October 20, 1829, Frederic Chopin, aged twenty, wrote to his friend Titus Woyciechowski, from Warsaw: "I have composed a study in my own manner;" and November 14, the same year: "I have written some studies; in your presence I would play them well."
Thus, quite simply and without booming of cannon or brazen proclamation by bell, did the great Polish composer announce an event of supreme interest and importance to the piano-playing world. Niecks thinks these studies were published in the summer of 1833, July or August, and were numbered op. 10. Another set of studies, op. 25, did not find a publisher until 1837, although some of them were composed at the same time as the previous work; a Polish musician who visited the French capital in 1834 heard Chopin play the studies contained in op. 25. The C minor study, op. 10, No. 12, commonly known as the Revolutionary, was born at Stuttgart, September, 1831, "while under the excitement caused by the news of the taking of Warsaw by the Russians, on September 8, 1831." These dates are given so as to rout effectually any dilatory suspicion that Liszt influenced Chopin in the production of his masterpieces. Lina Ramann, in her exhaustive biography of Franz Liszt, openly declares that Nos. 9 and 12 of op. 10 and Nos. 11 and 12 of op. 25 reveal the influence of the Hungarian virtuoso. Figures prove the fallacy of her assertion. The influence was the other way, as Liszt's three concert studies show—not to mention other compositions. When Chopin arrived in Paris his style had been formed, he was the creator of a new piano technique.
The three studies known as Trois Nouvelles Etudes, which appeared in 1840 in Moscheles and Fetis Method of Methods were published separately afterward. Their date of composition we do not know.
Many are the editions of Chopin's studies, but after going over the ground, one finds only about a dozen worthy of study and consultation. Karasowski gives the date of the first complete edition of the Chopin works as 1846, with Gebethner & Wolff, Warsaw, as publishers. Then, according to Niecks, followed Tellefsen, Klindworth—Bote & Bock—Scholtz—Peters—Breitkopf & Hartel, Mikuli, Schuberth, Kahnt, Steingraber—better known as Mertke's—and Schlesinger, edited by the great pedagogue Theodor Kullak. Xaver Scharwenka has edited Klindworth for the London edition of Augener & Co. Mikuli criticised the Tellefsen edition, yet both men had been Chopin pupils. This is a significant fact and shows that little reliance can be placed on the brave talk about tradition. Yet Mikuli had the assistance of a half dozen of Chopin's "favorite" pupils, and, in addition, Ferdinand Hiller. Herman Scholtz, who edited the works for Peters, based his results on careful inspection of original French, German and English editions, besides consulting M. Georges Mathias, a pupil of Chopin. If Fontana, Wolff, Gutmann, Mikuli and Tellefsen, who copied from the original Chopin manuscripts under the supervision of the composer, cannot agree, then upon what foundation are reared the structures of the modern critical editions? The early French, German and Polish editions are faulty, indeed useless, because of misprints and errata of all kinds. Every succeeding edition has cleared away some of these errors, but only in Karl Klindworth has Chopin found a worthy, though not faultless, editor. His edition is a work of genius and was called by Von Bulow "the only model edition." In a few sections others, such as Kullak, Dr. Hugo Riemann and Hans von Bulow, may have outstripped him, but as a whole his editing is amazing for its exactitude, scholarship, fertility in novel fingerings and sympathetic insight in phrasing. This edition appeared at Moscow from 1873 to 1876.
The twenty-seven studies of Chopin have been separately edited by Riemann and Von Bulow.
Let us narrow our investigations and critical comparisons to Klindworth, Von Bulow, Kullak and Riemann. Carl Reinecke's edition of the studies in Breitkopf & Hartel's collection offers nothing new, neither do Mertke, Scholtz and Mikuli. The latter one should keep at hand because of the possible freedom from impurities in his text, but of phrasing or fingering he contributes little. It must be remembered that with the studies, while they completely exhibit the entire range of Chopin's genius, the play's the thing after all. The poetry, the passion of the Ballades and Scherzi wind throughout these technical problems like a flaming skein. With the modern avidity for exterior as well as interior analysis, Mikuli, Reinecke, Mertke and Scholtz evidence little sympathy. It is then from the masterly editing of Kullak, Von Bulow, Riemann and Klindworth that I shall draw copiously. They have, in their various ways, given us a clue to their musical individuality, as well as their precise scholarship. Klindworth is the most genially intellectual, Von Bulow the most pedagogic, and Kullak is poetic, while Riemann is scholarly; the latter gives more attention to phrasing than to fingering. The Chopin studies are poems fit for Parnassus, yet they also serve a very useful purpose in pedagogy. Both aspects, the material and the spiritual, should be studied, and with four such guides the student need not go astray.
