Chopin Scherzo No. 2 - Learning and Creative Practice Tips


Background and Characteristics

Several of Chopin’s large works came in fours: there are four Impromptus, four Ballades, and the same number of Scherzos. All of them are extraordinary.


The 4 Scherzos of Frederic Chopin are some of his most popular piano pieces. Chopin took the idea of the scherzo, which had usually served as a movement within a larger structure of a sonata or symphony, and turned it into an independent piece. The four scherzos all have elements of virtuosity, drama, and lyricism, and they share some of these traits with Chopin's four Ballades, which were composed during the same period.


The second scherzo, in B flat major, has the famous dramatic opening motif and is more orchestral in scope and sonority. The piece is grand, bold, filled with tension, and magical harmonic coloration, and yet it has some of the sweetest melodies. The middle section is filled with tenderness and a true sense of poetic flair. Chopin created a story-like narrative of incredible drama and power.


According to Wulhelm von Lenz, a student of Chopin, the composer said that the renowned opening theme was a question and the second phrase the answer: "For Chopin it was never questioning enough, never soft enough, never vaulted (tombe) enough. It must be a charnel-house." Music critic David Dubal wrote.


Structure

A section - Scherzo (bar 1-264), opens the piece and it's marked with Presto (a fast tempo) and opens in B flat minor, although most of the work is written in D flat major. The opening to the piece consists of two arpeggiated broken pianissimo chords, and after a silence - a quarter note rest, it bursts with a set of fortissimo chords, before returning to the quiet arpeggiated pattern. The piece then goes to an arpeggio section which leads to the con anima (in a spirited manner) - a beautiful theme with sensitive and overflowing singing phrases.

B Trio middle action (bars 265-583), Development (bars 468-583), is mostly in A major. Like the Scherzo, the trio is also repeated. At the end of the trio, the transitional passage builds upon the earlier F sharp minor key, and it returns to the Scherzo.

A section - Scherzo (bars 584-715)

Coda (bars 716-723), begins with a quite unexpected key of A major (Bars 716-723), using chromatic notes, repeated broken upward pattern, and several of the scherzo’s motivic ideas to conclude the piece on a powerful note.

In his video presentation on Chopin Scherzo No, 2, Prof. Jonathan Bass demonstrates and discusses many of the technical and musical challenges a pianist must deal with in this piece. He also offers many of his personal practice and teaching tips.