Chopin's Mazurkas - Part 4

This article is part 13 of 46 in the 2022 music project series.
This article is part 4 of 7 in the Reviewing Chopin's mazurkas series.
Contents hide

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

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no1-intro-v.png (image/png, 339x131, 4,109 bytes)
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.

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no1-v-of-v.png (image/png, 512x146, 13,723 bytes)
"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.

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no1-end.png (image/png, 358x158, 5,014 bytes)
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.

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no2-intro.png (image/png, 566x127, 5,222 bytes)
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♮.

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no2-lh-chromatics.png (image/png, 494x149, 11,804 bytes)
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.

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no2-c-section.png (image/png, 759x134, 7,373 bytes)
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.

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no3-picardy.png (image/png, 626x191, 9,915 bytes)
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.

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no3-lisztish.png (image/png, 527x156, 5,977 bytes)
The staccato quarter notes during the transition back to the A section are reminiscient of Lizst.
13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no3-liszt-sonata.png (image/png, 442x165, 6,848 bytes)
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.

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no4-intro.png (image/png, 633x141, 7,296 bytes)
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.

13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no4-dynamic-chords.png (image/png, 584x170, 8,582 bytes)
Full dynamic range with Polonaise-like rhythms in the mazurka
13-chopin-mazurkas-op30-no4-polonaise.png (image/png, 711x188, 10,029 bytes)
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.

Downloads


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