In the first study of the first book, op. 10, dedicated to Liszt, Chopin at a leap reached new land. Extended chords had been sparingly used by Hummel and Clementi, but to take a dispersed harmony and transform it into an epical study, to raise the chord of the tenth to heroic stature—that could have been accomplished by Chopin only. And this first study in C is heroic. Theodore Kullak writes of it: "Above a ground bass proudly and boldly striding along, flow mighty waves of sound. The etude—whose technical end is the rapid execution of widely extended chord figurations exceeding the span of an octave—is to be played on the basis of forte throughout. With sharply dissonant harmonies the forte is to be increased to fortissimo, diminishing again with consonant ones. Pithy accents! Their effect is enhanced when combined with an elastic recoil of the hand."
The irregular, black, ascending and descending staircases of notes strike the neophyte with terror. Like Piranesi's marvellous aerial architectural dreams, these dizzy acclivities and descents of Chopin exercise a charm, hypnotic, if you will, for eye as well as ear. Here is the new technique in all its nakedness, new in the sense of figure, design, pattern, web, new in a harmonic way. The old order was horrified at the modulatory harshness, the young sprigs of the new, fascinated and a little frightened. A man who could explode a mine that assailed the stars must be reckoned with. The nub of modern piano music is in the study, the most formally reckless Chopin ever penned. Kullak gives Chopin's favorite metronome sign, 176 to the quarter, but this editor rightly believes that "the majestic grandeur is impaired," and suggests 152 instead. The gain is at once apparent. Indeed Kullak, a man of moderate pulse, is quite right in his strictures on the Chopin tempi, tempi that sprang from the expressively light mechanism of the prevailing pianos of Chopin's day. Von Bulow declares that "the requisite suppleness of the hand in gradual extension and rapid contraction will be most quickly attained if the player does not disdain first of all to impress on the individual fingers the chord which is the foundation of each arpeggio;" a sound pedagogic point. He also inveighs against the disposition to play the octave basses arpeggio. In fact, those basses are the argument of the play; they must be granitic, ponderable and powerful. The same authority calls attention to a misprint C, which he makes B flat, the last note treble in the twenty-ninth bar. Von Bulow gives the Chopin metronomic marking.
It remained for Riemann to make some radical changes. This learned and worthy doctor astonished the musical world a few years by his new marks of phrasing in the Beethoven symphonies. They topsy-turvied the old bowing. With Chopin, new dynamic and agogic accents are rather dangerous, at least to the peace of mind of worshippers of the Chopin fetish. Riemann breaks two bars into one. It is a finished period for him, and by detaching several of the sixteenths in the first group, the first and fourth, he makes the accent clearer,—at least to the eye. He indicates alla breve with 88 to the half. In later studies examples will be given of this phrasing, a phrasing that becomes a mannerism with the editor. He offers no startling finger changes. The value of his criticism throughout the volume seems to be in the phrasing, and this by no means conforms to accepted notions of how Chopin should be interpreted. I intend quoting more freely from Riemann than from the others, but not for the reason that I consider him as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night in the desirable land of the Chopin fitudes, rather because his piercing analysis lays bare the very roots of these shining examples of piano literature. Klindworth contents himself with a straightforward version of the C major study, his fingering being the clearest and most admirable. The Mikuli edition makes one addition: it is a line which binds the last note of the first group to the first of the second. The device is useful, and occurs only on the upward flights of the arpeggio.
This study suggests that its composer wished to begin the exposition of his wonderful technical system with a skeletonized statement. It is the tree stripped of its bark, the flower of its leaves, yet, austere as is the result, there is compensating power, dignity and unswerving logic. This study is the key with which Chopin unlocked—not his heart, but the kingdom of technique. It should be played, for variety, unisono, with both hands, omitting, of course, the octave bass.
