Genres Genres

Barcarolle, in F sharp major, Op. 60

A masterpiece pulsating with a blissful feeling of love

The Barcarolle, Op. 60 is a grand, expansive work from the late period in the oeuvre of Fryderyk Chopin. Written in the years 1845-46, it was published in 1846. Chopin refers in this work to the convention of the barcarola - a song of the Venetian gondoliers which inspired many outstanding composers of the nineteenth century, including Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Liszt and Fauré. Yet it is hard to find a barcarolle that would compare with Chopin's work for beauty and compositional artistry.

Attention is quite often drawn to the Barcarolle's affinity with the nocturnes, and also with the Berceuse, Op. 57, which may be interpreted as "music of the evening and the night" (Tomaszewski). But one should not overstate this affinity, since the Barcarolle is considerably longer than most of the nocturnes and appears to reach deeper. Venice, which it evokes, can also be pictured in sunshine, not only "to moonlight", and the Barcarolle is also quite different to lullabies and dreams-it spins a tale that is hot and intense. It is perhaps less a "song of the night" than a "song of love". It is certainly close to the nocturnes and the Berceuse, meanwhile, in the particular richness and refinement of its ornamentation.

The Barcarolle proceeds in a moderate tempo, in 12/8 time. The basis for its development is the tuneful melodic line, reminiscent in style of Italian bel canto. The melody is accompanied by a repeated accompaniment figure in the bass (on the principle of ostinato), whilst the melody itself is led in characteristic doublings-primarily in thirds and sixths. The ornamentation of the melody encompasses a variety of means, including double trills (in thirds), contributing to an exceptional expressive and colouristic richness. The form of the work can be generally defined as tripartite, A B A1 (reprise), with an inner, tonally contrasting, section in A major. One can also distinguish a short, intriguing introduction and an exquisite coda.

Many commentators draw attention to the aura of eroticism that is strongly present in this exceptionally beautiful composition. Also stressed is the work's Italian, southern atmosphere, and particularly its links with Venice, although the Italian tone would appear to be restricted here to the function of picturesque decoration, serving to brilliantly convey a truly universal message.

The Barcarolle is generally considered a masterpiece. One of the most beautiful pianistic interpretations was created by Dinu Lipatti.

Artur Bielecki