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Mazurkas (Chopin)

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Title: Mazurkas (Chopin)  
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Subject: Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Vladimir Horowitz, Pauline Viardot, Charles Villiers Stanford, Mazurka, Dinu Lipatti, International Chopin Piano Competition, Waltz (music), Musical nationalism
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Mazurkas (Chopin)

Over the years 1825–1849, Frédéric Chopin wrote at least 69 mazurkas, based on the traditional Polish dance (see mazurka):

  • 58 have been published
    • 45 during Chopin's lifetime, of which 41 have opus numbers
    • 13 posthumously, of which 8 have posthumous opus numbers
  • 11 further mazurkas are known whose MSS are either in private hands (2) or untraced (at least 9).

The serial numbering of the 58 published mazurkas normally goes only up to 51. The remaining 7 are referred to by their key or catalogue number.

His composition of these mazurkas signaled new ideas of nationalism, and influenced and inspired other composers—mostly eastern Europeans—to support their national music.


Chopin based his mazurkas on the traditional Polish folk dance, also called the mazurka (or "mazur" in Polish). However, while Chopin used the traditional mazurka as his model, he was able to transform his mazurkas into an entirely new genre, one that became known as a "Chopin genre".[1]


Frédéric Chopin: Mazurka, Op. 17, No. 4, for piano
File:Giorgi Latsabidze Plays Mazurka.ogg
Performed by: Giorgi Latso, piano

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Chopin started composing his mazurkas in 1825, and continued composing them until 1849, the year of his death. The number of mazurkas composed in each year varies, but he was steadily writing them throughout this time period.

Musical style

Since Chopin's mazurkas connect to an already established genre of music, some of the characteristics of that genre (the traditional Polish mazurka) remain the same in his interpretation of the genre. For example, both the traditional mazurka and Chopin's version contain a great deal of repetition. This can mean repetition of a single measure or small group of measures, repetition of a theme, or even repetition of an entire section.[2] This repetition makes sense in the traditional dance for the repeat of a certain section of the actual dance; even though Chopin did not compose his mazurkas so they could be danced to,[3] it is clear Chopin kept the original form in mind. Furthermore, many of the rhythmic patterns of the traditional mazurka also appear in Chopin's compositions so they still convey the idea of a dance, but a more "self-contained, stylized dance piece."[4] In keeping with this idea, Chopin did try to make his mazurkas more technically interesting by furthering their chromaticism and harmony,[3] along with using classical techniques, such as counterpoint and fugues.[5] In fact, Chopin used more classical techniques in his mazurkas than in any of his other genres.[5] One of these techniques is four part harmony in the manner of a chorale.


While it is known that Chopin's mazurkas are connected to the traditional dance, throughout the years there has been much scholarly debate as to how exactly they are connected. The main subject of this debate is whether Chopin had an actual direct connection to Polish folk music, or whether he heard Polish national music in urban areas and was inspired by that to compose his mazurkas.

In 1852, only three years after Chopin's death, Franz Liszt published a piece about Chopin's mazurkas, saying that Chopin had been directly influenced by Polish national music to compose his mazurkas. Liszt also provided descriptions of specific dance scenes, which were not completely accurate, but were "a way to raise the status of these works [mazurkas]."[6] While Liszt's claim was inaccurate, the actions of scholars who read his writing proved to be more disastrous. When reading Liszt's work, scholars interpreted the word "national" as "folk," creating the "longest standing myth in Chopin criticism—the myth that Chopin's mazurkas are national works rooted in an authentic Polish-folk music tradition."[6] In fact, the most likely explanation for Chopin's influence is the national music he was hearing as a young man in urban areas of Poland, such as Warsaw.[7]

After scholars created this myth, they furthered it through their own writings in different ways. Some picked specific mazurkas that they could apply to a point they were trying to make in support of Chopin's direct connection with folk music. Others simply made generalizations so that their claims of this connection would make sense. In all cases, since these writers were well-respected and carried weight in the scholarly community, people accepted their suggestions as truth, which allowed the myth to grow. However, in 1921, Béla Bartók published an essay in which he said that Chopin "had not known authentic Polish folk music."[8] By the time of his death in 1945, Bartók was a very well known and respected composer, as well as a prominent expert on folk music, so his opinion and his writing carried a great deal of weight. Bartók suggested that Chopin instead had been influenced by national, and not folk music.


