Frédéric Chopin

Mazurka for piano No. 37 in A flat major, Op. 59/2 CT. 87

    Description by John Palmer

    The mazurka originated in the Polish province of Mazovia, near Warsaw. In the seventeenth century, the dance began to spread beyond the boundaries of Poland. Stylized mazurkas, such as Chopin's, combine aspects of this and several other dances, but some characteristics are consistently present: an accented third beat (occasionally the second) in a 3/4 measure; the use of both the natural and raised versions of some scale degrees, particularly the fourth; and a drone bass. During the 1830s and 1840s "art" music mazurkas were very popular in drawing rooms throughout Europe.

    Some of the melodies of the mazurkas are unusual in comparison to the melodies of European "art" music. Many of these are related to folk mazurkas in their "modular" melodies consisting of tiny rhythmic and melodic units. Also, some use cross rhythms, chromatic scales, and modes typically not found in Western music. Often, we find remote keys used as colorful excursions from the tonic.

    Most of Chopin's Mazurkas are in strict ternary form, some of them actually sporting a da capo to indicate the return to the first section. Chopin's later Mazurkas are more stylized and are in many cases the testing ground for some of his most experimental ideas. Unlike other Romantic-era manifestations of "folk" music, Chopin's Mazurkas contain no actual folk tunes. He uses typical rhythms associated with Polish music, fragments of Polish melodies and Polish rhythmic and cadential formulas and combines them in an original way. Chopin borrowed sounds he found outside European "art" music and used them to create music within that tradition. Some consider Chopin's mazurkas to be the most original of his works.

    With the printing of the Mazurkas, Op. 50, Chopin established a pattern of publishing mazurkas in sets of three with a strong opening piece, a simpler second one and a substantial, grandly conceived third work, usually with a contrapuntal texture. The three mazurkas of Op. 59, in A minor, A flat major and F sharp minor, follow this same format. However, Chopin creates unity within this set of contrasting works through tonal connections. The Mazurkas, Op. 59, were published in Berlin in 1845, the year of their composition.

    The shortest of the Op. 59 Mazurkas, the second, in A flat major, is no less a gem than the other two. Its key is enharmonically anticipated in the unusual reprise of No. 1, which begins on G sharp. No. 2 is filled with subtle gestures that create a splendid variety at points where we expect none. One example is at the return of the opening theme to close the first theme complex, where the melody, slightly varied, appears in two voices. Unlike the other works of Op. 59, the trio provides little harmonic contrast and its melody very much resembles the main theme.

    Chopin denies the satisfaction of our expectations several times in this diminutive work. Perhaps the most notable of these is at the reprise following the trio, where the main theme is shortened to about a fourth of its original length and the melody appears in the left hand for the first four measures. For the listener, this creates a sense of instability that resolves only in the substantial coda. By introducing developmental material at such a moment Chopin abandons what his contemporaries perceived as the "traditional" mazurka format. The coda is really a developmental expansion of ideas from the first theme.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Melodiya MELREC 1002434
    2016 Hyperion CDA 68137
    2016 IDIS 6719
    2014 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 347
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Lawo Classics LAW 1049
    2013 Melodiya MYD 1002093
    2013 Delos DE 3443
    2012 Dux Records DUX 0833
    2011 Pro Piano PPR 224507
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 477 755-7
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94048
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 902073
    2010 Decca
    2010 Berlin Classics 0016662
    2010 Capriccio Records 7039
    2010 EMI Classics
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon / DG Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Music Classics and Jazz 001382602
    2009 Bridge 9289
    2009 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099968637
    2009 Erato
    2009 Hungaroton 32469
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 Urania 367
    2008 Deutsche Gram. Ger. / DG Deutsche Grammophon 4776656
    2008 Sony BMG 352132
    2007 Classic Mania 93320
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 Classical Records 83
    2007 Brilliant 93180
    2006 Palexa 507/8
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon 000764972
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon 000707302
    2005 Rca Red Seal 72554
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Direct Source 4438
    2003 Direct Source 1656
    2002 London 43947
    2001 Brilliant 99228
    2001 Rca Red Seal 63050
    2000 Rca Red Seal 902668990
    2000 Amadis 7108
    2000 Arion 68501
    2000 Direct Source / Direct Source Special 7011
    1999 Naxos 554530
    1999 Philips 462232
    1999 Philips 454987
    1999 Philips 456919
    1999 Philips 456703
    1999 Philips 456715
    1998 DG Deutsche Grammophon 457992
    1998 RCA Red Seal 902668442
    1996 The Piano Library 217
    1996 Nimbus 4003
    1995 Saydisc 379
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 764697-2
    Discover 920242
    Vox 8094
    Capriccio Records 7041
    Brilliant 99229
    Master 23028
    Pearl 9323
    Selene 990449
    London 443947/5
    RCA 5614
    Brilliant 93180/3