Zarzycki’s Grande Polonaise Op 7, marked Allegro non troppo, con maesta, follows the genre’s traditional spirit and format: a stately dance, ternary in design, intended to arouse pride in the heart of a nation that had lost its statehood (Poland was partitioned by Austria, Prussia and Russia throughout the nineteenth century). After the soloist’s opening flourish, a variant of the polonaise’s characteristic fanfare rhythm is played by trumpets, and Zarzycki subsequently highlights a kicking syncopation reminiscent of another Polish dance, the krakowiak.
Zarzycki’s Grande Polonaise is not just a demonstration of patriotic bravado; there are moments of quieter reflection, even in the outer sections (with some nice touches from oboe and flute). In common with the dances written by other Polish composers of the time, Zarzycki’s style is simpler than is found in many of Chopin’s more familiar examples. His melodic ideas are instinctively lyrical, bordering on the sentimental. It is almost as if the tune of the central section has stepped off the stage of an operetta, a new and popular entertainment in Paris at the time (Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld had been premiered in Paris in 1858). True to form, however, the opening swagger returns and, with a couple of new side-steps, the piece is brought to a sparkling conclusion.
from notes by Adrian Thomas © 2013