Composing with Chopin: Etude Op. 10 No. 3

Composing with Chopin: deep dive into the Etude, Op. 10 no.3

By The Morgan Library & Museum

Robinson McClellan, Assistant Curator of Music, Morgan Library & Museum

Etude in E major, op. 10, no. 3 114339 p1The Morgan Library & Museum

Let's explore one of Chopin's most lyrical and wistful etudes, sometimes called the "Tristesse" (Sadness) or "L'Adieu" (Farewell).

We'll look at Chopin's original manuscript, handwritten in August 1832, in the Robert Owen Lehman Collection held on deposit at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. 

Chopin-Op10-No3-Pub-1The Morgan Library & Museum

We'll compare the manuscript with one of the earliest published scores, printed in Paris in 1833, in the Morgan Library's James Fuld Collection. 

Chopin Etude first measures comparedThe Morgan Library & Museum

We'll examine places in the music where Chopin made a change, and we'll hear—perhaps for the first time since Chopin sat writing it—what he wrote first, before then changing his mind to create the music we know today.

Chopin-Op10-No3-Pub-1The Morgan Library & Museum

Fryderyk Chopin, Etude in E Major Op. 10 No. 03 E-Dur, Tatiana Shebanova
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Let's start by listening to the music as it was published in 1833, gorgeously rendered by the Russian pianist Tatiana Shebanova.

Chopin Etude first measures comparedThe Morgan Library & Museum

Fryderyk Chopin, Etude in E Major Op. 10 No. 03 E-Dur, Tatiana Shebanova
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In these first bars, the melody is the same in the manuscript, at top, and the published score, below. Even if you don't read music, comparing the positions of the notes on the five-line staff shows how they match.

Etude in E major, op. 10, no. 3 114339 p1The Morgan Library & Museum

Chopin Etude Op 10 No 3 bars 1-2
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Let's hear those first two bars again. We'll be listening now with computer-generated audio, which lets us change the notes back to what they were in Chopin's manuscript, so we can hear the differences as compared with the published version.

Scroll to hear the next two bars.

Chopin Etude Op 10 No 3 bars 3-4
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In these next two bars, the manuscript continues to match the published score.

But then... an X! Chopin has crossed out the next two bars, and the X shows that he wrote an alternate version somewhere else. Let's zoom back out to find it.

As we suspected, the X that Chopin wrote on the top line leads us to a matching X at the lower left corner of the page, where he tries out a different musical idea. Let's hear it.

Chopin Etude Op 10 No 3 ALT bars 5-6
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Here's the alternate version of bars 5 and 6 that Chopin tries out at the lower left corner of the page. The audio cuts off abruptly, just like these two measures in the manuscript.

Next, let's jump back to the top of the page to see where he goes from here.

Chopin Etude Op 10 No 3 bars 7-8
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At five seconds into this audio excerpt you'll hear the downward leap in the melody that you can see in the manuscript at the upper right, just after the crossed-out music.

Then we hear the music continue to the next line of the manuscript, which we can't see here.

Chopin Etude Op 10 No 3 alt version bars 7-9
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Here's the next line of music. Instead of pausing on the high note (B, middle line of the staff), as in the later more familiar published version, here the moving notes continue into the following bar, where the melody starts again on the note E (bottom line of the staff).

Chopin Etude bar 8The Morgan Library & Museum

Here we see two versions of that bar we just heard (bar 8, beginning of the second line of music). The manuscript (left) has the moving sixteenth notes after the B, whereas the published score has the held quarter note B (above the word "Ritenuto").

But we don't see that change anywhere else in this manuscript. It turns out that Chopin made the change in another manuscript, which is housed at the Fryderyk Chopin Institut in Warsaw.

Etude in E major, op. 10, no. 3 114339 p1The Morgan Library & Museum

Let's continue through this next line of music. Warning: more Xs coming up.

Chopin Etude m9-10
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At the second bar of this line (bar 9), Chopin repeats the opening melody, starting from the note E on the bottom line of the staff.

Scroll to hear the next bars.

Chopin Etude m11-13
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On to bars 11 through 13.

Chopin Etude 14-16 alt
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Now we come to the next X, at bar 14. This time, a *double* X. This was evidently what Chopin wrote down first, before scribbling over it. So let's hear it first (the audio continues briefly into the first half of the next bar).

I guess Chopin wasn't happy with that, because he went back to the bottom of the page to try an alternative. Note the double-X on the upper right matching the double-X at bottom middle.

Chopin Etude m14-16 final
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In these two added bars, we have the music we know and love today.

...except for that little beginning of another new measure on the right, which Chopin evidently decided not to use.

Chopin Etude m14-on
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And now, let's take it over the finish line. The third line (each line is two staves joined with a bracket) starts at 9 seconds in this audio excerpt. 

We are still only in the first section of the piece, but this next part is just so beautiful, it feels like we have arrived.

Chopin-Op10-No3-Pub-1The Morgan Library & Museum

Fryderyk Chopin, Etude in E Major Op. 10 No. 03 E-Dur, Tatiana Shebanova
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But let's not let those computer audio sounds have the last word. Here again is the whole passage we have examined, which takes up the first page of the published score, played with passion by Tatiana Shebanova.

Etude in E major, op. 10, no. 3 114339 p2The Morgan Library & Museum

We have examined only the first section of this beautiful piece, and we have looked at only the first page of this manuscript. Here is the second and final page. As you can see, Chopin made more corrections and changes.

Chopin Etude first measures comparedThe Morgan Library & Museum

This kind of material—Chopin's handwritten manuscript in the Robert Owen Lehman Collection on deposit at the Morgan, and the early edition in the Morgan's James Fuld Collection—can offer a unique view into the thinking of creative people, and insight into the creative process.

Chopin - Morgan Library Cary CollectionThe Morgan Library & Museum

Thanks for spending time with Chopin as he works out his musical ideas.

Credits: Story

With thanks to Robert Owen Lehman for granting permission to show his manuscript of Frédéric Chopin's Etude Op. 10 No. 3, held on deposit at the Morgan Library & Museum. Also featuring rare materials from the Morgan's James Fuld Collection and Mary Flagler Cary Collection. Story by Robinson McClellan, Assistant Curator of Music, Morgan Library & Museum.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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