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Nationalism in Karol Szymanowskis Mazurkas No. 1-4, Op.

The Influence of Goral Music
A doctoral document submitted to the
Division of Graduate Studies and Research
of the University of Cincinnati
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of


in the Keyboard Studies Division
of the College-Conservatory of Music
Sun-Joo Cho
2410 Ohio Ave. #201
Cincinnati, OH 45219

B.M., Ewha Womens University, Seoul, South Korea, 1997

M.M., University of Cincinnati, 2001

Committee Chair: Dr. Robert Zierolf

Karol Szymanowski was a successor to the Polish nationalism of Chopin, and
truly was an important figure as the bridge between Chopin and twentieth-century
composers including Lutoslawski, Penderecki, Gorecki, and Paderewski as a figure of
international fame. He composed two sets of mazurkas: 20 Mazurkas, Op. 50 (1924-25)
and Two Mazurkas, Op. 62 (1933-34), his last completed works. His mazurkas are
commonly understood to have been directly inspired by Chopins. However,
Szymanowskis were also influenced by Polands postwar independence, Bartoks
nationalism, Stravinskys Russian Period music, and musical contacts with the Gorale and
personal experiences in Zakopane, located in the Podhale region in the Tatra Mountains
in the early 1920s. Among these influential factors, the music in the Podhale region was
the biggest motivation and musical basis in composing a set of Mazurkas, Op. 50. Written
in Zakopane in the 1920s, they show many general musical characteristics from the
highland mountain area and are clearer examples of nationalism than Op. 62.
This document analyzes the first four mazurkas in Op. 50, favored in concert by
many pianists, focusing on how Szymanowski incorporated musical features from
Podhale into the mazurka, the genre from the lowland. The purpose of this document is
to present musical folk idioms of the Tatra Mountains area, then provide deeper
understanding of Szymanowskis Mazurkas by examining relevant musical characteristics
in the first four of Op. 50. Chapter one includes a biographical sketch, five important
factors that were crucial influences on Szymanowskis nationalism, and brief examination
of general characteristics of authentic form and features of the mazurka. Chapter two

mainly focuses on highland Podhale music in the Tatra Mountains including the Podhale
regions geography, its history as an artistic center from the late nineteenth century and
four main figures in musical history of Podhale before Szymanowski, followed by
musical characteristics of the Tatra Mountains region. Chapter three, the main portion of
the document, concentrates on stylistic analyses of Szymanowskis first four mazurkas,
Op. 50. This chapter examines and illustrates how Szymanowski dealt with the folk
elements in his mazurkas and how the characteristics of the goral music are specifically
used in the pieces for piano.

Special thanks to my advisor, Dr. Robert Zierolf, for his thorough advice and
helpful suggestions on improving and eventually finishing this project. I appreciate his
warm caring, endless support, and enormous patience. I could not have accomplished this
without him.
I would like to thank Eugene and Elizabeth Pridonoff, and Ms. Sandra Rivers for
being my piano teachers and mentors. They always have been beautiful inspirations for
every piece of my life.
I also want to acknowledge my parents for believing in their daughters musical
gift and supporting my every step to this moment. They gave me strength, loving hearts,
and tireless support. I extend my many thanks to my family members and friends for their
positive support and prayer.
Finally, I thank God, whose name I will glorify throughout my whole life.

Table of Contents
List of Tables


List of Figures


Chapter I. Karol Szymanowski, His Nationalism, and Mazurkas General

A. Biographical Sketch
B. Influential Factors on Szymanowskis Nationalism
C. Mazurka: Definition and General Characteristics

Chapter II. On Highland Music



A. Podhale: Geography
B. Podhale: An Artistic Center
C. Four Main Figures of Podhale Music before Szymanowski
D. Musical Characteristics


Chapter III. Analysis of Szymanowskis Mazurka Op. 50, Nos. 1-4


Chapter IV. Conclusion





List of Tables
1. Table 1. Karol Szymanowski: Works for Solo Piano


List of Figures

1. Figure 1. Basic rhythmic figures of the mazurka


2. Figure 2. Map of Central Europe, Poland, Podhale, and Zakopane



The nationalism that inspired Frederic Chopin (1810-49) carried on throughout

the nineteenth century in Poland. After the death of Chopin, however, there were few
Polish composers until Szymanowski who made remarkable contributions and achieved
international fame. Undoubtedly, Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) was a successor to the
Polish nationalism of Chopin. Mieczyslaw Kolinski (a Polish ethnomusicologist and
theorist) called Szymanowski the most representative composer of Poland. 1
Szymanowski was a leading figure in reviving Polish nationalism in music in the early
twentieth century.
However, despite Szymanowskis musical ingenuity and contributions to Polish
nationalism, he has been one of the most neglected composers in the early twentieth
century. His piano music (along with his other compositions) was largely excluded from
concert programs for many years. Szymanowskis works are now recognized as marvels
of modern music, and the composer is seen as a great stylistic innovator. 2 A recent
performance of Szymanowskis King Roger by the English National Opera and
performances of his orchestral works bring more attention to his music. Also, the Vienna
colloquium of 1982 celebrating the centennial anniversary of his birth greatly contributed
to the revival of his works. 3

Paul Collaer, A History of Modern Music (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1961), 369.

Janina Fialkowska, pp. 1-2 in the liner notes to Fialkowska Plays Szymanowski. Janina
Fialkowska, pianist (Ontario: Opening Day Recordings, 1995), ODR9305, Compact Disc.

Roger Scruton, Introduction, in Karol Szymanowski in seiner Zeit, ed. Michal Bristiger
(Munchen: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1984), 9.

Generally, Szymanowskis piano output is divided into three periods. The first is
in the style of late German romanticism. There are strong influences from Chopin
(although not yet Polish nationalism) and from Wagner, Strauss, and Reger. The second
happened in the mid-1910s, when his musical output changed to some extent through the
influence of Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky (whom he met for the first time in London in
1914). Exotic sounds and Impressionism best describe this middle period.
In a trip to Paris in 1921, he was overwhelmed by Stravinskys music (Les
Noces) and his nationalistic treatment of Russian folk-songs. This experience inspired
him to write Polish national music, especially under the influence of the folk-music of the
Tatra Mountains. This is his third creative period. 4 Compositions after 1920 are usually
designated as from the nationalistic period. See Table 1.

