Chopin Mazurkas – Ronan Magill Vol.1 – CR6055


A returning treasure from the East, Ronan Magill has been successfully performing concerts and delighting Japanese audiences, where he has been resident for many years. Admired for his amazing natural musicality and ability to improvise almost anything on the piano, Benjamin Britten and others inspired him as a young man to reach the wonderful musical maturity and insight that his performances now exhibit in profusion! We welcome him back to England with this new release!


Chopin Mazurkas – A Personal View Ronan Magill

There is no doubt that the Mazurkas of Frederic Chopin contain some of his most personal and private utterances, and it was a form he returned to more than any other for his entire life. The Mazurka was a series of folk dances in triple time that originated in the province of Mazovia in north-eastern Poland in the early nineteenth century. Essentially, they are: 1) the Mazur, a lively dance with accents on the 2nd or 3rd beat, 2) the Kujawiak, a slow dance, romantic and/or melancholic, and 3) the Oberek, a fast foot stamping dance. As a child, I was captivated by these pieces when I heard my Father play them, and I am delighted to be able to share and explore them on this disc.

In his lifetime, Chopin published 41 Mazurkas in 11 sets, this disc contains the first 7 sets of 29 Mazurkas from Op.6 to Op.41 composed from 1830 to 1839. His genius completely transcended the Mazurka dance form and elevated it with complex chromatic harmonies and daring modulations. This is evident with the very first Mazurka with F sharp minor Op.6 No.1, a mixture of Mazur with a snappy Oberek for contrast. The 2nd and 3rd of the set follow the same format – the 3rd being a clappy Oberek – whereas Op.6 No.4 in E flat minor, is completely different with its round robin format.

The Op.7 set, starts with the famous B flat Mazurka, bubbling with joy and vitality, No.2 in A minor has a plaintive melody with a witty middle section in the major. No.3 in F minor is a haunting Mazur preceded by a mysterious opening, and there is a fine melodic passage for the left hand, leading back to the main theme and gentle conclusion. The last two in the set are lively Obereks, No.4 in A flat a helter-skelter, a No.5 another dancing round robin.

With the Op.17 set, things become more serious. The strong Mazur formality of No.1 B flat, is countered by the pensive anxiety of No.2 in E minor. No.3 in A flat has a gentle meditative feel, dispelled by an outburst in B flat minor but returning quickly to the calm original statement. The last Mazurka in A minor is an undoubted masterpiece – showing Chopin’s art of melodic pathos, over a chordal accompaniment, a technique he made very much his own. An optimistic Oberek in the major builds up to a cry of despair and resignation.

From now on, the Mazurkas reveal greater depth with occasional moments of relief, the last of each set having the most import. Op.24 No.1 in G minor, is a mixture between a gentle Kujawiak and a Mazur, No.2 in C major is a light fingered Oberek, No.3 a romantic Kujawiak, and No.4 in B flat minor which could be said to be almost bipolar, Chopin having such nostalgia for his country, one can feel his loneliness and frustration in the final section.

The four Mazurkas of Op.30 show Chopin moving slowly away from extrovert expression to greater introspection, but done in the most refined and tasteful way. After the serene first Mazurka in C minor, there follows the lively B minor with its round robin motifs. No.3 in D flat major has a resolute main theme, with strange echoes in the minor, quite unsettling despite its grand opening., and No.4 in C sharp minor has a capricious character, leading to a long passage of growing pleading intensity, and then, ending after an extraordinary chromatic chordal descent to a simple C sharp minor chord. The Op.33 set goes from 1) quiet serenity, 2) joyful celebration, 3) romantic ardour and 4) bitter sweetness. No.2 in D major is justly celebrated for its joyous verve, and No.3 in C major for its languorous sensuality.

The final four Mazurkas of this disc is the Op.41 set, and there is great variety of mood in the four pieces: No.1 in E minor, a work of great tenderness, coupled with a claustrophobic build-up of tension until it finally explodes. No.2 in B major, a humorous scherzos, No.3 in A flat, relaxed and carefree, and No.4 in C sharp minor, a terrifying piece again almost bipolar, starting quietly enough, but reaching a crushing climax.

A word about the order of Op.41

The original French edition puts the C sharp minor Mazurka as No.1, with the others following in sequence, but Jan Ekier points out that this was not the original order which puts the C sharp minor Mazurka last. I prefer this arrangement, as it is very difficult to follow that dramatic ending.

© 2023 Ronan Magill.



© 2024 Pending