Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Frédéric Chopin

Of the piano works of Chopin, the mazurka, perhaps more than his works in other genres, allowed him to experiment with different harmonic and melodic colors, unusual rhythmic patterns, and individualized, personal expressive traits. The genre draws upon the music of the composer's native Poland, including the dance forms of the Mazur (strong, irregular accents, moderate tempo), the Kujawiak (slow, flowing tempo, singing in nature, more subtle accents), and the Oberek (strong, irregular accents, fast tempo, spontaneous in nature). Just as each dance form has its own character, it also has a specific rhythmic formula. Some of Chopin's mazurkas are references to a specific dance, but many are something of a collage, assembling elements which sound like fragments of waltzes and nocturnes. The result is a richly varied repertoire of 57 pieces, each with its own individual traits. The later mazurkas show the development of Chopin's compositional ability, as more space for expansion and development is provided in the longer pieces. Op. 50 begins with a grand and noble mazurka, rich in melodic and harmonic invention. The Aeolian mode which Chopin uses adds to a feeling of mystery and impending danger. What follows is an introspective, tender waltz, with a rhythmically stable, lighthearted middle passage. The third mazurka employs the rhythmic and characteristic traits of the Mazur, the Oberek, and the Kujawiak. In weaving the three together, Chopin uses several contrasting contrapuntal and accompanimental figures, including fugal imitation, thicker chordal textures, and waltz pattern bass lines. The piece appears to fade away, but it ends with two surprising and accented cadence chords.