Etudes Op. 10

Twelve Etudes, Op. 10 (1829-31)

The Chopin Etudes are the most important pieces in the genre and formed the basis for all future concert etudes. The Op. 10 are dedicated”A son ami,” Franz Liszt:

Op. 10, No.1 in C major: Arpeggios based on wide extension. Huneker considers it “the new technique in all its nakedness, new in the scenes of figure, design, pattern, web, new in a harmonic way. . . . The nub of modern piano music is in the study.”

Op. 10, No.2 in A minor:
The study is an expansion of the Moscheles Etude Op. 70, No. 3, in chromatic scale passages for the third, fourth, and fifth fingers of the right hand, with chords in the right hand for the first and second fingers.

Op. 10, No.3 in E major:
An exquisite aria for cantabile playing. A middle section features widely extended double notes. When teaching the work to his pupil Adolf Gutmann, the composer cried out, “Oh, my homeland!”

Op. 10, No.4 in C-sharp minor:
An etude of lightness in high velocity for both hands.

Op. 10, No.5 in G-flat major:
The so-called Black Key Etude. Accuracy of chords in the left hand with exquisitely designed figuration on the black keys calls for a combination of finger technique with rotary action and supple wrists.

Op. 10, No.6 in E-flat minor:
A slow but restless chromatic study; it is difficult musically and needs a luscious touch for its melancholic, even anguished cantabile. For Henry T. Finck, “the etude seems as if it were in a sort of double minor . . . much sadder than ordinary minor.”

Op. 10, No.7 in C major:
A toccata requiring strong fingers for quick changing on the same note with the first finger and thumb of the right hand. There is further need to articulate the melodic line in the fifth finger. Huneker asks, “Were ever Beauty and Duty so mated in double harness?”

Op. 10, No.8 in F major:
Brilliant finger passagework, sweeping the keyboard up and down more than four octaves for development of smoothness in thumb movements; a left-hand melody needs subtle pedaling. Von Bulow called it “a bravura study par excellence.”

Op. 10, No.9 in F minor:
A left-hand figure of wide extension, needing endurance (especially for small hands), and a developed rotational freedom in the forearm; its portamento right-hand melody is feverish. The composer marked this etude Allegro, molto agitato. It is less difficult than many others.

Op. 10, No.10 in A-flat major:
James Friskin describes this as “a tiring Etude for the right hand, which has a continuous octave position with rotation from single notes for thumb to sixths for second and fifth fingers. There are ingenious variations of touch and rhythm.” John Ogdon feels that in its cross-rhythms, “Chopin’s influence on Brahms may be clearly seen here.” Von Bulow attests, “He who can play this study in a really finished manner may congratulate himself on having climbed to the highest point of the pianist’s Parnassus.” Musically, Chopin takes us to HEIGHTs of Romantic poetry with breathtaking modulations.

Op. 10, No.11 in F-flat major:
Both hands play in extended arpeggios of chords, harplike in effect or, in Huneker’s words, “as if the guitar had been dowered with a soul.” Perching on top of these arabesques is a melody needing delicate tonal balance and phrasing.

Op. 10, No.12 in C minor:
Almost universally called the Revolutionary Etude, it is a complex left-hand study in continuous sixteenth notes. The right-hand theme requires tonal discrimination. Moritz Karasowski wrote of this popular work that “the image is evoked of Zeus hurling thunderbolts at the world.” Huneker called the opening “the crack of creation.”

  • Etudes, Opp. 10 and 25:
  • ANIEVAS: Seraphim
  • ARRAU: EMI (CD)
  • ASHKENAZY: Melodiya; London (CD)
  • CORTOT: Dante (CD)
  • FRIEDMAN (four etudes): Pearl (CD)
  • GINZBURG: Melodiya
  • KUERTI (Op. 2S only): Monitor
  • LORTIE: Chandos (CD)
  • POLLINI: DG (CD)
  • SAPERTON: IPA-Desmar (CD)
  • SLOBODYANIK: Melodiya/Angel
  • VASARY: DG
  • VERED: Connoisseur Society
  • ZAYAS: Spectrum