Chopin composed about 200 works. 110 were dances such as mazurkas, waltzes and polonaises.
At the age of seven, he composed his first polonaise in B-flat major, and throughout his career he made the form exclusively his own, overshadowing the early examples by Oginski and Kurpinski. Chopin’s mature polonaises form a heroic national epic. In these works, Chopin’s patriotism envisions Poland’s former greatness and chivalric deeds. The form also became a means of expressing his most violent and angry emotions concerning his nation’s struggle. Chopin got it from his father, the dance, in its modern manifestation, from its godmothers; three French princesses of the 17th century who married successive Polish kings. The Polonaises, with their “cannon buried in flowers,” in Schumann’s words, have become symbolic and poignant evocations of an oppressed people. There are sixteen polonaises, of which nine were composed before Chopin left Poland at twenty-one. But only in Paris, idealizing his country from afar, could Chopin’s genius for the polonaise ripen.
Here we hear Rafal Blechacz playing the Polonaise in A-flat major Op. 53 “Heroique” in a live broadcast from the Polish Television. On October 21, 2005, he became the sole recipient of all five first prizes at the 15th International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, taking First Prize and the polonaise, mazurka, sonata, and concerto first prizes. According to ABC News, one of the judges, Professor Piotr Paleczny, said that Blechacz “so outclassed the remaining finalists that no second prize could actually be awarded.”