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Fortunately preserved is a sketch of this work, the note to which is signed by Chopin: 28 November (1838), Palma. This sketch was made at Son Vent on Majorca, shortly after Chopin and Sand arrived on the island, hence the name ‘Palman’ given to this Mazurka in E minor. Along with three others, composed slightly later, the ‘Palman’ Mazurka was published the year after Chopin’s return from Majorca in his Op. 41. In the Paris edition, it opens the set; in the Leipzig edition, it is in second place.

As we know, Chopin composed mazurkas throughout his life. Yet this piece is special. In the E minor Mazurka, we hear a distinct Polish echo: the melody of a song about an uhlan and his girl, ‘Tam na błoniu błyszczy kwiecie’ [Flowers sparkling on the common] (written by Count Wenzel Gallenberg, with words by Franciszek Kowalski) – a song that during the insurrection in Poland had been among the most popular. Chopin quoted it almost literally, at the same time heightening the drama, giving it a nostalgic, and ultimately all but tragic, tone. The song theme is followed immediately by its dramatic complement (in B major). In the central section (replacing the former trio), the song theme is lyrically transformed, becoming particularly melodious and subtle.

In the reprise, the theme of the uhlan song returns in modified form. It is delivered fortissimo by a melody of chords struck now with restrained force and passion, as the apotheosis of that theme. Then there is just the nostalgic epilogue – the fading away, in unison, of a melody marked by a sound that is characteristic of Polish folk music: a second of Phrygian provenance.

The Mazurka in E minor, composed and first played on Majorca, seems to reflect Chopin’s flights of fancy into ‘a land more lovely than the one we behold’, as noted by George Sand.

Author: Mieczysław Tomaszewski
[Cykl audycji "Fryderyka Chopina Dzieła Wszystkie"]
Polish Radio, program II


 
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Mazurka in E minor, Op. 41 No. 1
 
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