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I don't really play piano, but I have been immersed in Chopin's music for the last month. I'm curious to hear from Piano players what were the elements of his style?

You can hear a lot of eastern European influence in his music, he seemed to never forget his polish roots but what does it exactly mean for music to sound or be eastern European?

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    Compared to Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, some of those odd-meter Bulgarian folk songs, or even what Bartok found in Hungary, I don't think Chopin's style sounds quintessential Eastern European to me. Those Eastern European pieces generally have stranger rhythms and more "off" harmonies. – Dekkadeci Feb 24 '18 at 20:57
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What MAKES music 'Eastern European'? Partly the use of folk music - perhaps the most mentioned Nationalistic element in Chopin's music is his use of the Mazurka, loosely derived from a Polish folk dance.

But to a large extent, Chopin's music is 'Polish' because we are TOLD it is. Nationalism was an important political force, Chopin was a figurehead for Polish nationalism. What Chopin wrote WAS Polish, by definition!

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As far as eastern European influence, it's pretty hard to pull that apart, and what @LaurencePayne said is spot on.

To me, what defines Chopin's "style" is his heavy use of chromaticism within the framework of Tonal Harmony, especially in his modulations. A few salient examples are his Preludes in a minor and e minor, his Nocturne in D Major, Op. 27, No. 2, and the coda in his Ballade in F Major. I haven't verified the analyses in some of those videos, but I'm sure they don't hurt.

Other remarkable features:

  • His style changed very little over the course of his short (39-year) life.
  • The enormous breadth of his textures, moods, and forms.
  • And, for better or worse, he wrote almost exclusively for the piano, so there is a small universe he created within that limited color palette.
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The influence of the Polish music (not only folk music) is actually well documented, it is definitely not only a cliché resulting from his political involvement in the Polish independence movement.

It is known that, at a young age, Chopin has been fascinated by Polish folk music. Please note that his teacher (Josef Elsner) was author of two major studies concerning "rhythm" of Polish language and folk melodics (although Chopin criticized his approach). Also Chopin's letters indicate that he used to participate in folk events in order to become familiar with this music (and that he was taking notes).

Chopin's music include traditional Polish motives from kujawiak, mazurek, krakowiak and piesni ("songs") - i.e. folk music, as well as gentry music (for instance polonez).

PS. Of course the use of Polish folk motives is not the only reason why his music was so distinctive.

  • Listening to Chopin's oeuvre, it still seems like his Eastern European influences are as strong as Dvorak's--very apparent in some of his pieces, not found in most of his works. (I've read that the E major section of Chopin's Heroic Polonaise uses krakowiak rhythms, for example.) – Dekkadeci Feb 24 '18 at 21:04
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    In fact from our perspective the influence of the Polish music may not be very apparent because he usually made variations on themes and one have to be familiar with number of publications which he used - after his emigration he didn't have direct contact with folk music (it is confirmed that he used some Kurpinski's motives). There are several publications analyzing this although there are rather complex. I also think that his influences were apparent in some pieces, he composed 54 mazurkas, 16 polonaises, Fantaisie sur des airs polonais, Op. 13, Rondo à la mazur in F major, Op. 5, etc.). – Mat Feb 25 '18 at 9:48

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