After hearing a performance of Chopin's "Berceuse" the other day, my thoughts wandered back to another piece the great composer wrote which also contains but two chords.
The miracle that Chopin gives us based upon only the tonic and dominant seventh chords in the "Berceuse" has no parallel in the world of piano writing, and it stands, of course, as one of the most defining harmonic tactics in the art of Theme followed by Variations.
Chopin, however, during his nineteenth year, gives us his first incarnation containing the same tonic and dominant seventh chords (in a different key, of course), as a result of his having been totally taken over, it seems, by the demonic pyrotechnique of the violinist Paganini.
It appears that Chopin, upon witnessing a performance of the magical violinist, was overwhelmed enough to quickly sit down and write a set of variations, called "Souvenir de Paganini," based upon the traditional folk tune "The Carnival of Venice" as an encomium (or genuflection, perhaps?) after his being dazzled by the violinist's feats.
The result, is, for me, a kind of mystery - the variations based upon this folk tune are brilliant, greatly varied and wonderfully conceived for the piano, as only Chopin could do; and, after all, he was but nineteen.
But, the MUSIC - well; for me, it's not much more than a calisthenic for the instrument, and bears none of the wonders that we customarily attach to this legendary composer.
Listen to this piece - then listen to his first concerto, completed just a few months after, and undergo the atmosphere eddying around you, as should be the case upon being witness to pure greatness, especially from one barely past twenty.
What was Chopin thinking of when he was writing "Souvenir?" Was he in an ecstatic state, devoid of any artistic urges for the moment? Or was he merely having a ":fun time" mirroring the gymnastics of the violinist?
I know that Paderewski had a copy of this piece, and he called it "weak" -
What do you think?
What was Chopin thinking of ?
Labels: The Two Chopins...