A Program of Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin

I had the wonderful opportunity last Friday to watch local pianist Sunghee Kim perform a concert at Oregon State University’s free Friday lunch concert series. Kim presented three pieces: Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, Sonata No. 23 in F minor by Beethoven, and Ballade No. 1 in G minor by Chopin.

While I don’t have videos of Kim playing these pieces, I wanted to share them with you and give a little history on each.

Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825

Between 1726 and 1730, Bach composed six partitas (a suite for a single instrument) for piano. These partitas were some of his last keyboard suites the composer wrote during his life.

Partita No. 1 has six movements:

  1. Prelude (a short work considered a preface to the remaining movements)
    • 0:00-2:09 in the video
    • What to listen for: lyricism and gentle counterpoint.
  2. Allemande (a renaissance style dance)
    • 2:09-3:58
    • What to listen for: a lively march-type theme throughout the work.
  3. Courante (“running”, a work in triple time danced to with fast running and jumping steps)
    • 3:58-6:17
    • What to listen for: an agile yet slightly moody dance.
  4. Sarabande (a slow dance)
    • 6:17-10:48
    • What to listen for: varying levels of nostalgia and introspectiveness (this is now a word).
  5. Menuets I and II (a French dance for couples) (*Side note: these could be considered two separate movements)
    • 10:48-13:03
    • What to listen for: a delicate yet playful mood.
  6. Gigue (“jig”, a lively dance)
    • 13:03-end
    • What to listen for: sharp staccatos and melodic echoes hidden (sometimes obviously) within the rapid notes
Bach Partita No. 1
Opening Prelude from Partita No.1, first edition, 1731

Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (“Appassionata”)

Beethoven composed Piano Sonata in F minor in 1804, during his middle period (check out my post on Beethoven’s life for a breakdown of his three compositional periods). By this point, the composer was mostly deaf; we can hear the struggle in this particular piece. The shifts in mood and bursts of sound paint a glimpse into Beethoven’s tragic mind.

*Fun fact: like most of his piano sonatas, “Appassionata” was not nicknamed until after Beethoven’s death.

  1. Allegro assai
    • 0:00-10:50
    • What to listen for: the main theme is made of two contrasting motifs: tranquil octaves (played at the very beginning of the piece) and an ominous low bass triplet (0:46). These themes are developed throughout the movement.
  2. Andante con moto
    • 10:50-18:19
    • What to listen for: a set of variations bursting with warmth. This movement is a complete contrast to the first and third.
  3. Allegro ma non troppo – Presto
    • 18:19-end
    • What to listen for: complexity in the rapid 16th notes with a passionate ending.

Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23

Chopin began composing his first ballade (a work for solo piano written in the style of a ballet with a narrative) in 1831 while he was living in Vienna, but he didn’t finish the work until after he moved to Paris in 1835.

*Fun fact: Chopin did create the ballade as a musical genre! His first inspired other composers (such as Liszt and Brahms) to create their own ballades.

What to listen for: the introduction and the coda of this piece are extremely improvisatory in nature; this idea then transforms itself into the waltz theme that is developed throughout the piece. The ballade tells a story full of mystery, hope, and turbulence before coming to a dramatic finish.

Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin

20 Comments Add yours

  1. What a delightful idea for a blog! Following and looking forward to reading more!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! Happy you like it 🙂

      Like

  2. This is wonderful! My mother is Italian and we grew up listening to Opera and classical music too, so appreciate your review of these musicians and the music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, I’m glad you liked it! Music is a universal language 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it is! I’ve always leaned toward violin / flute sounds in an orchestra, but learning to enjoy piano too.

        Like

      2. Pianos are wonderful because – like all other instruments – you can make so many amazing sounds with them. I love how each instrument has its own character, and you can tell all kinds of different stories depending on the instrument.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, I like this too.

        Like

  3. Simply Expressed Feelings says:

    I don’t have any background in music, nor do I understand the technicalities… but I do love to listen to it. Music is my getaway… I like listening to the music you post…👍

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One doesn’t have to understand the technicalities to enjoy the music because it’s a universal language that reaches everyone’s heart. 😊 I’m glad you like it!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Simply Expressed Feelings says:

        True…👈:-)

        Like

  4. Imani-Amour says:

    My all time favourite classical piano song is nocturne and I think it’s by Bach. Your blog gives me a place to finally express that whereas before I was forced to coop up my passion and pretend to prefer dull pop or something. For this outlet, I am very grateful to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So happy to hear that! Thank you for the support. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Imani-Amour says:

        No problem…and I look it up. It’s actually by Chopin lol. Just thought I’d clear that up.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Which nocturne is it? He wrote a few and they’re all beautiful!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Imani-Amour says:

        The one that I like is Nocturne op.9 No.2

        I’m not so sure what op.9 even means but it just sounds peaceful to me. Do you know?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. This is a beautiful piece, great choice!

        The word “op.” is an abbreviation for the term “opus”, which basically means “composition number”. Composers tend to organize their music by the date a piece was composed, and “Op. 9 No. 2” means that this piece was the second nocturne in his 9th set of compositions . . . . does that make sense?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful piece, however not so much in the hands of the YouTube pianist here. I like originality, but he goes too far astray. There’s only 1 performance of this piece worth the time: Horowitz. Find it on YouTube or anywhere else you can and listen to it all the way through. Chopin is in the room, and gloriously so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like both performances! I’ll have to go listen to Horowitz again 😊

      Like

  6. Leeanne says:

    I played the piano for years (till I had to stop due to overuse injuries), and you hit on two of my favorite composers in this post: Beethoven and Chopin 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beethoven is one of my all-time favorites! So sorry you had to stop playing; I’ve had my share of injuries from playing, but I’ve been lucky.

      Liked by 1 person

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