Mazurka Music Definition Essay




National Anthem of Poland (since 1926)

Polish National Anthem (Dąbrowski's Mazurka) is a lively folk dance with patriotic words written shortly after the country lost its independence in a series of partitions by Austria, Russia, Prussia (1772, 1791, 1795).

    It was created between 16 and 19 of July, 1795 in Reggio di Emilia in Italy, on the occasion of the departure of the Polish legions, led by general Jan Henryk Dąbrowski (1755-1818) to fight in the Napoleonic wars (supporting the French dictator).

    The author of the "Song of the Polish Legions in Italy" - as the anthem was originally called - was Józef Wybicki, General Dąbrowski's close associate. The folk tune and the inspiring texts, with the first strophe beginning with "Poland's not dead as long as we live" immediately captured the attention of the soldiers, Poland's emigres and the country inhabitants.

After the failure of the final effort to save Poland during the Kościuszko Insurection in 1794, Poles scattered around Europe, with many emigrating to France to join the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte, with the hope that the valiant dictator would reestablish Poland as an independent state.

It is because of this connection that the current national anthem of Poland still contains a reference to Bonaparte and speaks of marching from Italy to Poland, under the leadership of general Jan Dabrowski.
The patriotic song was banned by the Tsarist and Prussian governments in 1815 (after the defeat of Napoleon) and again in 1860. Yet it lived on in numerous variants, sung durimg the uprisings against the Russians (the November 1830, the January 1863), as well as during the 1848 Spring of the Nations.

In the early 19th century the song served as the hymn of the student union (Zwiazek Burszow, 1816-1830). At the time the next read " March, march, the youth/ go first as it should be/ following your leadership/ we will become a nation again." Students embraced the song as their anthem again in 1863, when many escaped the conscription to the Russian army by hiding in the Kampinos forest near Warsaw, and by starting the January Uprising (1863 refrain: "March, march to the forest").

At the end of the 19th century, the song served as the anthem of those proclaiming the need to rebuild the country by hard work, coupled with the fight for its independence (1893 refrain: "March, March, the Poles, to fight and to work"). While the text of the hymn was modified to suit new occasions and socio-political contexts even the name of "Dąbrowski" apearing in the curent title did not survive all the changes.

    In many war-time versions "Dąbrowski" was replaced by names of various generals or military leaders such as Chłopicki or Skrzynecki (leaders of 1830), Langiewicz or Czachowski (leaders of 1863). Piłsudski (leader of the Polish Legions of 1914) or Sikorski (the Commander of the Polish Army in Scotland during World War II, Piłsudski's main adversary and competitor).
Dabrowski's Mazurka was officially recognized as the national anthem in Poland in 1926. This year The Directory of Ministry of Religious Faith and the Public Enlightenment provided all schools in Poland with the approved text and music of the anthem. Half a year later, the Directory of the Ministry of Interior Affairs (26 February 1927) officialy approved the anthem's text; on 2 April 1927 the Ministry of Religious Faith and the Public Enlightenment approved the piano arrangement of the Mazurka and published the score. The title of the anthem was listed the first time in the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic in 1976: the Sejm approved the official text and music of the anthem in 1980.

After the change of government in 1989, the new leaders of the Republic of Poland (since 1989) not only retained Dabrowski's Mazurka as an anthem , but also sponsored a renewed research and publication effort to promote its image. A 1993 film, produced by Edmund Zbigniew Szaniawski for the Military Company "czolowka" (Avant-Grade), placed a new emphasis on the Mazurka's appearances in Polish-Soviet war of 1920 and at allied battlefields of World War II. The hymn's peaceful aspects, if seldom present, here were completely ignored. Moreover, in a direct contradiction of the anthem's secular chracter, the film located the song in a variety of religious contexts.

Below you will find the full text of the official 4-strophe anthem in English translation. A longer version of the text (in Polish only) appears on our site which contains the reproductions of Juliusz Kossak's litographs, prepared for an album published for the 100-anniversary of the Piesn Legionow. The album is in the collection of the National Museum in Wroclaw. This version (and the Kossak pictures) are taken from 19th-century postcards in the .


