Inspiration, Force and Vigour: Chopin Polonaise Op 53 in A-Flat Major
Written in 1842, Chopin Polonaise Op 53 (Heroic) is thought by many to represent the pinnacle of his success as well as a clear indication of how technically proficient he had become by this time. Chopin was a composer who was deeply affected by the world around him and this quality can be seen in many of his pieces. Heroic Polonaise in A-flat Major is said to have been inspired by the political and social changes associated with the 1848 Revolution of France. It is interesting to note that Chopin had always hesitated attaching names to his pieces. However, he was eventually convinced when long-time lover and journalist George Sand stated that his polonaise should represent a “heroic symbol” for generations into the future.
The Chopin Polonaise Op 53 is known for its demands and its technical difficulty. As a pianist, I am always intrigued by such features and if anything, they have drawn me even closer to the work. Rapid scales, frenetic arpeggios, extremely wide fingering and challenging octave scales are but a “handful” of the stumbling blocks which need to be overcome. It is therefore a very heroic piece to be played and it is only through proficiency that its nuances will be effectively expressed. However, I do not believe that the Chopin Polonaise Op 53 was originally created with technical challenges in mind. It was instead intended to serve as an homage to his homeland and as a purely melodic composition. I also feel that it is for this reason that Chopin played it much softer when compared to contemporary interpretations.
A Breathtaking and Sweeping Melodic Expedition
Chopin Polonaise Op 53 boasts an addictive sonorous quality due to the sheer number of keys which need to be used. While the main theme is arguably the most recognisable in all three portions, I feel that its true beauty lies within the innumerable notes in between. The true “heroic” nature of this piece is brought forth to the listener in undeniably inebriating waves of harmony. While indeed powerful, there is a certain delicacy to its flavour and this quality serves to punctuate the more aggressive segments. The fact that it is over seven minutes long only serves as a further testament to the prowess of Chopin. I cannot help but to feel overwhelmed with emotion every time it is played.