Recorded on 12/18/2009, uploaded on 12/18/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Composed during a relatively happy period in the composer’s life in 1842, the Polonaise in A-flat major, sometimes referred to by its nickname “Heroic,” is one of Frédéric Chopin’s most well-known compositions for the piano. It is a technically demanding work full of virtuosic piano writing. Like so many of Chopin’s dances, it borrows the characteristic elements of the dance—in this case, a tripartite form, slow tempo and stately rhythms—but then treats them as the foundation around which to build a florid artwork that belong solely on the concert stage.
A prolonged introduction, traversing myriad harmonies in its long trek from dominant to tonic, immediately creates a sense of grandeur and expectation. After coming to rest on the dominant major ninth, the majestic first theme of the Polonaise (for which the work is known) enters upon the scene with grace and dignity. The theme’s middle strain temporary subsides into a more lyrical tune and briefly suggests the key of F minor, though never confirms it. This strain, however, is brief and is followed shortly by a further statement of the opening melody.
The central episode shifts to the key of E major, established in two measures of full-voiced tonic chords. Following this brief introduction, a moto perpetuo of sixteenth notes, descending from tonic to dominant and reinforced in octaves, begins in the bass over which the episode’s melody is heard. The melody builds slowly eventually reaching an exuberant forte at the same moment it sidesteps into the key of D-sharp major. The process is repeated again except this time the change to D-sharp is taken as the pivotal point upon which to return to the tonic key of A-flat. However, the return to the opening is not made nor is the tonic key maintained for long. A new melody emerges over a stately accompaniment. Closing in C minor, a lengthy transition passage, somewhat improvisatory in character, then follows and leads to the final reprise of the opening theme. A brief coda, formulated from the head motif of the theme, concludes the piece. Joseph DuBose
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