COMPOSITIONS compositions

Mazurka in G minor, Op. 24 No. 1 incypit

Genre: Mazurka

Key: G minor

Opus/WN: Op. 24 No. 1

Creation date: 1833-1836 (1834-1835?)

Acc. to Paderewski: X/14

Acc. to Turło: 64

Instruments: piano


When listening to the Mazurka in G minor, Op. 24 No. 1, from the very first bars we are overcome by the reflective tone present in the kujawiak melody – a melody for which the folk original has even been found (the song ‘Czemu nie orzesz, Jasieńku, czemu nie orzesz?’ [Why aren’t you ploughing, Johnny, why aren’t you ploughing?]). This reflective tone can be heard in the rhythmic wavering, defined with the word rubato, in the seemingly uncontrolled rises, then falls, of the minor-mode melody and in the little subtleties of the harmonic accompaniment. The main idea of this mazurka, which is also the first idea, has its (slightly contrastive) complement: a couple of brighter bars in the relative major. A genuine contrast only comes with the euphoniously (in thirds) harmonised mazur melody (in E flat major). This takes on the role of the former trio, though here it is organically merged into the whole of the lyrical narrative. Unlike in the former trio, instead of calming it brings enlivenment. A particularly personal note comes through when the opening theme returns. At first, in the masterful change of timbre: a shift of key and mode (from E flat major to the original G minor). And immediately afterwards, bars that bring a quieting of the voice, a slowing of the tempo and submergence in thought.

Kazimierz Brodziński, whose lectures at the University of Warsaw were attended by Chopin, characterised the elegy genre (in his treatise O Elegii [On the elegy], from 1882) as follows: ‘An elegy conveys only tempered feelings: mirth, no longer present; sorrow, assuaged’. One might say that Chopin’s mazurkas adopted this idea.

‘One could listen to it endlessly…’ such was the impression received (and noted down) by Ferdynand Hoesick. And what he read from this music, he summarised as follows: ‘the most eloquent expression of longing for a happiness irrecoverably lost’. Jan Kleczyński’s interpretation took a different tack. He admired what he called the ‘wondrous simplicity’ of this Mazurka, but also the ‘photographic faithfulness with which [Chopin] captures the popular spirit’. However, Kleczyński was perhaps swayed by the similarity between the opening theme and the folk original. The presence of folk music previously heard is unquestionable in the G minor Mazurka, yet it forms no more than a point of departure. At the point of arrival, we find folklore experienced and internalised, expressed as the composer’s own music. The G minor Mazurka gained considerable popularity. It was one of those transcribed for voice by Pauline Viardot.

Wilhelm Popp transcribed this Mazurka (actually quite deftly) for flute and piano, whilst Józef Nowakowski, needlessly and infelicitously, set words by some third-rate poet to its tune.

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


The Real Chopin »

Janusz Olejniczak

Mazurka in G minor, Op. 24 No. 1 Op. 24 No. 1
Mazurka in G minor, Op. 24 No. 1 Op. 24 No. 1
Gallery »