Five essential works by Chopin

We choose the best pieces by the Polish composer

Chopin
Published: March 1, 2019 at 10:14 am

Polonaises

Poland’s national dance is a stately affair, but in Chopin’s hands, it become a passionate statement about his home country. Start with the A-major Polonaise.

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Recommended recording:
Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich, Anatol Ugorski (piano) DG 477 5430

Etudes

Chopin’s two books of studies test and stretch a player’s advanced technique. But the music contains depth and feeling.

Recommended recording:
Murray Perahia (piano)
Sony SK61885

Waltzes

Singularly unimpressed with the Viennese ballroom scene, Chopin set about composing his own waltzes, published in 1819, which contain abandon, but a certain wistfulness too.

Recommended recording:
Ingrid Fliter (piano)
EMI 698 3512

Piano Concerto No. 1

Composed shortly before he left Poland, Chopin shows his gift for long-arching melodic lines and filigree piano writing. The second movement, in particular, is ravishing.

Recommended recording:
Krystian Zimerman (piano), Polish Festival Orchestra
DG 459 6842

Ballades

Chopin puts his heart and soul into these astonishingly powerful works. Don’t be fooled by the title ‘Ballade’ – all four of them contain music of extreme drama and energy, as well as tenderness and lyricism.

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Recommended recording:
Evgeny Kissin (piano)
RCA 09026632592

Authors

Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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