Recorded on 12/27/2005, uploaded on 01/13/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Chopin composed his second of four scherzos for the piano in 1837. It begins with a short motif based around the notes of the B-flat minor triad ending questioningly on its fifth. Colossal fortissimo chords then sound in resounding response. This introductory passage, vacillating between the keys of B-flat minor, D-flat major and F minor, and ending in the latter, breaks off in anticipation of the arrival of the scherzo’s main theme. Establishing firmly the key of D-flat major as the prevailing tonic, elegant passagework leads to the Scherzo’s beautiful con anima melody. The melody gradually unfolds over a lush harmonic accompaniment in the left hand. As is typical of Chopin, the introduction and melody are repeated again with variation.
Following a flourishing close in D-flat major, the trio section shifts to the key of A major. For this reason, it is better to consider D-flat major, instead of B-flat minor, as the key of the Scherzo. In sharp contrast, the trio begins with sostenuto chords with the faint reminiscent sounds of the Scherzo’s melody hidden within. A somber tune in F-sharp minor follows the sustained opening and becomes the centerpiece of the trio. The triplet flourishes that underlie this theme eventually lead the music to a beautiful and graceful passage of arpeggios over a descending bass line in E major. Like the scherzo, the trio is also repeated and upon its close leads into a transitory passage, built upon the prior F-sharp minor tune, and soon the return of the Scherzo. At the conclusion of the scherzo’s reprise, a sudden change back into A major for eight measures signals the arrival of the coda. Energetic and placing several of the scherzo’s motivic ideas in close proximity, the coda brings the scherzo to an exciting close. Joseph DuBose
As compared to the other composers on today's program, Frederic Chopin was perhaps the most well known composer/pianist of his day. Having already earned early fame in his beloved Poland, he moved while still young to Vienna and then to Paris. Chopin was a pianist of high caliber -- by some accounts comparable to Liszt -- but this did not diminish his dislike for giving public performances. Consequently, Chopin most often displayed his pianistic talents for his aristocratic friends in the more intimate setting of Parisian salons.
Chopin wrote the b-flat minor scherzo in 1837, and it has become one of his most well known works. Although among his most epic creations, its descriptive title is 'scherzo' which means nothing short of 'a joke.' Was Chopin being ironic by trivializing his instrumentally brilliant works which were later to become staples of the concert hall? In this same year Chopin traveled to London and met the French writer Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, better known as George Sand. The ensuing romance provided the happiness and stability that would inspire some of Chopin's most mature works; among them is the f minor ballade from 1842. This is undoubtedly one of his most profound works -- a piece of mysticism, containing a story-like narrative of incredible power. Peter Maxwell Land
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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