I am not sure how to interpret the particular notation in Chopin's Op.53 Polonaise:

enter image description here

Here, we have a single (smaller font) Eb (just before the trill). I should interpret it as a grace note, but then there is a slash. Therefore, I assume it to be an acciaccatura, however, I am more used to see acciaccaturas to have a slur to the principal note:

enter image description here

while in the posted fragment, the slur-mark is missing. Moreover, it is an acciaccatura to the same note (Eb) – which would make an omitted (?) slur a tie.

So, what's the deal with that notation? Am I missing some message from Chopin or the editor?

2 Answers 2


There is nothing mysterious here. As you say, if it were slurred that would make it a tie, and that wouldn't make much sense in this setting. It all looks clear to me. Simply play the slashed Eb slightly before the beat and then start the trill on another Eb.

  • 2
    That's how every major recording does it. Nothing controversial. Aug 15, 2019 at 23:15
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    In Chopin's time trills in his music were supposed to start on the beat. That means that when there is a grace note that note starts on the beat. If the grace note is the same note as the main note, which it is in this case, it just means that the trill starts on the main note on the beat. I do know that there are many pianists, even very famous ones, who starts before the beat, but that is not an authentic way of doing it. In generel trills in Chopin's music should start on the upper note, unless something else is indicated as it is here. @Anton Menshov Aug 27, 2019 at 9:48
  • @LarsPeterSchultz that's interesting and seems to contradict what others are saying, if I understand your comment correctly. Just to confirm: are you suggesting that the only purpose of that slashed Eb is to indicate that the trill starts (on the beat) on Eb and then trills upward to the F (and not doubled the Eb the way others have mentioned - and most recordings have it?)
    – Tom Auger
    Sep 9, 2021 at 20:04
  • @TonAuger yes it means that trill starts on E♭. As a general rule of thumb Chopin's ornaments start on the beat. I know that many piano players start before the beat but that doesn't make it right, it only means that that is what they do. On this site starpianostudio.musicteachershelper.com you can find a document on Chopin's ornamentation. Here is the document: starpianostudio.musicteachershelper.com/… Sep 10, 2021 at 9:47
  • An extra note. If you look at my first comment you can see that I wrote something that is wrong, I wrote: "In generel trills in Chopin's music should start on the upper note, unless something else is indicated as it is here." But in the document that I linked to in my former comnent it clearly states that a trill should start on the principal note if there is no direction. So on this point I was wrong. Sep 10, 2021 at 10:06

The reason for a slash in a note is not that it is a grace note per se, but that it is to be played outside the context of the meter. In other words, it's a note that you "throw in" in whatever way sounds good to you. So, it's that a grace note is played outside of the meter, so it has a slash in it, not that because it has a slash in it, it's a grace note.

So, the common interpretation is just as Jomiddnz has it, and as C.G. mentions, that is how it is played in pretty much every major recording of the piece.

Another thing not to make too much of is the fact that the D natural and E flat are written as 16th notes, which would take up the entire value of the 8th note trill. All it's saying is to put a turn at the end of the trill. (Don't expect those "little notes" to precisely follow a meter; they usually don't.) So, the figure is generally played like this:

enter image description here

In the usual tempo range, most people just put a simple mordent for the trill as I have it here. I've looked at several recordings, and nearly all of them definitely use the notes I have here (as do I). I'd say that you're entirely safe doing the same.

Also note that most performances borrow the grace note's time from the previous sub-beat, meaning that the first Eb of the quintuplet falls directly on the second beat, and the grace note a little before. This appears to contradict your wikipedia link for the acciaccatura, which says this:

In the 19th century, the acciaccatura (sometimes called short appoggiatura) came to be a shorter variant of the long appoggiatura, where the delay of the principal note is quick.

In the performances I've listened to, there is no delay of the principal note at all, and the grace note borrows from the previous beat. I believe that this is the correct interpretation of the notation; it's certainly the one that pretty much everyone uses.

  • Despite the fact that many pianists play the grace notes by burrowing from the previous beat it is not authentic. Chopin's ornamentation should start on the beat as a general rule. On this site starpianostudio.musicteachershelper.com you can find a document on Chopin's ornamentation. Here is the document: starpianostudio.musicteachershelper.com/… Sep 10, 2021 at 9:59
  • @LarsPeterSchultz I wouldn't make the assertion that it is not authentic based on a book in which the preface states that the "correct" interpretation of ornamentation is "based, and could indeed be based only on internal evidence, for the traditional knowledge that we possess regarding this aspect of Chopin's art is disappointingly vague." In other words, what you are calling "authentic" is simply the writer's opinion (what he rather evasively calls "internal evidence").
    – BobRodes
    Sep 12, 2021 at 0:55
  • @LarsPeterSchultz Furthermore, your further conclusion that it "should start on the beat as a general rule" flies in the face of the fact that it is a rule to which most performers don't adhere. If it were really a general rule, one would not see it generally broken in practice.
    – BobRodes
    Sep 12, 2021 at 0:55
  • In the Library of the Paris Conservatoire you can find signs written with Chopin's own hand in the sheet music copies of Madane Dubois, signs that leave no doubt that his ornaments is intended to be played on the beat. The reference to the sheet music of Madam Dubois I have in my copy of Paderewski's edition of Chopin's mazurkas. I have also seen that reference mentioned on the Internet. Sep 12, 2021 at 22:49
  • @LarsPeterSchultz This performance sums up my opinion on the subject, which is that it is not a hard-and-fast rule either way. To extrapolate from a small sample of Chopin's directions to his students an edict for his entire body of work doesn't make sense to me. Study of the waltzes shows that he wrote out appoggiaturas often enough, sometimes on the beat, sometimes before it.
    – BobRodes
    Sep 16, 2021 at 2:59

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