Etude in C sharp minor, Op. 25 No. 7
A violent shift of character and mood is brought by the seventh Etude, in C sharp minor. This is essentially a nocturne, played lento, in an absorption that baulks any eruption of emotion. Hugo Leichtentritt calls the C sharp minor Etude a ‘dramatic scene, one of the most beautiful works in the whole piano literature’. A sizeable anthology might be compiled from all the utterances made about this work. For Raoul Koczalski, it is ‘a song of happiness irredeemably lost’. According to Arthur Hedley, ‘Chopin’s contemporaries listened in wonder to the new poetic utterance of this meditation’. The first voice belonged to Stephen Heller, who, in his review of the Op. 25 Etudes, paused over the C sharp minor Etude with a Romantic sigh: ‘Ah, how I love these sombre, mysterious dreams. Chopin is the god who created them’. We know that Heller liked to play this etude.
The opening gesture belongs to the left hand – to a recitative that has been compared with that from the opening bars of the G minor Ballade. There, however, the melody is roused from contemplation in order to tell us something; here, it complains. A continuous dialogue then lasts till the end, quieting down and then piping up again, attesting the composer’s contrapuntal mastery. The main voice in this engrossing dialogue, that voice of ‘complaint’, belongs to the left hand, whilst the right ‘sympathises’ and comments.