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Albumblatt, Allegretto, Allegro de Concert, Andantino | Ballades | Barcarolle, Berceuse, Bolero, Bourrées, Canon, Cantabile | Concertos | Contredanse, Duo Concertant, Ecossaises | Etudes | Fantasias, Fugue, Funeral March, Galop Marquis | Impromptus, Largo | Mazurkas | Nocturnes | Polonaises | Preludes | Rondos | Scherzos | Sonatas | Songs | Tarantella, Trio, Variations | Waltzes

© This text is for reference purpose only and may not be used in any way or modified without my permission or citation.


Barcarolle, F sharp major, Op. 60, 1846

Barcarolle, or boat song, gondoliers' song, had been composed by many composers in the 19th century such as Mendelssohn, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Faure, Rachmaninoff... During this time, the salon characteristic pieces had been very popular. The title almost reveals the contents of love duets on Venetian rivers. Mendelssohn composed a few barcarolles and organized them in his books "Songs without words". Unlike Mendelssohn, Chopin composed only one, but invaluable, barcarolle toward the end of his life. He started it in 1845, finished in 1846, and dedicated it to Baroness Stockhausen. This barcarolle shares the same features of Venetian boats, water and paddles, and love songs but stands alone as an individual large-scale work and achieves the highest standard in harmony and structure. Many composers after Chopin tried to follow Chopin but just could not succeed. Chopin's barcarolle is favored by many pianists but only a few of them could interpret it successfully. The barcarolle, like a nocturne, is structured in A-B-A form. Its introduction begins with a bass in C# and falling modulation through each key of the main key signature F# major, provoking an air of uncertainty. After a silent moment, the main theme begins with the paddle pattern on the left hand that repeats throughout the first part. The singing melody on the right hand is so ethereal and as beautiful as those of his nocturnes. The main theme is repeated in thirds and sixths, leads to a successive rising chords and fades out from F# major through F# minor to conclude the first section. A solo section on the right hand connects the first section to the second section in A major. The rhythm is now clearer with rocking phrases and modulations from G# to F#. The arpeggios in G# and F# resemble the water drops singing and flying out from the paddles. The movement is getting faster and more agitated with octaves and reaches two climaxes also in G# and F#. The gradual fading and sudden switching of key to F# minor slow down all the agitations, somehow regretfully, yet lead to another more peaceful theme also in A major as an answer to the first part. Then the paddles almost stop rowing, the boat flows freely into the water, and the lovers fall into their dreams. This slow recitation in the bass leads to a sweet transition to F# major again before returning to the main theme. The recap also begins with double trills but it is much more agitated than the first section. Also a series of rising chords leads to the peaceful part from the middle section, but now more passionate, dramatic, struggling and in F# major, not A major, with one octave higher. The coda is a series of modulation and harmony that is far beyond the reality, like rowing over the cloud and flying in the air. The cloud brings the boat back to the river through the striking main key F# and the lovers awake from their dreams with two key octaves C# and F# as a  conclusion to this wonderful love duet.

Berceuse, D flat major, Op. 57, 1844

Berceuse is a lullaby, or a cradle song. Dedicated to lady Elise Gavard, this work is a clear example of Chopin’s talent in improvisation and construction of variations. The harmony is just as simple as it can be: one modulation repeated every bar throughout the work. The melody and its fourteen varying accompaniments however are truly a work of art. They resemble flowers and ornaments built on different branches of a tree: beautiful and delicate; therefore the work requires pianists’ mastery of touch to interpret. The main melody opens with a simple single melody line in four bars and then repeated with a lower phrase which together makes the new melody in thirds, sixths and ninths in the next six bars. In the second time, the lower phrase is in double speed for two bars. Then in the next four bars, the melody is repeated in this third time with grace notes and slows down to the trills where the fourth variation is getting faster for four bars. The melody is then modulated in triplets of thirds circling and rising in its fifth variation. Next in the sixth variation, the staccatos of triplets with the last beat missing sound like the rhythm of rocking cradles. The seventh variation has thirds cascading down and melody modulation through the bass A flat. In the eighth and ninth variations, the modulations are moving faster and faster with rising chords in staccatos, and phrases in double triplets in highest octaves before turning down to the successive trills, which rise up two octaves and turn down again for the last time. The dream has gone far away before returning to reality. The last four variations become less and less complicated, and finally revert back to the simplest melody from the beginning, and into sleep.

Bolero, C major, Op. 19 (Souvenir d'Andalousie), 1833

Bolero is a Spanish dance in triple time from the 18th century. Chopin had not visited Spain before he composed his only Bolero for solo piano in 1833. Chopin dedicated it to madame countess Emilie Flahaut, the wife of a diplomat and later Lady Shelburne. The three opening octaves are a little bit odd and appear to successfully catch the audience's attention. A long introduction that follows seems to paint a picture of a Spanish countryside with peasants from far away getting ready for the dances. The main theme starts in 'allegro vivace' in a common rhythm of a polonaise. The dances are faster and more lively than those in the introduction. The second theme in A major is brighter and more operatic and quickly moves to a 'bel canto' passage in A flat major, which shows Chopin's master in melody and harmony. After a short passage in the bass with some modulations, the main theme repeats in the main key and then concludes the work by the abridged version of the second theme in A major. Given that Chopin's bolero was based on Spanish elements, he incorporated his Polish traits and developed his bolero beyond the traditional form set by Spanish composers and guitarists at that time.

BOURRÉES

Bourrée is a type of French court dance in the 17th century. Chopin composed these two works after he finished the barcarolle, polonaise-fantaisie, and the cello sonata.

Bourrée [No. 1], G major, 1846

Bourrée [No. 2], A major, 1846

Canon, F minor, 1839

Cantabile, B flat major, 1834

Chopin favors the "cantabile" style in his works. This "bel canto" miniature is similar to his nocturnes in nature but quite shorter and less developed.

References: Click here for a full list of books and articles used to build this website

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