Nineteenth century piano virtuoso Anton Rubinstein called Fryderyk Chopin’s two Opus 40 Polonaises “Poland’s Greatness; Poland’s Sorrow.” Pianist Garrick Ohlsson explains why:
"First of all, it’s [Op. 40, No. 1 "Military" Polonaise] one of the most famous Chopin pieces, it’s very triumphant, it’s very popular, it’s very great. I always think of it as Handel’s… somehow, sort of drums and trumpets music. Yes, it’s deeply patriotic, (I think less personally patriotic than the great A-flat polonaise,) but it’s a fabulous piece, noisy! So much for the weakling!"
"The C minor, its opus-mate [Op. 40, No. 2], is one of the least often played. It’s a very dark, inward piece – very powerful also, but it’s not at all … it doesn’t play to the gallery at all. It’s a very unhappy, wrathful, and very tragic work and I think having the two of them in one opus is also a stroke of genius of Chopin. And to hear them side by side… anyway, I’m crazy about the C minor polonaise.” - Benjamin K. Roe