Chopin Course 11 – ‘Winter Wind’ Etude, Op.25, No.11

"Winter Wind"! The winds must be dreadfully cold and ferocious in Northern Europe if this Etude is to be believed. It's hard for anyone in sunny Australia to imagine such fearsome cold. But I suppose it must indeed be a feature of the climate in the part of the world from where Chopin came. Of course he himself did not christen his A minor Etude "Winter Wind". Chopin never gave picturesque titles to any of his works; in this he was different from all the other Romantic composers except for Brahms. The Romantics couldn't get enough of suggestive titles. From Liszt to Debussy, the entire repertoire was a wall-to-wall picture gallery. Chopin even invented - or adapted and made his own - a whole series of genre names so that he could avoid giving his pieces chocolate-box names. Thus Nocturne, Ballade, Scherzo, Mazurka, Polonaise, Etude, Prelude, Fantasy, Fantasy-Polonaise, Fantasy-Impromptu. But whoever it was who thought up the title 'Winter Wind' certainly came up with a vivid description. You can clearly hear the howling winds in the right hand cascades of this piece, tearing down the keyboard from top to bottom, while in the left hand what we hear is a re-run of the 'Revolutionary' Etude (Chopin didn't name that one either, as you can probably guess) - another stirring call-to-arms just as powerful and heroic as that of the 'Revolutionary', though perhaps this time a little more fateful.

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