Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fryderyk Chopin's Greatest Hits

A great number of performances is the hallmark of Frederic Chopin’s music. And the reason for such appreciation is not the same as for Vivaldi’s Le Quattro staggioni or Handel’s Watermusic. There is a big bunch of beloved pieces in Chopin’s catalogue, and looking for any favorites does not make too much sense. It’s hard to find in Chopin’s oeuvre these few works which are not bestsellers. This is why pianists who play Chopin’s music have to be so flexible.  Beside of romantic stylistic idiom Chopin’s music is polyphonic and disciplined as Bach’s studies. And that was the basic repertoire Polish composer was playing while his everyday rehearsal routine. It is worth to remember that, to train his hands, young Chopin was playing what Johann Sebastian Bach had written as the examples of teaching composing techniques. Within many qualities most are common for Bach’s and Chopin’s music, but one differentiate them firmly. Interpretations of Chopin’s pieces are like snowflakes – it is impossible to find two identical ones – both, in idea or in realization. This is by the way one of the greatest features of his music. 

Chopin's Greatest Hits

Maybe the craziest thing one can do is choosing greatest hits out of Chopin’s legacy. And even more crazy is to include in such choice a big variety of unoriginal arrangements. The Columbia label produced in 1969 in a Masterworks series (ML 5442 and MS 7506) a sellection of original and orchestrated Chopin’s hits. Later this edition was reprinted in CBS Harmony series (S 30005). Only three pieces are recorded in the original piano versions – these are Minute Waltz in D-Flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1, Fantasie-Impromptu, Op. 66 and Polonaise in A-Flat Major, Op. 53 in great performances by Philippe Entremont. Two pieces arranged for symphony orchestra were recorded by Andre Kostelanetz conducting The New York Philharmonic (Military Polonaise, Op. 40, No. 1) and The Columbia Symphony (Etude in E-Major, Op. 10, No. 3). The other six pieces arranged for symphonic orchestra were recorded by The Philadelphia Orchestra under direction of Eugene Ormandy. These are Waltz in D-Flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1, Mazurka in D Major, Op. 33, No. 2, Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2, Waltz In G-Flat Major, Prelude in A Major, Op. 28, No. 7 and Grande Valse Brillante in E-Flat Major. Arrangement credits are not complete – they were included only in references for two pieces (Nocturne in E-Flat Major and Etude in E-Major) and they indicate that these pieces had been rewritten for orchestra by Arthur Harris. And even if it still looks crazy, orchestral versions sound quite good. Sometimes even much better than works of some other romantic composers.

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