Chopin’s Twelve Etudes Op. 10 were his major achievement as a composer, spanning his last year in Warsaw, his trip to Vienna, and early Paris years, 1830-1832. The Etudes are didactic in nature; each one addresses one technical problem telescoped to a single shape or musical figure. The miracle of these pieces is that within the technical boundaries and structural brevity of each one, Chopin produced music of great pianistic challenge and deep sonorous poetry.
No. 1 in C concentrates on a widely-spaced broken-chord pattern in the right hand over sustained chords in the left.
No. 2 in A minor is greatly concerned with detailed fingering of chromatic scalar passages in the right hand over a sparse accompaniment.
No. 3 in E is a study in sustained control of legato melody within appropriate phrasing. The middle section, a homophonic chromatically descending chordal passage contrasts significantly with the legato melody.
No. 4 in C-sharp minor is a moto perpetuo structure with equally difficult figuration for both hands.
No. 12 in C minor, the so-called “Revolutionary” etude, is a tour de force for the left hand with a march-like theme in the right.
Chopin composed his Twelve Etudes Op. 25 from 1835-1837. They were published in 1837.
No. 5 in E minor could be described as a study in lightness of touch and contrasting phrasing.
No. 6 in G-sharp minor is a study in thirds. It shares characteristics with Op. 10, No. 2; however the left hand has a more difficult melodic task in this etude.
No. 11 in A minor (“Winter Wind”) opens with four measures (lento) added later at the suggestion of a friend. An Allegro con brio follows with a march-like theme in the left hand beneath rapid arpeggiated figures in the right hand. This etude is reminiscent of Op. 10, No. 12.
Steve Lacoste is Archivist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.