Episode 39: Chopin's 'So There!' Mazurka

Mazurka in C-sharp minor, Op. 50, No. 3

rc-sothere-200The element of surprise. Haydn used it to play a little joke on his audience in his 94th Symphony.

A school-boy’s trick. Lower your voice, whisper, cup your hand around one side of your mouth…your buddy leans in to hear what you have to say (it must be juicy, after all) and then you shout just to watch him startle.

The story goes Chopin delighted in this sort of prank as a lad. Seems he had an understanding of the power of sforzando – sudden accent – from an early age.

Fast forward. Chopin is 32. He’s with George Sand at Nohant, their summer estate outside of Paris. A different kind of unpredictable: he’s composing a set of Mazurkas, a dance form he’s taken from the Polish countryside and transformed into the vehicle for some of his most expressive and original writing.

He composed 57 Mazurkas in all. Most are grouped in sets of three or four. Most take under three minutes to play. But not the third Mazurka in the set published as Chopin’s Opus 50. It’s nearly twice as long as the rest. Right off the bat, there’s something different about it. Pianist Garrick Ohlsson describes how “Chopin provides a touch of canonic imitation a la Bach to launch a form of great originality.”

Ohlsson adds, “Its several themes occur in rotation and receive intriguing little variations before Chopin has had enough…” (And this is the part where you lean in to hear what he wants to whisper to you…) and ends with a musical "So there!" - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 39: Chopin's 'So There!' Mazurka

Mazurka in C-sharp minor, Op. 50, No. 3