Nationalism in Poland in the 19th Century (Part 4)

Polonaise in F sharp minor op. 44

In this Polonaise we can hear two dances - Polonaise and Mazurka

Polonaise structure

 

Mazurka structure

This Polonaise also consists of parts lacking a dance rhythm or parts where an original rhythm is so transformed that it loses its relationship with the prototype. In many Polonaises the ornaments are only a dynamic pulse, assuming the shapes of high-speed passages and trills in the low register and helping in forming a specified colour of sound.

Polonaise in F sharp minor was dedicated to Princess Ludmilla de Beauveau, a member of the Polish émigré community in Paris.

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Scherzo is a genre in which Chopin takes the liberty of experimenting. Former cheerful and playful character of this genre changed radically. All four Scherzos composed by Chopin are very dramatic, predatory-fanatical and demonic. They feature a reprise form with clear emotional and textural differences between part A and B.

Scherzo in B minor op. 20

The exact moment when this piece was composed is unknown but a tradition of Chopin’s family says that everything happened in Vienne during the first Christmas that Chopin had spent away from home.  The feeling of anxiety, fear and unconsciousness of the situation in Poland is expressed in Scherzo in B minor op. 20. The drama and fury is suddenly interrupted by the soft and lyrical Polish carol. In his letters from Vienna Chopin says: ‘If it were not that I should be a burden of my father, I would come back, I curse the day I left ... I am up to the neck of evening parties, concerts, and dances, but they bore me to death; everything is so gloomy and depressing for me here ... I have to dress and get ready to go out; in company I must appear calm, and then when I come home I let myself go on the piano.’[1] ‘I play, cry, laugh, go to bed, put out the light and dream always of you… Everything I’ve seen thus far abroad seems to me unbearable and only makes me long for home, for those blissful moments which I couldn’t appreciate … It seems like a dream, a stupor, that I’m with you – and what I hear is just a dream.’ [2] Scherzo in B minor starts with music that is fast and passionate. It runs violently up and down the keyboard and is full of unexpected accents. This furious race is suddenly stopped by a rubato of chords that creates an atmosphere of anticipation. In part B Chopin introduces a Polish Christmas carol Lulajże Jezuniu, that sounds like a voice from another world. The tune is very simple and quiet and it recalls the atmosphere of a Christmas Eve. The Christmas carol comes back a few times and is always entwined in the dramatic part.

[1] A. Hedley, Chopin (London 1957), 38

[2] Chopin.nifc.pl; Chopin’s letters, Translation of a letter from Fryderyk Chopin to Jan Matuszyński (December 26, 1830)

Edyta Lajdorf BMus (Hons) RCM, MMus, LRSM (Teaching), SMISM

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