Feux Follets, in B Flat Major after the dark D minor of Mazeppa, opens leggero/leggerissimo with lightly swirling chromatics and diminished 7ths. All seems manageable – but then the real technical point is introduced – RH double notes, not neatly divided into a study in either 3rds or 6ths, as Chopin’s double note studies are, but an interlocking cat’s cradle of different intervals. The original (below) was just single notes:
Nor is the left hand allowed to be idle; it is soon engaged in springy leaps of up to two octaves, quasi pizzicato, cleverly written to include an acciaccatura on the upper note, giving a rhythmic kick to the arrival, added colour – and a greater chance of landing successfully, aiming for a cluster of two notes instead of just one.
A rough translation for Feux Follets is ‘Will-o’-the wisps’, referring to mysterious lights which lead unwary travellers off well-trodden paths into treacherous marshes. Quite. Although there are big moments in the piece, overall it needs a gossamer lightness, airy transparency, speed and control. It ends with a delicate halo of sound emulating the flickering , tantalizing lights of the Feux Follets. Enchanting.
Here is Lugansky –