Introduction & Polonaise brillante

Frédéric Chopin

Introduction & Polonaise brillante in C major

Op. 3, B. 41, B. 52 • “La gaieté”

About this work

Frédéric Chopin's Polonaise Brillante, Op. 3, is one of the few pieces this composer ever wrote for an instrument besides piano. The young Chopin wrote this piece for cello and piano in 1829, when he was only 19 years old. The circumstances of the piece's conception are charming and youthfully innocent. In the fall of 1829, Chopin had fallen head over heels for the first time in his life for a young woman in Warsaw. Unfortunately for Chopin, the love was unrequited. Chopin's father, in hopes of easing Chopin's heartbreak (and also undoubtedly looking for patronage) took his son on a week-long trip to visit the estate of Prince Radziwill, who had two beautiful young daughters. At least one of the daughters, Wanda, was a pianist. He composed the Polonaise Brillante for her to practice with her cello-playing father. Chopin wrote later to a friend that the piece was merely a salon piece to be enjoyed casually and that he had written it in a manner so as to show off the young Wanda's pretty fingers. Indeed, the piece is full of piano flourishes that can't help but to show off the pianist's fingers.

He must have held it in at least a somewhat high regard, for he included it on a concert tour in 1830, dedicating it to Joseph Merk, an excellent and renowned cellist. Chopin also later added an introduction to the Polonaise, making the piece Introduction and Polonaise Brillante. His friend, the great cellist August Joseph Franchomme, helped Chopin make necessary revisions before its publication in 1833.

The piece as we know it today is highly entertaining, pleasing to performers and audiences alike. The introduction is only a few minutes in length and is full of piano flourishes and a beautiful, if somewhat naïve sounding cello melody. The Polonaise dances along with energy and bravado. The piano part serves as both a showcase solo part and as an accompanimental partner to the cello. The cello part does not play the prominent solo role, rather, it is more obligato in nature, soaring above the virtuosic piano passages. The main melody is festive and youthful in nature. The cello enthusiastically introduces most of the melodic lines, at times becoming quite virtuoisic itself. There are moments of lyrical grace and elegance to equal the bravura, and the music builds in excitement to the very end.