Table 1. Karol Szymanowski: Works for Solo Piano


Piano Works

1st Period
~ c1911
Chopin &
Late German

2nd Period
1914 - 18
& Impressionism

Nine Preludes, Op.1

Variations, Op. 3 &
Op. 10.
Four Etudes, Op. 4
Sonatas, Op. 8 & 21

Metopes, Op. 29
Masques, Op. 34
Twelve Etudes, Op.
Sonata, Op. 36

3rd Period
c1920 ~
Polish nationalism
(especially the
Goral [mountain
people] music)
Twenty Mazurkas,
Op. 50
Valse Romantique
Four Polish Dances
Two Mazurkas, Op.

He composed two sets of mazurkas: 20 Mazurkas, Op. 50 (1924-25) and Two

Mazurkas, Op. 62 (1933-34), his last completed works. His mazurkas are commonly

Martin Anderson, p. 2 in the liner notes to Karol Szymanowski: The Complete Mazurkas. MarcAndre Hamelin. Pianist (London: Hyperion, 2003), CDA67399, Compact Disc.

understood to have been directly inspired by Chopins. However, Szymanowskis were

also influenced by Polands postwar independence, Bartoks nationalism, Stravinskys
Russian Period music, and musical contacts with the Gorale and personal experiences in
Zakopane, located in the Podhale region in the Tatra Mountains in the early 1920s.
Among these influential factors, the music in the Podhale region was the biggest
motivation and musical basis in composing a set of Mazurkas, Op. 50. Written in
Zakopane in the 1920s, they show many general musical characteristics from the
highland mountain area and are clearer examples of nationalism than Op. 62.
In this document, the first four mazurkas in Op. 50 (1923-24) will be analyzed,
focusing on how Szymanowski incorporated musical features from Podhale into the
mazurka, the genre from the lowland. The purpose of this document is to present
musical folk idioms of the Tatra Mountains area, then provide deeper understanding of
Szymanowskis Mazurkas by examining relevant musical characteristics. My analysis of
Nos. 1-4 will concentrate on the treatment of the folk elements in Szymanowskis own
way. I will illustrate how each of the four mazurkas adopts musical features of the
Podhale region. The mazurkas will be analyzed, not by considering a standard analytical
approach like Roman numeral or Schenkerian analysis, but by revealing the particular
musical characteristics in Podhale used in the four mazurkas: the construction of
melodies, rhythms, use of typical modes and scales, voicing and texture, and so on.
First, I will begin with a brief biographical sketch of Szymanowski, highlighting
his sojourns to the Tatra Mountains and the influences of the traditional music there in the
1920s. Then five important factors that were crucial influences on Szymanowskis
nationalism will be discussed. A brief examination of the general characteristics of

authentic form and features of the mazurka will be presented to help the readers
understanding of the genre. The second part of the document will mainly deal with
history and music of Zakopane and Podhale in the Tatra Mountains. Both Podhale and
Zakopanes geography, history as an artistic center from the late nineteenth century, and
discussions of four main figures in musical history of Podhale before Szymanowski (Dr.
Tytus Chalubinski, Jan Krzeptowski-Sabala, Oskar Kolberg, and Adolf Chybinski) will
be followed by musical characteristics of the Tatra Mountains region. Analyses of
Szymanowskis first four mazurkas, Op. 50, are the subject of the last part, the main
portion of this document. In this chapter I will examine and illustrate how Szymanowski
dealt with the folk elements in his mazurkas and how the characteristics of the Goral
music are specifically used in the pieces for piano.

Biographical Sketch
Karol Szymanowski was born on 6 October, 1882, to an aristocratic, musical
Polish family in Tymoszowka, Ukraine. His family had a keen interest in the arts. He was
the third of five children, three of whom became musicians (his sister was a singer, his
brother a pianist). Two other siblings, Sofia and Anna, became a poet and a painter,
respectively. Due to a leg injury at the age of four, his early education took place at home.
At the age of seven he began music education with his father. Later, he was sent to his
uncle, Gustav Neuhaus (who ran a music school in Elisavetgrad), to study piano and
theory. Through Neuhaus Szymanowski became acquainted with the works of Bach,
Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Chopin. Most of the compositions from these early
dates at Tymoszowka and Elisavetgrad have not survived. 5
In 1901 Szymanowski moved to Warsaw to take lessons in harmony with Marek
Zawirski, and he also studied counterpoint and composition with the conservative
Zygmunt Noskowski. In Warsaw he made acquaintances and connections with a number
of great musicians including Artur Rubinstein (later a champion of Szymanowskis piano
music), Pawel Kochanski (later one of the greatest violinists of his generation), and
Grzegorz Fitelberg (who became a leading conductor in Poland and gave many premieres
of Szymanowskis orchestral works).
In 1905, together with Fitelberg, Ludomir Rozycki, and Apolinary Szeluto (all
were composition students of Noskowski), Szymanowski founded Spolka Nakladowa
(the Young Polish Composers Publishing Company) in Berlin under the patronage of

Jim Samson, The Music of Szymanowski (New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1981), 26.

Prince Wladyslaw Lubomirski. Their purpose was to publish and promote new Polish
music and concerts. Pianist Rubinstein and violinist Kochanski were strong supporters of
the group. The group was also known as Young Poland in Music, and they gave first
concert of their own works at the Warsaw Philharmonic in February 1906. Szymanowski
was represented by Concert Overture, Variations on a Polish Folk Theme, and Etude in
B-flat minor for piano, played by Neuhaus. The concert was very successful; especially
Szymanowskis music received much praise and attention. Alexander Polinski, the
leading music critic, said, I did not doubt for a moment that I was faced with an
extraordinary composer, perhaps a genius. 6 Unfortunately, the group didnt last long
because of a lack of common, shared musical ideals.
Between 1909 and 1914 Szymanowski traveled to London, Vienna, Paris, Berlin,
Sicily, Algiers, and Tunis with his friend, Stefan Spiess, a music-lover and patron of the
arts. Throughout the trips he became captivated by the exotic sounds of Oriental culture
and French Impressionism. In the summer of 1914 he returned to Tymoszowka and
remained there until 1917. During these years he spent most of his time composing,
writing the novel Efebos, and studying Greek literature and Islamic culture. His two
impressionistic masterpieces for the piano, Metopes and Masques, were written in this
period. 7
The familys property in Tymoszowka was destroyed in World War I, and the
Szymanowskis moved to Warsaw after the war ended. Around this time his close friends

Ibid., 20.

