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8.550359 - CHOPIN: Mazurkas, Vol. 2
English 

Fryderyk Chopin (1810- 1849)

Mazurkas

Fryderyk Chopin was born near Warsaw in 1810, the son of Nicolas Chopin, French by birth but a Polish patriot in sentiment. Chopin’s early musical training was in Warsaw, where he had made a name for himself before setting out in 1830 to conquer the musical world of Vienna. Failing in this attempt, he moved to Paris, at a time when Poland had fallen a victim to Russia yet again, mixing there at first with émigré Polish patriots and then with a wider, fashionable circle. As a pianist he played with a delicacy better suited to the salon than to the concert hall, where Liszt and his virtuoso contemporaries held sway, although this did not prevent him from giving occasional concerts for audiences of distinction and discrimination. At the same time he proved an acceptable and presentable teacher in the families of the leading members of society. For ten years Chopin had a liaison with the novelist George Sand, who provided a refuge for him during the summer months spent at her country house, Nohant, but was alienated from her in the last years before his early death in 1849.

Among the Polish dance forms that Chopin adapted to his own purposes was the Mazurka, in origin a country dance from the plains of Mazovia, near Warsaw, among the people known as Mazurs. The dance gained respectability in the fashionable ball-rooms of Europe, losing much in the transformation. Chopin, however, relied more on the original rhythm and varying moods of the peasant dance for compositions that transform and elevate the ingenuous into a poetic musical form. The first of his Mazurkas was written in 1820, when he was ten, the last two in the year of his death, 29 years later.

The second of the Opus 41 Mazurkas, in E minor, bears the date 28th November, 1838. With the third and fourth, in B major and A flat major, completed in 1840, they were published in that year with a dedication to the Polish poet Stefan Witwicki. The three Mazurkas of Opus 50, in C major, A flat major and C sharp minor, varying in mood, appeared in 1842, with a dedication to Leon Szmitkowski, to be followed in 1843 by the three Mazurkas of Opus 56, in B major, a lively C major and a more sombre C minor, the set dedicated to Catherine Maberly, a foreign pupil of the composer. Two years later came a further set of three, in A minor, A flat major and F sharp minor, Opus 59, published in Berlin in the year of composition, but without dedication.

In 1846, his health now deteriorating with his failing relationship with George Sand and her children, Chopin wrote another set of three Mazurkas, in B major, F minor and C sharp minor. These he dedicated to Laura Czosnowska, an old friend of his and of his sister Ludwika, now 36, a guest for the summer at Nohant, whose behaviour did nothing to endear her to George Sand and her grown-up children Solange and Maurice. The four Mazurkas of Opus 67 were to be published posthumously, in 1855. The group includes two Mazurkas, in G major and C major, Nos. 1 and 3, written in 1835, intended for friends from Poland, Anna Mlokosiewicz and for the writer Kiementyna Hoffmann. No. 2, in G minor, and Opus 68, No. 4, in F minor, were written in the spring of 1849, as Chopin made a final attempt to summon energy. Opus 67, No.4, in A minor, had been written in 1846, before the political turmoil that induced the composer to accept an invitation to London and to Edinburgh. The remaining Mazurkas of the group published in Berlin in 1855 as Opus 68 were early works. The first to be written, Opus 68, No, 2, in A minor, was composed in 1827 and Nos. 1 and 3, in C major and F major, two years later, before Chopin left Warsaw. Two further Mazurkas, both in A minor, were the work of 1841, designed for anthology publication, the second dedicated to Emile Gaillard.


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