Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61
In this piano masterclass, Professor Marie-Joseph Jude and student Pierre-Marie Gasnier are working together on the Polonaise by French composer Frédéric Chopin.
Jude first instructs her student to watch his tempo and the general direction of the piece. Additionally, Gasnier is advised to avoid pressing too much on the bass notes.
The student must find a voice, a style, and a tone for the work as it is complex with many varying passages. Jude explains that the interpreter should avoid being overly dramatic or too grand. Rather, the musician should aim to keep it simple, melancholic, and light.
Moreover, the Professor emphasizes the importance of defining the most important note in a beat, similar to when a person speaks or sings, to add clarity.
Finding and keeping the right tempo.
Discovering the overall direction of the piece
Avoid weighing down the harmonies.
Keep it light and simple.
Highlighting the important beats.
Chopin composed his Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat major for solo piano in 1846, near the end of his life. It displays some of his most mature writing, though it initially confused performers and audiences with its complicated form and unusual harmonies. Polonaise-Fantaisie was not a typical genre of composition. Chopin began working on this piece without a clear understanding of how to categorize it. In the end, it contained many aspects of a polonaise, including its triple meter and many of its rhythmic and melodic motifs, but also acted strongly as a fantasy, as the work allows the performer a great deal of freedom and often deviates from the expected form. The piece cycles through a number of different emotions and moods, ranging from contemplation and tragedy to heroism and exultation.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this piano masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Marie-Joseph Jude’s feedback and comments.
She was a finalist at the Clara Haskil Competition in 1989.
Marie-Josèphe Jude was born in Nice in 1968 from a French father and a sino-Vietnamese mother. She started to learn piano and harp in her home city before joining the Conservatoire de Paris, encouraged by G. Cziffra. She worked with Aldo Ciccolini (piano) and Jean Hubeau (chamber music), and was awarded a First Prize in piano and a concert license in harp at the Ecole Normale in Paris. She attended the third cycle in Jean-Claude Pennetier’s class. At that time, she regularly attended Maria Curcio-Diamand’s lessons in London. In 1986, she met the composer Maurice Ohana and became one of her favorite performers. She was a finalist at the Clara Haskil Competition in 1989, and won the Victoire de la Musique in the category "New Talent" in 1995.
This is when her career developed internationally. She has appeared in concert halls and festivals all over the world, from Montpellier to Bath, from the Roque d’Anthéron to Kuhmo, from Bagatelle to Locarno, from Colmar to Québec, from Nantes to Tokyo, and so on.
She has played as a soloist under the baton of Frans Brüggen and Charles Dutoit, Emmanuel Krivine, François-Xavier Roth, Jean-Yves Ossonce, Arturo Tamayo, Klaus Weise, with orchestras such as the Orchestre de Paris, the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Orchestra of Bordeaux, the Orchestre National d’ïle de France, les Siècles, the BBC Scottish Orchestra, Basel Symphonic Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra of Luxembourg, the Brussels Philharmonic, and the MDR in Leipzig.
After 4 years of teaching at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Lyon (2012-2016), she is now a teacher at the CNSM in Paris. In October 2017, she was appointed President of the Nice International Summer Academy.
Born in Poland in 1810, Frédéric Chopin was a gifted pianist and a highly-acclaimed composer. He was a child prodigy who from the early age of six-years-old began performing in great halls of the Polish bourgeoisie. It was around this time that the young musician began composing. Between 1810 and 1830, he composed 30 works for solo piano. Chopin’s compositions comprise beautiful melodies, sophisticated harmonies, and an original approach to formal design. If the piano is the romantic instrument par excellence; it is due, in large part, to the contribution of Chopin.
At the opposite of the orchestral pianism of his contemporary Franz Liszt (representative of the most extroverted and passionate, almost exhibitionist, facet of Romanticism), the Polish composer explored an intrinsically poetic style, of a subtle lyricism. The two composers would later become friends and admirers of each other’s works. It is said that Chopin's earliest compositions are, in some way, a product of influence from the "brilliant style" of public pianism associated with composers such as Hummel, Weber, Moscheles, and Kalkbrenner, among others. Later, the pieces that were composed during his Warsaw period—which involved the radical reworking of forms, procedures, and materials—are testimony to the influence of the Viennese Classical composers and Bach. The influence of popular Polish music is also vital in his works.