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Xiaofeng Wu in performance

The world of music had never before known any etudes as original, as musical, or as difficult.Frank Cooper

This is one of the best-known (and arguably, the most difficult!) of the set of twelve etudes Chopin dedicated to Franz Liszt. The Etudes were published in a single volume in 1833, when Chopin was 23, although four of them are supposed to have been completed as early as 1829.

“Etude” literally means “study” or “exercise,” which is especially apparent in this particular work, which is designed to strengthen the “weaker” (that is, the third, fourth, and fifth) fingers of the right hand. But Chopin doesn’t stop there: the thumb and index fingers have to play the accompanying chords to the dizzying melody going up and down the keyboard on those “weak” fingers.

Just to underscore the technical nature of this Etude, Chopin even takes a page from the J.S. Bach playbook and indicates the fingering – note by note — of the almost 800 notes in this piece!

Hear pianist Xiaofeng Wu perform Chopin’s tricky Etude in A minor, Op. 10, No.2 in concert.

Some other links to Chopin Etudes, courtesy of Wikipedia:

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  • Joe Lindquist

    Opus 10 number 2 is not an easy piece, but it is an extremely useful study for anyone who has to play Broadway show-style accompaniments! Back when I was in high school and college, and studying piano privately, I accompanied an amateur choral group which sang mostly Richard Rodgers show tunes. The accompaniments to these were exceedingly awkward and unpianistic. Working on this etude helped me greatly in the accompanying endeavor (no, I never performed the etude as a solo).

    Joe Lindquist, Church organist, Flushing, NY