Frédéric Chopin: His Life and Music

Week 3: Love

Prof. Michael J. Ruiz, UNC Asheville

Acquiring a Taste for Zal



George Solti (1912-1997)

  • Director of the Chicago Symphony (1969-1991)
  • What about hearing a piece for the first time?
  • The Maestro likes NOTHING!

Image Courtesy

The Third Scherzo and "Love is Blue"

More on Love


Maria Wodzinska

Self Portrait
(Chopin's fiancée)

Her Portrait of her fiancé


Maria Wodzinska

Self Portrait
  • Polish Artist (b. 1819)
  • Studied Piano with John Field of Nocturne Fame (1st written)
  • Engaged 1836, age 17
  • Chopin was 26
  • Mom said OK, Dad said NO
    (Chopin's Health Issues)
  • Maria

Sand & Marie d'Agoult

Amandine-Aurore-Lucille Dupin and Chopin

aka George Sand, details from an unfinished Delacroix painting (1838)
Later cut into two and sold separately.

Hypothetical Reconstruction of the Painting

More Info

Photos: Sand and Chopin

George Sand
(Nadar, 1864)

(Bisson, 1849)

Source: Wikipedia

George Sand

Portrait by Charles L. Gratia
  • 6 years Chopin's senior
  • feminist: 100 years ahead of her time
  • prolific writer
  • novels, memoirs
  • with Chopin: 1838 to 1847
  • 1838-1839 winter with Chopin in Majorca
  • Most Preludes composed in Majorca

Nohant Home: Summers (1839-1843)

  • The George Sand Mansion from Grandmom

  • Delacroix on his visit: "The hosts could not be more pleasant in entertaining me. When we are not all together at dinner, lunch, playing billiards, or walking, each of us stays in his room, reading or lounging around on a couch. Sometimes, through the window which opens on the garden, a gust of music wafts up from Chopin at work. All this mingles with the songs of nightingales and the fragrance of roses." (Delacroix Letter: June 7, 1842)


Nohant: Room


Review of Waltz definition as applied to Chopin

  • traditional waltz 3/4 time
  • moderate length
  • not designed for dancing
  • composed for concert performance

Two Waltzes

  • The Waltz in D-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1
  • Nickname: The Minute Waltz
  • Structure: A, B, C, A, B

  • Waltz in C-sharp minor (1847), Op. 64, No. 2
  • Introduced last week in class.
  • It is a companion to The Minute Waltz.
  • D-flat and C-sharp are the same piano black key.
  • Today we analyze its structure.
  • Structure: A, B, C, B, A, B


  • French word for study
  • usually a short piece
  • usually very difficult
  • to help master a particular technique
  • études date back to the early 1800s
  • example: Czerny (1791-1857)
  • examples reaching concert performance:
  • Chopin, Liszt, Debussy

Chopin Études (Studies)

  • Chopin & Einstein in their 20s
  • Études & Relativity

Two Études

Étude in F minor
Étude in F Major

The études can be thought of as companions.

Étude in F minor

Étude in F Major

Sonata Form

  • blueprint
  • three movements usually for piano
  • four movements usually for a symphony
  • but sonata form refers to the first movement
    • primary theme
    • secondary theme
    • development
    • recapitulation

Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2

composed in 1839 at Nohant

1. Introduction: Grave - Doppio movimento

2. Scherzo

3 Marche funébre: Lento

4. Finale: Presto

Scherzo as applied to Chopin's Second Sonata

  • this scherzo is not a major single piece as the Third Scherzo
  • this scherzo is a movement within a sonata
  • traditional meaning is "joke"
  • shocking contrasts in the scherzo of second sonata
  • explosive like an étude and calm like a nocturne

Some material from

Chopin's 2nd Sonata (Movement 2, Scherzo)

Chopin's 2nd Sonata (Movement 3, Funeral March)

St. Joan of Arc (2010), Camden, New Jersey (Funeral Site for Instructor's Parents)

Richness of the Funeral March (My Descriptions Below)

  • 1. The solemn march theme level (most people only know the first phrase).
  • 2. Repeating theme with the thirds.
  • 3. Repeating theme with octaves.
  • 5. The sweeping "Dignified Phrases."
  • 6. The "Drum Roll" and return to the solemn march.
  • 7. Sudden surprise returning to the sweeping "Dignified Phrases."
  • 8. Memories (sweet soft section).
  • 9. Why did you leave me?
  • 10. Brief silence and contrast return to solemn theme, etc.

Memories for Chopin's Soft Section in the Funeral March

What is a Polonaise?

  • traditionally most important Polish dance
  • traditionally in 3/4 time (but not a regular waltz 1, 2, 3)
  • traditionally with moderate tempo
  • Chopin context:
    • for concert performance rather than dance
    • waltz-like time (3/4), but doesn't sound like a waltz
    • Polish nationalism (Chopin was patriotic)
    • pianistic enhancements
    • virtuoso piano elements

Some information from

First: What is a prelude?

Prelude in A Major

For the romantic period and Chopin, it is simply a short stand-along piece. In the Baroque era of Bach, sometimes it was a short introduction to another more complex piece or movements.

The many shades of "Zal" (bittersweet melancholoy)

Zal! Strange substantive, embracing a strange diversity, a strange philosophy! Susceptible of different regimens, it includes all the tenderness, all the humility of a regret borne with resignation and without a murmur, while bowing before the fiat of necessity, the inscrutable decrees of Providence: but, changing its character, and assuming the regimen indirect as soon as it is addressed to man, it signifies excitement, agitation, rancor, revolt full of reproach, premeditated vengeance, menace never ceasing to threaten if retaliation should become possible, feeding itself, meanwhile with a bitter, if sterile, hatred." from Liszt bio of Chopin

The Cm and A (Military Polonaise) can be thought of as companions.