To many, Chopin represents the peak of the Romantic style. Next to Liszt, he was the greatest composer for the piano in the nineteenth century, with his entire output featuring his beloved instrument. His most well-known music is often tender, expressive, emotive and soothing, but also full of drama, darkness and extreme virtuosity.
Chopin, like Liszt, was a genuine piano virtuoso; his skills were known from an early age and while he did not achieve such international fame as his contemporary, his abilities were widely admired. Unlike Liszt however, Chopin and his music rarely succumbed to mere ostentatious display. Instead, his most brilliant and idiosyncratic compositions were those such as his Preludes, and particularly the Nocturnes, in which the music becomes intensely introspective, nostalgic and expressive. Few composers have surpassed the personal quality that some of these pieces possess.
Chopin’s Etudes revolutionised piano technique; as well as rapid finger movement that one would expect from such studies, for the first time, the use of the wrist, arm and shoulder became integral to piano playing. This new type of virtuosity also appeared in his famous Ballades and in particular, the Scherzi, some of which tax the pianist to the extreme.