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Before the day closes, I would be remiss if I didn’t write a short post on the birthday of Chopin, who today would have been 202.

A master of orchestration in a completely different sense than orchestral composers, Chopin changed the piano, gave it a sensibility it had up to his lifetime not known. It became an orchestra in the hand of one, rather than Mahler’s hundred. No composer, save perhaps Liszt, explored the sonic possibility and color more than the Polish master, and none has ever dedicated themselves to one instrument so strictly. Why this is does not matter, but it remains that the world is better for it. Excuse my bias. Bon anniversaire, Chopin. 

11:53 pm: jacquesdupuis2 notes

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video

It’s been some time since Chopin appeared here…

He could well be the greatest composer at the piano ever to have lived. Perhaps he was not the most prolific (though, he was certainly no slouch) and did not write the most bombastic music. But no composer before or since has been able to revolutionize his signature instrument so—Debussy came close, as did Cage, if we are inclusive, but not as effectively as Chopin. He brought something new out of the piano, changing it from simply a solo instrument to an orchestra in a box around a sound board. This is not even to mention the composer’s innovations in tonal extension and chromatic expansion.

This recording is of Martha Argerich, playing one of the composer’s most famous works, the G minor Ballade, Op. 23. The opening Neapolitan deceives the ear, initially, but introduces the work in a emotional yet sensitive manner. Argerich’s interpretation of this opening is, perhaps literally, breath-taking.

Spotify, Evgeny Kissin, my pick for the master of overall interpretation on this work.

04:06 pm: jacquesdupuis48 notes

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video

Brahms’s tenth opus includes four relatively short works entitled “Ballades”, in third-related keys, D minor and major and B minor and major. This video is a recording of the first piece played by Emil Gilels. The first Ballade was inspired by a selection from a collection by Herder entitled “Edward”, an evocation of Scottish lyricism. A shallow listen brings the snap rhythm so associated with Scotland, calling to mind the abrupt ornamentation of a bagpipe. 

03:16 pm: jacquesdupuis3 notes

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