Recorded on 09/01/2009, uploaded on 09/01/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
The outbreak of the November Uprising in 1830 left Frédéric Chopin a political exile from his native Poland. Alone in Vienna, and not particularly adapting well to its society, he left for Paris in September 1831. While en route to the French capital, the distressing news reached him of Imperial Russia’s victory over the Polish revolutionaries. As he settled into Parisian society, Chopin harbored hopes that he could soon return to Poland once the political atmosphere had settled down. This dream, however, was never realized. Nevertheless, Chopin kept the vision of his homeland alive in his composition of Polish dances—namely, mazurkas and polonaises. Unlike the traditional dances, Chopin infused the dances with the complex techniques associated with formal composition to create a genre uniquely his own.
Composed in 1832-33 and published the following year in Leipzig, the four Mazurkas of Chopin’s opus 17 was the second group to be composed following the events of the November Uprising. The first mazurka of the set, in B-flat major and marked Vivo e risoluto, begins in a grand and stately manner. A brief trio section, in the key of the subdominant, gives a lyrical contrast to the previous dignified expression. A da capo repeat of the opening section rounds out the mazurka’s ternary form. In a drastic change of mood, the second mazurka shifts to the key of E minor. Its wistful melody, along with its hesitant rhythms, is likely a reflection of Chopin’s longing to return to his homeland. The central episode changes to the key of C major and introduces a new dolce melody. Chromatic harmonies over a pedal G lead to a return of the beginning E minor melody.
The third, and longest, mazurka of the set opens with a somewhat melancholy tune in A-flat major, as if some troubling feeling lies just below the surface. The middle strain shifts to the key of B-flat minor with a momentarily outburst before the A-flat major melody returns. A more brilliant tone is presented in the central E major episode. Once again, the opening section returns via a da capo repeat. Lastly, the final mazurka, in A minor, opens with a pensive chordal passage which eloquently disguises the opening notes of the forthcoming melody. Gloomy and forlorn, this melody owes its expression to its rather interesting harmonic accompaniment. A brighter and livelier section in A major provides an effective contrast to the prior proceedings. It is, however, all too brief and the melancholy tone of the opening returns. The chordal passage which opened the mazurka returns to close it. In the final chord, Chopin poignantly captures the entire expression of the mazurka by exceptionally substituting the fifth of the tonic chord with a minor sixth, thus creating an ever so slight sensation of dissonance which the ear is forced to accept as finality. Joseph DuBose
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