Work: Heroic Polonaise, Op. 53
About This Work
This polonaise, nicknamed the "Heroic," is one of Chopin's most popular works. It was written during a happy period in his life: his love affair with writer George Sand (Aurore Dupin Dudevant) was in full bloom, and the unpredictable
tuberculosis which nearly killed him in early 1839 was temporarily behaving less lethally.
After a dramatic introduction, where the music immediately heightens the listener's expectations, the main theme of this polonaise is given, a defiant and heroic creation whose first several notes repeat emphatically before resolving in triumphant chords, which are usually arpeggiated by pianists owing to their wide span. The melody varies the second time around, providing a resolution of descending chords whose downward trajectory gives no hint of defeat or acquiescence. Indeed, the music remains optimistic and imparts a feeling of triumph even in the brief and defiant second subject.
The middle section offers a buildup in which the right hand's racing rhythmic figure, related to the main theme's repeating notes, prods the militaristic right hand onto further glories. A subdued, lyrical section of mysterious character follows, after which the main theme returns. The piece ends with an ecstatic, colorful rendition of the theme. Performances of the A flat major Polonaise typically last around seven minutes.
-- Robert Cummings, All Music Guide
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