Von Bulow writes cannily enough, that the second study in A minor being chromatically related to Moscheles' etude, op. 70, No. 3, that piece should prepare the way for Chopin's more musical composition. In different degrees of tempo, strength and rhythmic accent it should be practised, omitting the thumb and first finger. Mikuli's metronome is 144 to the quarter, Von Bulow's, 114; Klindworth's, the same as Mikuli, and Riemann is 72 to the half, with an alla breve. The fingering in three of these authorities is almost identical. Riemann has ideas of his own, both in the phrasing and figuration. Look at these first two bars:
[Musical score excerpt without caption: ]
Von Bulow orders "the middle harmonies to be played throughout distinctly, and yet transiently"—in German, "fluchtig." In fact, the entire composition, with its murmuring, meandering, chromatic character, is a forerunner to the whispering, weaving, moonlit effects in some of his later studies. The technical purpose is clear, but not obtrusive. It is intended for the fourth and fifth finger of the right hand, but given in unison with both hands it becomes a veritable but laudable torture for the thumb of the left. With the repeat of the first at bar 36 Von Bulow gives a variation in fingering. Kullak's method of fingering is this: "Everywhere that two white keys occur in succession the fifth finger is to be used for C and F in the right hand, and for F and E in the left." He has also something to say about holding "the hand sideways, so that the back of the hand and arm form an angle." This question of hand position, particularly in Chopin, is largely a matter of individual formation. No two hands are alike, no two pianists use the same muscular movements. Play along the easiest line of resistance.
We now have reached a study, the third, in which the more intimately known Chopin reveals himself. This one in E is among the finest flowering of the composer's choice garden. It is simpler, less morbid, sultry and languorous, therefore saner, than the much bepraised study in C sharp minor, No. 7, op. 25. Niecks writes that this study "may be counted among Chopin's loveliest compositions." It combines "classical chasteness of contour with the fragrance of romanticism." Chopin told his faithful Gutmann that "he had never in his life written another such melody," and once when hearing it raised his arms aloft and cried out: "Oh, ma patrie!"
I cannot vouch for the sincerity of Chopin's utterance for as Runciman writes: "They were a very Byronic set, these young men; and they took themselves with ludicrous seriousness."
Von Bulow calls it a study in expression—which is obvious—and thinks it should be studied in company with No. 6, in E flat minor. This reason is not patent. Emotions should not be hunted in couples and the very object of the collection, variety in mood as well as mechanism, is thus defeated. But Von Bulow was ever an ardent classifier. Perhaps he had his soul compartmentized. He also attempts to regulate the rubato—this is the first of the studies wherein the rubato's rights must be acknowledged. The bars are even mentioned 32, 33, 36 and 37, where tempo license may be indulged. But here is a case which innate taste and feeling must guide. You can no more teach a real Chopin rubato—not the mawkish imitation,—than you can make a donkey comprehend Kant. The metronome is the same in all editions, 100 to the eighth.
Kullak rightly calls this lovely study "ein wunderschones, poetisches Tonstuck," more in the nocturne than study style. He gives in the bravura-like cadenza, an alternate for small hands, but small hands should not touch this piece unless they can grapple the double sixths with ease. Klindworth fingers the study with great care. The figuration in three of the editions is the same, Mikuli separating the voices distinctly. Riemann exercises all his ingenuity to make the beginning clear to the eye.
[Musical score excerpt]
What a joy is the next study, No. 4! How well Chopin knew the value of contrast in tonality and sentiment! A veritable classic is this piece, which, despite its dark key color, C sharp minor as a foil to the preceding one in E, bubbles with life and spurts flame. It reminds one of the story of the Polish peasants, who are happiest when they sing in the minor mode. Kullak calls this "a bravura study for velocity and lightness in both hands. Accentuation fiery!" while Von Bulow believes that "the irresistible interest inspired by the spirited content of this truly classical and model piece of music may become a stumbling block in attempting to conquer the technical difficulties." Hardly. The technics of this composition do not lie beneath the surface. They are very much in the way of clumsy fingers and heavy wrists. Presto 88 to the half is the metronome indication in all five editions. Klindworth does not comment, but I like his fingering and phrasing best of all. Riemann repeats his trick of breaking a group, detaching a note for emphasis; although he is careful to retain the legato bow. One wonders why this study does not figure more frequently on programmes of piano recitals. It is a fine, healthy technical test, it is brilliant, and the coda is very dramatic. Ten bars before the return of the theme there is a stiff digital hedge for the student. A veritable lance of tone is this study, if justly poised.
