The music of Frederic Chopin is widely studied even over 200 years after it has been composed. Elegant and brilliant melodies are sought after by aspiring piano students worldwide, who work hours on end to master the capabilities needed to play the composer’s 24 Etude’s, for example, and perhaps formulate their own interpretation. Many of the works, in fact, were created on versions of the piano that were just being invented during the industrial revolution, and many people at the time were mystified by the sounds that could be created.
In the early 19th century, there were many scientific discoveries and new products being developed. The general public didn’t know what to make of many things, and the birth of new music from instruments never before built was included in the realm of new possibilities at the time. As a teenager, Chopin taught himself the piano on an early version invented by the English. Different models were invented by various companies in Vienna, London, and Paris, where the composer ended up in 1832 to give a recital.
The piano settled on by the composer was a state-of-the-art instrument that had a range of over six and a half octaves. The soundboard and cast-iron frame were design to tolerate high tension from the steel strings, and a right pedal was included to prolong sound and notes, while a left-hand, or una corda pedal made for more gentle sounds. The new design of the hammer allowed rapid repetition of notes that made the piano more versatile in the range of sounds it could produce.
The new capabilities of the piano during that time could have led people to believe there were secrets to his romantic music. The sounds coming out of the instrument were likely never heard by anybody at the time, making Chopin seem like even more of a master, not to play down the composer as the genius that he was.
The composer’s piano allowed a player to utilize the full range of the instrument and use both hands to create unprecedented sounds and melodies. The difficulty in getting more advanced pianos delivered didn’t deter him from composing, however. In Valldemosa, a piano that the romanticist referred to as a tin pot still allowed him to work on Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach. An upright piano was supposed to have been delivered from Paris at the time, but there were many delays, so it is thought that he composed a few major Romantic pieces on the small piano.
Despite situations where more advanced piano designs were not available, Chopin still composed innovative and to this day, well-known and respected, pieces of music. Somebody with such phenomenal talent can create music on any instrument that is available; expressing their talent and emotions on whatever there is to communicate their musical virtuosity. The composer’s ability to play and harmonize by ear at a young age and also master the piano so quickly is also proof of his capacity for talent.
The question as to whether the piano held any secrets about the Romantic piano music of Chopin is debatable. New technology at the time allowed for things people then never heard before. With the rapid changes in technology today, the public is more accustomed to seeing new inventions on a regular basis. Whether he played on a more contemporary design such as an aeolopantaleon or an instrument more like the modern piano, the composer was able to create and play astonishingly elegant and diverse music, so perhaps the only secret was the gift of genius the man possessed that bypassed the cultural trends of the time.