1. Poland is not yet lost
while we live
We will fight (with swords) for all/
That our enemies had taken from us.


March, march Dabrowski
. from Italy to Poland
Under your command
we will reunite with the nation.

2. We will cross the Vistula and Warta Rivers,/
we will be Poles,/ Bonaparte showed us/ how to win.

Refrain: March, march...

3. Like Czarniecki to Poznan, after Swedish annexation,
We will come back across the sea to save our motherland

Refrain: March, march...

4. Father, in tears, says to his Basia: "Just listen,
It seems that our people are beating the drums."

Refrain: March, march...


  • The text is based on Maja Trochimczyk's essay "Sacred versus Secular: The Convoluted History of Polish Anthems," in After Chopin: Essays in Polish Music, ed. Maja Trochimczyk, vol. 6 of Polish Music History Series (Los Angeles: Friends of Polish Music at USC, 2000).
  • The current score is from PWM edition of Polski Hymn Narodowy [Polish National Anthem] (Krakow: PWM, 1987).
  • The "1808 version" of the score is from Jeszcze Polska nie zginela. Piesni patryotyczne i narodowe [Poland's not dead. Patriotic and national songs], ed. Franciszek Baranski (Lwow: Ksiegarnia Polska Bernarda Polonieckiego, c.a. 1910).
  • The current sound recording is from Marsz, marsz Polonia, CD recorded by the Orchestra of the Polish Army, cond. F. Bieganowski, in an arragement by Rezler. Polskie Nagrania, ECD 064, 1995/6.
  • The 19th-century postcards of symbolic imagery and Polish emblems are from Maja Trochimczyk Collection.

Back to the AnthemsBack to PMRC Home Page

Compiled in August 2000 by Ewa Grzegrzulka.
Design by Maja Trochimczyk, August 2000

Over the years 1825–1849, Frédéric Chopin wrote at least 59 mazurkas for piano, based on the traditional Polish dance:

  • 58 have been published
    • 45 during Chopin's lifetime, of which 41 have opus numbers
    • 13 posthumously, of which 8 have posthumous opus numbers
  • 11 further mazurkas are known whose manuscripts are either in private hands (2) or untraced (at least 9).

The serial numbering of the 58 published mazurkas normally goes only up to 51. The remaining 7 are referred to by their key or catalogue number.

Chopin's composition of these mazurkas signaled new ideas of nationalism.


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(January 2011)

Chopin based his mazurkas on the traditional Polish folk dance, also called the mazurka (or "mazur" in Polish). However, while he used the traditional mazurka as his model, he was able to transform his mazurkas into an entirely new genre, one that became known as a "Chopin genre".[1]


Chopin started composing his mazurkas in 1825, and continued composing them until 1849, the year of his death. The number of mazurkas composed in each year varies, but he was steadily writing them throughout this time period.

Musical style[edit]

Since Chopin's mazurkas connect to the already established traditional Polish mazurka, some of the characteristics of the genre remain the same in his interpretation. For example, both the traditional mazurka and Chopin's version contain a great deal of repetition. This can mean repetition of a single measure or small group of measures, repetition of a theme, or even repetition of an entire section.[2] This repetition makes sense in the traditional dance for the repeat of a certain section of the actual dance; even though Chopin did not compose his mazurkas so they could be danced to,[3] it is clear Chopin kept the original form in mind. Furthermore, many of the rhythmic patterns of the traditional mazurka also appear in Chopin's compositions so they still convey the idea of a dance, but a more "self-contained, stylized dance piece."[4] In keeping with this idea, Chopin did try to make his mazurkas more technically interesting by furthering their chromaticism and harmony,[3] along with using classical techniques, such as counterpoint and fugues.[5] In fact, Chopin used more classical techniques in his mazurkas than in any of his other genres.[5] One of these techniques is four part harmony in the manner of a chorale.


While it is known that Chopin's mazurkas are connected to the traditional dance, throughout the years there has been much scholarly debate as to how exactly they are connected. The main subject of this debate is whether Chopin had an actual direct connection to Polish folk music, or whether he heard Polish national music in urban areas and was inspired by that to compose his mazurkas.

