Because of the popular idea of Chopin « super Romantic » which in a way is certainly true, but which at the same time assimilates him to all the other great Romantics (Liszt, Schumann, Brahms...), one forgets that on one side, he did all his learning as pianist and as composer in Poland (until he was 19) under a teacher which was a pupil of Haydn, and who transmited to him all the inheritance and traditions of the preceeding century.
Of course, the genius of Chopin led him to find very early his own way, as a player and composer, and it is already very much recognizable in his youthful compositions, compositions in which I am not including his studies, even if they were composed when he was 19.
Very early then, he was "himself", but that "him-self" scarcely appreciated Beethoven, played some Bach every day (though never in concert… [maybe he was considering that a piano was no cembalo…] and then, of course, had the greatest admiration for Mozart, and for the Bel Canto. Bel Canto in those days did not yet have the dismissive sense that it has today. Bel Canto, simply means "Beautiful singing", meaning the melodies beautifully ornate … and with taste… all those ornaments that the musicians were improvising in the preceding centuries, to let the melodies float (an example of it is the Vivaldi sonata [on this site, "about the author/some musical examples : Vivaldi"]).
If one opens a score of Chopin, Nocturne or anything else, and if one examins all the ornamentations and cadenzas, all of which give life to the melody, one quickly notes an affiliation with similar ornaments found in Bach (one of the first composers who some times wrote them for security), and the way to perform them is finally very close.
And then, there is that famous Rubato. People were mentionning it a lot, talking about Chopin. He was in fact one of the few still knowing how to execute it correctly... And that tradition, already well established during the 17th and 18th, slowly perverted itself, and became what we have today and what can be heard in performance (I explain further in my musical theory, soon published in French, but probably to be translated some time later).
To illustrate this long lecture, some examples of this rubato follow, where both hands don't go together: there can be some times big differences (more than a beat !), but often only small ones. Here it should be noted that Chopin was known to assiduously practice the rubato, but always with the metronome going, to oblige himself to keep the left hand in metronomic time.
First we have the "Berceuse", and then, the first part of a study, the one that Saint-Saëns remarked as a special study on rubato, and then some more Nocturnes. It will probably be completed later.
One can note then, that, thanks to this particular use of rubato, the music keeps a stability and also a great calm, and that, even when the right hand gets expressive or a bit agitated, but, and despite the left hand being stable, there is no stiffness nor rigidity in the music.
The pianist is Christine Hartley-Troskie, whom you already heard on these pages, since we often played together, and those recordings, and few others , made in 2005 are in fact the result of her research and work which never stopped for at least the last 35 years.
I felt like adding those two pieces out of that huge fresco that Albeniz called "Iberia", and in which he describes every facet of every region of Spain, utilising every possibility of the piano, as much from a technical point of view as that of sonority.
2) El puerto
Study n° 7
Nocturne n° 1
Nocturne op9 n°2
Evocacion, El Puerto.