Riemann has his own ideas of the phrasing of the following one, the fifth and familiar "Black Key" etude. Examine the first bar:
[Musical Illustration without caption]
Von Bulow would have grown jealous if he had seen this rather fantastic phrasing. It is a trifle too finical, though it must be confessed looks pretty. I like longer breathed phrasing. The student may profit by this analysis. The piece is indeed, as Kullak says, "full of Polish elegance." Von Bulow speaks rather disdainfully of it as a Damen-Salon Etude. It is certainly graceful, delicately witty, a trifle naughty, arch and roguish, and it is delightfully invented. Technically, it requires smooth, velvet-tipped fingers and a supple wrist. In the fourth bar, third group, third note of group, Klindworth and Riemann print E flat instead of D flat. Mikuli, Kullak and Von Bulow use the D flat. Now, which is right? The D flat is preferable. There are already two E flats in the bar. The change is an agreeable one. Joseffy has made a concert variation for this study. The metronome of the original is given at 116 to the quarter.
A dark, doleful nocturne is No. 6, in E flat minor. Niecks praises it in company with the preceding one in E. It is beautiful, if music so sad may be called beautiful, and the melody is full of stifled sorrow. The study figure is ingenious, but subordinated to the theme. In the E major section the piece broadens to dramatic vigor. Chopin was not yet the slave of his mood. There must be a psychical programme to this study, some record of a youthful disillusion, but the expression of it is kept well within chaste lines. The Sarmatian composer had not yet unlearned the value of reserve. The Klindworth reading of this troubled poem is the best though Kullak used Chopin's autographic copy. There is no metronomic sign in this autograph. Tellefsen gives 69 to the quarter; Klindworth, 60; Riemann, 69; Mikuli, the same; Von Bulow and Kullak, 60. Kullak also gives several variante from the text, adding an A flat to the last group in bar II. Riemann and the others make the same addition. The note must have been accidentally omitted from the Chopin autograph. Two bars will illustrate what Riemann can accomplish when he makes up his mind to be explicit, leaving little to the imagination:
[Illustration without caption]
A luscious touch, and a sympathetic soul is needed for this nocturne study.
We emerge into a clearer, more bracing atmosphere in the C major study, No. 7. It is a genuine toccata, with moments of tender twilight, serving a distinct technical purpose—the study of double notes and changing on one key—and is as healthy as the toccata by Robert Schumann. Here is a brave, an undaunted Chopin, a gay cavalier, with the sunshine shimmering about him. There are times when this study seems like light dripping through the trees of a mysterious forest; with the delicato there are Puck-like rustlings, and all the while the pianist without imagination is exercising wrist and ringers in a technical exercise! Were ever Beauty and Duty so mated in double harness? Pegasus pulling a cloud charged with rain over an arid country! For study, playing the entire composition with a wrist stroke is advisable. It will secure clear articulation, staccato and finger-memory. Von Bulow phrases the study in groups of two, Kullak in sixes, Klindworth and Mikuli the same, while Riemann in alternate twos, fours and sixes. One sees his logic rather than hears it. Von Bulow plastically reproduces the flitting, elusive character of the study far better than the others.
It is quite like him to suggest to the panting and ambitious pupil that the performance in F sharp major, with the same fingering as the next study in F, No. 8, would be beneficial. It certainly would. By the same token, the playing of the F minor Sonata, the Appassionata of Beethoven, in the key of F sharp minor, might produce good results. This was another crotchet of Wagner's friend and probably was born of the story that Beethoven transposed the Bach fugues in all keys. The same is said of Saint-Saens.
