Scherzo No. 1 (Chopin)
The Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20 is a composition for solo piano written by Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

 (1810-1849) in 1831-2 and dedicated to Thomas Albrecht. The tempo marking is marked with "Presto con fuoco". The piece is very dark, dramatic, and lively.


This first Scherzo takes A-B-A-Coda form and begins with two chords in fortissimo. At tremendous speed, a series of dramatic outbursts in the B minor tonic follows. Near the center of the piece, the music leads into a slower section in B major; finally one hears a tangible melody in the middle register, surrounded by accompaniment in both the left and upper right hands. Chopin quotes here from an old Polish Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 song (Lulajże Jezuniu); tempo is marked as Molto Piu Lento. The B major area dissolves as the harmony mysteriously changes character via secondary dominant. The two chords from the very start reappear, superimposed over vestiges of the middle section. Then the beginning presto repeats itself in the familiar minor tonic.

The lead-in to the dramatic, virtuosic coda is similar to the approach toward the Molto Piu Lento, but slightly different (as it is with Chopin's Second and Third Scherzi). This final section incorporates dizzying arpeggiated flights up and down almost the entire keyboard, suspended by a climactic series of nine ten-note chords (E diminished seventh (with diminished third), augmented sixth chord
Augmented sixth chord
In music theory, an augmented sixth chord contains the interval of an augmented sixth above its "root" or bass tone . This chord has its origins in the Renaissance, further developed in the Baroque, and became a distinctive part of the musical style of the Classical and Romantic periods.-Resolution...

 in root position, secondary leading-tone chord
Secondary leading-tone chord
In music theory, a secondary leading-tone chord or secondary seventh or secondary diminished seventh, as in seventh scale degree or leading-tone, is a secondary chord but rather than being a dominant it is a leading-tone seventh chord or triad, which are similar in function to dominant chords. Also...

 of tonic B). After the resolution and a rapid chromatic ascent over four octaves in both hands, the coda and piece come to a triumphant end via a bold minor plagal cadence.

In his rendition of the Scherzo No. 1, Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz    was a Russian-American classical virtuoso pianist and minor composer. His technique and use of tone color and the excitement of his playing were legendary. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Life and early...

famously duplicated the chromatic scale near the ending into interlocking octaves, a technique he often used as his signature on other pieces. The interlocking octaves were meant to be played at the same speed as the original chromatic scale.
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