F. Chopin, “Waterfall” Etude, Op. 10, no. 1
An etude (pronouced “ey-tood”) is the French word for "study". Studies/etudes are written to focus on specific technical challenges at the piano. They began as only exercises; however, as the piano developed in the Romantic Era, composers such as Chopin and Liszt elevated the etude from a practice room exercise to dazzling masterpieces fit for the concert stage!
As Chopin’s etudes gained popularity, they were given nicknames - Chopin did not assign these names himself. The “Waterfall” etude is extremely demanding, with widely spaced arpeggios spanning 4 octaves played nonstop for the entire piece. In addition to the stretchy arpeggios which must be played a smooth legato touch, you will notice the tempo is does not make it any easier.
While the music is demanding, you’ll notice a great pianist always looks relaxed and at ease while playing the piano. One must have a refined technique, free of tension to execute this etude musically and accurately. One may think this is achieved after playing a vast amount of notes, but this is not true - good technique is only developed by paying close attention to how every single note is played, no matter how few or how many, over a long period of time. (Start practicing your scales/chords/arpeggios now!)
I’ve included 2 videos: a live performance where you are able to observe the pianist’s fine technique, and one with the score for those who want to try and follow along.
Define the following terms: etude, legato, octave, tempo
Observe the pianist’s technique and describe it at your next lesson. Everything from sitting position, hand position and elbow movement contribute to playing piano successfully - comfortably and tension free.
Virtuoso pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who refused to perform this étude in public, said, "For me, the most difficult one of all (the études) is the C Major, the first one, Op. 10, No. 1."