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Classical Snack, Opus 2306

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Piano Player and Still Life, Henri Matisse

Chopin: A Closer Look

WNED Classical Live On Stage presented The Magical Mazurka featuring Buffalo-based pianist, Christopher Sierzchula on June 10th in our new performance space. He included several composers on his program, but more than half of the mazurkas were written by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849).

Christopher Sierzchula on June 10th in our new performance space.
Christopher Sierzchula on June 10th in our new performance space.
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849).
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

That got me thinking: We play a lot of Chopin on WNED Classical – ballades, concertos, études, fantaisies/impromptus, mazurkas, nocturnes, polonaises, preludes, scherzos, sonatas, and waltzes. But what do these terms really mean? Inquiring minds want to know. Let’s take a quick (and not boring) look at Chopin’s music with examples. Chopin wrote:


4 ballades – poems in music that tell stories.

Yundi Li - Live At Carnegie Hall - Chopin Ballade No.3 in A flat major Op.47 MARCH 23, 2016 [HQ]

2 piano concertos – large, virtuosic pieces for piano with full orchestra.

Martha Argerich plays Chopin Concerto No. 1 (2010)

27 études (studies) – musical works that explore technical challenges pianists face.

Chopin Etude Op10 No.1 Valentina Lisitsa

6 fantaisies/impromtus – cheerful works that feel improvised, virtuosic, and not overly dramatic.

Garrick Ohlsson | Frédéric Chopin "Fantaisie in F Minor Op. 49" | SFCM

59 mazurkas – folk dances. Chopin found the mazurka conducive to revealing his most personal feelings.

Horowitz plays CHOPIN Mazurka in A Minor, Opus 17, No.4

21 nocturnes – character pieces of music evocative or inspired by night. (Nocturnal)

Chopin Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. posth. Jan Lisiecki

16 polonaises – a national dance of Poland. Chopin takes them to a new level. Stately and proud.

Chopin "Heroic" Polonaise op 53 A flat major Valentina Lisitsa

27 preludes – short piano pieces in each of the 24 major and minor keys. He wrote 3 extras!

Eric Lu – Prelude in C minor Op. 28 No. 20 (third stage)

4 scherzos – originally musical jokes, Chopin’s scherzos are almost demonic in their power and energy.

Krystian Zimerman - Chopin: Scherzo No. 2 in B-Flat Minor Op. 31

3 sonatas – large-scale works for solo piano that run the gamut of human emotion.

Chopin - Marche Funèbre (Funeral March)

20 waltzes – refined dance music in ¾ time. Like the polonaise, Chopin takes the waltz to a new level.

Chopin. Valse op 64 No. 1 Valentina Lisitsa "Minute Waltz"

Chopin wrote other music as well – variations, chamber music, vocal music, etc. In all he composed more than 200 pieces of music and is remembered today as one of Poland’s great composers and pianists.


WNED Classical Live on StageThe Magic Mazurka

This lively program, featuring pianist Christopher Sierzchula, offers a brief history of the mazurka - a Polish dance form that inspired some of Chopin’s most intimate musical ideas.

The program contrasts early and late Chopin mazurkas, as well as mazurkas by other composers such as Debussy, Scriabin, and Szymanowski, and was recorded at Buffalo Toronto Public Media on June 10, 2023.

Our next WNED Classical Live On Stage event features The Buffalo Chamber Players on Thursday, July 27 at 7pm. Tickets are free, but you must reserve them ahead of time. Go to

Thank you for reading Classical Snack. If you have questions or comments about this blog, or a suggestion for a future blog, please write to me at I’d enjoy hearing from you.