The Op. 7 set of mazurkas is the only one containing five pieces; all the composer's other published sets consist of either three or four items each. On the whole, this set represents a step forward from the Op. 6 collection. In fact, when the Op. 7 was published in 1832, it gained Chopin both recognition and notoriety in France for bold and imaginative writing that more tradition-minded ears found revolting. The pieces range in length from about four minutes (the second piece in the set) to half a minute (the final mazurka, in C major).
The first mazurka in this set, in B flat major and sometimes known as Mazurka No. 5, is probably the best known in the group. Marked Vivace, it is a graceful, lively piece whose elegance and debonair qualities give it a somewhat aristocratic air. But in the latter half of this piece a subdued theme appears that is more earthy, more peasant-like. The main theme returns to close this attractive work.
The next mazurka, in A minor, has a mournful quality. The usual tempo is slow, despite the Vivo, ma non troppo marking, and the main theme is gentle in its sadness. Many will hear in this piece the composer's longing for his family and Polish homeland, from which he was exiled for political reasons in 1831. The middle section has an air of defiance, but yields to the lovely, forlorn theme from the opening to close the piece.
The next mazurka, in F minor, begins with an ominous rhythmic idea; it then presents a lively theme whose rhythms are sharp and springy, but portending no threat or menace. The melody is colorful and Slavic in nature, containing the admixture of the peasant-like and exotic that so fascinated Parisians of the day and has lost none of its piquancy over the years. This mazurka bears no textual description but carries a metronome marking of 54 for the dotted half-note.
The A flat major mazurka, is fast-paced, carrying a marking of Presto, ma non troppo. The main theme is playful and good-natured, mischievous in its clown-like manner. A subdued, pensive middle section evokes a dreamy atmosphere, which is ultimately short-lived as the opening theme returns to close out this one-minute romp.
The final mazurka in the Op. 7 set, in C major and marked Vivo, is the shortest but in many ways the subtlest. It is a fine example of Chopin's sense of humor, or of what one might call his sense of mischief. In the main it is lively and happy -- or so it seems. The listener quickly becomes aware that the giddy melody cannot get untracked -- it repeats itself again and again, varying quite little. Suddenly the mazurka ends, as though collapsing in the realization that it really had little to say.