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.
Featured Image: a portrait of Frédéric Chopin