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When the Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini died, in the autumn of 1835, a group of composer-friends decided to pay him posthumous tribute, writing variations on the march from his last opera, I puritani. The idea for such a work came from Princess Cristina Belgiojoso, whilst the chief executor was Ferenc Liszt. The result was a cycle of virtuosic piano variations entitled Hexameron. The name referred to the sextet of composers, each of whom composed one of the variations. Besides Liszt, the contributors were Thalberg, Pixis, Herz, Czerny and Chopin. The variation that Chopin added, as his voice in the tribute to his friend’s memory, was the sixth in order. What precedes it in Hexameron and what comes after it (as the Finale) is dazzling, bravura, virtuosic music. Only the music composed by Chopin brought a moment’s reflection to the cycle. The theme of Bellini’s march is accompanied by quasi-nocturne progressions of open two-note chords, regularly moving closer or further away, uttered in a slow tempo (largo) and soft voice (sotto voce). Only a couple of bars in the middle break from the contemplation with the voice of a suddenly surging wave of protest, expressed in a sharpening of the rhythm, a fuller texture and a powerful sound. The return of the opening phrase casts us back into reflection, especially since the melody of the theme is not given complete.

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


 
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Variation in E major from Hexameron on the march from Bellini's opera I puritani, Op. 29 A Op. 29 A
 
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