Jul 20th, 2008 by bkr
For years one of the knocks on Chopin’s music is that he was a “ladies’ composer,” spinning out his piano pieces for the sighing, swooning denizens of Parisan salons, the result being that his remarkable compositions were often trivialized or marginalized.
According to the Cambridge Companion to Chopin, the composer hated the association:
“Chopin enjoyed elegant feminine company, but he had harsh views of the fawning of his ‘adoring women.’ He himself used the phrase ‘music for the ladies’, but unhappily he meant it disparagingly. Another association with the salon was the ‘sentimental drawing room composer” – the ‘superficial genius’ – and the appellation was encouraged by a self-imposed limitation of meidum, but the connotations of small forms, and by the description titles assigned to his music by publishers…”
One publisher in particular who drew Chopin’s ire was a London-based German entrepreneur named Christian Rudolph Wessel. As you can see by the cover page, above, (courtesy of the fantastic Chopin Early Editions site at the University of Chicago) the publisher issued Chopin’s marvelous Impromptu No. 2 in a series he called “Les Agrémans au Salon” — loosely translated as “Drawing-Room Trifles.” With “friends” like that….
Nowadays, Chopin’s Impromptus are a robust staple of the concert hall. Hear pianist Noel McRobbie perform Chopin’s Impromptu No. 2 in F-sharp Major, Op. 36, in a concert performance at the University of Michigan’s Britton Recital Hall.
Download the sheet music from the Piano Society web site.