Between 1894 and 1914 Leopold Godowsky published his extraordinary collection of 54 Studies on Chopin’s Etudes
. There is evidence, judging from back-cover listings in early editions of these pieces, that a further eleven studies were at least conceived and possibly even written out. One of these was to have been a contrapuntal combination of Chopin’s Op 10
No 2, Op 25
No 4, and Op 25 No 11, a tantalizing idea to be sure. It has always been the desire of many die-hard pianophiles to find out how in the world Godowsky was able to pull off such a bizarre compositional stunt while having the end result remain musically coherent. There has been hope that the manuscript still exists, but the greater likelihood is that it was lost or destroyed during World War II, along with the other unpublished studies.
The Triple Étude (after Chopin) was written at the suggestion of my friend Donald Manildi who, on the basis of my reworking of Op 10 No 5 (Étude No 10 in this collection) thought that I could perhaps come up with something approaching Godowsky’s contrapuntal feat. I took great pleasure in writing this little piece, especially after realizing that the first eight bars fit so well together. It gets considerably more complicated afterwards, since all three studies have widely different structures and harmonic rhythms; it therefore becomes necessary for one of them to dominate at any time, while the other two are made to conform to it. All three of them do precisely that here, in turn.
from notes by Marc-André Hamelin © 2010