Jim Samson, Szymanowski, Karol, Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 13 May 2006),

Kochanski and Rubinstein chose to stay in the United States and establish their careers,
but Szymanowski decided to remain in his own country to revive music of Poland.
Meanwhile, his musical direction had turned an unexpected direction. Dating from the
early 1920s he embarked on music with nationalistic sources and folk materials, which he
had been against as a composer. It was around this period that he became interested in
Polish nationalism. The strongest source was the music of Zakopane people (the Gorale)
in the Podhale region of the Tatra Mountains. Because of his injured knee, instead of
climbing or hiking he rather enjoyed music and dance performances of the Gorale and
also interacted with many artists, musicologists, and writers from outside the mountains.
He stayed in Zakopane almost all autumn and winter 1922-23, and for the next fifteen
years, except for several short trips abroad, he remained in Warsaw and Zakopane. In this
Zakopane period he stayed at Stamara Cottage then at The Red Cottage and lastly
at Limba Cottage. Along with Harnasie and Slopiewnie, the 20 Mazurkas, Op. 50
(1924-25) were the fruits from these nationalistic years. 8
In the latter half of the 1920s, Szymanowskis reputation as a composer,
performer, and educator continued growing in Poland as well as abroad. In 1927 he
received two offers of directorship from the conservatories of Cairo and Warsaw. In spite
of the better terms of invitation and good weather in Cairo, which would have been better
for his health, he became director of the Warsaw Conservatory (a predecessor of the
Warsaw Academy of Music), hoping to revitalize Polish music and education. He wrote
in a letter to Chybinski: I prefer to be a pauper in Poland than a rich man elsewhere!
His rather progressive ideas about music and education, shown in one of his statements:

Boguslaw Maciejewski, Karol Szymanowski, His Life and Music (London: Poets and Painters
Press, 1967), 73-74.

our aim is not yesterday but to-day and to-morrowin other wordscreativeness and
not confinement to achievements already acquired led to constant fighting with the
conservative people of Warsaw; he ended up resigning in 1929. 9 Around these years,
tuberculosis slowly began to break down his health.
The year 1930, however, was the most celebrated in his musical and pedagogical
careers. He was appointed Rector of the State Academy of Music in Warsaw and also
received several honors and awards, for example, the Cross of the French Legion of
Honour, a high Polish decorationPolonia Restituta, and honorary memberships in the
International Society for Contemporary Music and the Czech Academy of Arts and
Sciences. He was awarded an honorary Ph. D. from the University of Cracow in the same
year. After the Cracow celebration he headed for Zakopane for another visit and stayed in
an Atma villa, which became his primary base for the next couple of years.
Unfortunately, he was faced with conflicts with the conservative side again, and he left
the Academy in April, 1932.
Due to nervous stress and conflict, Szymanowskis health deteriorated from
tuberculosis, and his financial problems grew progressively worse. To make a living he
composed Symphony No. 4: Symphonie Concertante for orchestra and solo piano, his last
major work along with the Second Violin Concerto, Op. 61. He also gave extensive tours
throughout Europe as an exhausted soloist at the piano. He completed two Mazurkas, Op.
62, his last published work, in 1933 and 34. Because of financial difficulties, he had to
give up his room in Zakopane and move to several different locations with different
people. He died in a sanatorium in Lausanne, Switzerland on 29 March, 1937, at the age

Ibid., 83.

of 54 in the presence of sister Stasia and his secretary Leonia Gradstein. 10

Influential factors on Szymanowskis nationalism

In 1910, around the time Szymanowski refused to attend a festival celebrating the
centennial anniversary of Chopins birth, he wrote a letter to his friend Zdzislaw
Jachimecki, a Polish musicologist:
One does not debase Bachs and Mozarts, pass over Beethovens and
Wagners so as to be able to shed more easily Polish-Sienkiewiczian tears over the
grave of our one genius, Chopin. . . . I dont give a damn for such commonplace
patriotism! When I think that ninety percent of Polands intellectual and cultural
elite is more or less of this type, I feel sick to the depths of my Soul. . . . I am by
no means a cosmopolitan, but in our present atmosphere I feel like somewhat of
an outsider. 11
Up to this time, Szymanowski showed little interests in elements of folk music and
Chopins inheritance. 12 He also criticized the Polish nationalism of the previous
generations musicians/artists, such as Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819-72), as provincial. 13
However, Szymanowskis patriotic fervor and respect for Chopin as a nationalistic icon in
music are clearly exhibited later, in a statement made in 1924:
[Chopins] spiritual legacya treasure of ineffable beauty gathered
assiduously during the course of a brief and difficult life that he lived during the
darkest days of our historyhas not lost a shred of its celestial radiance but
rather continues to shine with the most beautiful hues of the rainbow, like a clear
diamond in which there is no trace of imperfection or flaw. . . . On the unbended

Jim Samson, Szymanowski, Karol, Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 13 May
2006), <>

Alistair Wightman, Karol Szymanowski: His Life and Work (England: Ashgate, 1999), 84,
quoted in Barbara Ann Milewski, The Mazurkas and National Imaginings: Poland, Frederic Chopin, Karol
Szymanowski (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2002), 111.

Jerzy Sulikowski, Polish Music (England: Polish Publications Committee, 1944), 29.


Leon Pommers, Polish Aspects of Szymanowskis Style (M.A. thesis, Queens College, City
University of New York, 1968), 33.

wings of a faith in the future, the works of Fryderyk Chopin rose above and
survived the contemporary tragedy of our Nation. . . . I have called them the
Myth of the Polish Soul since at the core of their mystifying beauty, in the wealth
and variety of their forms, there always sparkles the same immutable truth of
their unmistakable Polishness. 14
Szymanowskis new opinion and attitude toward Chopin and Polish nationalism
did not happen all at once. Rather, it was generated by certain influential factors that
made him change his point of view and compositional direction. Polands newly achieved
independence after World War I, the music of Stravinsky and Bartok, Chopins Polish
legacy, and his personal experiences in Zakopane in the Podhale region were all crucial
elements of Szymanowskis nationalism. Among these, the experiences and musical
contacts with Zakopane and the mountain people served as the main influential factor for
his composition of Mazurkas, Op. 50.
After World War I Poland took back independence after more than a century of
control by Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (the third partition, 17951918). New-born Poland needed to unite its citizens politically, socially, and also
economically. 15 In this new, nationalistic environment, Szymanowski became aware of
the need for nationalistic music and shifted his compositional interests to a new
direction. 16
One of Szymanowskis contemporaries, Igor Stravinsky, was an influential figure
in forming Szymanowskis nationalistic music. Particularly Stravinskys Russian
period, which included his first three ballets (The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of

Preconcert lecture by Karol Szymanowski in Polish, presented at the Warsaw Philharmonic,

Poland, 16 October 1924, quoted in Barbara Ann Milewski, The Mazurkas and National Imaginings, 112.

Pommers, Polish Aspects of Szymanowskis Style, 27.


