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Friday, April 15, 2005
  Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2
Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 9 Track 19

Perhaps it is the music teacher in me, but what I find most interesting in Chopin is the influence his music teachers had on him. I like to think that Adalbert Zywny and Józef Elsner saw Chopin's unique potential early and were empathetic enough to handle him with the appropriate amounts of sternness and openness. Chopin learned a strong respect for the music of Bach and Mozart that was balanced with a strong respect for his own music. Though Professor Elsner had his ambitions for young Chopin, he wanted Chopin to compose symphonies (the same, strange ambition Clara had for her husband), he knew to allow Chopin to follow what interested Chopin. It is to Elsner's credit that Chopin's orchestral writing is not as great as his piano music.

It is unkind that Mr. Chopin's Nocturne would follow Mr. Field's in this anthology. Although Mr. Field's piece could have been a template for Op. 9, No. 2, as far as I am aware, Chopin arrived at this breakthrough style independent of Field's efforts. And back to back, Chopin's Nocturne makes Field's Nocturne seem hollow. Though the listener enjoyed the first piece, upon hearing the first notes of this one, the listener experiences a revelation and almost says, "Where have you been all my life?"

The secret to the high quality of Mr. Chopin's piano writing is the same discipline that informs the music of Robert Schumann. And that is a constant awareness of voice leading in spite of the freedom allowed by the keyboard. It is an instinct learned from J.S. Bach. 
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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