Frédéric Chopin: Rondo à la Krakowiak
Composed in 1828 whilst Chopin was in Warsaw studying under Józef Elsner, Rondo à la Krakowiak was the composer’s second attempt at composing for an orchestra and piano. Dedicated to Princess Anna Zofia Sapieha, this work for solo piano and orchestra has remained relatively untouched in the modern day.
As the title suggests, Rondo à la Krakowiak has the form of a rondo that is often seen in two parts – a slow and delicate introduction – and an energetic traditional krakowiak dance. The slow introduction is based on a pentatonic scale which is played on the upper range of the piano and the strings sustain chords and the horns add to the top of the chord. This light introduction is completely changed into a dramatic interlude before the music rushes into an energetic krakowiak dance.
Full of syncopated passages, the krakowiak dance is lively and light in touch to accentuate the bouncy rhythms that Chopin writes. Lots of different sections of the orchestra take on the main theme, including the bassoon, clarinet and horn. The changes in texture add excitement to the music, as the quick-moving piano jumps across the instrument. Chopin’s full use of the piano creates rumbles and sparkles within the development of the main theme, and this adds a new dimension to the solo part.
After a Romantic-like exploration of the piano theme, the dynamic drops down and a new theme, similar to that of the opening introduction begins. The piano this time has a jaunty melody that sits on top of the sustained strings. After a thrilling reprise of the main theme, Rondo à la Krakowiak concludes with virtuosic flair as the piano and orchestra unite for the final flourish.
Ⓒ Alex Burns