COMPOSITIONS compositions

Polonaise in B flat minor [Op. posth.] incypit

Genre: Polonaise

Key: B-flat minor

Opus/WN: [op. posth.]

Creation date: VII 1826

Acc. to Paderewski: VIII/15

Acc. to Turło: 164

Instruments: piano

Composition dedicated to:

Wilhelm Kolberg


The Polonaise in B flat minor, known as ‘Les Adieux’, was composed spontaneously, at a moment in time that can be pinpointed exactly. Towards the end of July 1826, Karol Kurpiński staged at the National Theatre in Warsaw the new (following the recent Barber of Seville) opera by Rossini – The Thieving Magpie (La gazza ladra). Chopin saw the production in the company of his friend Wilhelm Kolberg, after which he incorporated into the new Polonaise that he was working on at that time, as a trio, a paraphrase of one of the melodies from the new opera. The tune in question is Gianetto’s cavatina beginning with the words ‘Vieni, vieni fra queste braccia’ [Come, come into my arms].

In the Chopin, of course, the cavatina melody is rendered in a distinctly polonaise rhythm. The vocal fioriture are transposed into piano ornamentation, although not yet the piano bel canto that would arise somewhat later, inspired by the operas of Bellini.

The paraphrased quotation from Rossini was given a special function in the Polonaise in B flat minor – as a gesture of farewell. Chopin was leaving the Lyceum, and in the autumn he would begin his studies at the Main School of Music. Besides that, just a few days later, he would embark on a journey to Duszniki, where he would spend the summer with his mother and two sisters ‘at the waters’. Within this Polonaise, the music of the trio sounds a little incongruous, as it brings a different style to the work. The B flat minor Polonaise was written at a time when Chopin had reached, and for a while would be borne upon, the tidal wave of the sentimental current – the current of ‘tender’ music, which at times could descend into affectation. In the salons of Warsaw, the cult of ‘sweet sorrow’ was rife.

This most ‘tender’, almost affected, of Chopin’s Polonaises is immediately characterised by the composer at the head of the work with the word dolente (doleful). He shed the grace and sparkle with which he illumined the Polonaise in G sharp minor. The emotional colouring of this Polonaise is darker. By leading the minor-mode melody in thirds, Chopin lent it tunefulness and a fullness of sound. Such a melody is meant not to wheedle and amuse, but to move.

The Polonaise in B flat minor represents the variety of the Polish dance which would lead from the minor-mode polonaises of Ogiński to the two polonaises Chopin published as his opus 26 (in C sharp minor and in E flat minor), which he himself termed ‘melancholic’. So it constitutes perhaps not so much the opposite as a complement to that variety of the dance which reached its apogee in Chopin’s Polonaises in A major and A flat major – polonaises of the heroic variety.

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


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