Polonaise from the opera Eugene Onegin

The Polonaise is a Polish dance with folk origins: the three-quarter time is characterised by the frequent dactylic rhythm of the first quarter. The dance was popular among Russian composers of the 19th century, and features as a divertissement in several of Tchaikovsky’s operas. The Polonaise from Eugene Onegin comes at the start of the opera’s third act as the opening to the ball scene, serving to demonstrate both the rich splendour of the venue and the transformation of Tatyana from naïve country girl into glamorous princess. Following Eugene Onegin’s Moscow premiere in 1881, this proud, three-part dance with a lyrical middle section took on a life of its own, independently of the opera itself. As well as becoming a much-loved concert piece, the Polonaise also saw a return to its original purpose: the piece is still played as a firm favourite at balls all over the world.