Musical Controversy : Chopin
Musical Controversy : Frederic Chopin
Who was Chopin?
Chopin was a pianist and composer of Polish birth, immigrated to Paris and worked there, He was born in 1810 and died at age 39 in 1849 of Tuberculosis. He is considered to be a great composer of the Romantic Period.
He composed many pieces for the solo piano, including one that has become controversial even after his death. The piece in question is called “Fantasie – Impromptu”
Here is a version performed by a 9-year old child from U.S.A.
Here is a more adult version performed by Yundi Li.
Chopin disliked this piece and had given strict instructions that it should be destroyed. He felt that there were great similarities with another earlier piece by composer
The piece by the rival composer is available (link at the end).
Chopin hated his own composition and wanted it destroyed. His wishes were not followed after his death.
Why did Chopin regret composing his “Fantasie” Impromptu, Op. 66?
Well, he did and he didn’t. The regret did not so much concern the fact that he had written it at all, but that on reflection, job done, it had a distinct, uncomfortably close resemblance to Ignaz Moscheles’s Impromptu in Eb major op.89, of 1827. Close enough for the uncharitable possibly to begin to mutter about imitation or even use the dreaded ‘p’-word… plagiarism…
It hardly takes a lifetime of study to spot the problem at a mere glance, and evidently Chopin thought the better of releasing his impromptu (written in 1834, dedicated to Mme la Baronne d’Est, as was the Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise for piano & orchestra of the same year) throughout his lifetime. Having fastidious judgment, that will also have been guided by the c#-minor impromptu not being of the highest quality he demanded from his work in the first place. Those two factors combined sealed the piece’s fate.
Until Fontana came along and, after Chopin’s death — prior to which the composer had explicitly instructed unfinished & unpublished works, this one included, to be destroyed — decided otherwise. Not *his* finest hour…
Compared with the three impromptus that Chopin did clear for publication (opp. 29, 36 & 51), the one now known as ‘op.66’ is far from distinguished, and that will have bothered Chopin just as much as, or even more than ‘the Moscheles problem’, and with that in mind, his judgment can’t be faulted.
It’s a great pity that Fontana couldn’t abide by that, though he had promised to.
Here’s Moscheles’s work: