The Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53 for solo piano was written by Frédéric Chopin in 1842. He dedicated it to his financial advisor and close friend, Auguste Léo.
This much-admired work is amongst Chopin’s most forceful bravura pieces. With its proudly pacing, forthright theme (which ‘resounds with the hooves of a proud cavalry’) it is also known as the Heroic Polonaise. This nickname may well have its origins in comments made in 1848 by Chopin’s long-time lover, George Sand, in which she exclaimed, “The inspiration! The strength! The vigour! … From now on this polonaise should be a symbol … of heroicness!”
Monty Python’s Oliver Cromwell is sung to the first section of the Heroic Polonaise, as arranged here. The song, with lyrics by John Cleese, documents the career of British statesman Oliver Cromwell and his rise from MP to becoming Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England – and along the way being one of the signatories to Charles I’s death warrant. It begins: The most interesting thing about King Charles I is that he was five foot six inches tall at the start of his reign, but only four foot eight inches tall at the end of it. I’ll leave you to work that one out!