A Narrative of Dreams: Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie


  • Michael L. Klein Temple University




This essay discusses Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie from a narrative point of view, arguing that in addition to considering musical narrative as a study of affective logic, it also requires a consideration of cultural ideas at play in the music. The essay argues that in the Polonaise-Fantaisie one of the cultural oppositions involves dreaming vs. doing. This polonaise has difficulty maintaining the proper military (doing) aspect common to the genre, often falling into sections that signify dreaming. For example, a nocturne appears in the middle of the work, and various interruptions of the polonaise theme pull it away from its significations of action. The essay discusses the double apotheosis of the polonaise and nocturne themes, arguing that the work is making a statement about how dreaming and acting must come together for action to be meaningful. The essay concludes by detailing how the Polonaise-Fantaisie can prompt us to reconsider modern subjectivity, since the sections about dreaming point to a growing sense of our inner life, which was a growing concern in the nineteenth-century.


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