(AP story from Reuters)
By CATHERINE LUCEY
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Feverishly ill and hallucinating, Frederic Chopin was staying on the island of Majorca in 1839 with his mistress, writer George Sand. It was raining, and he was trying to finish his preludes - 24 in all, one in each key.
The Romantic piano composer tried in E-flat minor to convey his fraught state of mind by using a continuous trill in the left hand. He later abandoned that effort in favor of a different prelude in that key - but he saved his notes.
Now, by transcribing Chopin's shorthand, University of Pennsylvania music history professor Jeffrey Kallberg has resurrected the piece.
It is not a perfect piece of music, Kallberg said, but it provides new insight into Chopin's musical ideas and work process.
"He had this vision of a kind of experimental prelude," said Kallberg, 47. "He wanted to write it down as quickly as he could, so he used a kind of shorthand."
Directly translated, Kallberg said, the music makes little sense. Chopin didn't mark clefs, so sometimes the positions of notes have to be adjusted. He also didn't write in every note, so Kallberg had to fill in blanks.
The result is a frantic 33 measures. Kallberg has nicknamed the piece "The Devil's Trill" for its similarities to "The Devils Trill" Violin Sonata by Tartini, a likely influence on Chopin.
The trill in the left hand is paired with rocking triplets in the right. It lasts for just 43 seconds in the version on Kallberg's Web site, played by Jonathan Bellman, chairman of the music history department at the University of Northern Colorado.
The piece is dark, turbulent and not at all typical of the composer.
It "shows a degree of experimentalism we hadn't known before," Kallberg said. "At the same time, that's why it doesn't work. You've got the experimentalism in sound, but the chord progression isn't that strange."
Bellman added, "This is another side to (Chopin) we didn't know was there. Is this going to change anybody's view of him in the larger sense? No. But for people who study him, you want to understand."
Preludes are brief pieces, often written as introductions to longer works. For this project, Chopin grouped a series of preludes together.
The unfinished piece is one of just two incomplete works that Chopin left when he died in 1849 at age 39.
A perfectionist, he published only a small number of pieces, and left instructions - which were not followed - for his papers to be burned after his death.
Bellman said the piece offers a glimpse into Chopin's famed improvisations.
"It's that much closer to hearing the unhearable, what was never preserved in his published music," he said.
Kallberg had made several attempts to decipher the prelude, located in the Morgan Library in New York City, over the last 20 years. He said that only after extensive study of Chopin was he able to grasp what the composer was trying to do.
He said Chopin must have had reasons for saving the manuscript.
"He saw something in this that was worth hanging on to," Kallberg said.
The new work is to be performed by French pianist Alain Jacquon in July at the Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island, Kallberg said.
Kallberg's Web site: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~kallberg/