Scherzo No. 3 (Chopin)
performed November 2011
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The Scherzo No. 3, Op. 39, in C-sharp minor by Frédéric Chopin, completed in 1839, was written in the abandoned monastery of Valldemossa on the Balearic island of Majorca, Spain. This is the most terse, ironic, and tightly constructed of the four scherzos, with an almost Beethovenian grandeur.
The piece begins in the key of C-sharp minor, then moves to D-flat major, and returns to C-sharp minor, concluding with a Picardy third. The composition opens with an almost Lisztian introduction, leading to a subject in octaves of pent-up energy. The key changes to D-flat major, with a chorale-like subject, interspersed with delicate falling arpeggios. Louis Kentner thinks of it as "a Wagnerian melody of astonishing beauty, recalling the sound of tubas, harps and all the apocalyptic orchestra of Valhalla."
It begins with an introduction progressing into the fierce main theme. This is particularly difficult to perform, due to the technique needed to accurately and quickly execute the running octave patterns. The scherzo then moves into a transition section that leads back to the main theme. The following, singing style (cantabile) section is in D-flat major. The main theme and its sequences begin with strong chords that hold the melody followed by a downward flutter of notes. There follows a brief section consisting of a series of arpeggios. The elements of this lyrical section repeat themselves a few times and the piece then moves back into the main theme.
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