Robert Morgan, Twentieth-Century Music: A History of Musical Style in Modern Europe and
America (New York: Norton, 1991), 264.

Spring) and Les Noces, composed a little later, made an impact on the birth of
Szymanowskis nationalism (in his ballets, Stravinsky used Russian folk motives and
themes). It was in 1913 when he watched the performance of Petrushka and was
captivated by Stravinskys music. In the following year in London he became acquainted
with Stravinsky personally and heard his new compositions. 17 Nationalism in
Stravinskys works inspired Szymanowski and helped him realize that one could convey
folkloric traits in music without trite presentation.
In 1921 in Paris, Szymanowski played through the ballet Les Noces with
Stravinsky at the piano, and this occasion and the music itself directly motivated
Szymanowski to compose his first nationalistic work, Slopiewnie, the five-song set on
Julian Tuwins poems. 18 In an unpublished article in 1921, Szymanowski wrote that We
should be especially concerned with his work because of the treatment he accorded in his
music to national elements. 19 In this sentence, Szymanowski revealed his respect for
Stravinskys nationalistic approach in music.
Along with Stravinskys Russian period, Bartoks nationalism made a
contribution to Szymanowskis nationalistic style. Bartoks efforts at collecting authentic
folklore and his achievement in establishing Hungarian national music gave
Szymanowski a better appreciation of folk music, and also motivated him to revive Polish
nationalism. He showed strong agreement with Bartoks opinion about a chief role of folk
in national music in an article, The Question of Folkness in Relation to Contemporary

Stanislaw Golachowski, Szymanowski: His Life and Times (New Sersey: Paganiniana
Publications, Inc., 1986), 27, 29.

Milewski, The Mazurkas and National Imaginings, 119.


Samson, The Music of Szymanowski, 156.


In this way, the rather hackneyed, and naturally compromised, academic
folk style that was characteristic of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century
music developed. There was a flood of great and small works of varying value
based on authentic folk rhythms and melodies. . . . Todays music is descending
toward and joining the people, the earth, the rich and fertile soil. Compromised,
exotic folk music was only a bridgehead leading from exalted, but, to be sure,
moribund aesthetic academicism, toward real life. . . . We should be able to
capture the eternally-beating heart of the race that is beyond the reach of every
possible dogmatic aestheticism and perfectly recreate, in a universally
understood artwork, that which manifests itself in the folk as the creators
autonomous strength, uncurbed by any discipline. In my opinion, this is the
primary task of a great national artist. 20
As Szymanowskis view of Polish national music had changed due to several
reasons mentioned above, Chopin naturally came to serve as Szymanowskis model to
revitalize Polish nationalism and folk tradition in his own music. Szymanowski wrote in
the same genre, mazurka for piano, which played an important part in Chopins musical
Polishness. With this genre Szymanowski successfully combined the national dance form
from the lowland of Poland with the goral music from the Tatra Mountains, thus
continuing Chopins movement toward Polish nationalism. 21
It was in March 1920 when Szymanowski was acquainted with the music of the
Podhale for the first time, when Dr. Adolf Chybinski, a musicologist and professor at the
University of Lwow, played some Podhale folk melodies for him. In 1923-24
Szymanowski wrote a 66-page folklore notebook, filled with authentic folk melodies of
the Gorale. The book was lost in 1944. 22 He traveled to Zakopane frequently throughout
the 1920s and even stayed there from 1930 until 1935. An essay published in Kurier


Milewski, The Mazurkas and National Imaginings, 134-35.


Stefan Jarocinski, ed., Polish Music (Warsaw: PWN-Polish Scientific Publishers, 1965), 165.


Maciejewski, Karol Szymanowski, 75.


Polski (The Polish Courier) in 1924 reveals his deep interest and appreciation of the art
and music of the Podhale region.
I belong to a group of people who perceives goral folk art as a first-class,
genuinely artistic material capable of regenerating and refreshing the musty
atmosphere of our art. That is why we work strenuously to preserve and even
further develop this art. We are striving to continue the tradition established by
Witkiewicz, Tetmajer, Matlakowski, Chalubinski, etc., turning our attention,
however, more toward music, dance and lyric poetry. I am extremely interested in
everything that is coming to life and taking shape in Podhale. 23
The folk music of the Gorale heightened Szymanowskis shift into Polish
nationalistic music. Starting with Slopiewnie, he composed the ballet Harnasie, in which
authentic melodies of the Tatra Mountains were used without any alteration. Two sets of
Mazurkas, Op. 50 and Op. 62 were also written when he stayed in Zakopane, and musical
characteristics of Goral music became direct influences in his Op. 50 mazurkas.

Mazurka: Definition and General Characteristics

Generally, the mazurka is defined as a Polish national dance in triple meter with
strong accents frequently falling on the second or third beats of the measure. 24
Originating in Mazovia (northeastern Poland, near Warsaw) in the sixteenth century,
mazurka is a lively Polish folk dance for a circle of four or eight couples and is also
music composed for dancing it. It is in 3/4 or 3/8 meter with dotted rhythms and
accentuation of weak beats, where phrases also begin and end. Here are examples of
rhythmic figures most frequently encountered. (See figure 1).


Kurier Polski (Poland), 14 February 1924, quoted in Barbara Ann Milewski, The Mazurkas
and National Imaginings, 113.

Anne Swartz. The Polish Folk Mazurka. Studia musicologica Academiae

Scientiarum Hungaricae, Vol. 17 (1975): 249.

Figure 1. Basic rhythmic figures of the mazurka

As seen in the figures, the quicker-note figure is usually placed in the first part of the bar.
Characterized by stamping feet and clicking heels with a turning movement, the mazurka
allows improvisation in both the movements and the music itself. It became popular first
at the Polish court and spread to Russia and Germany, reaching England and France by
the 1830s. 25
The mazurka consists of three types: Oberek, Mazurka, and Kujawiak, all
different in tempo and mood. Oberek, the fastest one, is a lively, whirling dance. Mazurka
is slower than Oberek and is rather fiery and war-like in character. Kujawiak is the
slowest dance, with longer phrases and a sentimental, melancholy melody. Aside from
different tempi and general characteristics, these three types share common elements:
rhythmic traits such as a short-short/long/long pattern, triplets, dotted rhythms, repetition
of small motives and sections, improvisation, use of the Lydian mode and the Hungarian
mode (CDEbF#GAbBC, so called because it was used much in Hungarian
Romantic music, also called Gypsy scale 26 ), and accompaniment by drone bass and
bagpipes on the tonic or tonic and dominant pitches. The music usually contains two or
four sections of six or eight measures, each repeated. 27
The traditional folk ensemble of central Poland consisted of a melody instrument


James Huneker. Chopin: The Man and His Music (New York: Dover Publications, 1966), 194.


