2009 | 7 | 51-76
Article title

'THE RAISING OF THE CROSS' IN THE EXORDIUM OF FRYDERYK CHOPIN'S 'POLONAISE IN F SHARP MINOR' OP. 44 ('Podniesienie krzyza' w exordium 'Poloneza fis-moll' op. 44 Fryderyka Chopina

Title variants
Languages of publication
The present article is an analytical insight into the expressive layer of Fryderyk Chopin's 'Polonaise in F sharp minor' Op. 44. Of special interest is the eight-bar introduction to the piece, which is the 'exordium' of the composition. The starting point for scientific interpretation is the initial motif of the composition, which the author regards as the musical-rhetorical figure 'imaginatio crucis', productive in the music of the Baroque, which served to interpret the words speaking of Christ's cross, crucifixion 'etc.' by means of sounds. At least three premises support the likelihood that Chopin consciously utilized this figure: Chopin's veneration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, who left numerous distinct examples of the use of 'imaginatio crucis'; the fact that the 'image of the cross' - in the interpretive sense - was known to Józef Elsner (which we can see in his 'Missa in C major' Op. 22); finally, Maciej Golab's supposition that Chopin used this figure in his songs 'Posel' [The Messenger] and 'Melodia' [Melody]. The acceptance of the presence of 'imaginatio crucis' in the introductory motif of the 'Polonaise' leads to an iconographic interpretation of the whole eight-bar opening, which appears - very suggestively - as a musical-rhetorical expression of the 'elevation of the cross' i.e. the raising of the cross with Christ transfixed to it: both in the pictorial (iconographic)/symbolic and kinetic-energetic sense, which corresponds both with the iconography of 'elevation of the cross' in plastic arts and with the actual, physical scene of the event referred to. The return of the 'exordium' in the later part of the work as well as other musical shapes related in various ways to the initial figure of 'imaginatio crucis' reinforce and expand - in their oratorical significance - the adopted interpretation of the 'exordium'. In light of the phenomena of 'imaginatio crucis' and 'elevation of the cross' Chopin's work appears as one in which the national aspect of artistic expression - clearly observed and emphasized by many scholars - is enriched with a religious and messianic element. The analysis conducted seems to prove that in Chopin's pieces there are yet undiscovered aspects of creative poetics, where thinking in terms of the iconographic and the symbolic in the broad sense comes to the fore, being clearly marked by the idea of semantic communication. Consequently, the appended picture by Jerzy Duda Gracz - 'Polonez fis-moll op. 44' [Polonaise in F sharp minor Op. 44] - appears to be a unique, amazing and faithfully vivid reflection of the symbolic-iconographic layer of Chopin's 'Polonaise'.
  • Tomasz Jasinski, Instytut Muzyki, Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Sklodowskiej, Al. Krasnicka 2a, 20-718 Lublin
Document Type
Publication order reference
CEJSH db identifier
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.