Recorded on 02/26/2009, uploaded on 02/26/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
One of Chopin’s most enthralling compositions for the piano, the Polonaise-Fantasie in A-flat major, op. 41 is perhaps more fantasy than polonaise. The polonaise lends to the piece its characteristic rhythm and, in some respects, a tripartite structure. However, the elaborate presentation of melodic material and its subsequent variation and treatment are unique to the fantasy alone.
The fantasy-like character of the piece is established from the outset with chords a minor third apart followed by ad libitum arpeggios welling up from the low register of the piano. Though beginning with a triad based on A-flat, the tonality of the piece remains undecided throughout the introduction, even venturing briefly away into the key of B major. This harmonic turmoil, however, eventually comes to rest of a quiet dominant triad in A-flat major followed at once by the polonaise’s characteristic rhythm in resonant octaves. Over an active harmonic accompaniment, the fantasy’s first melody sings forth from the middle register. Unlike the typical polonaise with its repeated melodic sections, the melody here undergoes a continue process of embellishment and variation and its simple utterance is soon overpowered by the elaborating process of the fantasy.
Closing in the distant key of B minor, the fantasy’s first section is followed by a Più lento in B major, serving the function of the “Trio,” though in this case it is difficult to speak of the particular sections of the dance. Beginning with simple chords and then adopting a smooth arpeggiated bass, the music of this section slowly unfolds into a melody all its own. The reflective character of the middle section is briefly interrupted, first by trills in both hands, and then by a return of the introductory measures. The latter serves the purpose of the preparing the return of the tonic key by moving from the key of B major to the more closely related key of F minor. Amid thunderous octaves, virtuosic writing and fragments of the original polonaise melody, the climax of the fantasy is reached. Over a resolute dominant pedal, the vigorous music of the final section slowly ebbs away once again into a section of harmonic uncertainty, wavering deceptively between the key of A-flat and its subdominant. This, however, lasts only a few bars and the tonic returns triumphantly in the final chords. Joseph DuBose
This is one of Chopin's greatest works for piano. It is a late work, and does not contain the virtuoso display of his earlier piano pieces. Instead we find a work of deep passion and feeling, showing a composer who is clearly fluent in the language of the polonaise and wanting to expand it by incorporating the elements of fantaisie. The dream-like elements of the fantaisie prevail throughout until the end, in which the themes come together for an extroverted conclusion. Spencer Myer
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
great music! bless the piano concert god.
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