According to the Harvard Brief Dictionary of Music edited by Willi Apel and Ralph T. Daniel, a “Mazurka” is a Polish national dance in triple time with a characteristic dotted rhythm, and having a strong accent on the second or third beat.
Chopin cultivated this form to a high degree, composing a body of Mazurkas which were artistic “elaborations” of the “dance” referenced.
The Mazurka in F Major Op. 68, No. 3, appears in the pages of Chopin, An Introduction to his Music (Willard Palmer, editor) and is, among other selections, very approachable for the mid to late Intermediate level student. In fact the whole collection features a variety of works including Waltzes, Preludes, two Polonaises and a Nocturne, etc. that afford good early exposures to the composer’s music.
The video below explores ways to practice the F Major Mazurka with a focus on layered learning from the ground up. As a start a MOTIF should be identified for the first two pages. It’s the smallest idea (rhythmic/melodic) upon which the composition is based.
I delve into the Harmonic progressions of the bass, going up and across to the Treble where the hands are synchronized in rhythm. Fingering, in the early stages of learning should be set down carefully so phrases are more deftly executed.
Having very relaxed arms and bouncy, supple wrists, helps the student to realize the pervasive Mazurka rhythm that permeates the work. In measures that are un-pianistic, where what’s written as LEGATO (smooth and connected) cannot be literally achieved because of the awkward leaps that pop up, the player has to rehearse these sections very slowly, adhering to good fingering choices.
The third page of the Mazurka has a noteworthy departure from material previously presented. The tempo quickens and the key changes to Bb Major, though Chopin keeps nullifying the naturally occurring Eb of the Bb Major scale. The passing tone E natural creates a dissonance against the one recurring perfect fifth of Bb/F that is repeated in the Bass, before the section winds back to the opening motif, etc.
This is a very popular piece among students no doubt because of its robustly vibrant Mazurka rhythm and engaging chords. It should entice them to study more of the composer’s works as they advance along.