Gypsy scale [Hungarian mode, Hungarian scale], Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed
10 December 2006), <>

Don Randel, ed., The New Harvard Dictionary of Music (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,
1995), 477.

(the violin played in first position on the upper strings, or the fujarka, a high-pitched
shepherds pipe) plus an instrument or two to provide a drone (lower open strings on the
violin, or the dudy or gajdy, a Polish bagpipe) and/or a rhythmic pulse (the basetla or
basy, a string bass played with constant bows). These rural bagpipes originally
accompanied the rustic triple-meter mazurka with its strong accents on the second or third
beat, which are normally weak beats in triple meter.


Podhale: Geography
According to Timothy J. Cooley, the term Podhale, derived from the Gorale 28
dialect hala (meaning mountains or mountain pasture) and Pod (meaning below), refers
to Piedmont or below the mountains. However, the word Podhale, used by
tourists/ethnographers from the outside, was not popular among the mountain people
themselves. Goral is the term used more commonly to mean mountain people. 29
Podhale, located on the southern border of Poland, is a small region about 34 kilometers
north to south and 24 kilometers east to west. It is about 100 kilometers below Krakow,
the capital city until 1611, when the government moved to Warsaw to escape from the
Tatars menaces. Podhale is bounded on the north by the Gorce Mountains and on the
south by the Tatra Mountains. 30 (See Figure 2).


The term meaning mountaineer. Gora (mountain) is the origin of the word. Referring to all
inhabitants who come from mountain areas, the word is particularly used to name people of the Polish
Tatra Mountain regions in many scholarly writings as well as in this document.

Timothy J. Cooley, Music in the Polish Tatras: tourists, ethnographers, and mountain
musicians. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 21.

Ibid., 19-20.

Figure 2. Map of Central Europe, Poland, Podhale, and Zakopane

The Tatra are the largest mountains in Central Europe, as well as the tallest peaks
of the Carpathian range, curving from the Balkans and continuing along the border of
Poland and Slovakia. This border passes through the Tatra Mountains. However, only
about 20 percent of the High Tatra Mountains are within the political boundary of


Poland. At 2,499 meters, Mount Rysy is the pinnacle of the Tatras in the Polish territory. 31
As seen on the map (Figure 2), Podhale is a region within the larger Tatra Mountains area
and Zakopane, a small village which will be mentioned below referring to
Szymanowskis mazurkas, is in the Podhale region.

Podhale: An Artistic Center

Since the mid-nineteenth century, Zakopane had become well known as a health
resort, and the Podhale region was developed into a tourist center after the construction of
a railway in 1899. 32 However, tourists were attracted to the Tatra Mountains for several
reasons. One was to escape from social and political oppression from foreign powers.
Poland was partitioned between Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire
(1795-1918). Due to its geographical location, people thought that the Tatra Mountains
were isolated and untouched, so the area of Podhale was the perfect place to get away
from the complicated political situation. They believed in the mountains purity and
folkloric authenticity, and this myth of isolation was another reason that tourists went to
the area. Podhales folk culture and music played an important part in the growth of
tourism. 33
The history of tourism is paired with the history of ethnography. Since the late
nineteenth century, the town of Zakopane had become a retreat for artists as well as a
tourist center. As Podhale developed, ethnographers and other artists (for example, the



Samson, The Music of Szymanowski, 166.


Cooley, Music in the Polish Tatras, 5.


Young Poland poets) also gathered in the town and their interests intensified. Zakopane
soon became an artistic center for research in ethnomusicology led by Dr. Chybinski, a
professor in Lwow. Tourists and ethnographers closely interacted with the Gorale, and
tourism produced a source of employment as local musicians and dancers were hired for
the visitors. Ethnographers who were fascinated by the music and the folk culture
researched and propagated it. 34

Four Main Figures of Podhale Music before Szymanowski

It is not too much to say that the ethnography of Podhale formed alongside the
history of tourism of the Tatra Mountains, because the first tourists from outside were
also the first ethnographers exploring the music of Podhale. The musical culture of
Podhale is the result of interactions between visiting researchers, ethnomusicologists, and
local musicians. Four main figures developed the cultural and musical history of
Zakopane and the Podhale area from the mid-nineteenth century before Szymanowski.
Dr. Tytus Chalubinski (1820-89), a well-known physician from Warsaw, was in
the vanguard of tourists and ethnographers of Zakopane in Podhale. Due to his
contributions to tourism and ethnographic activities, Zakopane developed into a health
resort, a tourist center, and also a musical mecca of the Gorale in the Tatra Mountains. Dr.
Chalubinski came to Zakopane and founded a sanatorium there in the late nineteenth
century. He promoted hot springs for recuperation and set up Tatra Mountain excursions
for tourists. He employed the Gorale who worked as guides and also as music and culture
providers. They not only guided the tourists along the mountain sojourn but also


Ibid., 6-8.

performed local music and dance around the campfires in the evening.
Among them, Jan Krzeptowski-Sabala (1810-94) was Dr. Chalubinskis favored
mountain guide. Sabala, who did storytelling, fiddle playing, and mountain excursion
guiding in the mid-nineteenth century was also a close, personal friend of Dr. Chalubinski.
On T. Chalubinskiego Street, southeast of Zakopane, there is a monument featuring these
two most influential, pivotal figures in the nineteenth century. 35
Better known as an ethnographer, Oskar Kolbergs, a Polish folklorist and
composer (1814-90), activities in research and multi-volumed collections of folk tunes
actively encouraged a new era of Polish ethnomusicology. Kolberg devoted his life and
energies to collecting and publishing folk tunes from Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and
Lithuania. As a result, more than 17,000 folk melodies, both published and unpublished,
remain. Volumes 44 and 45 contain only melodies associated with the Polish mountains,
including the Tatra Mountains. 36
Ethnomusicology of the Tatra Mountains (including Zakopane and the Podhale
region) in the twentieth century was chiefly led by Dr. Adolf Chybinski (1880-1952), a
Polish musicologist and professor at the Lwow Conservatory. Jan Steszewski called him
the most prominent explorer of the folk music and folk instruments of Podhale. 37 His
ethnomusicological concern was mainly about the people and music of the Tatra
Mountains. He transcribed the first phonographic records of the folk music of the Gorale
in 1913, and he collected folk tunes in various villages with a phonograph horn or by


Ibid., 1-4.


Steszewski, Polish Folk Music, ed. Stefan Jarocinski, Polish Music, 202.


