Frédéric Chopin: Etude Op.25, No.12 ‘Ocean’

Context

Etude No.12 from his Op.25 collection was the last of his formal studies for the piano. The set is dedicated to À Madame la Comtesse d’Agoult and was first published in 1837. The collection was published in a range of different languages including German, English and the original French transcription. This last Etude is nicknamed ‘Ocean’ due to the rolling semiquaver patterns heard throughout. 

 

The Music

No.12 is a series of rising and falling semiquaver arpeggio patterns which explore a range of chord progressions within the key of C minor. The whole piece, minus the coda, is full of rolling semiquaver patterns. The start of the bars are accentuated, creating a more dramatic flourish of notes, especially at the beginning. The etude is noted for reaching large lengths of the piano in one-bar phrases, making it devilishly difficult to play. 

The melody is heard in the bass hand, with the sparkling upper hand decorating the bold theme throughout. The quick tempo of the piece adds to the intensity as Chopin keeps your ears anticipating where the chordal progression will go next. The theme travels through many keys until the final climax chord unites the hands, which are now in C major. This bright ending makes for a truly exciting conclusion for this quintessential Chopin work. 

 

Final Thoughts

Frédéric Chopin’s Ocean Etude No.12 ‘Ocean’ from his opus 25 collection is mature in style, colourful in its use of harmony and practically fizzing with excitement throughout. The rolling semiquaver patterns resemble ocean’s movements, with Chopin’s scintillating style shining through.

 

Happy Reading!

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