Episode 24: Chopin's Odd Couple

Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise, Op. 22

rc-oddcouple-200A smooth and willowy branch is grafted onto a gnarly oak -- and in Chopin’s fertile orchard, a curious hyrbrid blooms.

According to Robert Schumann, when fellow composer Felix Mendelssohn heard Chopin’s Andante Spianato, he was completely bowled over. He described it as “…a vision opening up of a garden peopled by beings walking in silence midst fountains and strange birds.”

“Spianato” is Italian for “smooth”, “level” or “even”. Chopin used the word only once in his manuscripts. Fluid, frictionless, soft and sleek, the Andante Spianato shares qualities with his other stand-alone works, like his gently-swaying Barcarolle and tenderly-cooing Berceuse.

So, why did Chopin pair this velvety, Parisian-grown limb with the rougher bark of a polonaise he’d managed to dash off four years earlier while living rather miserably in Vienna?

It’s an odd couple. But it works. Like the tangelo, the juice of a tangerine wrapped in the rind of grapefruit, Chopin’s pairing is strange and wonderful fruit. - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 24: Chopin's Odd Couple



Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise, Op. 22