Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chopin's Mazurkas Op.59 and Polonaise Op.44

There are five national dances of Poland: Mazur, Krakowiak, Oberek, Kujawiak and Polonez. The most famous folk dances are Mazur (Mazurka) and Polonez (Polonaise). Chopin wrote 57 Mazurkas and 7 Polonaises. Both dances are in triple meter with lively tempo. Mazurka is contained a heavy accent on the third or second beat. The dance became popular at Ballroom dances in the rest of Europe during the 19th century. Actually, the Mazurka was a creation of the province of Mazovia, in which Chopin was born. Mazurka is only for Chopin, for Poland. "Only Chopin can catch the haughty, yet tender and alluring, character of the Mazurka; and in order to understand to the full how perfectly Chopin's setting suited the varying emotions that he succeeded in displaying in all the magic of their rainbow lines."(F.Liszt)
The three Mazurkas Op.59 were composed in 1846, three years from death.
No.1 in A minor, the whole piece is like telling a old story. It should be played with nostalgia. The middle section key changes to A major and it sounds like Chopin remembering those lovely memories in his home countury.
No.2 in A-flat major, has been called "perhaps the most beautiful of all Mazurkas. The melody is showing by single note in frist time (a girl is dancing alone), and in the second time, shows by double notes(one more person join in dancing). Later, the left hand plays the melody with a different sound range (the guy leads dancing with girl).
No.3 in f-sharp minor. Triple meter and notes are important here. Within triple meter, there are triple eighth notes, and within triple eighth notes, there are 16th triple notes. This piece is the fastest comparing with other two of Op.59. It sounds more dancing. Even though the left hand accompaniment texture is like f-p-p, but the right hand melody takes the phrase going from the third beat.
Polonaise is usually in moderate tempo, based on the rhythm 8-16-16, 8-8-8-8. Chopin's Polonaises are in dance of attitude. In the music, you can see the picture of military march with entrance of King and Queen.
Op.44 in f-sharp minor is one of Chopin's largest efforts and most certainly a 'battle hymn', with its insistent rhythms and series of mouting octaves. The rool of drums is unmistakable in the A-major section, and the contrasting trio sounds like a nostalgic mazurka. Chopin called the work "a kind of fantasia in the form of a Polonaise".

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