COMPOSITIONS compositions

Mazurka in B flat minor, Op. 24 No. 4 incypit

Genre: Mazurka

Key: B-flat minor

Opus/WN: Op. 24 No. 4

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

Acc. to Paderewski: X/15

Acc. to Turło: 67

Instruments: piano


The Mazurka in B flat minor – the last in the opus 24 set – is one of the most celebrated mazurkas, which never leave the concert platform. Regarded – as Hoesick noted – as a ‘consummate masterpiece’, it has been an important point on the programme of many great pianists. It has even been dubbed the ‘Rubinstein’, as Anton Rubinstein was supremely fond of playing it. Previously, it had been played often by Maria Kalergis, who passed on a tradition that derived from Chopin himself. This work is particularly susceptible to different interpretations, as it is not just a more or less cohesive suite of mazurka dances but – like the Mazurka in A minor from Op. 17 – a dramatically constructed whole, which one might call a lyrical dance poem.

It begins with a two-part search for a path or a thread. The opening theme, of distinctly kujawiak provenance, is shaped before our eyes, freeing itself from constraint and hesitation before growing to its full sound and attaining a moment of ecstasy or delight. The complementary idea, unfolding in the bright key of the relative D flat major, brings a moment of amusement or play, scherzando, closer to salon waltzes than to country mazurkas. And then suddenly, in the midst of this swirling ballroom, sotto voce, like a voice from a distant world, we hear a purely folk melody, distinguished by its Lydian fourth, clearly discernible in the unison texture. Then another dance derived from a kujawiak melody, though a different melody than before. The swinging and swaying reaches a peak. But perhaps the most memorable part of all is the finale – or more properly the epilogue. At first we hear a soft phrase, cast out against changing chords supported by a single note that lasts insistently and endlessly. And then the music softens, falls and dwindles. The accompaniment stops. The phrase is heard for the last time in the utmost silence and solitude.

The Mazurka in B flat minor has delighted everyone who has written about it. There is hardly a single Polish monographer who has not mentioned it: Szulc, Noskowski, Żeleński, Kleczyński, Hoesick, Jachimecki and Zieliński. Jachimecki heard in this mazurka ‘the highest degree of romanticism’; Noskowski, autumnal nostalgia.

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


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Mazurka in B flat minor, Op. 24 No. 4 Op. 24 No. 4
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