The magic of Chopin’s music is still as potent as ever, even more than 260 years after his death. No notes feel so grateful under the pianist’s fingers yet require such great subtlety, delicacy, fire and virtuosity to make their full effect. Sharpen up your Chopin offers the opportunity for pianists to explore this unique composer through his music, under the expert guidance of Royal College of Music professor Julian Jacobson.
Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.
– Frederic Chopin
His is music has such immediacy, with the delicate interplay of melody and accompaniment so carefully arranged. The titles, descriptive rather than poetic, reveal nothing of the glorious music they contain. Jackdaws Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg, said “Chopin’s music is so powerful and worthy of further exploration that a weekend devoted to it is long over due“.
Choosing Your Repertoire
Julian has led courses at Jackdaws for a most of its history. He suggests each participant bring two of their favourite pieces from Chopin’s huge ouvre. Of course, he is happy to assist with selection of repertoire at a suitable level of difficulty, and has written a one page guide giving approximate difficulties of Chopin’s most popular pieces.
Regarding what “stage” the pieces should be at, Julian says, ‘it’s nice if one of them represents what the participant feels is a fairly finished performance; maybe something they will have already played in public or performed for friends, and the other is more “work in progress” that the participant feels I can help with.’
We understand that each participant is different and if your two pieces are both further along the road that’s also fine; it’s best if the music is reasonably well prepared and this is more significant than the overall difficulty of the piece. Julian adds ‘The main thing is not to stress about how “good” the pieces will be, while hopefully doing one’s best to get them into reasonable shape for working on in the class!’
Finally, consider the size and length of the pieces. If you bring short pieces, Preludes for instance, we might find time to work on three or even four. Compare this with the complexity of a major work such as the 4th Ballade; this piece alone would be enough for an entire course. Assuming they will be short, but not too short pieces, two is perfect.
Julian was Head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and is now a professor at the Royal College of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire, and a Guest Professor at Xiamen University China. He gives masterclasses internationally and is a Diploma Examiner for ABRSM.