The two Polonaises
recall Chopin, but only for the titles; the epic spread of the first one, in particular, has no equivalent in the Polish composer’s canon, and there is a ceremonial feeling to the second which brings other non-Polish Polonaises to mind, such as those of Beethoven, Schubert or Tchaikovsky. The C minor piece, entitled ‘mélancolique’ by Liszt, though most editions omit to mention it, has remained rather sadly neglected, but it is an excellent work of its kind, seeming to bear the woes of the whole world on its shoulders. Even the contrasting major-key tune fails to alleviate the gloom, which is confirmed by a very strange meditative cadenza in which the pulse changes to 4/4 and the dance-style of the Polonaise becomes a distant memory. The Second Polonaise
used to be something of a warhorse: Busoni played it (and saddled it with much too long a cadenza, however interesting!), and Rachmaninov and Grainger both recorded it. A little less hackneyed nowadays, it remains a good foil for its companion, and its ingredients of two splendid themes and some really musical pyrotechnical variations make it a compelling concert-piece.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1988