It’s organic, and sounds almost improvised — except that it is impossibly perfect in every detail. Its soundscape is vast, deep, and richly pianistic, but look at the construction and you’ll see the spare elegance of Bach. It has a loving tenderness, and a longing, that’s unlike anything else, yet seems instantly familiar. And it’s gorgeous.
What is it? Chopin, of course!
There’s nothing quite like learning to play a piece of music to really get inside it. With this one, like many I’ve shared here, I knew it was excellent music before I started learning it — but once I’m inside it, once I’m feeling through the piece with my own hands and working through its many parts with the microscope of learning, once I really start to “get it” about the music … it’s just staggering how good it is. It just floors me. I don’t know how much of that comes across in my playing — certainly I’m only communicating a small shadow of that experience — but I hope you can share my sense of wonder that we have this music in our world.
In addition to being a masterpiece of music, this is a masterpiece of notation. Thanks to the Sheet Music Archive and the perpetually threatened public domain, there’s a free score for this piece you can download. (It’s not a great engraving, and it has some editorial mangling, but it gives you the idea, at least.) Chopin’s rendering of the ornaments is incredibly nuanced, and the double-stemming in the middle section to create three layers in the right hand is a little touch of genius my fingers are still struggling to realize properly.