“I have composed something new that I do not know how to name” – Fryderyk Chopin about his Opus 61 Polonaise-Fantasie.
1846: The year both the saxophone and the sewing machine were patented… the year the planet Neptune was discovered…the year the rotary printing press was invented….AND the year Chopin wrote the last notes, and closed the book on a form he’d spent his life defining: The Polonaise.
Polonaise: “The Polish dance music with a French name.” Slow, stately, in three-quarter time. March-like, dignified and full of ceremony. A polonaise is danced with sliding steps - imagine gliding - accented with a bend of the knee every third step.
Chopin composed sixteen polonaises for solo piano; his first when he was just eight; and his last – the polonaise Chopin “did not know how to name” - at age 36, three years before his death. Clocking in at around fourteen minutes, the work is two to three times longer that Chopin’s other polonaises…and stretches the form to its breaking point. But, Chopin the alchemist turns it to liquid and makes it flow….just like Walt Whitman’s free verse being written an ocean away. Chopin fully liberates the polonaise of his motherland to realize his innermost thoughts. Innovative and astonishing, the work literally demands the “-Fantasie” Chopin added to the title. - Jennifer Foster & Lisa Simeone