Chopin and the Character Piece: Nocturnes, Preludes, and Ballades

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“Chopin and the Character Piece: Nocturnes, Preludes, and Ballades.” The transition into the Romantic era of music saw the development of many new characteristics. For the most part, the music evolved from established forms, genres, and musical ideas, but there was more emphasis on expression. Harmonic language established by Mozart and Haydn was coloured with dissonances, and bolder chord changes. Emphasis shifted from the ideals of Mozart’s consonance and order, to the expression and increased ambiguity of Beethoven. As the focus changed to composing music for the sake of expression, new genres appeared, one of which is know as the Character Piece. Translated from the German, Charakterstück, the name is usually used to describe a piece…show more content…
Chopin drew inspiration from numerous sources. He predominantly composed with national Polish traditions in mind, but often studied other composers and expanded upon their styles. Chopin’s 24 Preludes were based on a study of Bach’s own set of Preludes. In both cases, these composers wrote a Prelude for all 24 major and minor keys. Bach arranged his chromatically, while Chopin arranged his in a circle of fifths pattern. While Chopin did study Bach’s Preludes, Chopin’s were only a tribute. “It was there he composed these most beautiful of short pages which he modestly entitled the Preludes. They are masterpieces.” He wrote each one with a specific theme or mood in mind and he set them to stand on their own as independent works, despite the fact that the genre “prelude” is translated from French as “introduction.” Their function became as such when the composer was “capable by means of a suitable prelude of preparing the listeners, setting the mood, and also thereby ascertaining the qualities of the pianoforte, perhaps unfamiliar to him, in an appropriate fashion.“ Chopin’s 24 preludes are so skillfully composed, they are “admirable for their variety, the labor and learning with which they abound are appreciable only by the aid of a scrupulous examination; everything seems fresh, elastic, created at the impulse of the moment, abounding with that freedom of expression which is characteristic of works of genius.” Their variety is

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