This Étude was composed in 1836 and published the following year as the first of the op.25 set in Leipzig, Paris and London. In the autograph manuscript in Warsaw, and in all three first editions, the tempo marking is "Allegro sostenuto", rather than "Allegro moderato" as here. Schumann reviewed the op.25 Études and characterized this first number as a poem rather than a study, describing the extraordinary effect of a melody appearing from a continuous stream of arpeggios.
"...Imagine an Aeolian harp possessing all the scales, and an artist's hand combining these with all kinds of fantastic embellishments, but always with an audible deep ground bass, and in the treble, a softly flowing cantilena...it would be a mistake to suppose that he allowed us to hear every one of its small notes. It was rather an undulation of the A-flat major chord...But, exquisitely entangled in the harmony, there ensued a wondrous melody in the large notes..." (Robert Schumann, On Music and Musicians, edited by Konrad Wolff, London, 1947, p. 136)
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