Richibi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

Month: February, 2023

how to listen to music if you don’t know your Beethoven from your Bach, Vlll

Polonaise, 1934 - Konstantin Korovin


         Polonaise” (1934)


                  Konstantin Korovin



cause the pickings are slim among the

shared musical formats between Mozart

and Chopin, Mozart, for instance,

composed eighteen piano sonatas to

Chopin’s mere three, Chopin’s First

even having being more or less 

disregarded since for being promising

maybe, but not at all inspired, where

Mozart meanwhile also wrote 27 piano

concertos to Chopin’s only two, though

both, his, entirely mighty


Chopin, however, pretty well establishes

the nocturne, the scherzo, the prelude,

the étude, the polonaise, the mazurka

as musical forms, while Mozart never

establishes a thing, apart from his own

supreme talent


but here are a couple of fantasias that

they both share, Mozart’s Fantasia

no 3 in D minor, of four, Chopin’s

Polonaise-fantaisie in A-flat major,

Opus 61, Chopin blending here his

fantaisie to the beat of a polonaise,

dance form of his native Poland,

see above


listen for trills in the Mozart, which

admittedly show up only near the

end of the piece, otherwise he

sounds a lot like, I’ll admit, Chopin


listen for arpeggios in the Chopin


a follow-up exercise in listening,

trills, notably, up against arpeggios


consider, enjoy



R ! chard

how to listen to music if you don’t know your Beethoven from your Bach, Vll (cont.)

The Music Lesson, c.1769 - Jean-Honore Fragonard


          The Music Lesson” (c.1769)


              Jean-Honoré Fragonard




having spent too much time, perhaps,

giving context, from Classicism to

Romanticismin my last communication

brought on by the worlds that open up

to me when l Iisten to this kind of music,

rather than imparting specific information

about how to sharpen one’s aesthetic

sensitivity, about listening rather than

just hearing, this time I’ll get technical,

if you’ll allow, with the help of the same

two pieces, Mozart’s 16th piano sonata,

Chopin’s 3rd, how are they different,

how are they similar, how do they



first, similarities, they are both sonatas,

pieces of music consisting of more than

one segment of music, traditionally, three

or four, Mozart here has three, Chopin



Chopin doesn’t diverge from the trinity

of imperatives that Mozart set up

during the Classical period, tempo,

tonality, and repetition, the pace of

the music remains constant within

the parameters established by the

directions at the top of the page,

an adagio doesn’t change its beat

throughout the movement for either,

nor would an andante, a presto, an



this will change


neither does any element of the

music produce discords, tonality

remains mellifluous throughout

for both, lilting, harmonious ever,

even often, in either, enchanting


this will also change


and everywhere, a flight of musical

invention will eventually return to

its original source, and you find 

that you’ve come back from a sonic

adventure to home base, where the

whole thing starts all over again,

repetition, a condition considered

essential, until relatively recently,

to  the definition of music


this will also change


but how are they different


listen to the decoration, Mozart

applies trills to individual notes,

a flutter of adjacent tonalities 

to set the central one off, like

glitter, the twitter of birds

punctuating, here and there, 

the stillness of a forest


Chopin colours his entire

keyboard with arpeggios rather,

runs up and down the scales,

turning melodies into not only

delights, but stepping stones to

entirely other dimensions,

extrapolations from the original

tune, seemingly spontaneous

evolutions, the first burgeonings,

incidentally, of jazz, before returning,

notably, to his original air, much as

Mozart does, to his core statement,

fulfilling the Classical requirement

of repetition


here’s Mozart, trilling


here’s Chopin, arpeggiating


how to tell your Chopin from your

Mozart, how to sharpen your

aesthetic sensibility, listenlisten



R ! chard

how to listen to music if you don’t know your Beethoven from your Bach, Vll

The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, 1818 - Caspar David Friedrich


        The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” (1818)


