When one thinks of Chopin etudes, images come to mind of virtuoso pianists dripping sweat while their fingers blaze over the keyboard. Indeed, each of Chopin’s etudes focuses on a very specific technical challenge – and those challenges are usually quite virtuosic!. For instance, the first etude of opus 10 demands tremendous facility in large, stretched-out arpeggios (see my comments on Opus 10, No. 1). The second etude focuses on agility in the weakest fingers of the hand etc… For the most part, the technical difficulties of each etude are very obvious. This particular etude’s primary challenge is not nearly as obvious.

I’ve often heard pianists describe this as “an etude in 2 against 3.” Indeed, the right hand plays continuous groups of three, while the left hand provides bass notes in groups of two. However, the ability to play “2 against 3” is usually mastered at a rather intermediate level in a pianist’s development. Chances are… if you have the ability to learn this etude, playing 2 against 3 is not a problem at all. Rather, I feel that this is an etude in handling suspension and resolution. Beneath the right hand melody are incredible harmonies that encounter moments of dissonance that resolve to consonance. Hidden in these chords are melodic lines that occasionally sing out in a duet with the upper voice. Most importantly, this is a ravishingly beautiful piece that builds to a climax of almost gothic harmonies and resolves to dreamy tenderness. I absolutely adore this piece; I find it to be one of Chopin’s “perfect” compositions. There is not one superfluous note present in this compact and polished work. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do

Learn more about Shigeru Kawai Artist Dr. Alex Wasserman at AlexanderWasserman.com