Nationalism in Poland in the 19th Century (Part 2)

The evolution of Chopin's Mazurkas is based on a transition from the dance pieces to the forms of reflective lyric - the most personal expression of the composer. Authenticity of Chopin's Mazurkas involves capturing, organically associated with each other in folk music, features of intonation, rhythm and construction. The means of stylisation employed in mazurkas are using different features of folk music together with introducing typical artistic techniques. In the pieces, Chopin made direct reference to three folk dances: the Mazur, Kujawiak and Oberek. All three are in triple time and have a characteristic rhythm:

This is reflected in various forms of melodic movement, such as sliding model (ascendant direction of the melody), swinging (even up and down swing of the melody) and oberek-like (with the effect of stomping). Mazurkas implement a combination of different folk dances. As the development of the dance miniature, Chopin adds some elements of polonaise and waltz. Another sign of the strong impact of folk music are repetitions in the melody and compositional techniques such as pedal notes, perfect fifths in the accompaniment and stomping. The composer also uses ornamentation and polyphony, that is an important method in contrasting the sound. The polyphony introduces  a new texture and material and in order to intensify the movement the composer moves melodies and phrases from one voice to another. The basic compositional technique used by Chopin in Mazurkas is a motivic development. Themes, phrases, motives and intervals become independent in order to be developed and modified. Although mazurkas have their prototype in folk dance, their tonal structure is much more complex than in folk melodies. The harmony in major-minor system controls the structure of the piece. Mazurkas, however, contain elements of folk music, which lead to connection of modal and tonal system with elements of Phrygian and Lydian modes and bi-tonality.

The evolution of tonality in mazurkas gradually endeavours to chromatisation and superiority of minor scales. Mazurkas feature a ternary or a rondo form. In the era of virtuosity, Chopin's Mazurkas are an exceptional phenomenon – they are characterised by the vocal ambitus, miniature dimension and texture.

Have you been working on a repertoire consisting of pieces by Fryderyk Chopin? Are you looking for a piano teacher to help you reach your full musical potential? Edyta Lajdorf - concert pianist and experienced piano teacher - is available for piano lessons in London.

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