Dances – fun and nostalgia
Dances are an important part of Chopin's artistic heritage. He wrote over a hundred of them, and from this body of work Kayo Nishimizu has selected the material for her newest recording. The moods conveyed by these pieces allow us to see two sides to Chopin's personality: the witty and joyful Fryderyk and the nostalgic Chopin with a bleeding heart.
Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante in E flat major, Op. 22
Polonaise in G minor
4 Mazurkas, Op. 7
Waltz in A flat major, Op. 34 No. 1
Tarantella in A flat major, Op. 43
3 Mazurkas, Op. 63
2 Waltzes, Op. 64
Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53
Eager to amuse, Chopin often made people laugh by making jokes or caricaturing others. Owing to that, he was very popular with his friends, and as a mature artist, he was in the limelight of the Paris salons.
Chopin’s compositions included the characteristic elements of mazur, oberek and kujawiak ever since he had encountered those Polish dances during his childhood stays in the countryside, where they were an integral part of folklore games. That is how a group of pieces, known as the Mazurkas, had originated. The composer gradually wrote more of them during various stages of his artistic development. Time spent in Vienna and Paris had led Chopin to composing Waltzes. He often used them as gifts. They were improvised upon the well-known dances popular in the contemporary salons. Chopin did not intend to publish them, making exceptions for the Spanish “Bolero” and the Italian “Tarantella”. The Scottish “Éccosaises” were published posthumously.
Polonaise, a Polish folk dance traditionally opening balls, is a slow dance in a 3/4 time. The couples group together behind one another and walk around the hall with great elegance and in various arrangements. Chopin’s first published work, Polonaise in G minor, was issued when he was seven, in his father’s transcription. Today, the collection of the composer’s Polonaises comprises of 16 pieces, spanning from his early childhood to maturity, and showcasing the development of his artistry.
Chopin’s times were those of threats to the Polish national identity, as Poland was not a sovereign country. Preserving the language, the history and the arts, including the polonaises, was an act of patriotism.
At the age of twenty Chopin left the politically non-existent country with nothing but hope of artistic success. Hearing the news of the November Uprising made him feel helpless, as he could only dream of joining his compatriots’ heroic endeavors. Far from home, he composed Polonaises, praying for his family, friends, and sovereignty of Poland. During that time he also composed the Mazurkas, which became a reflection of his childhood memories of the life in the countryside, and of the native landscapes, which he was not to see ever again.
Almost half of Chopin’s works, over 100 pieces, are dances. Perhaps it was this kind of music that was the closest to his heart, and was the one that let him easily express his emotions. There is a certain duality concealed in these dances; the image of the witty and playful Fryderyk and the bleeding heart of Chopin, full of grief and nostalgia.