Musical Arch Rival: Chopin Op 10 No 4

One of my piano teachers once told me there are certain pieces you’ll practice your entire life, and never be with happy with your performance of them – pieces that no matter how much you practice, you can always play them better. The piece I’ve battled over the years is Chopin’s Opus 10, No. 4.  I first picked this up in high school, and have come back to it periodically ever since.

Per Wikipedia, the Chopin Etudes remain, “some of the most challenging and evocative pieces of all the works in concert piano repertoire.”  Note on the sheet music, the tempo indicates Presto – this thing is supposed to be played damn fast. Italian composer and editor Alfredo Casella (1883 – 1947) states: “The piece should be finished with extreme impetuosity and without any relaxing, almost like a body hurled with great velocity [suddenly dashing] against an unexpected obstacle” (Wikipedia). Throw in some sharps, some flats, some key changes, some off-beat accentuations, and semiquaver transference (switching of the sixteenth note melodies from one hand to the other), and you get a really difficult piece.

At times, I’ve played it really well – and I’ll almost know in advance, by the end of the first page, if I’m in the zone for the given run. It’s pretty awesome to play this thing at speed; but, if I ever stop practicing for any length of time, my fingers simply lose their agility and speed, and crap out mid-play. As I have not practiced this in a few years, I’m lucky if I can play it through, forget about at-speed.

A slow attempt, but I make it through the song:

It’s supposed to be closer to this speed, though (I tried). Hell, even this is too slow…

Now, be impressed – an actual (awesome) play of the Etude, by someone other than me:

I believe it’s still the Horowitz version which remains the standard to which other performances are measured: