Fryderyk Chopin - Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise in E-flat major Op. 22 for piano and orchestra (1830-35).
The idea of writing a work of concert music with an introduction had been born before Chopin left Warsaw. He started from the Polonaise, leaving the introduction till later, and commented jokingly on that in a letter to his friend Tytus Wojciechowski on 13th September 1830:
"I have begun a polonaise with an orchestra, but it is still ginning, the ginning is there, but the beginning is not."
Chopin wrote the Polonaise in 1830-31, but Andante spianato, i.e. the beginning, was only ready in Paris in late 1834 / early 1835. The work was published in 1836 as the Grande Polonaise brillante précédée d'un Andante spianato with a dedication to Baroness d'Este.
Andante spianato, performed by solo piano, is in G major key and in 6/8 metre, and owing to its nocturne-lullaby character provides an excellent introduction to the Polonaise which starts with a heroic motif intoned by the horns. Although Andante and Polonaise form an integral entity, Chopin used very often to play only Andante during his concerts. The piano part of Grande Polonaise is an exceptional display of bravado, brilliance and brightness, and the heroic moments of its theme intertwine with melodious figurations. As in all music composed in the brillant style, here, too, the orchestra's role is secondary, providing a background for the virtuoso piano part. No wonder that the work is sometimes played without an orchestra. In fact, Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise in E-flat major is the last work of concertizing music composed by Chopin in the brillant style which was present in both of his concertos, Variations in B-flat major on the theme La ci darem la mano from Mozart's Don Juan Op. 2, Fantasia on Polish themes in A major Op. 13 and Rondo à la Krakowiak in F major Op. 14. Each of these works starts with an introduction, usually slow in tempo and followed by the main movement, and features some national elements.
Prepared by the Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, March 2002.