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The Polonaise in A flat major, composed at Nohant, is meant solely to be listened to. It has the shape and character of a dance poem. It is closer to the ballades than to the dances, although it still clearly emanates the pulse and vigour, and especially the majesty, of a polonaise.

The opening bars, heralding the entrance of the polonaise, possess verve and a boldness of gesture, as well as dignity and forcefulness. In the theme of the polonaise (the principal, opening theme – the one that stays in our minds), we hear strength, pertinacity and upwards aspiration. Chopin has it played forte and maestoso. Strength is imparted by the octaves of the bass, while pertinacity is generated by the insistent repetition of the opening phrase. That striving upwards carries – for a moment – the haughty, swaggering theme up the keyboard and into the realm of full, absolute sonority. Even the sostenuto, which usually brings a moment of respite, fails to ease the tension, barely restraining the narrative’s propulsion. With the striking of seven chords fortissimo in the unexpected key of E major, Chopin pulls us into the wondrous, almost balladic world of the trio – the central part of the work. An unforgettable impression is made by the simple effect of fanfares resounding at first from afar – against the bass’s regular octaves. Only after the climax and its full sound does a lyrical tone break through for a while. And then, as expected, the polonaise returns, in its proud, heroic plenitude, crowned by a clearly victorious coda.

Arthur Hedley called the Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53 ‘a work whose praises it is unnecessary to recite’. Jachimecki considered it ‘the most perfect work in the history of the genre’. Hugo Leichtentritt expressed his admiration in the following words: ‘everything that the polonaise contains in terms of sparkle, distinction, strength and enthusiasm was expressed in this masterpiece in the most exhilarating way possible’.

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


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Janusz Olejniczak

Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53 Op. 53
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