I am researching about the kind of style Chopin himself would have had by drawing inferences from sources such as recordings of the 2nd generation pupils of Chopin and the comments of contemporaries and his pupils. I have noticed from my research till now that although Chopin's tempo markings are really fast, even for a light touch pleyel piano, I have found no comments highlighting the lightning speed Chopin played at. Although he used rubato and all, one can't deny the fact that even the general tempo markings of his are too fast and are not played at in general by today's famous pianists.(eg: his revolutionary etude)

And even if I hypothesize that most of Chopin's contemporaries also played that fast or near to as fast as Chopin, further stating that people might not have felt the need of mentioning his speed, one can still notice that many of his contemporaries mentioned things like legato playing, evenness of fingers, his touch and all little but essential attributes of his playing. No one mentions the lightning speed.

Can anyone enlighten me with any source or comment of Chopin's time that highlights upon the speed in which he played?

  • (Posting as a comment because this doesn't answer your question, only discusses it.) I'm unconvinced by your thesis. The metronome markings are not evidence of how he played. It's quite normal that composers' metronome markings disagree with concert practice and this isn't peculiar to Chopin. (Beethoven Op106 is a notorious example.) The composer might find the metronome setting in his head or by quick reference to the piano in the studio. There is no effect of space. A concert performance will tend to be slower than an imagined performance because of a couple of seconds of hall acoustic. – user48353 Nov 30 '18 at 6:49
  • Thanks for your views. You got unconvinced by reasons you thought of by looking and hearing today's "performances". What you write doesn't actually form a reason as to why, a person in early 1800s wouldn't point out that Chopin was playing pretty fast back then. And even if your hall reasoning is right, perhaps, the recordings should have contained the real speed or near about speed, none of which is found either in today's recordings or Chopin's pupils' recordings. – Rohan Nov 30 '18 at 9:52
  • And I hope, no one uses this as an argument that Chopin himself didn't play as fast as his own metronome markings because taking pains to think of an appropriate metronome mark for the piece, which he would never play that piece at, even for his time, is absurd :) – Rohan Nov 30 '18 at 10:05
  • You are making a straw man argument. I did not think of these reasons by "looking and hearing today's "performances"". As for "why, a person in early 1800s wouldn't point out that Chopin as playing pretty fast", I didn't address that because you yourself said you had no evidence of it. The hard part about history is proving what did happen, not what might have. Again see the case of Beethoven Op106 for the standard arguments about reliability of metronomes of the time and composers' attitudes toward them. – user48353 Nov 30 '18 at 10:24
  • Could we get a bit more concrete? Do you have more examples besides Op 10 No 12? I checked the first edition, and it's marked 160. I've heard Richter play it at that tempo. – user48353 Nov 30 '18 at 10:25

I don't have any knowledge on this topic, but this seems to be very relavant and the preview at least shows Chopin added metronome marking for some works.


Tempo and Character in Chopin
Thomas Higgins
The Musical Quarterly
Vol. 59, No. 1 (Jan., 1973), pp. 106-120

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  • Thanks for your reply. I actually know that Chopin added metronome marks, maybe I should have written 'metronome markings' instead of 'tempo markings' above. What I precisely need are comments of Chopin' time on the lightning speed at which Chopin played as the "metronome markings" that he left, if he played at around that tempo, I suspect the possibility of no one mentioning or praising his speed. – Rohan Nov 28 '18 at 18:58
  • I was zeroing in on that metronome/tempo distinction. I wish I had something more to offer you. – Michael Curtis Nov 28 '18 at 19:15
  • Why the down votes? The question asked for "...any source or comment of Chopin's time that highlights upon the speed..." this article seems to address that question. But, admittedly, I don't know if the article quotes Chopin or his contemporaries. – Michael Curtis Nov 30 '18 at 17:51

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