Episode 93: Chopin for Choir

Etude in E-flat, Op. 10, No. 6

Chopin for ChoirYes, pianists love to play Chopin. But so do all kinds of musicians. Guitarists. Electric guitarists. Even Tuba Players!

But what if you sing? What then?

Sure, he wrote a few songs, but Fryderyk Chopin never wrote a note of choral music. No masses, oratorios, operas, or anthems.

But that doesn’t mean that OTHERS didn’t turn his music into the First Art. For the 1894 dedication of the Chopin Monument at his birthplace in Poland, the Warsaw Music Society commissioned a chorus-and-orchestra-setting of Chopin’s “Military” Polonaise…a piece that has subsequently become a second anthem for Poles around the world.

In fact, by the 1890s Chopin had become such an icon of the Polish nation that a number of “Chopin Choral Societies” cropped up all over America. Places where recent immigrants and their families could sing AND meet and mingle with the opposite sex. Fryderyk Chopin: Chorister – and Matchmaker: “It’s where I met my husband,” said Polish immigrant Mary Nowak, who joined the Chopin Choir in Salem, Massachusetts at the age of 17 in 1930.

Today, there still Chopin Singing Societies in Cleveland, Buffalo, Gary Indiana, and Passaic, New Jersey, part of the Polish Singing Alliance of America. AND there are new choral settings of Chopin’s music all the time. Sonatas. Preludes. Etudes….most recently including a haunting arrangement of the Op. 10 No. 6 Etude in E-flat major by the French ensemble Accentus:

And it just might be that Chopin’s music DOES fit well in Choral robes. When it comes to playing his music, Pianist Stephen Hough says, “It is never enough to 'rattle out' the notes, even in the most obviously virtuosic of his works; every phrase must come from the throat and lungs as much as from fingers and arms.” - Benjamin K. Roe

Radio Chopin Episode 93: Chopin for Choir

Etude in E-flat, Op. 10, No. 6