Classic Cat


Mazurka: Description

Buy cd's at Amazon
Buy sheetmusic at SheetMusicPlus
Mazurka rhythm[1].

The mazurka (in Polish, mazurek) is a Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with an accent on the second or third beat.



The folk origins of the mazurek are two other Polish musical forms—the slow kujawiak, and the fast oberek. The mazurek is always found to have either a triplet, trill, dotted eighth note (quaver) pair, or an ordinary eighth note pair before two quarter notes (crotchets). In the 19th century, the dance became popular in many ballrooms in different parts of Europe. The Polish national anthem has a mazurek rhythm but is too slow to be considered a mazurek. There are many Polish editions of the mazurek but the most notable one is the mazurka.

In Polish, this musical form is called "mazurek"—a word derived from "mazur," which up to the nineteenth century denoted an inhabitant of Poland's Mazovia region, and which also became the root for "Masuria". In Polish, "mazurka" is actually the genitive and accusative cases of "mazurek."

Several classical composers have written mazurkas, with the best known being the 58 composed by Frédéric Chopin for solo piano. Henryk Wieniawski also wrote two for violin with piano (the popular "Obertas", op. 19), and in the 1920s, Karol Szymanowski wrote a set of twenty for piano and finished his composing career with a final pair in 1934.Also, Maria Szymanowska wrote Mazurkas long before Chopin.

Chopin first started composing mazurkas in 1825, but his composing did not become serious until 1830, the year of the November Uprising, a Polish rebellion against the Russian government. Chopin continued composing them until 1849, the year of his death. The stylistic and musical characteristics of Chopin’s mazurkas differ from the traditional variety because Chopin in effect created a completely separate and new genre of mazurkas all his own. For example, he used classical techniques in his mazurkas, including counterpoint and fugues.[2] By including more chromaticism and harmony in the mazurkas, he made them more technically interesting than the traditional dances. Chopin also tried to compose his mazurkas in such a way that they could not be used for dancing, so as to distance them from the original form.

However, while Chopin changed some aspects of the original mazurkas, he maintained others. His mazurkas, like the traditional dances, contain a great deal of repetition: repetition of certain measures or groups of measures; of entire sections; and of an initial theme.[3]. The rhythm of his mazurkas also remains very similar to that of earlier mazurkas. However, Chopin also incorporated the rhythmic elements of the two other Polish forms mentioned above, the kujawiak and oberek; his mazurkas usually feature rhythms from more than one of these three forms (mazurek, kujawiak, and oberek). This use of rhythm suggests that Chopin tried to create a genre that had ties to the original form, but was still something new and different.

Outside Poland

In Russia, Mily Balakirev composed seven mazurkas for solo piano. Also, Tchaikovsky composed six mazurkas for solo piano, one for his Swan Lake score, one in his opera Eugene Onegin, and one for his Sleeping Beauty score; Léo Delibes composed one which appears several times in the first act of his ballet Coppélia; Borodin wrote two in his Petite Suite for piano; Mikhail Glinka also wrote two, although one is a simplified version of Chopin's Mazurka No. 13 and Alexander Scriabin used the form as well. The mazurka is an important dance in many Russian novels. In addition to its mention in Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina as well as in a protracted episode in War and Peace, the dance is prominently featured in Ivan Turgenev's novel Fathers and Sons. Arkady reserves the mazurka for Madame Odintsov with whom he is falling in love.

In France, Impressionistic composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel both wrote mazurkas; Debussy's is a stand-alone piece, and Ravel's is part of a suite of an early work, La Parade. The mazurka appears frequently in French traditional folk music.

Mazurkas are also popular in the traditional dance music of County Donegal, Ireland.

In Swedish folk music, the quaver or eight-note polska has a similar rhythm to the mazurka, and the two dances have a common origin.

The dance was common as a popular dance in Europe and the United States in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. It survives in some old time fiddle tunes, and also in early Cajun music, though it has largely fallen out of Cajun music now. In the Southern United States it was sometimes known as a mazuka.

In Cape Verde the mazurka is also revered as an important cultural phenomenon played with a violin and accompanied by guitars. It also takes a dance form found in the north of the archipelago, mainly in São Nicolau, Santo Antão, and Brava.

In Portugal the mazurka became one of the most popular traditional European dances through the first years of the annual Andanças, a traditional dances festival held nearby São Pedro do Sul.

In Cuba, composer Ernesto Lecuona wrote a piece titled Mazurka en Glisado for the piano, one of various commissions throughout his life.

In Nicaragua, Carlos Mejía Godoy y los de Palacaguina and Los Soñadores de Saraguasca made a compilation of mazurkas from popular folk music, which are performed with a violin de talalate, an indigenous instrument from Nicaragua.

In Curaçao the mazurka was popular as dance music in the nineteenth century, as well as in the first half of the twentieth century. Several Curaçao-born composers such as Jan Gerard Palm, Joseph Sickman Corsen, Jacobo Palm, Rudolph Palm and Wim Statius Muller have written mazurkas.

In Brazil, the composer Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote a mazurka for classical guitar in a similar musical style to Polish mazurkas.

In Australia, Julian Cochran composed a collection of five mazurkas for solo piano and orchestra.

In the Philippines, the mazurka is a popular form of traditional dance. The Mazurka Boholana is one well-known Filipino mazurka.

Popular culture

Groucho Marx mentions the mazurka in his song "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" from "At the Circus": "For two bits, she will do a mazurka in jazz..."

Pink Martini reference mazurka as a metaphor for a relationship in their song "Dosvedanya Mio Bombino (farewell my bumblebee)" from "Hey Eugene!": "In Florence we were on the mend; But that mazurka had to end..."

A class of Danish sex-comedies, referred to generically as "bedroom mazurkas" was made in the 70's and 80's, apparently based on this early movie title.

The mazurka is a class of songs able to be played by the Bards in the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, which increases the movement speed of party members for a short while.

Mikhail Glinka's "Mazurka" performed by The Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre is featured in the film Russian Ark (2002).



  1. ^ Blatter, Alfred (2007). Revisiting music theory: a guide to the practice, p.28. ISBN 0-415-97440-2.
  2. ^ Charles Rosen, The Romantic Generation (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995)
  3. ^ Jeffrey Kallberg, The problem of repetition and return in Chopin's mazurkas, Cambridge, England, Cambridge University Press, 1988.


  • Milewski, Barbara. "Chopin's Mazurkas and the Myth of the Folk." 19th-Century Music 23.2 (1999): 113-35.
  • Rosen, Charles. The Romantic Generation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995.
  • Kallberg, Jeffrey. “The problem of repetition and return in Chopin's mazurkas.” Chopin Styles, ed. Jim Samson. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  • Kallberg, Jeffrey. "Chopin's Last Style." Journal of the American Musicological Society 38.2 (1985): 264-315.
  • Winoker, Roselyn M. “Chopin and the Mazurka.” Diss. Sarah Lawrence College, 1974.

See also

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mazurka". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.

Our dream: to make the world's treasury of classical music accessible for everyone. See the about page on how we see the future.
Help us with donations or by making music available!

Contact     Privacy policy    Looking for classical mp3 downloads? We index the free-to-download classical mp3s on the internet.
©2021 Classic Cat - the classical music directory
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale