I encountered a notation in the Chopin's Polonaise, Op. 53 that I have not seen before: smaller font notes not explicitly following the time signature.

enter image description here

While it is pretty obvious how it is played (fast "dimensionless" passage), I wonder:

  • if this notation has a specific name?
  • if the technical skill to play it on the piano has a specific name?
  • It's a tuplet with lots of notes, or a 'run' Aug 15 '19 at 11:07

It's commonly called a roulade, or sometimes fioritura from Italian "flourish." In his later compositions, they're often more elaborate than just a scale.

It makes no sense to call it a tuplet, unless it's Ferneyhough or Berio ironically quoting Chopin.

  • I think you are totally right! Also found Wiki page on fioritura which also features an example from Chopin!
    – Anton
    Aug 16 '19 at 7:53

As marcelloverylongname commented, this is a run. The notation is easier than trying to notate 29 notes into 5 eighth-notes. ( 6-6-6-6-5 ? ugh)

Given that this is in the middle of the piece, in 3/4 time, with only an eighth-note in that bar, you should make the run come more or less close to using up the remainder of the meter in that bar. A little time-stretching is acceptable.


I also found a term tirata (or tirade), which I am not sure can be applicable to Chopin.

According to Artopium Music Index, tirata is a

baroque ornament consisting of a long scale passage

Another source, that is actually referenceable, "Musica Poetica: Musical-Rhetorical Figures in German Baroque Music" by D. Bartel has

Tirata: a rapid scalar passage, spanning a fourth to an octave or more.

This book contains some historical categorizations and characterization of what kind of ornaments are there. However, it seems like the "ascendence or descendence sequence of rapid notes" is a pretty universal definition.

The Deutch Wiki and Russian musical encyclopedia might also be interesting sources. However, it is certainly a bit awkward to use this baroque ornament for Chopin's pieces, while it allows (in my mind) to distinguish between an arbitrary fioritura (as well pointed out by @Camille Goudeseune's answer) and an ornament that is strictly ascending in nature.

  • We just called them "runs" back in music school.
    – BobRodes
    Aug 22 '19 at 6:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.