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Episode 88: Chopin's Orphan Child

Rondo in C Major for Two Pianos, Op. 73

rc-orphan-200There is value in learning who a composer isn’t.

If you want to examine the shavings Fryderyk Chopin let fall to the floor as he sculpted his image, sift through his one-offs and the works published after his death.

It began as a Rondo for solo piano. It was 1828. Chopin was 18 - still a student. Even with its roaring start and classical clarity, Chopin just wasn’t convinced it was enough. So, he added another piano part.

Watch a performance. Take a peek at the score. It’s clear the second piano part is there to serve. It’s like Chopin is sending the second pianist on antiphonal errands, in the way he used to send his friend Julian Fontana out into all of Paris in search of a particular cheese or off to hunt for an apartment with southern exposure. Piano One is clearly Number One. Piano Two supports, enhances, adds texture…runs errands.

“Today I tried it with Ernemann…and it came out pretty well,” Chopin wrote to his boyhood friend, Tytus Woyciechowski. Several months later, he reported, “That orphan child, the Rondo for two pianos, has found a step-father in Fontana; he has learnt it after a month’s study.”

Nevertheless, the Rondo in C Major, Op. 73 landed squarely in the “burn when I’m dead” file. Chopin’s increasingly single-minded focus on the solo piano left no room for second-guessing - or a second keyboard. - Jennifer Foster

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Radio Chopin Episode 88: Chopin's Orphan Child

Rondo in C Major for Two Pianos, Op. 73

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