Scherzo No.4

Frédéric Chopin

Scherzo No.4 in E major

Op. 54, B. 148

About this work

Published in Leipzig in 1843, the Scherzo in E major, Op. 54, was composed in 1842. Not often performed, the piece is of a very different character than Chopin's previous works in this form, exhibiting more capriciousness and elegance than profundity. It is best described as bright and direct. The opening four measures, with their bare octaves, usher in an air of optimism that continues throughout the main theme, a combination of held chords and quickly rising arpeggios. The restatement of the theme is more densely harmonized and moves to A major for the contrasting material of the scherzo section, a complex of a unison passage linked to swirling eighth note figures. A plethora of ideas appears in the scherzo section as a return of the first theme occurs on the surprising key of A flat major. Chopin extends and develops the theme while returning to E major and the swirling eighth notes.

The brief A flat passage turns out to be an anticipation of the trio key, E flat major. Built mainly of scales, the trio's first theme moves to E major for a rhythmically ambiguous melody. Into the trio Chopin inserts a cursory restatement of scherzo material, then moves into uncharted territory, mixing development of previous material with new ideas in an extended passage enveloped in several harmonies. The rising arpeggios of the first theme become accompanimental material as the piece heads for the return of the scherzo, which is now even thicker than before with a pulsating eighth note accompaniment. The playful "recapitulation" includes a brief reference to trio material in its original key and closes with a nearly six-octave scale punctuated by E major chords.

Done