In his notes to the F major study Theodor Kullak expatiates at length upon his favorite idea that Chopin must not be played according to his metronomic markings. The original autograph gives 96 to the half, the Tellefsen edition 88, Klindworth 80, Von Bulow 89, Mikuli 88, and Riemann the same. Kullak takes the slower tempo of Klindworth, believing that the old Herz and Czerny ideals of velocity are vanished, that the shallow dip of the keys in Chopin's day had much to do with the swiftness and lightness of his playing. The noble, more sonorous tone of a modern piano requires greater breadth of style and less speedy passage work. There can be no doubt as to the wisdom of a broader treatment of this charming display piece. How it makes the piano sound—what a rich, brilliant sweep it secures! It elbows the treble to its last euphonious point, glitters and crests itself, only to fall away as if the sea were melodic and could shatter and tumble into tuneful foam! The emotional content is not marked. The piece is for the fashionable salon or the concert hall. One catches at its close the overtones of bustling plaudits and the clapping of gloved palms. Ductility, an aristocratic ease, a delicate touch and fluent technique will carry off this study with good effect. Technically it is useful; one must speak of the usefulness of Chopin, even in these imprisoned, iridescent soap bubbles of his. On the fourth line and in the first bar of the Kullak version, there is a chord of the dominant seventh in dispersed position that does not occur in any other edition. Yet it must be Chopin or one of his disciples, for this autograph is in the Royal Library at Berlin. Kullak thinks it ought to be omitted, moreover he slights an E flat, that occurs in all the other editions situated in the fourth group of the twentieth bar from the end.
The F minor study, No. 9, is the first one of those tone studies of Chopin in which the mood is more petulant than tempestuous. The melody is morbid, almost irritating, and yet not without certain accents of grandeur. There is a persistency in repetition that foreshadows the Chopin of the later, sadder years. The figure in the left hand is the first in which a prominent part is given to that member. Not as noble and sonorous a figure as the one in the C minor study, it is a distinct forerunner of the bass of the D minor Prelude. In this F minor study the stretch is the technical object. It is rather awkward for close-knit fingers. The best fingering is Von Bulow's. It is 5, 3, 1, 4, 1, 3 for the first figure. All the other editions, except Riemann's, recommend the fifth finger on F, the fourth on C. Von Billow believes that small hands beginning with his system will achieve quicker results than by the Chopin fingering. This is true. Riemann phrases the study with a multiplicity of legato bows and dynamic accents. Kullak prefers the Tellefsen metronome 80, rather than the traditional 96. Most of the others use 88 to the quarter, except Riemann, who espouses the more rapid gait of 96. Klindworth, with his 88, strikes a fair medium.
The verdict of Von Bulow on the following study in A flat, No. 10, has no uncertainty of tone in its proclamation:
He who can play this study in a really finished manner may congratulate himself on having climbed to the highest point of the pianist's Parnassus, as it is perhaps the most difficult piece of the entire set. The whole repertory of piano music does not contain a study of perpetuum mobile so full of genius and fancy as this particular one is universally acknowledged to be, except perhaps Liszt's Feux Follets. The most important point would appear to lie not so much in the interchange of the groups of legato and staccato as in the exercise of rhythmic contrasts—the alternation of two and three part metre (that is, of four and six) in the same bar. To overcome this fundamental difficulty in the art of musical reproduction is the most important thing here, and with true zeal it may even be accomplished easily.
Kullak writes: "Harmonic anticipations; a rich rhythmic life originating in the changing articulation of the twelve-eights in groups of three and two each. ... This etude is an exceedingly piquant composition, possessing for the hearer a wondrous, fantastic charm, if played with the proper insight." The metronomic marking is practically the same in all editions, 152 to the quarter notes. The study is one of the most charming of the composer. There is more depth in it than in the G flat and F major studies, and its effectiveness in the virtuoso sense is unquestionable. A savor of the salon hovers over its perfumed measures, but there is grace, spontaneity and happiness. Chopin must have been as happy as his sensitive nature would allow when he conceived this vivacious caprice.
In all the editions, Riemann's excepted, there is no doubt left as to the alternations of metres. Here are the first few bars of Von Billow's, which is normal phrasing:
[Musical score excerpt]
Read Riemann's version of these bars:
[Musical score excerpt]
Riemann is conducive to clear-sighted phrasing, and will set the student thinking, but the general effect of accentuation is certainly different. All the editors quoted agree with Von Bulow, Klindworth and Kullak. But if this is a marked specimen of Riemann, examine his reading of the phrase wherein Chopin's triple rhythm is supplanted by duple. Thus Von Bulow—and who will dare cavil?
[Musical score excerpt]
[Musical score excerpt]
The difference is more imaginary than real, for the stems of the accented notes give us the binary metre. But the illustration serves to show how Dr. Riemann is disposed to refine upon the gold of Chopin.