In 1852, three years after Chopin's death, Franz Liszt published a piece about Chopin's mazurkas, saying that Chopin had been directly influenced by Polish national music to compose his mazurkas. Liszt also provided descriptions of specific dance scenes, which were not completely accurate, but were "a way to raise the status of these works [mazurkas]."[6] While Liszt's claim was inaccurate, the actions of scholars who read his writing proved to be more disastrous. When reading Liszt's work, scholars interpreted the word "national" as "folk," creating the "longest standing myth in Chopin criticism—the myth that Chopin's mazurkas are national works rooted in an authentic Polish-folk music tradition."[6] In fact, the most likely explanation for Chopin's influence is the national music he was hearing as a young man in urban areas of Poland, such as Warsaw.[7]

After scholars created this myth, they furthered it through their own writings in different ways. Some picked specific mazurkas that they could apply to a point they were trying to make in support of Chopin's direct connection with folk music. Others simply made generalizations so that their claims of this connection would make sense. In all cases, since these writers were well-respected and carried weight in the scholarly community, people accepted their suggestions as truth, which allowed the myth to grow. However, in 1921, Béla Bartók published an essay in which he said that Chopin "had not known authentic Polish folk music."[8] By the time of his death in 1945, Bartók was a very well known and respected composer, as well as a prominent expert on folk music, so his opinion and his writing carried a great deal of weight. Bartók suggested that Chopin instead had been influenced by national, and not folk music.


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(January 2011)

The soprano and composer Pauline Viardot was a close friend of Chopin and his lover George Sand, and she made a number of arrangements of his mazurkas as songs, with his full agreement. He gave Viardot expert advice on these arrangements, as well as on her piano playing and her other vocal compositions. Chopin in turn derived from her some firsthand knowledge about Spanish music.[9]

List of mazurkas[edit]

KeyComposedPublishedOpus No.BrownKobylańskaChominskiDedicationNotes
G, B♭18261826B. 16KK IIa/2-3S 1/2Revised versions (original versions were published in 1875)
1–4F♯m, C♯m, E, E♭m18301832Op. 6B. 60C. 51–54Countess Pauline Plater
5–9B♭, Am, Fm, A♭, C1830–311832Op. 7B. 61C. 55–59M. Johns de la Nouvelle-OrléansNos. 2 and 4 are revised versions; the original version of No. 4 was published in 1902
10–13B♭, Em, A♭, Am1832–331834Op. 17B. 77C. 60–63Mlle. Lina Freppa
14–17Gm, C, A♭, B♭m1834–351836Op. 24B. 89C. 64–67Comte de Perthuis
18–21Cm, Bm, D♭, C♯m1836–371837Op. 30B. 105C. 65–71Princess Maria Czartoryska de Württemberg
22–25G♯m, D, C, Bm1837–381838Op. 33B. 115C. 72–75Countess Roza MostowskaNo. 3 from Four Mazurkas; in ABRSM Piano Exam Pieces Grade 6 (2015 & 2016 syllabus)
26C♯m1838 (28 November)1840Op. 41/1B. 122C. 77
27–29Em, B, A♭1839 (July)1840Op. 41/2–4B. 126C. 76, 78–79Étienne Witwicki
50Am1840 (summer)1841B. 134KK IIb/4S 2/4Notre temps; in "Six Morceaux de salon"
51Am18401841B. 140KK IIb/5S 2/5Émile GaillardIn "Album de pianistes polonais"
30–32G, A♭, C♯m1841–421842Op. 50B. 145C. 80–82Leon Szmitkowski
33–35B, C, Cm18431844Op. 56B. 153C. 83–85Catherine Maberly
36–38Am, A♭, F♯m1845 (June–July)1846Op. 59B. 157C. 86–88
39–41B, Fm, C♯m1846 (early autumn)1847Op. 63B. 162C. 89–91Countess Laura Czosnowska
42, 44G, C18351855Op. posth. 67/1, 3B. 93C. 92, 94Anna Mlokosiewicz
45Am18461855Op. posth. 67/4B. 163C. 95
43Gm1849 (summer)1855Op. posth. 67/2B. 167C. 93
47Am18271855Op. posth. 68/2B. 18C. 97
48F18291855Op. posth. 68/3B. 34C. 98Quotes the folk tune "Oj, Magdalino"
46C18291855Op. posth. 68/1B. 38C. 96
49Fm1849 (summer)1855Op. posth. 68/4B. 168C. 99"Chopin's last composition"; first published in an incomplete form 1855
C18331870B. 82KK IVb/3P 2/3
D18291875B. 31KK IVa/7P 1/7Heavily revised 1832 (see B. 71, KK IVb/2; rev. vers. pub. 1880)
D18321880B. 71KK IVb/2P 1/7A heavily revised version of B.31, KK IVa/7
B♭1832 (24 June)1909B. 73KK IVb/1P 2/1Alexandrine Wolowska
D1820 (?)1910 (20 February)B. 4KK Anh. Ia/1A 1/1"Mazurek"; doubtful
A♭1834 (July)1930B. 85KK IVb/4
 ?"early"KK Vf"Several mazurkas"; lost
D1826 (?)KK Ve/5Mentioned in literature; MS unknown
G1829 (22 August) ?Setting of a poem by Ignac Maciejowski
 ?1832KK Vc/2Mentioned in a letter from Chopin dated 10 September 1832
 ?1832 (14 September)KK Ve/7Listed in an auction catalogue, Paris, 1906
B♭1835KK Ve/4MS sold in Paris, 20 June 1977
 ?1846 (by December)KK Vc/4Mentioned in a letter from Chopin
A, Dm ?KK VIIb/7-8Allegretto and Mazurka; MS sold Paris 21 November 1974
B♭m ?KK Anh. IbDoubtful
 ? ?KK Ve/8Mentioned in 1878 correspondence between Breitkopf & Hartel and Izabela Barczinska
 ? ?KK Ve/6Mme NicolaiMentioned in a note from Augener to C.A. Spina 21 May 1884



