Recorded on 06/23/2006, uploaded on 09/01/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Julian Fontana, like Chopin himself, was left alienated from his homeland in the wake of the November Uprising and ultimately came to call Paris home. Coming from similar backgrounds and Fontana being a pianist as well, the two became close friends. When Chopin passed away in 1849, Fontana became the executor of Chopin’s manuscripts. It was the composer’s express wish that all his unpublished manuscripts be destroyed after his death. Fontana, however, published many of these works during the decade following Chopin’s death. It is fortunate for us that Fontana did not heed his friend’s wishes, considering the number of pieces that would have otherwise been condemned to fire.
Opus 67 was the first of Chopin’s mazurkas to be published posthumously, appearing in Berlin in 1855. The respective dates of composition for each of the four pieces span a significant period of Chopin’s career. The earliest, nos. 2 and 3, were composed in 1835, three years after Chopin settled in the French capital. The last mazurka of the set was composed in 1846 and the first in the year of Chopin’s death. Though they span nearly fifteen years of the composer’s life, there is less diversity among the four pieces than might be expected. Each embodies a well-structured, simple ternary form. On the other hand, it is not difficult to detect the finer nuances of style and expression found in the two later pieces.
Interestingly, the first mazurka in G major, composed at a time when Chopin’s health was deteriorating, is the only one of the set to be in a major key. Indeed, its vigorous and cheerful character is surely in sharp contrast to the overall despair that likely hung over the composer’s mind in his final year. The following piece, in G minor, is of a much different demeanor. Subdued and contemplative, the second mazurka has a severe detachment in its opening measures—as if the composer is lost in his own imagination and quite unaware of the world around him. The middle section becomes somewhat livelier with a distinctive triplet rhythm. A monophonic line serves as the transition back to the opening section, leading the listener once again into the imaginative world of the opening.
The third mazurka, in C major, features a graceful and charming melody. This melody with its aristocratic air permeates the piece. The only divergence is a brief extroverted episode of only eight measures. Finally, the last mazurka adopts the mournful key of A minor and begins with a plaintive melody. A somewhat brighter mood is found in the central episode with a shift into the key of the tonic major. However, this relief is all too short and the somber opening section returns to conclude the piece. Joseph DuBose
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