Kullak dilates upon a peculiarity of Chopin: the dispersed position of his underlying harmonies. This in a footnote to the eleventh study of op. 10. Here one must let go the critical valve, else strangle in pedagogics. So much has been written, so much that is false, perverted sentimentalism and unmitigated cant about the nocturnes, that the wonder is the real Chopin lover has not rebelled. There are pearls and diamonds in the jewelled collection of nocturnes, many are dolorous, few dramatic, and others are sweetly insane and songful. I yield to none in my admiration for the first one of the two in G minor, for the psychical despair in the C sharp minor nocturne, for that noble drama called the C minor nocturne, for the B major, the Tuberose nocturne; and for the E, D flat and G major nocturnes, it remains unabated. But in the list there is no such picture painted, a Corot if ever there was one, as this E flat study.
Its novel design, delicate arabesques—as if the guitar had been dowered with a soul—and the richness and originality of its harmonic scheme, gives us pause to ask if Chopin's invention is not almost boundless. The melody itself is plaintive; a plaintive grace informs the entire piece. The harmonization is far more wonderful, but to us the chord of the tenth and more remote intervals, seem no longer daring; modern composition has devilled the musical alphabet into the very caverns of the grotesque, yet there are harmonies in the last page of this study that still excite wonder. The fifteenth bar from the end is one that Richard Wagner might have made. From that bar to the close, every group is a masterpiece.
Remember, this study is a nocturne, and even the accepted metronomic markings in most editions, 76 to the quarter, are not too slow; they might even be slower. Allegretto and not a shade speedier! The color scheme is celestial and the ending a sigh, not unmixed with happiness. Chopin, sensitive poet, had his moments of peace, of divine content—lebensruhe. The dizzy appoggiatura leaps in the last two bars set the seal of perfection upon this unique composition.
Touching upon the execution, one may say that it is not for small hands, nor yet for big fists. The former must not believe that any "arrangements" or simplified versions will ever produce the aerial effect, the swaying of the tendrils of tone, intended by Chopin. Very large hands are tempted by their reach to crush the life out of the study in not arpeggiating it. This I have heard, and the impression was indescribably brutal. As for fingering, Mikuli, Von Bulow, Kullak, Riemann and Klindworth all differ, and from them must most pianists differ. Your own grasp, individual sense of fingering and tact will dictate the management of technics. Von Bulow gives a very sensible pattern to work from, and Kullak is still more explicit. He analyzes the melody and, planning the arpeggiating with scrupulous fidelity, he shows why the arpeggiating "must be affected with the utmost rapidity, bordering upon simultaneousness of harmony in the case of many chords." Kullak has something to say about the grace notes and this bids me call your attention to Von Bulow's change in the appoggiatura at the last return of the subject. A bad misprint is in the Von Bulow edition: it is in the seventeenth bar from the end, the lowest note in the first bass group and should read E natural, instead of the E flat that stands.
Von Bulow does not use the arpeggio sign after the first chord. He rightly believes it makes unclear for the student the subtleties of harmonic changes and fingering. He also suggests—quite like the fertile Hans Guido—that "players who have sufficient patience and enthusiasm for the task would find it worth their while to practise the arpeggi the reverse way, from top to bottom; or in contrary motion, beginning with the top note in one hand and the bottom note in the other. A variety of devices like this would certainly help to give greater finish to the task."
Doubtless, but consider: man's years are but threescore and ten!
The phrasing of the various editions examined do not vary much. Riemann is excepted, who has his say in this fashion, at the beginning:
[Musical score excerpt]
More remarkable still is the diversity of opinion regarding the first three bass chord groups in the fifteenth bar from the close: the bottom notes in the Von Bulow and Klindworth editions are B flat and two A naturals, and in the Riemann, Kullak and Mikuli editions the notes are two B flats and one A natural. The former sounds more varied, but we may suppose the latter to be correct because of Mikuli. Here is the particular bar, as given by Riemann:
[Musical score excerpt]
Yet this exquisite flight into the blue, this nocturne which should be played before sundown, excited the astonishment of Mendelssohn, the perplexed wrath of Moscheles and the contempt of Rellstab, editor of the "Iris," who wrote in that journal in 1834 of the studies in op. 10:—
"Those who have distorted fingers may put them right by practising these studies; but those who have not, should not play them, at least not without having a surgeon at hand." What incredible surgery would have been needed to get within the skull of this narrow critic any savor of the beauty of these compositions! In the years to come the Chopin studies will be played for their music, without any thought of their technical problems.
