Chopin, the pupil of an organist and a violinist but never of a piano teacher (!), began to experiment with new formulas of writing and movements on the keyboard, especially in his Studies; some borrowing from Paganini's violin genius, anticipating the organological developments of the instrument itself and creating what remains the richest and most complete "catalogue of piano gestures", comparable only to the founders of a new language. And in every study there are prodigious combinations of complex movements, almost always linked to precise symmetries (Op. 10 No. 3, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11; Op. 25 No. 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12) or more traditional functional asymmetries (Op.10 No. 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12; Op. 25 No.2, 4, 9, 11) of the two parts of the body. The new use of the hand, the second finger as a pivot and the lateral displacement with the central role of the light elbow function in passages with non-consecutive notes; and the third finger in figurations with fragments of scales, but always with extreme flexibility of the wrist, confirm the critic Rellstab's sarcastic remark upon their publication: we must "unlearn" what is often suggested to us by tradition or superficial observation with respect to movement; make everything gesture, especially in the slow preparatory study, and accompany with expressive meaning.
Thus the 27 Studies: anticipatory, visionary, both for the possibilities of the instrument and for the performers of the time; and so perhaps the question of what speed is possible on modern instruments today should be complemented by parallel investigation of to what extent the body and potential of today's pianists are superior to those of their composer Chopin's frail physique. As the teacher and musicologist Ekier puts it very well in his edition, of which this recording provides passionate testimony, the problem of the very high speeds of some studies (extreme cases Op. 10 No.12, Op. 25 No. 5, 11 and 12) should also be related to articulation ability and musical conception, before the individual performer's technique. According to Ekier, "the velocities and meters sometimes give us the only real indication of character": Studies No. 7 and 10 Op. 10 and No. 5 and 8 Op.25 only indicate Vivace, No. 4 Op.25 only Agitato; Studies No.4 and 8 Op.10 have an indication in minims, while the division is in crotchets; No. 4 of Op.25 has a tempo in crotchets, while the division is in minims.
The Studies, in their 27 facets, have given me the perhaps almost legendary comfort that all the piano writing indispensable to our art, in its possibilities of technical combinations, is contained therein: that which Chopin, in his unfinished "Notes for a Method", defines as "the combination of finite means to realise the unfinished nature of the art".