The nineteenth century saw the emergence of several new forms and genres, in some part as a departure from the great sonata form enlarged and expanded by Beethoven. As a result, many composers, especially for the piano, were turning towards more intimate character pieces. These miniatures allowed for the brief exploration of an idea, whether technical or emotional. Among the new genres appearing at the time was Chopin's Mazurka, a fusion of three Polish dance forms with the classical traditions of the composer's homeland. The three dance forms, the Mazur, the Kujawiak, and the Oberek, are sometimes found in their pure form, but often are merged with each other or with other genres or styles. The Mazurka enabled Chopin to explore many different dynamic, harmonic, and melodic colors, and to create many different personalities and characteristics. The result is a genre that can't be described universally, each piece being unique.
The Mazurkas of opus 33 each present distinct traits and characteristics. The first, marked Lento, has a lyrical, expressive melody line over a waltz pattern in the bass. The mood shifts effortlessly between mournful and hopeful, with a cherished and delicate intimacy. The second Mazurka is a true Oberek, impetuous, fast, and with strong, irregular accents. The mood is joyous, with playful, comic tremolo figures. The coda is free and full of flurries. The third piece of the collection, marked Semplice, is truly a simple and innocent approach to the genre. The sweet, tender melodic line is supported by subtly accented second beats, keeping the flavor of the dance. The final Mazurka adds rhythmic interest to the set, with the grace notes and trills bringing a rustic, native feel. The piece is written in rondo form, with several different characters appearing in the episodes between the recurring original theme.