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Wals Op. 34 No 3

( Fryderyc Chopin )

Chopin is known as an inegenious and innovative composer for the piano. He mastered the instrument on a very high level (history states that he knew the complete Wohltemperiertes Klavier -24 preludes and fugues in all keys- by Bach by heart, and that is quite a thing!) I guess that is why you won’t find much of Chopin's more elaborate works arranged for solo guitar, the complexity of his musical textures is too much. Well, after a little search on Internet you will find some nevertheless, the attraction of his music is definitely there despite the more limited scope of the guitar.

My present guitar teacher Robert Horna recognized this and made a nice guitar duo arrangement of Valse No 3 from Op. 34, in which he was quite successful catching the atmosphere of Chopin's music. Well, he has quite some experience with that, just listen to his programme Mazurtango which he plays together with the Russian Bajan player Piotr Rangno (a Bajan is an instrument in between a Melodion and a Bandoneon). Part of this program consists of arrangements of Chopin's Mazurkas. The combination Bajan - guitar perfectly suits Chopin's both passionate and tranquil melancholy. Besides, this perfect match also applies to the Argentinian Tangos by Piazzola, the other half of their programme.

At the age of eighteen I had my first introduction to Chopin's music. Listening to the classical pop arrangements by Ekseption and just starting to play the classical guitar, I became interested in classical music. So I wanted to have some classical albums. That was no sinecure for my low budget, because most classical LPs were about ten guilders more expensive than a recent popular LP (which sold at 21 guilders already). Apparently those days there was some elitism in the prices of classical music. That has changed today, just consider the underselling of classical music collections by Kruidvat, one of the Dutch drugstore concerns! And just consider the present day Naxos label with lots of good guitar music at a quite reasonable price!

The De Slegte Bookstores -well known in Holland for its second hand book sales and remaindered books- came with an absolute bargain of a collection of classical records in EP format (a size in between single and LP). Probably it was some 'All Time Classics' set which was dead stock as a whole and was sold per album instead. The records were delivered in a very limp cover which served as a kind of fold-out which revealed some information about the music. The record would drop out if you were not aware of the silly sleeve!

It was a pleasantly inexpensive introduction to classical music, particularly for a high school student with little pocket money. I bought a few of these records, including two with Chopin's music, one record with Polonaises and one mixed bag album, some waltzes, nocturnes and other stuff.

When I played the records, the sound quality was a little poorer than I expected, the recordings looked like a conversion of old 78 rpm records. But the musical idea was clear nevertheless, particularly one piece -Berceuse Op. 57- impressed me with its nocturne-like tranquility.

Later when I met the girl who would be my wife, Chopin's music returned. She played the piano and a few waltzes, mazurkas and nocturnes by Chopin were part of her repertoire. When I got settled, I bought some more of Chopin's music, and the nocturnes and ballades became my favourites.

You will have to study some history in order to understand the atmosphere of Chopin's music.

Poland prospered most in the sixteenth century when it consisted of the present-day Poland, a large part of the Ukraine and the Baltic states.

In the seventeenth century the problems started when Austria, Prussia, Sweden and Russia attempted to incorporate parts of Poland in the progress of their expansive policies. At the end of the eighteenth century, Poland was off the map.

The end of the eighteenth century brought the French Revolution and the notion of more or less democratic freedom for many European nations. The Polish felt the same and started resistance against their Russian masters, a pursuit which the latter suppressed without mercy. The 1830 revolution became a disaster and a terrible defeat for the Polish 'insurgents', which inspired Chopin to write his 'Revolutionary' Etude Op. 10, No. 12. The next attempt -the 1863 revolt against the Russians- would not bring a Polish state either, because the Polish were defeated again. It would take until deep in the twentieth century before Poland became a sovereign state despite the attempts of a world-wide ideology to prevent Polish nationalism.

Chopin spent his youth in Poland, but left for Paris when he was 21 in order to continue his piano career in the cultural capital of Europe at that time. The failure of the Polish 1830 revolution made his return to his homeland forever impossible. His sadness about this and his longing for his homeland can be heard in all his music, even in the more joyful passages.

Chopin made the Polish musical characteristics well-known in the world of classical music, he used lots of themes and phrasing from Polish popular music. A Polish dance form -the Mazurka from the Masurian district- spread through Europe as a classical form, so tha even the Spanish composer Tarrega composed some beautiful mazurkas for guitar.

This relatively slow waltz has a more formal structure than a Mazurka, but still at times the temptation is there to play some phrases a bit A la Mazurka.