Now the young eagle begins to face the sun, begins to mount on wind-weaving pinions. We have reached the last study of op. 10, the magnificent one in C minor. Four pages suffice for a background upon which the composer has flung with overwhelming fury the darkest, the most demoniac expressions of his nature. Here is no veiled surmise, no smothered rage, but all sweeps along in tornadic passion. Karasowski's story may be true regarding the genesis of this work, but true or not, it is one of the greatest dramatic outbursts in piano literature. Great in outline, pride, force and velocity, it never relaxes its grim grip from the first shrill dissonance to the overwhelming chordal close. This end rings out like the crack of creation. It is elemental. Kullak calls it a "bravura study of the very highest order for the left hand. It was composed in 1831 in Stuttgart, shortly after Chopin had received tidings of the taking of Warsaw by the Russians, September 8, 1831." Karasowski wrote: "Grief, anxiety and despair over the fate of his relatives and his dearly-beloved father filled the measure of his sufferings. Under the influence of this mood he wrote the C minor Etude, called by many the Revolutionary Etude. Out of the mad and tempestuous storm of passages for the left hand the melody rises aloft, now passionate and anon proudly majestic, until thrills of awe stream over the listener, and the image is evoked of Zeus hurling thunderbolts at the world."
Niecks thinks it "superbly grand," and furthermore writes: "The composer seems fuming with rage; the left hand rushes impetuously along and the right hand strikes in with passionate ejaculations." Von Bulow said: "This C minor study must be considered a finished work of art in an even higher degree than the study in C sharp minor." All of which is pretty, but not enough to the point.
Von Bulow fingers the first passage for the left hand in a very rational manner; Klindworth differs by beginning with the third instead of the second finger, while Riemann—dear innovator—takes the group: second, first, third, and then, the fifth finger on D, if you please! Kullak is more normal, beginning with the third. Here is Riemann's phrasing and grouping for the first few bars. Notice the half note with peculiar changes of fingering at the end. It gives surety and variety. Von Bulow makes the changes ring on the second and fifth, instead of third and fifth, fingers. Thus Riemann:
[Musical score excerpt]
In the above the accustomed phrasing is altered, for in all other editions the accent falls upon the first note of each group. In Riemann the accentuation seems perverse, but there is no question as to its pedagogic value. It may be ugly, but it is useful though I should not care to hear it in the concert room. Another striking peculiarity of the Riemann phrasing is his heavy accent on the top E flat in the principal passage for the left hand. He also fingers what Von Bulow calls the "chromatic meanderings," in an unusual manner, both on the first page and the last. His idea of the enunciation of the first theme is peculiar:
[Musical score excerpt]
Mikuli places a legato bow over the first three octaves—so does Kullak—Von Bulow only over the last two, which gives a slightly different effect, while Klindworth does the same as Kullak. The heavy dynamic accents employed by Riemann are unmistakable. They signify the vital importance of the phrase at its initial entrance. He does not use it at the repetition, but throughout both dynamic and agogic accents are unsparingly used, and the study seems to resound with the sullen booming of a park of artillery. The working-out section, with its anticipations of "Tristan and Isolde," is phrased by all the editors as it is never played. Here the technical figure takes precedence over the law of the phrase, and so most virtuosi place the accent on the fifth finger, regardless of the pattern. This is as it should be. In Klindworth there is a misprint at the beginning of the fifteenth bar from the end in the bass. It should read B natural, not B flat. The metronome is the same in all editions, 160 to the quarter, but speed should give way to breadth at all hazards. Von Bulow is the only editor, to my knowledge, who makes an enharmonic key change in this working-out section. It looks neater, sounds the same, but is it Chopin? He also gives a variant for public performance by transforming the last run in unisono into a veritable hurricane by interlocked octaves. The effect is brazen. Chopin needs no such clangorous padding in this etude, which gains by legitimate strokes the most startling contrasts.
The study is full of tremendous pathos; it compasses the sublime, and in its most torrential moments the composer never quite loses his mental equipoise. He, too, can evoke tragic spirits, and at will send them scurrying back to their dim profound. It has but one rival in the Chopin studies—No. 12, op. 25, in the same key.