The mazurka sounds like a Greek starter (“I’ll have a mazurka followed by a moussaka please”) but it’s actually a lively Polish folk dance, with the accent on the second or third beat. The Poles say mazurek.
This new CD looks at the mazurka as it developed from a dance to full-blown Romantic art-music — in 19th century Europe, the dance became popular in many ballrooms.
Frédéric Chopin wrote nearly 70 mazurkas, largely inspired by the November uprising in 1830, a Polish rebellion against Russians. Chopin, however, didn’t want his version of the mazurka to be danced to, so added various embellishments, which also made them more technical.
Also featured on this album are Maria Szymanowska, a Polish composer and one of the first professional virtuoso pianists of the 19th century, and Karol Szymanowski, a fellow Polish composer and pianist, the most celebrated Polish composer of the early 20th century.
There are 43 tracks on here: Szymanowska contributes 24 mazurkas, Chopin five and Szymanowski 10.
Musically, it makes for pleasant and relaxing music. As the above would suggest, Chopin’s pieces are less obviously dance music and more technical.
The album opens with the earlier music of Szymanowska, who died of cholera a year after Chopin started seriously looking at the art form, and her music is most clearly dance based; some of the livelier pieces could almost be danced to. Szymanowska on the other hand contributes the later pieces, and these are more removed from dance and more romantic.
At the end of the day, it’s a nice solo piano album, expertly delivered by Kostritsa.