COMPOSITIONS compositions

Leaves are falling (words by W. Pol) incypit

Genre: Song

Opus/WN: [Op. 74 No. 17]

Creation date: 1836

Acc. to Fontana: 74 nr 17

Acc. to Paderewski: XVII/17

Acc. to Turło: 145

Instruments: voice & piano


In 1836, Chopin’s attention was drawn to a collection of authentic insurrectionary songs by Wincenty Pol, recently published in Paris. Fontana witnessed their impromptu ‘musicalisation’ by Chopin. Not all the songs were set to music. Of the ten or twenty which he improvised, only one has come down to us. The manuscript bears the date 3 May, given an exclamation mark by Chopin.[i] Held at the Library of the Warsaw Music Society is a copy of the song made by Fontana. The song is question is ‘Leci liście z drzewa’, which could not be included in the full edition of the songs due to censorship.

It is a vocal rhapsody bemoaning the fate of a generation. One might say that it is a tangible trace of one of those improvisations mentioned by Fontana. Following the text, Chopin employs motives that he associated with the successive images in the poem.

The song opens with the motif of an elegiac mazurka. This is followed by motives close to a krakowiak. When the Uprising is mentioned, we hear the rhythms of insurrectionary songs. The next section brings a sparing, stark melodeclamation of the text, which a moment later turns to lamentation.

This song is not easy to interpret. Apparently, when it was sung by Stanisława Szymanowska, the audience listened with bated breath. Nowadays, singers render ‘Leci liście z drzewa’ in many different ways, trying to ensure that in these unromantic times we might hear a voice from the days when Fryderyk Chopin dreamed of his own home, perhaps even in his own country.

[i] 3 May is the date of the Polish Constitution, drawn up in 1791. It is a date that would have been of particular resonance among the Polish exile community, at a time when their native land was under foreign occupation (tr.).

Author: Mieczysław Tomaszewski
[Cykl audycji "Fryderyka Chopina Dzieła Wszystkie"]
Polish Radio, program II


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Leaves are falling (words by W. Pol) [Op. 74 No. 17]
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