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Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
#2999611 07/06/20 08:24 PM
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Hello,

I have heard that the two Chopin concerti are sloppy and inferior to other concerti. To my ears, they sound fine. Can someone please explain to me why Chopin's concerti are regarded that way?

Thank you!

Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
samwitdangol #2999615 07/06/20 08:29 PM
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Vehicles for the soloist. More complicated orchestration would get in the way.

Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
samwitdangol #2999620 07/06/20 08:38 PM
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They are not sloppy at all. They are very beautiful concerti, the issue is that the orchestra does not get anything interesting to do.

My opinion is that a concerto should be fairly equal parts soloist and orchestra. If the work is too solo oriented why bother writing an orchestral part at all? Just my opinion.

For me my favorite concerti are the two Brahms and first two Bartok. Perfect meshing of solo and orchestral textures. As a side note they are still somehow much harder than any of the Liszt or Chopin concerti.

Last edited by achoo42; 07/06/20 08:39 PM.
Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
achoo42 #2999627 07/06/20 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by achoo42
My opinion is that a concerto should be fairly equal parts soloist and orchestra. If the work is too solo oriented why bother writing an orchestral part at all? Just my opinion.

Yes and no, if it is a piano concerto I expect to hear a lot more piano then the orchestra.


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Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
Learux #2999629 07/06/20 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Learux
Originally Posted by achoo42
My opinion is that a concerto should be fairly equal parts soloist and orchestra. If the work is too solo oriented why bother writing an orchestral part at all? Just my opinion.

Yes and no, if it is a piano concerto I expect to hear a lot more piano then the orchestra.

I agree. Perhaps this is why I do not enjoy Brahm's first concerto as much as other concerti.

Last edited by samwitdangol; 07/06/20 09:06 PM.
Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
samwitdangol #3000117 07/08/20 04:01 AM
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I love the Chopin concertos.

For such an imaginative composer, the orchestration isn't really imaginative at all. It's often a bit like a student exercise, but that doesn't necessarily take away from the overall work.

Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
samwitdangol #3000138 07/08/20 05:52 AM
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When considering the orchestration for Chopin’s concertos, you should bear in mind he preferred a very soft piano sound, that of Pleyel. These pianos had softer hammer felts and shorter key dip than modern standards and that contributed to a sound that was mostly around the very soft dynamics and wouldn’t project well to a big concert hall especially if having to overcome a strong orchestral force. With that in mind the orchestra part should be very withdrawn and unobtrusive to allow for such a piano to take the central part which a piano concerto is all about.

Last edited by CyberGene; 07/08/20 05:54 AM.

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Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
CyberGene #3000155 07/08/20 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
When considering the orchestration for Chopin’s concertos, you should bear in mind he preferred a very soft piano sound, that of Pleyel. These pianos had softer hammer felts and shorter key dip than modern standards and that contributed to a sound that was mostly around the very soft dynamics and wouldn’t project well to a big concert hall especially if having to overcome a strong orchestral force. With that in mind the orchestra part should be very withdrawn and unobtrusive to allow for such a piano to take the central part which a piano concerto is all about.
I'm not sure this makes sense for several reasons. If this was the reason for his minimal orchestral part, why didn't all composers of that period use the orchestra in their concerti the way Chopin did? Did Chopin always perform on a Pleyel and did others playing his Concerti also only perform on a Pleyel? How often did Chopin perform in a big concert hall? Finally, I think there is a difference between a soft/unobstusive orchestral part(which isn't always the case in his first PC) and a somewhat simplistic orchestral part.

Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
pianoloverus #3000160 07/08/20 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by CyberGene
When considering the orchestration for Chopin’s concertos, you should bear in mind he preferred a very soft piano sound, that of Pleyel. These pianos had softer hammer felts and shorter key dip than modern standards and that contributed to a sound that was mostly around the very soft dynamics and wouldn’t project well to a big concert hall especially if having to overcome a strong orchestral force. With that in mind the orchestra part should be very withdrawn and unobtrusive to allow for such a piano to take the central part which a piano concerto is all about.
I'm not sure this makes sense for several reasons. If this was the reason for his minimal orchestral part, why didn't all composers of that period use the orchestra in their concerti the way Chopin did? Did Chopin always perform on a Pleyel and did others playing his Concerti also only perform on a Pleyel? How often did Chopin perform in a big concert hall? Finally, I think there is a difference between a soft/unobstusive orchestral part(which isn't always the case in his first PC) and a somewhat simplistic orchestral part.

Well, I'm not saying this is the sole reason. It may be just a contributing factor. For instance Beethoven orchestral parts are richer both as musical content and in "sound presence", so to speak, although he used to play on older pianos, I think Broadwood. What we know for sure is Chopin disliked the big concert hall and played in a very few big concerts, he preferred the salon and the intimate piano sound. People who describe how Chopin used to play often mention so soft and quiet sound that you would have to put your ear against the piano for some of them. Maybe it's just his own personal "quirk"? We know for sure it was Liszt for whom piano manufacturers tried to create as loud pianos as possible. We also tend to judge piano concertos played by modern instruments: both pianos and orchestral instruments which can be very bright and powerful.

I'm not disagreeing with you. And I'm not saying it's only the choice of Pleyel and aversion to concert halls that led to the simplistic orchestral part. Maybe it's simplistic because he wasn't experienced in writing for orchestra. But I still think there might be some other factors too: significant or not so much. And I believe his tendency towards very intimate sound and salons is a driving force behind much of his piano works, which logically would extend to a concert hall genre such as the piano concerto, to a certain degree of course.

