“I have written an alla Polacca for the violoncello with accompaniment. It is nothing more than a glittering trifle for the salon…for ladies. I wanted Princess Wanda, the daughter of the cello-playing Prince, to learn it. She is still very young – perhaps seventeen – and beautiful.” – Fryderyk Chopin
That “cello-playing Prince” was Polish Prince Antonin Radziwill, described in the history books as a far more successful arts patron than politician. Beethoven dedicated an overture to him. Goethe was his collaborator. And in the fall of 1828, a restless teenager named Fryderyk Chopin was a guest at the Radziwill’s country estate, evidently interested in both dazzling the daughter as well as currying favor with the wealthy and influential father.
The resulting “glittering trifle” was the Introduction and Polonaise Brillante for Cello and Piano, Op. 3. But that’s not the end of the story. Chopin didn’t get the girl, NOR Dad’s money, but he felt good enough about the piece to add a stately introduction a year later.
Decades later, another great Polish artist, Emanuel Feuermann, added an assist. As Carter Brey, principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, explains it, “The [Introduction and Grand Polonaise] was considerably altered by Emanuel Feuermann, the virtuoso cellist from the early 20th century. The original version has a relatively simple cello part, and very florid piano writing, as you might expect with Chopin. Feuermann took some of the piano writing and gave it to the cello, so that there’s an equality of brilliance between the two instruments.”
YiQun, Yoon, and Heifetz 2017 violinist Sarah Ma will be playing Chopin – and a whole lot more! – in Staunton on November 12th at our upcoming Heifetz @ Ironwood concert to benefit our 2018 Scholarship campaign. Get your tickets here!