The soprano and composer Pauline Viardot was a close friend of Chopin and his lover George Sand, and she made a number of arrangements of his mazurkas as songs, with his full agreement. He gave Viardot expert advice on these arrangements, as well as on her piano playing and her other vocal compositions. Chopin in turn derived from her some firsthand knowledge about Spanish music.[9]

List of mazurkas

Key Composed Published Opus No. Brown Kobylańska Chominski Dedication Notes
G, B 1826 1826 B. 16 KK IIa/2-3 S 1/2 Revised versions (original versions were published in 1875)
1–4 Fm, Cm, E, Em 1830 1832 Op. 6 B. 60 C. 51–54 Countess Pauline Plater
5–9 B, A, Fm, Am, C 1830–31 1832 Op. 7 B. 61 C. 55–59 M. Johns de la Nouvelle-Orléans Nos. 2 and 4 are revised versions; the original version of No. 4 was published in 1902
10–13 B, Em, A, Am 1832–33 1834 Op. 17 B. 77 C. 60–63 Mlle. Lina Freppa
14–17 Gm, C, A, Bm 1834–35 1836 Op. 24 B. 89 C. 64–67 Comte de Perthuis
18–21 Cm, Bm, D, Cm 1836–37 1837 Op. 30 B. 105 C. 65–71 Princess Maria Czartoryska de Württemburg
22–25 Gm, D, C, Bm 1837–38 1838 Op. 33 B. 115 C. 72–75 Countess Roza Mostowska
27 Em 1838 (28 November) 1840 Op. 41/2 B. 122 C. 77
Cm, B, A 1839 (July) 1840 Op. 41/1, 3–4 B. 126 C. 76, 78–79 Étienne Witwicki
50 Am 1840 (summer) 1841 B. 134 KK IIb/4 S 2/4 Notre temps; in "Six Morceaux de salon"
51 Am 1840 1841 B. 140 KK IIb/5 S 2/5 Émile Gaillard In "Album de pianistes polonais"
30–32 G, A, Cm 1841–42 1842 Op. 50 B. 145 C. 80–82 Leon Szmitkowski
33–35 B, C, Cm 1843 1844 Op. 56 B. 153 C. 83–85 Catherine Maberly
36–38 Am, A, Fm 1845 (June–July) 1846 Op. 59 B. 157 C. 86–88
39–41 B, Fm, Cm 1846 (early autumn) 1847 Op. 63 B. 162 C. 89–91 Countess Laura Czosnowska
42, 44 G, C 1835 1855 Op. posth. 67/1, 3 B. 93 C. 92, 94 Anna Mlokosiewicz
45 Am 1846 1855 Op. posth. 67/4 B. 163 C. 95
43 Gm 1849 (summer) 1855 Op. posth. 67/2 B. 167 C. 93
47 Am 1827 1855 Op. posth. 68/2 B. 18 C. 97
48 F 1829 1855 Op. posth. 68/3 B. 34 C. 98 Quotes the folk tune "Oj, Magdalino"
46 C 1829 1855 Op. posth. 68/1 B. 38 C. 96
49 Fm 1849 (summer) 1855 Op. posth. 68/4 B. 168 C. 99 "Chopin's last composition"; first published in an incomplete form 1855
C 1833 1870 B. 82 KK IVb/3 P 2/3
D 1829 1875 B. 31 KK IVa/7 P 1/7 Heavily revised 1832 (see B. 71, KK IVb/2; rev. vers. pub. 1880)
D 1832 1880 B. 71 KK IVb/2 P 1/7 A heavily revised version of B.31, KK IVa/7
B 1832 (24 June) 1909 B. 73 KK IVb/1 P 2/1 Alexandrine Wolowska
D 1820 (?) 1910 (20 February) B. 4 KK Anh. Ia/1 A 1/1 "Mazurek"; doubtful
A 1834 (July) 1930 B. 85 KK IVb/4
 ? "early" KK Vf "Several mazurkas"; lost
D 1826 (?) KK Ve/5 Mentioned in literature; MS unknown
G 1829 (22 August)  ? Setting of a poem by Ignac Maciejowski
 ? 1832 KK Vc/2 Mentioned in a letter from Chopin dated 10 September 1832
 ? 1832 (14 September) KK Ve/7 Listed in an auction catalogue, Paris, 1906
B 1835 KK Ve/4 MS sold in Paris, 20 June 1977
 ? 1846 (by December) KK Vc/4 Mentioned in a letter from Chopin
A, Dm  ? KK VIIb/7-8 Allegretto and Mazurka; MS sold Paris 21 November 1974
Bm  ? KK Anh. Ib Doubtful
 ?  ? KK Ve/8 Mentioned in 1878 correspondence between Breitkopf & Hartel and Izabela Barczinska
 ?  ? KK Ve/6 Mme Nicolai Mentioned in a note from Augener to C.A. Spina 21 May 1884



  • Downes, Stephen (2009). "Mazurka." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 17 November 2009. [1]
  • Michałowski, Kornel and Samson, Jim (2009). "Chopin, Fryderyk Franciszek." [2]. (esp. section 6, “Formative Influences”)
  • Kallberg, Jeffrey (1988). “The problem of repetition and return in Chopin's mazurkas.” Chopin Styles, ed. Jim Samson. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press
  • Kallberg, Jeffrey (1985). "Chopin's Last Style." Journal of the American Musicological Society 38.2: 264–315.
  • Milewski, Barbara (1999). "Chopin's Mazurkas and the Myth of the Folk." 19th-Century Music 23.2: 113–35.
  • Rosen, Charles (1995). The Romantic Generation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press
  • Winoker, Roselyn M. (1974) “Chopin and the Mazurka.” Diss. Sarah Lawrence College
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