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Funeral March

Frédéric Chopin
(1809-49)



The "Funeral March" of Chopin, as played in the concert room, is an adaptation of the slow movement of Chopin's second pianoforte sonata in B flat minor, op. 35. The work is so familiar as to need no description. The circumstances under which Chopin wrote it however, as told by M. Ziem, are of interest. Ziem, the artist, had been one evening to the studio of Polignac. There was a skeleton in the studio and among the Bohemian whimsicalities, Polignac placed it at the piano and guided its hands over the keys. In Ziem's own words:

Some time later Chopin came into my studio, just as George Sand depicts him -- the imagination haunted by the legends of the land of frogs, besieged by nameless shapes. After frightful nightmares all night, in which he had struggled against specters who threatened to carry him off to hell, he came to rest in my studio. His nightmares reminded me of the skeleton scene and I told him of it. His eyes never left my piano, and he asked : 'Have you a skeleton?' I had none ; but i promised to have one that night, and so invited Polignac to dinner and asked him to bring his skeleton. What had previously been a mere farce became, owing to Chopin's inspiration, something grand, terrible and painful. Pale, with staring eyes, and draped in a winding sheet, Chopin held the skeleton close to him, and suddenly the silence of the studio was broken by the broad, slow, deep, gloomy notes. The 'Dead March' was composed there and then from beginning to end."






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