Last edited by CyberGene; 07/08/20 07:44 AM.

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Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
samwitdangol #3000199 07/08/20 09:27 AM
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Around 1830 the size of the orchestra was still much smaller than it is today. Most orchestra would have no more than 40 musicians. Exceptionally it would go up to 50 or 60. It started to increase toward mid century.

Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
achoo42 #3000278 07/08/20 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by achoo42
They are not sloppy at all. They are very beautiful concerti, the issue is that the orchestra does not get anything interesting to do.

[...]

As a side note they are still somehow much harder than any of the Liszt or Chopin concerti.
I don't get why you think Liszt concerti are like the Chopin concerti? The Liszt A major, which is a symphonic poem with piano obbligato, has a very involved orchestra, in comparison to the Chopin E minor, at the very least.

Liszt E-flat also opens and ends with orchestra, without the piano being involved at all in those sections. Liszt was a good orchestrator, and he knew it.

Chopin, he was a brilliant pianist but I think his orchestration could've been more involved like his contemporaries: Hummel, Beethoven, Liszt, Henselt...

Oh well.

EDIT: I do find that the Polish Airs Op. 13 has some very fine orchestration considering having less involvement, same with the Krakowiak Op. 14.

Last edited by iaintagreatpianist; 07/08/20 01:48 PM. Reason: Sidenote

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Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
iaintagreatpianist #3000389 07/08/20 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by iaintagreatpianist
Chopin, he was a brilliant pianist but I think his orchestration could've been more involved like his contemporaries: Hummel, Beethoven, Liszt, Henselt...

I'm not sure I would exactly say that Beethoven was a contemporary of Chopin and Liszt...

Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
David-G #3000395 07/08/20 07:44 PM
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Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by iaintagreatpianist
Chopin, he was a brilliant pianist but I think his orchestration could've been more involved like his contemporaries: Hummel, Beethoven, Liszt, Henselt...

I'm not sure I would exactly say that Beethoven was a contemporary of Chopin and Liszt...

Well of Liszt, Beethoven was not a contemporary, though both supposedly met. Chopin however, was a contemporary of Beethoven and vice versa. Remember, Beethoven still had 16 to 17 years to live after Chopin was born.

Chopin also knew Beethoven's A-flat sonata, Op. 26, intimately.


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Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
iaintagreatpianist #3001329 07/10/20 10:39 PM
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Originally Posted by iaintagreatpianist
Originally Posted by achoo42
They are not sloppy at all. They are very beautiful concerti, the issue is that the orchestra does not get anything interesting to do.

[...]

As a side note they are still somehow much harder than any of the Liszt or Chopin concerti.
I don't get why you think Liszt concerti are like the Chopin concerti? The Liszt A major, which is a symphonic poem with piano obbligato, has a very involved orchestra, in comparison to the Chopin E minor, at the very least.

Liszt E-flat also opens and ends with orchestra, without the piano being involved at all in those sections. Liszt was a good orchestrator, and he knew it.

Chopin, he was a brilliant pianist but I think his orchestration could've been more involved like his contemporaries: Hummel, Beethoven, Liszt, Henselt...

Oh well.

EDIT: I do find that the Polish Airs Op. 13 has some very fine orchestration considering having less involvement, same with the Krakowiak Op. 14.

The Liszt E-Flat is the issue. The A Major is better. Opening and ending with orchestra doesn't mean much.

Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
samwitdangol #3002269 07/13/20 05:56 PM
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Krystian Zimerman and the 'Polish Festival Orchestra' recorded for DG an interesting 'version' of the concerto's: a lot of attention to orchestral details, it makes horns, col legno-strings, bassoons et al stand out, my preferred recording, it makes all old school criticism look stupid.


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Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
iaintagreatpianist #3002311 07/13/20 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by iaintagreatpianist
Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by iaintagreatpianist
Chopin, he was a brilliant pianist but I think his orchestration could've been more involved like his contemporaries: Hummel, Beethoven, Liszt, Henselt...
I'm not sure I would exactly say that Beethoven was a contemporary of Chopin and Liszt...
Well of Liszt, Beethoven was not a contemporary, though both supposedly met. Chopin however, was a contemporary of Beethoven and vice versa. Remember, Beethoven still had 16 to 17 years to live after Chopin was born. Chopin also knew Beethoven's A-flat sonata, Op. 26, intimately.

Just to clarify -

Chopin was born in March 1810. Liszt was born in October 1811. Beethoven died in 1827. Liszt met Beethoven when he (Liszt) was about 11 years old. Chopin never met Beethoven. I think it's fair to say that both Chopin and Liszt were contemporaries of Beethoven....for a brief time.....but they achieved their maturity as composers after Beethoven's death.

Last edited by Carey; 07/13/20 08:24 PM.

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Re: Thoughts on the Chopin Concerto
dolce sfogato #3002313 07/13/20 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
Krystian Zimerman and the 'Polish Festival Orchestra' recorded for DG an interesting 'version' of the concerto's: a lot of attention to orchestral details, it makes horns, col legno-strings, bassoons et al stand out, my preferred recording, it makes all old school criticism look stupid.

Yes, that is my favorite recording, partly because of the orchestral details.


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