Chopin's Mazurkas - Part 4

This article is part 13 of 52 in the 2022 music project series.
This article is part 4 of 9 in the Reviewing Chopin's mazurkas series.
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In which I listen to Chopin's Mazurkas and struggle with Lilypond. We begin on Op. 30, No. 1.

Quatre Mazurkas

For à la Princesse de Würtemberg.

Op. 30, No. 1 in C minor

Once again a mazurka starts with a Vi progression. Truly one of my favorite things in the world.1

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Once again a mazurka starts on the V

The A section ends with a "V of the V" progression and uses a Picardy third at the end to lead back nicely to C minor. I talked about the "V of the V" thing and its prevalence previously in part 3.

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"V of the V": D7 resolves to G(7) which resolves to Cm

It ends with an interesting semi-deceptive cadence by hitting you with a iv before plagally closing to the i.

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The "deceptive" Fm chord in the left hand plagally resolves to Cm

Op. 30, No. 2 in B minor

I like the very beginning of this piece. It starts off with a iV progression in the first two measures, and then repeats the same melody but employs an A♮ instead of an A♯ to achieve a iv progression.

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F♯7 first time around, F♯m the second

Since last time I did this I'm always on the lookout for 7♭5 chords, and we've found another in the B section. The B section is mostly a lesson in how the circle of fifths works, but Chopin sneaks in a descending chromatic motif in the left hand to go from C♯7F♯mB7♭5E.

I really like these kinds of things because it really emphasizes the importance of spelling and enharmonics. Tonally it's the same notes with the same frequency, but in this case the E♯ is very different harmonically from the F♮. Another reason why I'm not a huge fan of guitar tablature, because you lose this meaning when you only see, for example, 4 3 on the D string twice and it's not immediately obvious that the harmony is different since there is no indication of whether it's an E♯ or an F♮.

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Left-hand chromatics lead to the ever elusive 7♭5 chord
13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no2-tab.png (image/png, 102x77, 528 bytes)
Enharmonic ambiguity in guitar tablature (is it E♯ or F♮?)

In the C section Chopin repeats the idea of the main theme but with different harmonies. The right hand does the same thing four times in a row while the left hand slightly changes the harmony.

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LH changes the harmony underneath the repeating RH melody

This mazurka is unusual in that it ends without gratuitous repeats. It follows an A → B → C → B progression without ever returning to the A section.

Op. 30, No. 3 in D♭ major

Some cool harmonies in this one. I particulary like the reverse (?) Picard Third type thing that occurs at the end of the A section. The piece ends with perhaps a double (?) reverse (?) Picardy third. Meaning, we're in D♭ major, it modulates to D♭ minor, and then hits you with an accented F♮ to re-assert that yes, it is in a major key.

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The transition back to the A section goes from D♭m to D♭
13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no3-picardy-end.png (image/png, 400x170, 5,777 bytes)
The piece ends in a minor key but transitions suddenly back to a major key for the final chord

The transition back to the A section at the end of the piece reminds of Liszt's Sonata in B minor in that there's huge white space interspersed by out-of-key notes, before finally transitioning with full force into something more melodic.

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The staccato quarter notes during the transition back to the A section are reminiscient of Lizst.
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Liszt's Sonata in B minor begins with similarly staccato quarter notes

Op. 30, No. 4 in C♯ minor

The intro begins with a little "V of the V" action; once you notice it one place, it shows up everywhere. Like when you're tired of losing your car in the parking lot so you buy a new car in a hideous shade of orange so that it's instantly recognizable and then immediately discover that everyone already owns an orange car. Or maybe not like that. Whatever.

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More "V of the V" shenanigans: D♯7 → G♯7 → C♯m

This mazurka has some very Polonaise-like parts to it. Or at least I was reminded of the Military Polonaise with the stocatto chords. Most of the mazurkas have been understated: not using the whole range of the keyboard, and with honestly not a huge amount of dynamic range. This one breaks from the mold a bit with some fortissimos featuring the low end of the keyboard.

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Full dynamic range with Polonaise-like rhythms in the mazurka
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Chopin's Military Polonaise with similar rhythms and dynamic range

Overall I really liked this one. It's one of my favorites so far in this series.


  1. I've pontificated on this phenomenon extensively in literally every other part of this series.