4th and 5th fingers of both hands to smooth out the octave runs; this is especially important when given the inner crochets and minims that need to be held down during the playing of the main triplet quavers. The middle section provides some respite from deafened ears and aching hands, with a simple melody in the RH (again in octaves, though!), and a light LH accompaniment. However it's only a matter of time before the thunderous octaves make their way back for a final recapitulation in this long, difficult piece.
Another difficult piece, which, after the short pleasant opening, becomes a whirlwind of sextuplet semiquavers in the RH, with ferocious chords hammering out the melody in the bass. Fingering in the RH takes weeks of solid work, and it's not unusual for the piece to be abandoned in desperation many times before coming back to it with a vengence. There are some melodic lines that will probably be familiar (again, most likely stolen for cartoons), and, with no respite until the thundering finale, this is most definitely a workout of intense concentration for both hands.
The final piece in Chopin's Opus 25 echoes of the first in Opus 10, with jumping arpeggios, this time in both hands, its main feature throughout. The hands need to be totally relaxed to avoid any pain after playing the piece through, and phrasing should also be adhered to to create a purposeful journey. Again, a difficult piece to play at full speed.