Historical interpretations of Friderick Chopin works

skip to menu

Józef Śmidowicz - skill characteristics


Mazurka in F-major Op. 68 No. 3 as a work has a simple form. However, it is full of interpretative problems. The first two bars in major are followed by two bars in minor, the melody is based on the Phrygian scale – this complex harmonic and melodic configuration is not rendered by Józef Śmidowicz by means of contrast, but coherence, with first eight-bar sentence played resolutely, quasi pesante, and well-articulated. Changes of the mode in the left hand are used for slight differentiation of the musical expression. The next eight-bar sentence, which is a repetition of the first with harmonic changes of its end, is played mezza voce with indistinct articulation. The following sentence is well-exposed in its expression and the next as if it was a paler copy. In the middle part, Poco piu vivo, the pianist evokes a folk band with a folk double bass (repeated bass fifths with changeable accents – rhythmic asymmetry) and a fiddle playing the melody freely in the Lydian scale. In tempo primo (third part) the beginning of mazurka reappears (first two sentences); however, it is played as if it came from a distant place. In this fragment ends of four-bar phrases are suspended, and the rhythm is extended.

In Prelude in G major Op. 28 No. 3 groups of the sixteenth notes (left hand) are played leggiermente (according with the score). They serve as a background for the melody in thirds or sixths made of short punctuated motifs (right hand). Contrast in expression between rotational motion of the sixteenth notes (left hand) and “shredded” melody (right hand) is well-presented in this recording. Left hand figures are played as one-bar phrases and they do not form sentences or periods. From the place in the final part, where the sixteenth-note figures appear in both hands simultaneously (bar 28), they gradually become lighter and they are played more legato; the last run is accelerated, but it does not lose diminuendo effect. An additional note in bar 30 is struck only by accident.

Chopin wrote two Nocturnes in E flat major: the first put in opus 9 (1831), the second – in opus 55 (1843). The former refers to the pattern provided by John Field, whereas the latter is a refined, sophisticated work and a splendid demonstration of Chopin’s skills as a composer; it shows how much his genius transformed this form. In Nocturne in E flat major Op. 55 all the notes are important, meaningful, and this reservoir of ideas almost exceeds the form. Under the fingers of Śmidowicz it is a dreamy work, and in polyphonic fragments polyphony is not exposed, but it completes the melody from the background. The work begins with not a forte trill, but it is played mezzo forte. In the second trill the appearance of a bass note is delayed, and when it is struck, it is also prolonged. Through eight bars the passages in the left hand are played with refined rubato. In bar 11 the highest note of the melody (G) is suspended and prolonged, and in the next bar calando appears in both hands in order to accelerate and animate – in bar 13, with the introduction of the melody – the motion of triplets in the accompaniment. The climaxial part of the melody (bars 17 and 18 – repetition of A flat note) is played decrescendo in spite of crescendo marked in the text. It blurs the outlines of sounds creating a dreamlike reality, from which the more and more real melody emerges. Such a conspicuous concept may come from Aleksander Michałowski (the pupil of Mikuli and Czartoryska). Then asymmetrical rubato appears; i.e. only one hand plays it at a time. In bar 34 trills on E, F and F sharp are played before the corresponding accompaniment. Contrapuntal fillings to the melody are played legato or legatissimo without separation of notes marked in the text. This interpretation of Józef Śmidowicz is not based on pure realization of the printed note, but it has its own logic of musical development.

See also