Chopin’s Fantaisie in F Minor, Op. 49: Elation and Sorrow

Frédéric Chopin wrote the following words in a letter from October, 1841:

Today I finished the Fantaisie—and the sky is beautiful, my heart sad—but that doesn’t matter at all. If it were otherwise, my existence would perhaps be of no use to anyone.

Chopin’s Fantaisie in F minor for solo piano is music of persistent melancholy and soaring elation. As its title suggests, it is dreamlike, rhapsodic, and improvisatory. It was written about ten years after the composer fled his native Poland in the wake of a brutal invasion by the Russian army. Settling in Vienna and then in Paris, Chopin remained nostalgic for the homeland to which he would never return. One hundred years later, when the Nazis invaded in September of 1939, Chopin’s music was broadcast continuously until German bombs knocked Polish radio off the air. Amid such darkness, the F minor Fantaisie seems both elegiac and heroically defiant.

The work begins with a solemn funeral march which some listeners hear as an “Ode to the Fallen.” The music which follows is both tempestuous and euphoric. The middle section dissolves into a dreamy, wistful chorale. There is a haunting echo (9:07) of the brisk, triumphant march which forms the climax of the piece. In the final bars, the climax disintegrates and we are left with quiet lament. A final plagal cadence brings a resolution in the relative key of A-flat major.

Recordings

Featured Image: a portrait of Frédéric Chopin 

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “Chopin’s Fantaisie in F Minor, Op. 49: Elation and Sorrow”

  1. Agh! Chopin always amazes me with his dedication. Thanks to the author for presenting a piece like this and briefing us of its history as well.

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