An etude, the French word for “study”, is a piece written in order to showcase and develop technical skills, but during the Romantic period of Classical music such pieces became works of art in themselves.
One of the most famous practitioners is Chopin, and one of the most famous of his works is the Revolutionary Study by Chopin. This piece, also known as tude Op. 10, No. 12, was written on the occasion of Poland’s failed revolution against Russia, and seems to express both the wild anticipation of freedom felt by the Polish people as well as their ultimate disillusionment. The piece is technically complex, too, and include a number of difficult techniques, such as maintained semiquavers and challenging cross-rhythms. When I was learning to play it, I had to practice for hours just to get all my fingers to agree with each other, but after a couple of weeks I had it down pat, right in time for my recital.