Friday, April 29, 2011

Chopin Scherzo Connection

I was teaching the other day, and my student MoonKi played the Chopin 3rd Scherzo for me. I love the piece, and was listening to her play it when something struck me. A possible thematic connection between the 3rd a 4th scherzo?

I've played all of Chopin's Scherzi many times, and I've also performed all 4 in the second half of some of my recitals. I had never noticed this connection!

Example 1  (click to enlarge)

Example 2  (click to enlarge)
The two works date from 1839 and 1843 respectively. Number 3 is in C# minor, while the fourth is in the relative E Major, so they also share the number of sharps.

The descending double-octaves of the third scherzo (example 1) are a mirror image of the ascending chords of the fourth (example 2). As soon as the 3rd scherzo modulates to E Major, look at the five indicated notes (Example one, first line, bars 10, 11, 12, 13, and the first bar of line 2) : it's the opening theme of the Fourth Scherzo!

I don't know if it was intentional, but it is hard for me to believe it wasn't.  I think Chopin started out the 4th scherzo as a transfigured version of the 3rd and moved on from there.  Two works sounding as different as can be, and yet very closely connected.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Schumann - Bilder aus Osten Mvmt. 5

I'm in Santo Domingo, enjoying the great company of dear friends, and the beautiful weather, all the while teaching here. I'm also practicing...Bringing back Prokofieff Third Concerto and reading Tchaikovsky's Sonata in G, Op.37. I love that piece very much. In the downtime back at the hotel, I've been working on editing my next CD, an all-Schumann disc. Along with Carnaval op.9 and FantasieStucke Op.12, it features 6 pieces for piano 4-hands. My wife Emanuela Friscioni joined me for this project. The duets in question are called "Bilder aus Osten". The fifth movement, "Lebhaft", is a great favorite of mine. The energy in it is wonderful, and the middle section in F Major is so marvelous. I love the way Schumann creates a beautiful polyphonic dialogue, while the constant motion of the triplets keeps everything gently moving forward. It's like two people sweetly singing while on a boat ride! Here is our performance of it. I hope you like it!