In the First Scherzo (1832) a clarion call to attention launches the principal theme which sears upwards like a zig-zag flame, its key and gaunt texture insisted on throughout. The dissonance and syncopation are startlingly modern, and so is the second subject’s terse yet haunting declamation. The central B major reworking of the polish carol ‘Sleep, little Jesus’ is a no less spare yet conciliatory lullaby, its gently rocking motion and tranquillity finally clouded by ill-feeling as the storm returns, its fury confirmed in a pulverizing coda full of harsh surprises, and not just for Chopin’s contemporaries. This Scherzo was the favourite of Anton Rubinstein, most leonine of pianists, and was often known as ‘The Infernal Banquet’.
from notes by Bryce Morrison © 2004