Chopin Scherzo No 3 in C Sharp Minor

Chopin's Scherzo No 3 in C Sharp Minor was completed in 1839 - seven years after the first - when Chopin paid what turned out to be an unhappy visit to Majorca. It is quite evident that Chopin's skill in form and construction had improved drastically, as this scherzo is far less repetitive than the first. The third scherzo is the most terse, ironic, and tightly constructed of the four scherzi, with an almost Beethovenian grandeur. It is in modified sonata form. James Huneker memorably described this work as ‘a sombre and fantastic pile of architecture, and about it hovers despairing and perpetual light’.

The Scherzo no 3 begins mysteriously, in almost Lisztian vein, in a variety of keys which highlights the ambiguity of the main key. Only when the fierce main theme announces itself in the forte octaves does the key of C Sharp Minor assert itself. These passages are technically challenging as they require an excellent octave technique in order to give them the correct character and effect. The highly energetic first section is followed by a contrasting chorale-like subject in D Flat Major. This chorale theme is interspersed with delicate falling arpeggios. Louis Kentner refers to it as "a Wagnerian melody of astonishing beauty, recalling the sound of tubas, harps and all the apocalyptic orchestra of Valhalla."

After the return of the main octave theme, we again hear the chorale-like theme but this time in the key of E Major and then pianissimo in E Minor. From this air of mystery, the scherzo grows in tempo and dynamics, unleashing a flurry of octaves down the keyboard and into the coda. This coda is a real finger buster, and brings the work to a rhtorical ending in C Sharp Major.

Listen to Chopin's Scherzo No 3 in C Sharp Minor played by Jonathan Oshry




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