Monday, March 14, 2011

Maria Wodzinska and Chopin's Nocturne in E flat

Chopin's portrait painted by Maria Wodzinska

Frédéric Chopin knew the Wodzinsky family since childhood, and in the summer of 1835 he was invited to Dresden to spend a short time with them There he met Maria again, the youngest daughter. He remembered her as a child who used to annoy the grown-ups by pulling faces at them or rowdily running around. Now, she was a beautiful girl of sixteen who liked painting and played the piano. Frédéric, who had already turned twenty-five, reciprocated the hospitality by giving piano lessons to Maria every afternoon.
The maestro asked the young girl to have her music book at hand on the piano, in order to write down any musical ideas that would arise at any time.

A page of this book is shown in the picture: a sketch of the Nocturne in E flat, opus 9 No 2, in its early stages. Obviously, it is just a germ of an idea: barely three bars of the melody. Frédéric will add later the accompaniment making it possible that these scrawled and hard-to-read signs could sound like this:

Undoubtedly, a great musical idea!
A friend of mine has suggested, maliciously, that it was Maria, not Chopin, the author of the sketch, perhaps responding to Frédéric mellifluously suggesting: "Maria... what if you improvise something for me in E flat? Just a couple of bars..., think of a serene melody that comes from the bottom of your heart!"

We know that Maria was able to compose (incidentally, we can see here the way she painted). My friend went on to say that Chopin, reprehensibly, would have surreptitiously copied the bars in the notebook, as she raised her eyes to heaven for inspiration.
We don't believe this to be the truth.
Anyway, it was Frédéric who later ended the composition in Paris.

Here we have, in four and half minutes, the most popular romantic piece for piano of all times.
The performance is by the Chinese pianist Yundi Li.

And now, a tribute to the Danish musician, pianist, orchestra conductor and comedian Victor Borge, who lived a long life making fun with the piano.

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