  • Downes, Stephen (2009). "Mazurka." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 17 November 2009. [1]
  • Michałowski, Kornel and Samson, Jim (2009). "Chopin, Fryderyk Franciszek." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 17 November 2009 (esp. section 6, “Formative Influences”) [2].
  • Kallberg, Jeffrey (1988). “The problem of repetition and return in Chopin's mazurkas.” Chopin Styles, ed. Jim Samson. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press
  • Kallberg, Jeffrey (1985). "Chopin's Last Style." Journal of the American Musicological Society 38.2: 264–315.
  • Milewski, Barbara (1999). "Chopin's Mazurkas and the Myth of the Folk." 19th-Century Music 23.2: 113–35.
  • Rosen, Charles (1995). The Romantic Generation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press
  • Winoker, Roselyn M. (1974) “Chopin and the Mazurka.” Diss. Sarah Lawrence College

Mazurkas by Frédéric Chopin

  • 4 Mazurkas, Op. 6
  • 5 Mazurkas, Op. 7
  • 4 Mazurkas, Op. 17
  • 4 Mazurkas, Op. 24
  • 4 Mazurkas, Op. 30
  • 4 Mazurkas, Op. 33
  • 4 Mazurkas, Op. 41
  • 3 Mazurkas, Op. 50
  • 3 Mazurkas, Op. 56
  • 3 Mazurkas, Op. 59
  • 3 Mazurkas, Op. 63
  • 4 Mazurkas, Op. 67
  • 4 Mazurkas, Op. 68
  • Posthumous mazurkas without opus numbers
  1. ^Michałowski, Kornel and Jim Samson. "Chopin, Fryderyk Franciszek". Grove Music Online, edited by L. Macy (accessed October 31, 2006) (subscription access)
  2. ^Kallberg, Jeffrey. "The Problem of Repeat and Repetition in Chopin's Mazurkas (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
  3. ^ abSamson, Jim, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Chopin (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.)
  4. ^Samson, Jim. The Music of Chopin (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985).
  5. ^ abRosen, Charles. The Romantic Generation (Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
  6. ^ abBarbara Milewski, "Chopin's Mazurkas and the Myth of Folk," 19th Century Music 23.2 (1999): 114.
  7. ^Milewski 1999
  8. ^Milewski 1999 117.
  9. ^Rachel Harris, The Music Salon of Pauline ViardotArchived 2007-03-07 at the Wayback Machine.


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