Unsurprisingly, the response to my piece on art snobbery has been underwhelming: no-one at all has written in to say ‘Don’t worry, Simon, you are not an art snob.’ What is even more surprising is that neither has anyone written in to say ‘Yes you are the most ghastly art snob’.
So what have I got to lose? Here is more evidence, this time musical, that I am indeed a snob in artistic matters. A couple of years ago my piano teacher turned up with a little waltz in A minor, so simple as to be within even my capabilities. The copy she had found had no composer’s name on it. I tried for a while to learn it. Both teacher and I wondered who it was by; I suggested that it might have been something Chopin wrote when he was very young. Anyway I abandoned it after a while. Then just a few days ago I came across it again, while searching the excellent Petrucci site for a piece by Chopin I had just heard at our local bookshop/café. Sure enough, this little waltz in A minor is by Chopin, but has no opus number and is not included in the usual catalogues of his works; it is identified as ‘KK IVb Nr 11’, which refers to a catalogue by a Polish woman with those initials. (It’s odd that several composers, notably Mozart and Domenico Scarlatti, have had their works catalogued by people with the initial ‘K’.) Anyway, suddenly, now that I know the piece is really by Chopin, I am making enthusiastic efforts to learn it properly. Yet it is precisely the same piece I rather turned my nose up at a couple of years ago. Now that, surely, is snobbery.
Here’s the first page; it’s really not very difficult, and once one knows it’s by Chopin one can even find, especially in the choice of note-distribution for the left-hand chords, some of the figures he used in other waltzes and in the mazurkas: