Chopin course 4 – Mazurka in B flat, Op.7, No.1

Today's Mazurka is one of Chopin's most famous melodies. It is a picture of peasant dancing at its most joyous, and has been played by countless young pianists as well as experienced ones all over the world since it was composed in 1831 - Chopin's first year in Paris, and already missing home. The classic mazurka rhythm is clearly enunciated here: an insistent emphasis - like a stamp of the foot - on the first beat of each measure, plus a dotted rhythm - like a kick - following each of these first beats. It also has a central episode of a subdued haunted flavor; the slavic soul can never escape that. But this subdued moment is very brief in this predominantly joyful piece of music. One of the things that has always been intriguing about this famous piece is the dedication. Most of Chopin's works are dedicated to ladies - countesses, princesses, friends of the composer, most of them high-born, many of them piano students of his. This one, however, is dedicated to a certain "Monsieur Johns of New Orleans". Who Mr. Johns was no one can say, though with the strong French culture of New Orleans - which after all was the capital of Louisiana, or "la nouvelle France", which stretched all the way from the Gulf of Mexico up to Detroit and Canada until 25 years earlier when Napoleon sold it to the US for just 4 million dollars in order to finance his wars - and the still very close cultural connection with France, Monsieur Johns was most likely a gifted amateur who was on a visit to Paris and met Chopin at one of the famous salons.

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