Ibid., 203.

hand. 38
It was Dr. Chybinski who first introduced Szymanowski to the music of Podhale
in the early 1920s. From 1894 Szymanowski intermittently spent time in the mountain
resort; however, it was in March 1920 when he became acquainted with Goral music
when Dr. Chybinski played the mountain music for him. From 1922 on, Szymanowski,
who was fascinated by music in Zakopane, studied, notated, and collected folksongs and
dances by the highland people. 39 Since the first musical contact with Goral music in the
early 1920s, Szymanowski, who had never expressed any respect for Chopins Polish
nationalism before, became very enthusiastic about nationalistic music and the legacy of
Chopin. Under strong and direct inspiration from the music of Podhale, he started
composing mazurkas.

Musical Characteristics
Due to its geographical isolation, the music of Podhale is unique and distinct
from that of other Polish regions. However, some scholars argue that music-making in
Podhale was not only from its isolation but also from the result of interactions between
the Gorale and the artists and ethnographers from the outside. It was not until the 1920s
that the Gorales musical style and repertoires were agreed upon and codified in Polish
publications. 40 Music is closely related to the Goral life itself. A third of all Podhale
people possess and play a musical instrument, and almost all sing. Musical performances




Martin Anderson, liner notes to Karol Szymanowski: The Complete Mazurkas. Hyperion,
CDA67399, Compact Disc.

Maja Trochimczyk, ed. After Chopin: Essays in Polish Music. (Los Angeles: Polish Music
Center at USC, 2000), 243-44.


give them opportunities to meet each other, to socialize, and also to rest. 41
Goral music exists in solo and chamber performances, and in vocal and
instrumental forms. All instrumental music today originated from song, and modern vocal
music can also be played by instrumentalists. A typical instrumental ensemble consists of
first and second violins and bass. Each instrumental part in the ensemble plays a
particular role. The lead violin, prym, carries main melodic tunes with a great deal of
ornamentation. The one or two accompanying second violins, sekundy, support the chords.
The bass, often played by the basy, a three-stringed cello-sized bowed lute, provides a
drone (imitating bagpipes) with open fifths or harmonic ostinato, all bowed on the
quarter-note beat. Harmonies are projected in vertical chords in the accompaniment
(together the sekundy and basy). (See Example 1).

Example 1. Podhale ensemble music

Vocal ensemble music is characterized by predominant, high-ranged male voices
and rather secondary female voices in the same range. (Since both male and female
voices sing in the same register, the male part sounds louder and higher). Both a cappella
and accompanied singing exist. There is also a lead singer with a strong voice who begins


Anna Czekanowska, Polish Folk Music: Slavonic Heritage, Polish Tradition, Contemporary
Trends. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 84-85.

a song, then the rest of the singers start after a few beats. Occasionally, beginnings and
closings are in unison or at an octave. The high male voices, voice-crossings,
uncontrolled dynamics and volume, the various ranges of tempi, and sharp harmonic
dissonances are other distinguishing characteristics that make the Goral music harsh and
intense. 42 Chromaticism, however, is rarely present. Example 2 illustrates dissonances
with tritones. (See Example 2).

Example 2. Tritones in the music of the Gorale

As for melodic shapes, typically short, singable descending (falling) melodies
(defined as nuta) with a narrow range of a sixth or octave are often characterized by a
prominent augmented fourth above the tonic and have asymmetrical five-bar phrases 43 in
duple meter clearly marked by the second violins and basy, which are bowed on the beat.


Cooley, Making Music in the Polish Tatras, 23-24.


Three-measure or five-measure phrases are symmetrical within themselves. But some authors
consider three or five phrases asymmetrical.

Example 3 shows a Podhale melody in the top part that features a descending contour
within a range of octave.

Example 3. Typical Podhale melodic shape

Example 4 also exemplifies asymmetrical phrases with different phrase lengths.

Example 4. Asymmetrical phrases in the Goral music

This is notably different from the music in other Poland regions in which the upbeat is
often emphasized. 44 Two-phrase periods are prevalent; however, the antecedentconsequence phrase structure is absent. Instead, each phrase obtains a cadence. Frequent

Trochimczyk, ed. After Chopin, 245.


use of the pentatonic scale, the Lydian scale, the Podhale scale (the raised fourth and
flatted seventh), and tritones are also representative melodic features in Goral music. 45
Polyphony (in Goral music it means two or more independent voices occurring at
the same time. So called by some scholars of this repertoire, its more commonly known
as heterophony), improvisatory quality, parallelism in minor seconds, bagpipe open fifths,
and octaves as pedal points are prevalent. The rhythm of Goral music has a tendency to
be rather irregular and not predictable. A short/long dotted rhythmic figure (

Podhale rhythm) and its relaxed forms (

, called

) are also characteristics in

Podhale. (See Example 5).

Example 5. The typical Podhale rhythm

The Podhale rhythmic figure was frequently used by Szymanowski, along with the
mazurka rhythms shown in Figure 1.
The music of the mountain people and their dances are closely related to each
other. As in the music, male performance dominates and women play a secondary role in

Steszewski, Polish Folk Music, ed. Stefan Jarocinski, Polish Music, 205-18.


dances. Polyphonic, multi-part singing, and complex rhythmic patterns show the dancers
fast speeds with demanding skills.


Analysis of Szymanowskis Mazurka Op. 50, Nos. 1-4
Since his first musical contact with Goral music in the early 1920s, Szymanowski
became very enthusiastic about nationalistic music as well as the legacy of Chopin.
Under strong and direct inspirationthe music of Podhalehe started composing mazurkas.
The Op. 50 set was composed and published between 1923 and 1931; the first four
mazurkas in Op. 50 were dated 1923-24. At first the twenty Mazurkas were published in
groups of four in five different volumes before being issued in one set. In modern editions
the first four are still grouped together. These four pieces are supposed to be played
without a break; thus, there is no double bar until the end of No. 4. All four mazurkas are
in the ternary (ABA) form adapted from Chopins mazurkas. 46 Mazurkas Nos. 1-4 were
dedicated to Artur Rubinstein, one of Szymanowskis closest friends and also a champion
of his piano music. Of the twenty mazurkas in Op. 50, the first has been the most popular
for many pianists, including Rubinstein. 47
The first four mazurkas in Op. 50 demonstrate Szymanowskis extraordinary
ability to draw on Goral musical resources in the mazurka. The music moves from one
type of material to the next at a quick pace, showing a variety of the Gorales musical
characteristics. Frequent changes in tempo and meter in the ternary frame make the music


Milewski, The Mazurkas and National Imaginings, 137.


