On this Day:
On April 26, 1835 Frederic Chopin’s “Grand Polonaise Brillante” premiered in Paris.
(editor’s suggestion: start the music [below] while reading the post. That way you can hear Chopin’s music while reading about him).
Frédéric François Chopin (born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin; 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic period who wrote primarily for solo piano. He has maintained worldwide renown as a leading musician of his era, one whose “poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation.”
Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola in the Duchy of Warsaw and grew up in Warsaw, which in 1815 became part of Congress Poland. A child prodigy, he completed his musical education and composed his earlier works in Warsaw before leaving Poland at the age of 20, less than a month before the outbreak of the November 1830 Uprising. At 21, he settled in Paris. Thereafter – in the last 18 years of his life – he gave only 30 public performances, preferring the more intimate atmosphere of the salon. He supported himself by selling his compositions and by giving piano lessons, for which he was in high demand. Chopin formed a friendship with Franz Liszt and was admired by many of his other musical contemporaries, including Robert Schumann.
After a failed engagement to Maria Wodzińska from 1836 to 1837, he maintained an often troubled relationship with the French writer Aurore Dupin (known by her pen name, George Sand). A brief and unhappy visit to Mallorca with Sand in 1838–39 would prove one of his most productive periods of composition. In his final years, he was supported financially by his admirer Jane Stirling, who also arranged for him to visit Scotland in 1848. For most of his life, Chopin was in poor health. He died in Paris in 1849 at the age of 39, probably of pericarditis aggravated by tuberculosis.
All of Chopin’s compositions include the piano. Most are for solo piano, though he also wrote two piano concertos, a few chamber pieces, and some 19 songs set to Polish lyrics. His piano writing was technically demanding and expanded the limits of the instrument, his own performances noted for their nuance and sensitivity. His major piano works also include mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, the instrumental ballade (which Chopin created as an instrumental genre), études, impromptus, scherzos, preludes, and sonatas, some published only posthumously. Among the influences on his style of composition were Polish folk music, the classical tradition of J. S. Bach, Mozart, and Schubert, and the atmosphere of the Paris salons of which he was a frequent guest. His innovations in style, harmony, and musical form, and his association of music with nationalism, were influential throughout and after the late Romantic period.
Chopin’s music, his status as one of music’s earliest celebrities, his indirect association with political insurrection, his high-profile love-life, and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying historical fidelity. Among his many memorials is the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, which was created by the Parliament of Poland to research and promote his life and works. It hosts the International Chopin Piano Competition, a prestigious competition devoted entirely to his works (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
A note on a music teacher’s door read:
Gone Chopin, Bach in a minuet…
Second, a Song:
Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante in E-flat major, Op. 22, was composed by Frédéric Chopin between 1830 and 1834. The Grande polonaise brillante in E-flat, set for piano and orchestra, was written first, in 1830-31. In 1834, Chopin wrote an Andante spianato in G, for piano solo, which he added to the start of the piece, and joined the two parts with a fanfare-like sequence. The combined work was published in 1836, and was dedicated to Madame d’Este.
The Grande polonaise brillante is a work for piano and orchestra, although the piano part is often played on its own. The Andante spianato (spianato means “even” or “smooth”) for solo piano was composed as an introduction to the polonaise after Chopin received a long-awaited invitation to perform in one of Habeneck’s Conservatoire Concerts in Paris. This was the only time Chopin had ever used the term spianato as a description for any of his works.
Chopin’s first work, written at age seven, had been a polonaise. Chopin used the same Polonaise theme in his earlier work the Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C major, Op. 3. The Grande polonaise brillante of 1830–31 was to be the last such he would compose for several years. It preoccupied Chopin in his final months at Warsaw. It was finished at Vienna in 1831.
Andante spianato in G major
The quiet rippling effects of this introductory section are borne in a gentle 6/8, rounded with a chordal trio, and a more processional 3/4. The serene middle section (in G major) is not a trio, but only a contrasting episode to complement the overall texture of the movement.
Grande polonaise brillante in E-flat major
The polonaise opens in fanfare and moves into an ebullient dance form. In 1836, it was arranged as a piano quartet and, two years later, the solo piano work known today (per Wikipedia).
Courtesy of the Chopin Institute and YouTube.com, here is Kate Liu performing Frederic Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“I shall create a new world for myself.” – Frederic Chopin
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky