Classical Music | Piano Music

Frédéric Chopin

Scherzo No. 1 in B minor  Play

Nico De Napoli Piano

Recorded on 09/14/2011, uploaded on 09/14/2011

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

In September 1831, Frédéric Chopin received word of Imperial Russia’s suppression of the uprising in his native Poland that had been taking place since November of the previous year. Anguished over the news, Chopin’s emotions were given immediate expression in a personal journal he kept in which he wrote down his fears, cursed the French for not coming to the aid of his countrymen and even accused God of being a Russian. Musically, Chopin’s turmoil found utterance in two works written during the remainder of that year—the “Revolutionary” Etude in C minor and the Scherzo No. 1 in B minor.

Dark and full of passionate energy, the Scherzo opens with a great six-four chord sounded fortissimo and then moving through a dominant seventh harmony prior to launching into the scherzo proper. The Scherzo’s main idea surges upward by leaps and bounds and with great agility through the middle and upper ranges of the piano. Running contrary to the energetic eighth-note idea is a brief poignant motif which closes the first section of the scherzo and returns multiple times throughout. The eight-note rhythm returns, assuming the character of a moto perpetuo, though with a new melodic pattern and ultimately leading to a return of the original idea.

The Trio section of the Scherzo shifts to the key of B major and slackens in tempo. Marked sotto voce, Chopin quotes a Polish Christmas carol as the tune of the Trio. One can imagine the reiterated F-sharps above the melody as the distant chiming of church bells. However, the peaceful scene of the Trio slowly comes to end and the return of the Scherzo is heralded by the thunderous chords with which the piece opened. At the conclusion of this reprise, Chopin alludes to the transitional bars that before led to the Trio. However, this time the transitory chords lead to a spirited and virtuosic coda. The coda comes to a climax with full-voiced diminished seventh harmonies in both hands and then falls down through the notes of the tonic triad. Surging upward once again via a chromatic scale in both hands, the final chords are reached and the piece concludes with an altered form of the plagal cadence.  

- Joseph DuBose