We’re in Poland this week on Clef Notes, looking at how two Polish composers used nationalism in their work. Let’s begin with Frederic Chopin (1810–1849), who is known primarily for both performing on, and composing for the piano.
During Chopin’s short life, he became quite popular with high society. Many elite sought to study with him, paying high prices just so they could say they studied with this pianist who only performed in private settings. In Poland, people enjoyed Chopin’s use of nationalism in some of his music. One example would be the many mazurkas he wrote for his piano students to play. The mazurka is a Polish folk dance that eventually developed into a ballroom dance. Chopin wrote stylized versions of this dance. His Opus 7, No. 1 in B-flat major provides a great example, using the traditional mazurka meter, rhythms, as well as the use of trills, grace notes in leaps often found in this dance form.