Classical Keyboard Composers



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       Composer Example: Chopin

We have produced a 312 page book that covers 17 of the greatest classical keyboard composers in history. For each composer we give a historical sketch of the composer, commentary on their style, commentary on their more important works and sample sheet music they have produced. We follow this with a comprehensive list of all their works so if you like what a composer is like you can instantly go order some or all of their sheet music.

In this discussion, we will give you a sample of the presentation we do for each composer.

Chopin Pic 

Frédéric François Chopin

Born in Zeiazowa Wola, Poland,
March 1,1810
Died in Paris,
October 17, 1849,
Age 39 years

Historical Sketch

Chopin was half French by birth, but by nature and temperament he was passionately Polish. His French father adopted the cultural traditions of Poland, became a professor at the Warsaw Lyceum, and married a well-educated Polish woman who personified the ardent individuality of her countrymen. Chopin’s musical roots remained in Poland with a life-long national loyalty in which musical inspiration and patriotism merged. Although he spent many years in Paris, his music never acquired a “French’’ flavor.

Chopin’s musical development was orderly and rapid. From 1823-26, he studied in high school and also took lessons with Elsner, director of the Warsaw Conservatory. He received a solid academic foundation as well as the early musical discipline of learning Bach and the Viennese Classical composers. On graduation from high school, he entered the Warsaw Conservatory. Outstanding for his talent and natural grace, he became a favorite in the salons of Warsaw aristocracy. Early compositions appeared including the Rondo Op. 5 (1826), Là ci darem Variations Op. 2 (1827), Sonata in C minor Op. 4 (1828), Fantasia on Polish Airs Op. 13 (1828), and Krakowiakr Rondo Op. 14 (1828). In 1829, he graduated with distinction from the Conservatory. His skilled virtuosity at nineteen assured his reputation as concert pianist and interpreter of his own compositions.

On a short tour to Vienna shortly after graduation, Chopin featured the Op. 2 Variations and Krakowiak Rondo. Returning to Warsaw in 1830, he finished the two Concertos in E minor Op. 11 and F minor Op. 21. With these compositions and the Polonaise in E flat Op. 22, G minor Ballade, and B minor Scherzo, he left again for Vienna. 1 Eight months later, after concerts in Breslau, Dresden, Prague, Munich, and Stuttgart, Chopin left Vienna for Paris. On the way, he learned that Warsaw had been captured by the Russians. Unable to return to Poland, he became an exile for the rest of his life.

Chopin settled in Paris. He became a notable figure within a few months through the success of his first concert on February 26, 1832. He had formulated strong ideas of pianistic technique as shown in the Op. 10 Etudes and was determined to create a new world of musical sound and structure. The Rothschilds became his patrons, introduced him to French society and contributed to his financial security. Among his distinguished musical admirers were Liszt, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann and the operatic composers Bellini and Meyerbeer. His early friendship with Liszt cooled; he disliked Berlioz but respected his music; he was not enthusiastic about Mendelssohn’s music but was sympathetic to his personality; and finally, he had little respect for Schumann in spite of Schumann’s early allusion to him, “Hats off gentlemen, a genius.” With Clara Schumann’s performance of his music, however, it was a different story; he was impressed with her intuitive grasp and deftness.

Although he was not robust enough for a virtuoso career and appeared in only some thirty public performances,2 Chopin developed a compelling musical image and had considerable income from giving lessons to young women of society and from the ready sale of his compositions. He was sought after by writers and artists in the great salons of 19th-Century Paris where the intellects of the day exchanged compliments, insults, and ideas. The stimulating atmosphere was congenial to Chopin’s temperament, and he produced........


In the early half of the 19th Century, the piano was developing into an instrument of a different sound quality from the essential clarity of Mozart’s, Beethoven’s, and Schubert’s pianos. The Romantic ideals of increased resonance and dynamic extremes demanded a wider tonal range, and piano manufacturers began to produce more versatile instruments. Heavier construction favored larger sound, but on the other hand, hammers now covered with additional felt produced a more seductive tone. The French pianos of Pleyel and Érard in the 1830s combined brilliance and mellowness and were the instruments of Chopin’s choice. Although he could achieve a striking tone, Chopin in general preferred the subtlety possible within smaller acoustical bounds. With few exceptions,4 Chopin wrote exclusively for the piano. Showing penetrating knowledge of hand physiology and keyboard resources, he composed at the piano and captured pianistic effects from experiments and innovations of the moment.

Conscious of the unifying power of melody, Chopin remarked that pianists should hear all the leading singers of the day. Because of his affinity for vocal art, Chopin found the lyricism of contemporary Italian opera congenial to his style. His abundant melodies also recalled Schubert’s gift for continuously singable lines. He added the further development of chromaticism as an integral part of the melody and separated it from the function of ornamentation.

A great harmonic innovator of his century, Chopin expanded chromatic harmony and its accompanying dissonance into…..


Chopin’s works in short form include Mazurkas, Nocturnes, Etudes, Waltzes, Scher-zi, Ballades, Polonaises, and Preludes.5 The Mazurkas, Nocturnes, Waltzes, and Polonaises were published in groups through the years, each addition representative of some aspect of Chopin’s musical growth.6 There are also single masterpieces: among them, Fantasie in F minor, Berceuse, Barcarolle, the two Sonatas in B flat minor and B minor, and the two Concertos in E minor and F minor. Almost without exception these works bear Chopin’s arresting, original mark and represent unique advances in piano literature.

The Mazurka was a Polish dance originally, but Chopin expanded its content as he did with every short form. Among the first musical nationalists, Chopin had an early interest in Polish folk music. The Mazurkas (61),7 in contrast to the dramatic expan-siveness of the Polonaises, show a quieter, more condensed variety possible in their smaller form. Later nationalist composers like Grieg, Dvorák, Albeniz, Falla, BartÓk, and the Russians developed Chopin’s lead in incorporating authentic folk songs into Western music. The Mazurkas, basically ternary………


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