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

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I'm a pianist, composer, writer, photographer, and overall classical-music-lover who is always open to new sounds.

20 thoughts on “A Program of Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin

      1. 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

  1. 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

  2. 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. 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

  3. 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

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