Writing your own Chopin

A Practical Mazurka & Nocturne Composition Workshop

Uri Rom

Chopin’s 20 nocturnes are Romantic lyrical piano pieces par excellence. While John Field’s nocturnes, which served as a major inspiration for Chopin, are stylistically and topologically rather uniform, Chopin’s own nocturnes amalgamate a wide variety of topoi, ranging from bel canto arias for the piano (Op. 9, No. 2) to lyrical etudes (Op. 37, No. 2), and diverse dance topoi (Mazurka in Op. 15, No. 3; Marcia funebre in Op. 48, No. 1). In particular, Chopin makes use of contrasting middle sections, largely absent in earlier nocturnes (such as, for instance, the chorale-like interjection in Op. 37, No. 1, or the tempesta topos pervading the calm of Op. 15, No. 1).

Chopin’s mazurkas, on the other hand, are regarded as achieving a subtle balance between folk and salon music—in fact, his 51 essays in this genre are miniatures reflecting on dancing and folk dances from ironic distance.

In the workshop, we will get to know the formal and tonal premises of both genres and their particular qualities. After a general introduction, a phase of active “hands on” work in small groups as well as individual tuition will take place, by way of which we attempt some steps towards a stylistically informed emulation of Chopin’s mazurkas and nocturnes. At the end of the practical session, we gather to another plenary session where the workshop’s results will be presented.

Uri Rom specializes in various historical compositions style. In conjunction with his teaching at the Composition and Music Theory Department at Tel Aviv, he regularly explores Chopin’s piano genres as models for imitation and enhancement of students’ creativity and stylistic awareness. To tune in, here are some compositions in Chopin’s style by Uri Rom and such that were created by students in his “Harmony of the Romantic Era” courses:

Chopin at the Tel Aviv Music School

Uri Rom, Chopinesques