                 Caspar David Friedrich




by now, if you’ve been listening,

you’ll probably easily tell your

Chopin from your Mozart, even

without looking


if not, the one who isn’t Mozart

is Chopin, the one who isn’t

Chopin is Mozart, cause you’re

likely to recognize the one if not

the other


here’s Mozart’s Piano Sonata

no 16 in C major, K. 545from

1788, which even Mozart

deemed “for beginners”, but

its very elementary qualities

suit, here, my purposes


here’s Chopin’s Piano Sonata

no 3 in B minor, Op. 581844,

some sixty years later, the

epitome of the Romantic Era


Mozart is Classical, the foundation

of the shape and sound of music

in the West, think of Oriental music,

Chinese, for instance, opera, as an

alternative inspirational direction


he sets, along with Haydn, incidentally,

the parameters of Western music, I

call it its grammar, tempo, tonality,

and repetition, its hallmarks, its sine

qua non, as we say in Latin, its trinity

of imperatives, its without which there

would be no Western music as we

know it


Romanticism, after two revolutions,

the French and the American, comes

along to turn all of that into literature,

prompted by the spirit of democracy,

the first expressions of it since Caesar,

Ancient Rome, where earlier,

everywhere, kings had ruled, and by

extension, even more autocratically,

the Church, for monarchs had

received, morally, and consequently

politically, from it, their mandates

from God


one man, one vote, even theoretically,

upended that entire metaphysical

construct, therefore Romanticism


everyone had a voice, everyone had

a story, the birth of the individual,

and of, by extension, human rights,

for better or for worse, see above


therefore Chopin


listen, Chopin is the new Jesus,

prophet, but for a new age 


stay tuned



R ! chard

how to listen to music if you don’t know your Beethoven from your Bach, Vl

The Potato Eaters, 1885 - Vincent van Gogh

            The Potato Eaters” (1885)


                   Vincent van Gogh




where do you start with Chopin, he is

in our Western cultural bloodstream,

as identifiable in music as, say, van

Gogh is in painting, you don’t need 

to be interested in any kind of art to

have not been given even only a

whiff of these iconic artists


nearly anything I might present here

of Chopin you’ve probably already

heard somewhere before, if only in



of van Gogh, well, he goes back in

the public imagination to at least

Vincent1971, the song, no one

doesn’t know about him, when I

heard it playing in Amsterdam at

the museum, with the first piece I

saw, The Potato Eatersdominating

the first wall, insisting on van Gogh’s

vision, his prophecy, his profound

compassion, I cried, I understood

what art is, see above


Chopin exerts a different kind of,

however equally potent, magic


Mozart might sound like Haydn,

Beethoven might sound like

Schubert, all of the Impressionists

sound like all of the Impressionists,

be they Ravel, Debussy, Satie, or

Saint-Saëns, to the untrained ear


but no one sounds like Chopin,

he’s, culturally, a North Star


here’s one of his nocturnes, the

moonlit one, in E flat major  


here’s a polonaisehere’s an étude,  

in English, a study, a finger exercise,

an iconic, here, prestidigitation


here’s an impromptu, his very,

indeed, Fantaisie-Impromptu, just

to get your categories going


consider its construction, having

some information already about

fantasias, a work of the imagination,

open to any experimentation within

the confines of one movement, with

an impromptu, something purported

to have been created on the spot,

also in one movement


the answer requires you to sharpen

your aesthetic pencil, always a

delight – an impromptu, a

spontaneous invention, a fantaisie,

a work of the imagination, how do

they differ, which part is a fantaisie,

which an impromptu, how do they

nevertheless coalesce


this exercise is the first step in






R ! chard

how to listen to music if you don’t know your Beethoven from your Bach, V

Waltz, 1891 - Anders Zorn


       Waltz” (1891)


        Anders Zorn




having brought up the idea of

longevity in my last communication,

the fantasiaa musical form that

lasted about 150 years, with hats

off nevertheless to the later Disney

classic, Fantasiaa tribute, which,

full of Classical music references,

followed in its spiritual mode, and,

after introducing Chopin, perhaps

the very representation of the

Romantic Era, that we carry, or

intuit, in our very bones, I thought

I’d talk about the waltz, a Chopin

specialty, where he created,

incontrovertibly, utter magic


who hears of the waltz anymore, an

antiquated curiosity, though even in

our not so distant blood we feel the

reverberations of its memory, the

throb of its still vibrant cultural

intensity, relevance, rhythm


tangos, incidentally followed, and

other intimate interactions, which

had been earlier frowned upon


the waltz had been the minuet,

the difference was the physical

contact, young nobles left their

aristocratic salons, however

discreetly, to frequent the

more liberal, if disreputable,

establishments – like to

speakeasies during Prohibition

– where they could explore the

new, licentious venues, as

young nobles, ever, would, for

the lure of intimate connection

with the partner


the waltz was thereby born,

couples touched, breast upon

breast, composers followed


Chopin was metaphysical, you

didn’t dance to his waltzes, you

experienced them, here’s his

Minute Waltz, Opus 64, no 1,

here’s his equally delightful

Opus 64, no 2, its companion


but Strauss ll, Johann l‘s son,

got all of Vienna to dance his, 

and everywhere else after, until  

the waltz fell out of favour 

somewhere in the 1950s, leaving

only its memories behind,  here’s          

his incandescent By the Beautiful

Blue Danubemakes you wish

you’d been there


in the one case, the waltz is

idealized, in the other, it’s the

waltz in action, listen, you can

tell the difference, you won’t 

want to dance, for instance, to 

Chopinthough you might give

it an ineffectual try, to Strauss

you’ll careen



R ! chard