Gwilym Beechey, Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) and his Piano Music, Musical Opinion
(October 1982): 16.


Mazurka Op. 50, No. 1

The first mazurka of Op. 50 sets a clear tonal center of E from the beginning. The
primary melody in the right hand begins on E and ends on E at measure 4, and E and B
open fifthsappearing on the first beat of the first measureconstantly function as pedal
points throughout the piece. The opening melody features a descending contour for the
right hand (the prominent augmented fourths are emphasized with trills in mm. 5, 9, and
13). Szymanowski shows his great talent for modal treatment in the opening measures.
He produced a mixture of the Lydian mode (E-F sharp-G sharp-A sharp-B-C sharp-D
sharp) and the Podhale mode (E-F sharp-G sharp-A sharp-B-C sharp-D) by alternating
between D and D sharp. (See Example 6).


Example 6. Mazurka No. 1, mm. 1-16

The A section simply consists of this four-measure phrase, repeated four times.
However, he added rhythmic variety to each recurring phrase by including melodic
embellishment; different chordal accompaniments by the left hand are changed or added
each time as well. Furthermore, the whole A section is an example of the Goral
instrumental ensemble, which consists of first and second violins and bass. Each
individual voice represents a unique characteristic of traditional Goral music. The right
hands single melodic part, like the lead violin, plays highly ornamented themes. The
pedal point plays the bass role with open fifths mimicking the sound of a bagpipe. The
rest of the left-hand chords support harmonies. (See Example 6).


In section B (mm. 17-44) one can see internal a-b-a ternary form. The small a
section also demonstrates three-layer structures in another way. The first phrase of eight
measures consists of two independent upper voices for the right hand (a hint of the Goral
polyphonic writing style) and repeated open-fifth bass drones for the left hand. (See
Example 7).

Example 7. Mazurka No. 1, mm. 17-24

As for the melodic character, compared to the longer singing phrase in the two
well-balanced lines by the right hand in the previous four measures, the melody here is
shorter (two measures) and rather motivic. However, a descending melodic shape is also
demonstrated in this section.


Example 8. Mazurka No. 1, mm. 37-44

The next passage, mm. 37-44, serves as a bridge by connecting the B and the
returning A sections. The bass line for the left hand emphasizes a progression of IV-V-I
(A-B-E) to return to the A section, which possesses the stable tonal center of E. The righthand part, consisting of new melodic fragments, is motivic. (See Example 8).
The returning A section has only eight measures, containing the initial phrase
from the beginning of the piece and its repetition. For the final chord Szymanowski
produced tonal ambiguity (between E major and E minor), omitting the third of the E
chord so that the piece remains open.
Of the first four mazurkas, No. 1 is the simplest in terms of formal structure. It
exhibits a simple ternary form featuring a very brief return to A. Although there is a
reference to polyphonic style in section B, the piece is mainly constructed in homophonic
texture. Overall, the A section features longer melodic lines, and the B section and bridge
contain shorter, motivic contours with mild chromaticism.


Mazurka Op. 50, No. 2

No. 2 probably conveys the most characteristics of the Goral folk music
introduced in Chapter 2. The piece exemplifies polytonality and polymeter, and features
many instances of dissonance, asymmetrical phrasing, falling melody within a narrow
range, use of the Podhale scale, open fifth drones, as well as pedal points. It also
demonstrates three-layer textures, the Podhale rhythm and its augmentation figure, and
improvisatory qualities. Abrupt dynamic changes across a wide range and voice-crossing
between the parts are also some of the traits that make this mazurka representative of the
music of Podhale. As for the form, compared to the short returning A section in the
previous mazurka, No. 2 contains a very brief B section with a contrasting character.
The mazurka opens with polymeter, a mixture of duple and triple meter. While
the left hand open fifths, again imitating bagpipes, provide a typical mazurka
accompaniment with accents on weak beats in triple meter, the right-hand part is clearly
conceived in duple meter, with regular accents on every first beat of two. (See Example

Example 9. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 1-8


In addition, Example 9 also illustrates the three-voice texture used by

Szymanowski. The upper melody, except for the short ascending contour in the first
measure of each phrase, employs a falling melody within the range of ninth. The middle
part, inserted only in the second half of each phrase, presents a brief melodic line within
the range of a sixth. Meanwhile, the bass figuration for the left hand features open fifth
The next passage, mm. 9-20, containing two six-measure asymmetrical phrases,
illustrates other musical resource that Szymanowski adopted from the Podhale region. He
produced dissonances for a single hand and also vertically between both hands. For
) constantly plays minor seconds. In mm.

example, the repeated left-hand figure (

15-20, as a temporary middle voice is inserted, the left hand creates a tritone (G-flat and
C). The circled notes in mm. 15 and 17 are examples of dissonances of minor seconds
and tritones projected by both hands. (See Example 10).
As mentioned briefly above, the phrase partly employs a three-layer texture in
mm. 15-20. Another clear example of the influence of Goral music is a use of the
Podhale rhythm. The rhythm placed at the end of each phrase is emphasized by
sforzando and accents.


Example 10. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 9-20

Shortly thereafter, a two-measure motivic phrase is presented, repeated, and then
enlarged through the use of dynamics (cresc. sff, with accents on every beat), widened
range, and by doubling the melody. The second measure of the two-measure phrase is
derived from mm. 14 and 20. At m. 24 the composer introduced a variant of the Podhale
rhythm (

). As the dynamic level increases at the end of the second phrase,

Szymanowski added tritones in each beat by the left hand and augmented fifths on the
second beat by the right hand. (See Example 11).


Example 11. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 21-28

Interestingly enough, there is a pedal point (on G), which is normally employed
for the accompanying left hand, for the right hand in mm. 21-22. While the top voice is
making the pedal point, the lower voice in the right hand carries main theme.

Example 12. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 21-22

In the following two measures (mm. 23-24), open fifths (an imitation of bagpipe
fifths), normally occurring as left-hand bass accompaniment, are featured as the melodic
line by the right hand, while the left hand provides a simple quarter-note accompaniment
in major and minor seconds. (See Example 13).


Example 13. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 23-24

One can clearly see another variation of the Podhale rhythm in a brilliant way in
the following example. The left-hand eighth note and sixteenth rest with a sixteenth looks
like a regular dotted rhythm representing the typical mazurka rhythm. However, through
a clever use of slurs, the sixteenth note, emphasized by sforzando with tenuto, is
connected to a quarter note over the barline. As a result, the rhythm eventually comes to
exactly replicate the Podhale rhythm.

