I'm doing a little work about mazurkas this week. A student will be playing her first Mazurka this year. She has played other romantic works, and one or two other Chopin pieces. I decided I better look into the new research and changing viewpoints of Chopin's Mazurka writing.
So, to Wikipedia first...
"The folk origins of the mazurek are two other Polish musical forms—the slow kujawiak, and the fast oberek. In the 19th century, the dance became popular in many ballrooms in different parts of Europe. The Polish national anthem has a mazurek rhythm but is too slow to be considered a mazurek. There are many Polish versions of the mazurek but the most notable one is the mazurka.
In Polish, this musical form is called "mazurek"—a word derived from "mazur," which up to the nineteenth century denoted an inhabitant of Poland's Mazovia region, and which also became the root for "Masuria". In Polish, "mazurka" is actually the genitive and accusative cases of "mazurek."
Several classical composers have written mazurkas, with the best known being the 58 composed by Frédéric Chopin for solo piano. Chopin first started composing mazurkas in 1825, but his composing did not become serious until 1830, the year of the November Uprising, a Polish rebellion against the Russian government.
The stylistic and musical characteristics of Chopin's mazurkas differ from the traditional variety because Chopin in effect created a completely separate and new genre of mazurka all his own. For example, he used classical techniques in his mazurkas, including counterpoint and fugue. By including more chromaticism and harmony in the mazurkas, he made them more technically interesting than the traditional dances. Chopin also tried to compose his mazurkas in such a way that they could not be used for dancing , so as to distance them from the original form.
However, while Chopin changed some aspects of the original mazurka, he maintained others. His mazurkas, like the traditional dances, contain a great deal of repetition: repetition of certain measures or groups of measures; of entire sections; and of an initial theme. The rhythm of his mazurkas also remains very similar to that of earlier mazurkas. However, Chopin also incorporated the rhythmic elements of the two other Polish forms mentioned above, the kujawiak and oberek; his mazurkas usually feature rhythms from more than one of these three forms (mazurek, kujawiak, and oberek). This use of rhythm suggests that Chopin tried to create a genre that had ties to the original form, but was still something new and different."
Interesting, huh? I love that fact that he started with a known style, but created something new. I told her that this was a more traditional common folk dance, and that it was meant to be danced to, so I will have to amend that statement when I see her again. Here are 2 clips of both the Mazurka and "Polka Mazurka" dance, how graceful in these clothes. I have danced the polka mazurka, which is the dance I decribed to her with the kick of the foot.
Here's the piece I've given her, a less familiar Mazurka, but still charming, I think.
I seem to be in a Chopin binge this month. Tomorrow I will be taking a trip to a college to see their music department and Saturday is the big multi-state Youth In Music band tournament. For more information on this event, www.youthinmusic.org. And I'll try to take pictures of both trips and bring them back here!