Recollections of an imagined student of Frederic Chopin : his teaching as exemplified by his preludes : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)

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Duquaine, Jennifer A.
Helton, James
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Thesis (B.A.)
Honors College
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Several factors contributed to my choice of topic for this honors project. Foremost was my identify as a musician. As a pianist, I identify closely with the music of Frederic Chopin. His standard as a pianist's composer remains unsurpassed, and his music has universal appeal. As my profession will allow scant time or opportunity for developing and maintaining a high level of pianism, the idea of a performance based project seemed particularly appropriate as a milestone in my own development. Because I had studied several Chopin Preludes in the past, I decided that to do a larger segment of his preludes in Op. 28 would be enriching for me while lending itself to many educational opportunities in the future. A more elaborate explanation of possible teaching scenarios would be best understood at the end of this presentation. Please refer to the conclusion for my teaching ideas.Knowing my audience would be composed of a number of people who are interested in, but not particularly knowledgeable about music, I decided to keep technical analysis of the preludes to a minimum. Instead, I chose to describe each prelude in over-arching terms that the general public could understand. In addition to making the lecture understandable to my audience, I strove to create avenues for affective connections in the hope of showing the enduring relevancy of this music. I did this by giving the lecture from the point of view of a fictitious woman who, in her youth, had studied the piano with Chopin. During the lecture, this woman, whom I named Genevieve de Charney, spoke about her experiences as Chopin's pupil and also give background information about the composer's life and times. This character was also the one who described the preludes.In total, I learned and performed ten of the Chopin Preludes Op. 28. When choosing the preludes that I would perform, I made a point of picking pieces that would contrast and would also paint a relatively accurate picture of the group of preludes as a whole. I chose preludes of varying keys, both major and minor. I also chose preludes of varying tempos and moods. In addition, my recital was not made up entirely of Chopin's preludes. I also played four of Johann Sebastian Bach's preludes and one of the accompanying figures (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I). I chose to add these Bach preludes to the recital for a couple of reasons. First, Chopin was very much influenced by the works of Bach. As a matter of fact, it is quite possible that he based his set of preludes on those of Bach. Secondly, Chopin assigned Bach's work to all of his students. I found it perfectly natural to include some of Bach's works in a recital about Chopin's teaching. In the following pages, I will present my lecture, explain my ideas about how this project can be used in the future, and provide notes and bibliographic information.