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Hello and welcome to Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast!  This podcast is for anyone who loves classical music, or is just getting ready to dive in for the very first time.  Thanks so much, and I hope you enjoy it!  

Dec 15, 2022

You might be thinking, "Why on earth would anyone want to devote an entire podcast to etudes?"

For most instrumentalists, etudes are the bane of our existence. They are studies, meant to develop technique on an instrument. Etudes are an essential part of any instrumentalists work, but they had never been known for their musical content. As a violinist, I had practiced dozens of etudes by Kreutzer, Rodé, Dancla, Sevcik, Schraideck, Kayser, Mazas, and more, lamenting the day I chose the violin as my instrument. But pianists have the same dreaded names, like Czerny for example. Chopin changed all of that. Chopin was the first composer to integrate musical content into his etudes, which meant that Chopin's etudes were both extremely difficult technical exercises, but they also were musically interesting enough to be performed live. LIke everything Chopin did on the piano, this was revolutionary, and Chopin's 27 etudes have been part of the piano repertoire ever since. We'll discuss some of these etudes today, along with the nature of virtuosity itself. We'll also spend a lot of time talking about Leopold Godowsky. Leopold Godowsky is not a name you’ve probably heard very often. But he was one of the great pianists of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, with legions of admirers including legendary pianists like Josef Hoffman, Arthur Rubinstein, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Claudio Arrau, and the composer Ferrucio Busoni. Godowsky’s pianistic gifts were well known, but what about his compositional ones? Well, to speak of one is to speak of the other.

During the 1890s, when Godowsky was in his late 20s, he began making arrangements of famous piano works of Chopin and other composers music. Over the next 20 years, he became engrossed with Chopin’s legendary etudes, or studies, and began writing his own arrangements of them. Now Chopin’s etudes are extremely difficult just on their own, but Godowsky’s studies are on another level of difficulty.  In fact, Godowsky’s transcriptions are so difficult that many pianists don’t even dare to play them, though some, like the great Marc-Andre Hamelin, have made them an integral part of their repertoire. So today on the show, we’ll take a look at some of the studies on Chopin’s etudes, analyzing both the original Chopin etudes and then the changes that Godowsky makes to them. This will be a show as much about Chopin as it is about Godowsky, because you can’t understand Godowsky’s achievement without understanding the Chopin first. Join us!