From the first, the polonaise was important in Chopin's creative life. At the age of seven, he composed his first one, in B-flat major, and throughout his career he made the form exclusively his own, overshadowing the early examples by Oginski, Kurpinski, and Meyseder.
Chopin's mature polonaises form a heroic national epic. The dance, or more rightly the processional, is in triple time with an unmistakable rhythm featuring an eighth note and two sixteenths, followed by four eighths. Liszt felt that "this dance is designed above all to draw attention to the men and to gain admiration for their beauty, their fine arts, their martial and courteous appearance."
In these works, Chopin's Romantic 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. 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. These are charming, especially the Op. 71, No.3 in F minor. But only in Paris, idealizing his country from afar, could Chopin's genius for the polonaise ripen. His seven mature examples are thrilling in their splendor, rancor, and pianistic invention.
Polonaise [Dramatique] c sharp minor op. 26,1
Polonaise e flat minor op. 26,2
Polonaise [Militaire] A major op. 40,1
Polonaise c minor op. 40,2
Polonaise f sharp minor op. 44
Polonaise A flat major op. 53 [Oktaves]
Polonaise [Polonaise-Fantasie] A flat major op. 61
Polonaise d minor op. 71,1
Polonaise B flat major op. 71,2
Polonaise (Version 1: autograph) f minor op. 71,3
Polonaise (Version 2: Fontana) f minor op. 71,3
Polonaise g minor KK IIa,1
Polonaise B flat major KK IVa,1
Polonaise A flat major KK IVa,2
Polonaise g sharp minor KK IVa,3
Polonaise b flat minor KK IVa,5
Polonaise G flat major KK IVa,8