Chopin - Étude Op. 10 No. 12 in C minor "Revolutionary"





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Published on Aug 4, 2009

Étude Op. 10, No. 12 in C minor known as The Revolutionary Étude, is a solo piano work by Frédéric Chopin written circa 1831. It is the 12th of his first set of etudes - "Douze Grandes Etudes" dedicated to "son ami Franz Liszt" (his friend Franz Liszt). The two sets of Études, Opus 10 and 25, are known collectively as the Chopin Études, although Chopin also contributed three other lesser known études (the Trois Nouvelles Études).

The étude appeared around the same time as the November Uprising in 1831. Chopin was unable to have a strong participating role because of his poor health, and allegedly he poured his emotions on the matter into many pieces that he composed at that time - the Revolutionary Étude standing out as the most notable example. Upon conclusion of Poland's failed revolution against Russia, he cried "All this has caused me much pain. Who could have foreseen it!"

Unlike études of prior periods (works designed to emphasize and develop particular aspects of musical technique, cf the much feared but essential School of Velocity, or the Five Finger Exercises by Hanon) the romantic études of composers such as Chopin and Liszt are fully developed musical concert pieces, but still continue to represent a goal of developing stronger technique

In the case of The Revolutionary Étude, the technique required in the opening bars is playing an extremely fast, long and loud descending harmonic minor scale mainly in the left hand. The length and the repetition of these rapid passages distinguishes The Revolutionary from other études.

Although the greatest challenge lies with the relentless left hand semiquavers, the right hand is also challenged by the cross-rhythms which are used with increasing sophistication to handle the same theme in various successive parallel passages.

The left hand technique involved in this piece involves evenly played semiquavers throughout. The structure is of the strophic coda form (A A'). The opening broken chords (diminished chord with an added passing note) and downward passages transition into the main appassionato[citation needed] melody. The octave melody's dotted rhythms and the continuous accompaniment creates tension. At the end of the A' section, the coda provides somewhat of a rest from that tension[citation needed] and then the work recalls the opening in a final descending sweep leading to the final closing chords, in C major.

The end of the Etude alludes to Beethoven's last piano sonata, written in the same key - a piece Chopin is known to have greatly admired (compare bars 77-81 in the Etude to bars 150-152 in the first movement of Beethoven's sonata). The etude is a popular performance piece in classical concerts and has been adapted in digital media such as video games such as The King of Fighters 2003 and Eternal Sonata.

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