Frédéric Chopin

Introduction and variations on a German Air ("Der Schweizerbub") for piano in E major, KK. IVa/4, CT. 227 (B. 14)

    Description by Robert Cummings

    The story behind this composition is interesting. Chopin, a promising 16-year-old composer/pianist studying in Warsaw, was a friend of the well-to-do Sowinski family, whose matriarch was Katarzyna Sowinska. (Her husband was an important war-hero General.) She became enamored of the German song Der Schweizerbub after hearing a performance of it by renowned soprano Henriette Sontag. Madame Sowinska prevailed upon a reluctant Chopin to write variations on it. Apparently he wanted to dispatch the request as quickly as possibly, since he is said to have written the piece in less than an hour. If this account is true, it bears witness to Chopin's remarkable facility and burgeoning genius, for this is a fine, if minor composition.

    After a slow introduction Chopin presents the theme, which bears a curious resemblance to the famous tune in the Marine hymn "From The Halls of Montezuma." Yet, it is lighter here and, oddly, has an Italianate sort of chipper character which might make it suited to a Rossini comedy. The variations all feature brilliant keyboard writing, with the Scherzando second brimming with color and playfulness, and the ensuing Tranquillamente variation, in contrast, somber and elegant. The last variation quickly transforms into a colorful waltz, whose thematic ties to the Schweizerbub melody are the most distant and, in a sense, the most subtle. This was Chopin's first surviving effort at a variations work, and it must be counted as an overwhelming success.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2011 Newton Classics 8802076
    2011 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PHO 4073
    2011 Universal
    2011 Fryderyk Chopin Institute NIFCCD000020
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 002894778445
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099996711
    2010 Fryderyk Chopin Institute 18
    2010 Decca
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Music Classics and Jazz 001382602
    2009 Zephyr 132-09
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93217
    2008 Hyperion 44351
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946371472
    2006 Brilliant 99802
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000460002
    2003 Forlane 126817
    2000 Talent Records 26/7
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 463 047-2GCE17
    1999 Naxos 501501
    1999 Naxos 554537
    1997 London 443738
    1995 London
    1995 APR (Appian) 7025
    1993 Arabesque 6633
    1992 Naxos 550367
    1991 Hyperion 66514
    Hyperion 11
    Pedro & Branko Lda 1
    Selene 940117
    London 421035
    Forlane 16767
    Brilliant 99802/1
    Hyperion 55181
    Philips Classics 426828