Public Release: 

Penn music professor resurrects Chopin

University of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA -- Jeffrey Kallberg, a professor of music at the University of Pennsylvania, has instilled life to an incomplete sketch of a prelude from Frederic Chopin that has remained silent since 1839.

Wrought with fever, Chopin was living on the island of Majorca with novelist George Sand, attempting to finish his 24 preludes. Using E-flat minor and a left-handed trill for what was intended to be the 14th prelude, the unfinished piece reflects the Baroque influence, namely the "Devil's Trill" Violin Sonata by Tartini. Chopin hastily scrawled the notes using his personal shorthand.

Kallberg first studied the piece in the Morgan Library in New York more than 20 years ago while working on his doctoral dissertation.

It wasn't until 1999, in preparation for the 150th anniversary of Chopin's death, that he made another attempt at cracking Chopin's thoughts. Kallberg recreated the prelude by transcribing Chopin's shorthand and by attempting to feel out the abbreviated piece to its completion.

Kallberg, a renowned expert on Chopin, has studied the composer's manuscripts and published widely on him, developing an understanding of Chopin's composition process.

"Chopin knew what the piece sounded like in his head," Kallberg said. "He always had trouble trying to get things down on paper. He felt the inspiration was disappearing as he was trying to get it from his fingers to the music paper."

While, this is a minor work in Chopin's repertoire, Kallberg said it "gives us insight into Chopin experimenting at a particularly important time in his life. But it was too experimental, I think, and that was one of the reasons why he decided not to use it."

In July, the French pianist Alain Jacquon will perform the piece at the Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island.


NOTE: A link for the MP3 Recording of "The Devil's Trill" by Jonathan Bellman, chariman of the music history department at the University of Northern Colorado:

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