Chopin composed this set of etudes for the Méthode des methods, a publication of Ignaz Moscheles, a leading pianist and composer of his day who was not always in agreement with Chopin's compositional techniques, and François-Joseph Fétis, a now largely forgotten Belgian musicologist. The three pieces here are interesting but not especially innovative by Chopin's standards. That observation, however, must not be taken to mean the three etudes are lesser creations or feed on past formulas. Indeed, they are each brimming with ideas and do not contain a single dull note.
The first two etudes here focus on cross-rhythms. The First is in F minor and starts off hesitantly, then launches headlong into a dark, intense world that augurs the gloomy moods in some of Rachmaninov's early piano works. Just after the opening this etude's different rhythmic patterns emerge clearly, each hand sounds its notes and weaves them into a multicolored fabric that grows more anxious and restless as the music proceeds. The tortured longing ends and the mood tempers to a quiet but otherworldly view of its opening theme.
The second etude, in A flat major, while also devoted to the same kind of rhythmic aspects of the keyboard, takes the listener to an entirely different world. Its character is brighter, its demeanor calmer, and its thematic shifts -- from the right hand in the lovely main theme to the left in the mellow alternate one -- deftly conceived and utterly ingenious. The left hand presents the counter rhythm in the outer sections, while the right accompanies in like manner in the middle section, each transition managed seamlessly: indeed, the right hand plays much the same music in its accompanimental role. Once again Chopin heralds Rachmaninov -- most noticeably in the middle section -- but now a happier and more tranquil Rachmaninov.
The Third Etude, in D flat major, examines the mixture of legato and staccato playing. It is a lively but unhurried piece whose playfulness and jaunty gait are highlighted by the staccato character of much of the writing. This is the lightest of the three etudes in the set, and though its mood is generally bright, it has a slightly detached character. In the end, this etude probably must rank below its siblings, though it is still an effective piece.
Each of the three etudes has a duration of about two minutes, or slightly less. The second often runs a bit longer than the other two in some performances.