Transnational Research Associates

Polonaise, Op. 40 No. 1 in A, "The Military"

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

[Artur Rubenstein, Pianist, RCA Victor #60822, November 1991]

Frédéric Chopin wrote 15 Polonaises, six of which are considered to be "mature" in nature, forming, in the estimation of many critics, the central nucleus of his 159 lifelong published works. There were several dozen other works later made public against his dying wishes. Most of his compositions were written for piano, as was his Opus 40 No. 1.

The A Major Polonaise is, simply stated, a masterwork of Romantic expression. It reflects all of Chopinís patriotic feelings for his homeland, Poland, and yet retains enough French and Mediterranean influence to demonstrate his attachment to Southern Europe as well. The vast range of emotion evoked by this piece is apparent, actually, from beginning to end. The RCA Rubenstein performance brings to life both the fervor and force of Chopinís sentiments; and yet, in quieter interludes, which provide contrast and depth to the piece, pianist and composer melt together as one to project a truly 19th century effect of power, majesty and often lilting beauty.

In Chopinís A Major Polonaise, unlike the somber tones of his Nocturnes or Sonatas in minor keys, there is the ever-present image of Poland, as this selectionís title would suggest. There is a hint of dissonance and unusual rhythm in this work that expose its oddly Romantic, arguably non-Gallic origins. The listener is propelled by march-like passages, just as he or she is mesmerized, at other moments, by less forceful interludes.

Chopinís deft use of the pianoís full range of musical potential in the A Major has been heralded as an indication of his timeless fame, guaranteed in light of his on-going appeal to all ages, and all audiences, for over more than a century and a half.

-- Art Madsen, M.Ed.

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