Frédéric Chopin: Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49

Written for the Tippet Rise Art CenterNot to be reprinted without permission.

The F-minor Fantaisie begins with a march, which then runs off on capricious excursions and reflective wanderings. “Today I finished the Fantaisie,” Chopin wrote to a friend in October 1841. “The sky is beautiful, [but] there’s a sadness in my heart.”

Many critics hear the Fantaisie as a reflection of Poland’s plight after the failed 1830 November Uprising against the Russian Empire, a grand anthem for a national victory that never was. Modern scholars have uncovered its allusions to insurrectionary songs popular among Polish exiles. But the early Chopin biographer Fredrick Niecks found it fascinating simply on its own terms: “there is an enthralling weirdness about this work, a weirdness made up of force of passion and an indescribable fantastic waywardness. Nothing more common than the name of Fantasia, here we have the [real] thing! The music falls on our ears like the insuppressible outpouring of a being stirred to its heart’s core, and full of immeasurable love and longing.”

Benjamin Pesetsky is a composer and writer. He serves on the staff of the San Francisco Symphony and also contributes program notes for the Philadelphia Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony.