The musicologist Marc-André Roberge, who has followed the evolution of this collection with great interest, recently reminded me of the genesis of Étude No 10, after Chopin
, something I must admit I had completely forgotten about. In 1990 he had shown me an arrangement of Chopin’s so-called ‘Black Key’ étude
by the Busoni disciple Gottfried Galston. It is included in a volume of exercises entitled Studienbuch
and is an eye-popping horror, full of barely playable double notes. It was surely meant only for the practice room, but apparently, according to Marc-André, it set me thinking about doing something with the Black Key étude myself.
The result has always been one of my favourites in the set, although it hasn’t yet received as much attention from pianists as some of the others. Years ago I was fond of describing the piece as the original Chopin étude heard through about twenty feet of water. This is the crudest way to explain what goes on here, but there is a grain of truth: everything is distorted—melody, mode, harmony, timbre, texture, even the pianist’s physical feeling compared with playing the original.
from notes by Marc-André Hamelin © 2010