Revolutionary Etude

(Apr 2019)

Op. 10, No. 12

(Opus, a separate composition or set of compositions by a particular composer, usually ordered by date of publication.)

Chopin wrote two sets of Etudes, Opus 12 and Opus 25. There are 12 in each set. Chopin was born in March of 1810, and he wrote the first set between 1829 and 1832, which means he was no more than 22 years old when the last one was published, and some of them were written while he was still a teenager. The next set, Opus 25, were published about four years later. None of the Etudes were given names by Chopin. The names we know today were added by many people later, but they are useful when talking about them. Many people – and this includes me – can’t remember the individual numbers.

Op. 10, No. 12 is the last one in the first set, and without doubt is one of the most famous and popular piano compositions ever written. Thousands of gifted piano students are still learning it for the first time right now, this year. Chopin is one of the best examples of Romantic composers, and Romantic music has never gone out of style, as anyone who has played video games knows very well. Kissen probably plays this Etude as well as it can be played.

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6 thoughts on “Revolutionary Etude

  1. I think I like the idea of listening to the music first without knowing the name it’s been given, because then I seem to hear more in it. But it is good to have names, because the human mind isn’t good at remembering random numbers. I too hear it as “stormy”.

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    1. I’m neutral. Purists object to nicknames. But it’s hard to remember just a book and a number. Perhaps Debussy had the best solution. He gave his Preludes names, but you don’t see them until you have played each Prelude, because the names are at the end, indicating an afterthought.

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  2. Stormy. I wonder what he was thinking of when he wrote that. Usually his music is pretty, little notes like falling rain, but in this one, it be rainin’ sideways!

    (I know he was very political. I wonder if what was going on in Poland while he was in Paris filtered into this composition.. it sure sounds like it.)

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    1. Chopin was setting out his new ideas about how to move the hands, elbows and shoulders. You have to remember that Opus 25 was written starting in his late teens, which blows my mind. Since this is #12, it was the last. Each Etude shows how to stretch and “throw” the hands in a way that is 100% compatible with how we play today, yet many teachers (or most) are not teaching this kind of movement. This results in everything from less than optimum technique to serious physical damage, including dystonia and carpal tunnel syndrome.

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  3. WOW!!! This stirs up a lot of emotion.

    I thought this, from Wikipedia, was interesting

    In popular culture

    A cover version of this piece is used as the opening sequence music for the UK game show Interceptor.[4]

    Bart Simpson pretended to play the etude in episode The Fabulous Faker Boy of The Simpsons series.

    Was performed in the popular anime “Your Lie in April” multiple times.

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    1. You will find this in movies. It is one of those iconic pieces that is used in many places, a bit like Flight of the Bumblebee. This is my point about popular music. Popularity is not about being modern, or topical. It’s about enduring interest. There are things that are rediscovered endlessly, by one generation after another, and this is one of them. I’ve never had a student say, “I don’t want to play the Revolutionary Etude. It’s boring.” That’s never the problem. The problem is that it is so difficult, so most people play the piano for 10 or more years before getting good enough to play a few measures.

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