Monday, February 18, 2008

Chopin's Barcarolle Op.60 and B minor Sonata Op.58

Barcarolle was originally the name of a kind of boat-song that had become popular in the 18th century, specifically a song of a Venetian boatman. The songs were usually moderate in tempo and had gently rocking, repetitive rhythmic accompaniments that suggested the motion of a small boat in the water.
Chopin’s Barcarolle Op.60 in F-sharp major was written in 1845. It is one of the great works of his last years, composed just as he reached the mature mastery. The piece’s brief introduction sets a calm mood for the gently boat-song accompaniment which, in two measures establishes the rhythmic scheme for the singing, flowing main theme. The theme is with its 12/8 meter and ornamental melody in thirds. It sounds like moving on waves and boy and girl singing the duet love song. Trills, double trills, chromatic passages and other Chopin’s features all show up in the piece.
Other composers wrote barcarolles: Mendelssohn, Offenbach.

Chopin’s Sonata in B minor Op.58 was composed in 1844. The sonata reveals a great variety and wealth imagination. The first subject with its fragmented mobility is linked to second subject which is a long lyrical line. Beautiful themes, bold figuration and rich modulations prevail throughout the first movement. The two middle movements are less complex formally. The short scherzo is a delicious caprice, the striking contrast sounds like Chopin’s independent scherzos. The Largo movement opens with a poetically deep theme which is like human voice singing the cantabile melody. The last movement is a rondo, in which every return of the theme is marked by an increase in the rhythmic density of the accompaniment and an energy that demands great virtuosity in the player.

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