Frédéric Chopin: His Life and Music

Week 6: Mona Lisa

Prof. Michael J. Ruiz, UNC Asheville

Great Interpreters of Chopin (1810-1849)

  • Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), Polish
  • Alfred Denis Cortot (1877-1962), French-Swiss
  • Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982), Polish
  • Claudio Arrau (1903-1991), Chilean
  • Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989), Russian
  • More Here

Review: Composers and Periods

Baroque (1600-1750), Classic (1750-1800), Romantic (1800-1900)

Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Young Liszt

Robert & Clara Schumann, Chopin and Amantine, Liszt and Marie d'Agoult

Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin = George Sand, Comtesse d'Agoult = Daniel Stern

Liszt and Students (Early 1880s)

Martin Krause     Claudio Arrau     John Cobb

Chopin's Student Georges Mathias

Chopin (1810-1849): Waltz in A minor (c. 1845)

Published in 1955

A 1955 TV Guide - The Liberace Show. His favorite composer was Chopin.

Chopin (1810-1849): Some harmonies 100 years ahead of his time.

"Chopin is the father of modern harmony." Cecil Gray in History of Music (2004)

A few examples from our course:

  • Prelude in A minor (Modern Dissonance)
  • First Ballade (Descending Semitones)
  • Second Scherzo (Major Seventh Chord)

Grandma Liszt
Anna (Liszt's Mom)

Concert Violinist Tyler
10th US President
2 Living Grandsons (10/2017)

Françis Planté (1839-1934)
Great French Pianist
Heard Chopin Play

Source for Tyler Images:

Source for Plante image: Wikipedia

Chopin Étude in C, Op. 10, No. 7

Chopin Études (Studies)

  • Chopin & Einstein in their 20s
  • Études comparable to Relativity (Pianist Anievas)

Chopin Études (Studies)

Opus 10 (1829-1832), 12 études

  • Opus 10, Number 3
  • Opus 10, Number 9

Opus 25 (1832-1836), 12 études

  • Opus 25, Number 1
  • Opus 25, Number 9
  • Opus 25, Number 10
  • Opus 25, Number 12

Poet and Psychologist

  • From Huneker "Chopin the Man and His Music" (1926)
  • Chopin, "subtle-souled psychologist,"
  • is more kin to Keats than Shelley,
  • he is a greater artist than thinker.
  • He is nature's most exquisiste sounding-board
  • and vibrates to her with intensity, color
  • and vivacity that have no parallel."

John Keats (1795-1821)

  • Romantic Poet
  • Tuberculosis (c. 1819)
  • Dies at the age of 25 in 1821

Keats: Ode to a Nightingale (1819)

  • Excerpt

  • Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
  • What thou among the leaves hast never known,
  • The weariness, the fever, and the fret
  • Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
  • Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
  • Where youth grows pale, and spectre-then, and dies;
  • Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
  • And leaden-eyed despairs;
  • Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
  • Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

  • sentiments in Chopin, e.g., "The Fourth Ballade"
  • Zal

The Mona Lisa

  • Chopin's Fourth Ballade (1842)
  • The Mona Lisa of Romantic Music
  • Huneker

John Ogdon on the Fourth Ballade

shared 1st with Ashkenazy - Tchaikovsky Competition 1962

  • "the most exalted, intense and sublimely powerful
  • of all Chopin's compositions
  • ... It is unbelievable that it lasts only twelve minutes,
  • for it contains the experience of a lifetime."

"The fourth ballade remains a narrative but has an inimitable feeling of intimacy and Slavonic colouring, and demands of the interpreter a delicate rubato and a virtuoso technique. It culminates in a coda of bone-crushing technical severity."

"The fourth ballade is considered the greatest of the four and generally the epitome of all romantic music, which can be compared to the 'Mona Lisa' in painting."

Text from

The Fourth Ballade (1842)

The Human Soul and L I F E

Review: Zal

Upon one afternoon, when there were but three persons present, and Chopin had been playing for a long time, one of the most distinguished women in Paris remarked, that she felt always more and more filled with solemn meditation ... (Bio by Liszt)

She asked him what was the cause of the involuntary, yet sad veneration which subdued her heart while listening to these pieces, apparently presenting only sweet and graceful subjects: - and by what name he called the strange emotion inclosed in his compositions ... (from the bio by Liszt)

Chopin's reply reported by Liszt: "for whatever might have been his transitory pleasures, he had never been free from a feeling which might almost be said to form the soil of his heart, and for which he could find no appropriate expression except in his own language, no other possessing a term equivalent to the Polish word: ZAL!" (from the bio by Liszt)

The Third Sonata (1844)

The Last Movement (Fourth Movement)