Example 14. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 37-46

In the same example there is a brief moment of polytonality at m. 41 with the


right hand in F-sharp (F sharp-A sharp-C sharp), and the left hand in C (C-E-G).
In a passage that soon follows, Szymanowski suggested a spontaneous quality
that augments the free, improvisatory character at the close of the A section. An
eloquently ascending, monodic line adds a cadenza-like flavor with the dynamic
markings crescendo e accelerando, fermata, and diminuendo e rallentando with tenutos
on each descending eighth. Meanwhile, the left hand provides tritones on the second and
third beat of mm. 49-50.

Example 15. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 49-52

After the unaccompanied, improvisational single statement, the next section, B,
marked Poco meno. Tranquillo provides a slower, lyrical contrast. Also, the B section
(eight measures) is much shorter than the previous A section, which has 53 measures.
Compared to the rather short melodic motives in the A section, the middle section
contains a singable, lyrical melody in a slower tempo within a four-measure symmetrical
phrase structure.
The B section incorporates the Podhale scale (A-B-C sharp-D sharp-E-F sharp-G
natural). Interestingly enough, the same scale degrees characteristic of the Podhale scale
are also used in the opening passage of Lisle Joyeuse by Claude Debussy, who was one
of Szymanowskis inspirations in his middle, impressionistic period. (See Example 16a,


and b).

Example 16a. Debussy, Lisle Joyeuse, mm. 8-9

Example 16b. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 53-60

The return to the A section, marked Sub. Tempo I. (Vivace), starts soon after the
conclusion of the B section and returns to the fast tempo, but in a much softer dynamic
range (pp). Interestingly, the composer opened this section not with the initial theme but
with the second passage (starting from m. 9). (See Example 17).


Example 17. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 61-68

The composer brought back the same exact material shown in mm. 21-28 in the
returning A section. (See Example 11 and 18).

Example 18. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 73-80


From m. 81, the initial theme finally recurs. This recurring theme is reinforced by
two factors: the melody is doubled and features a larger dynamic, ff. (See Example 19).

Example 19. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 81-88

Voice-crossing, one of the Gorales musical features, occurs between the two
hands in mm. 93-94 and 99-100. (See Example 20a and b). It also can be a reminiscence
of the strong and predominant male voice of the Gorale, which sang in the same register
with the female voice.

Example 20a. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 93-94


Example 20b. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 99-100

Contrary to the thick texture in loud dynamics in the returning A section, the
close of the mazurka demonstrates a contrasting subdued quality. Compared to the earlier,
generally thick and homophonic texture, the last six measures are characterized by a
leaner character with two single lines moving contrapuntally within the dynamic range pp
to p. However, Szymanowski made the piece interesting by providing an abrupt ending,
both structurally and dynamically. The polyphonic passage gradually disappears with a
ritenuto, pp. The music literally stops for one-and-a-half beats. Soon after, a sudden,
convincing final chord (A major with an added ninth) is struck in both hands, finalizing
the mazurka on the second, traditionally weak, beat. (See Example 21).

Example 21. Mazurka No. 2, mm. 100-06


Mazurka Op. 50 No. 3

Szymanowskis interest in the polyphonic singing style of the Gorale is evident
in the beginning passage of No. 3, where he wove two independent voices into a
contrapuntal texture. This polyphonic writing suggests the a cappella singing style of
Goral music in which a lead singer begins a song then the rest of the singers join after a
few beats. (See Example 22). The passage creates asymmetrical phrases of four and five
measures by simply adding the left-hand part of m. 8 one more time.

Example 22. Mazurka No. 3, mm. 1-9

Example 22 also features polyphonic elements combined with the juxtaposition of two
different scales with different tonal centers. The right hand consists of a white-key minor
pentatonic scale with a tonal center of A, whereas the left hand uses a black-key
pentatonic scale in C-sharp.
Subsequently, a new texture is illustrated. Asymmetrical phrases (three and four
measures) with new melodic materials occur. There is an abrupt mood change between
the previous period and this new one, and also between the two phrases within this new


period. Compared to the clear polyphonic writing in the previous period, this following
passage presents a much more homophonic style. The first three-measure phrase carries a
rather long, lyrical, melodic contour by the right hand with a chordal accompaniment that
resembles a secondary melody. However, the next four-measure phrase introduces a
simple three-quarter-note accompaniment, while the right-hand melody is motivic rather
than melodic, employing a single rhythmic pattern (

). Additionally, every quarter

note for both hands is detached, with staccato markings. (See Example 23).

Example 23. Mazurka No. 3, mm. 10-16

Voice crossing takes place in mm. 24 and 25. The ascending three notes (C-sharp,
D-sharp, and G-sharp) in the bass line are pitches higher than the right hand open fifths
(C-sharp and G-sharp). (See Example 24).


Example 24, Mazurka No. 3, mm. 24-25

Szymanowski began section B (starting at m. 30) with a clear three-layer texture.
In first three measures, the heavy use of dissonance is a prominent characteristic of the
middle layer (tritones and augmented seconds). The composer also produced dissonances
with vertical chords when the three voices sound together. For example, the first beat
features a 9th chord (B-D sharp-F sharp-A-C) with an added augmented 4th on B (E sharp).
(See Example 25). The example below also consists of four three-measure asymmetrical


Example 25, Mazurka No. 3, mm. 29-41

The left-hand music in Example 25 portrays another instance of the tendency for duple
meter in Goral music. From mm. 30 to 35, Szymanowski constantly placed the left-hand
accented chords within a duple sense, so that the chords sound like the first beats of each
measure in duple meter. Also, the upper melodic line of each asymmetrical phrase (except
for the upper neighboring tone on the third beat of the first measure and the slightly
ascending gesture at the end of the phrase) exemplifies the descending melodic contour
within a narrow range that is a distinctive feature of the Gorale. (See Example 25).
A period consisting of two asymmetrical phrases within five measures (mm. 4251) follows. The initial five-measure phrase sequences downward by a major second. As


a result, the period lacks a sense of antecedent and consequence phrasing relationships.
(See Example 26).

Example 26. Mazurka No. 3, mm. 42-51

Each phrase, however, can also be divided into another two asymmetrical subphrases
(3/2); each of these subphrases demonstrates a contrasting character. The first threemeasure phrase is polyphonic with two independent voices, reminiscent of the opening of
the piece. The second two-measure phrase, on the other hand, employs a texture similar
to the homophonic style of the phrases in mm. 10-12 and 17-19.
Of compositional interest is a foreshadowing of the opening contrapuntal theme
before the return to Tempo I (m. 60). The returning A section seems to appear rather
unclearly from mm. 55 to 59, where fragments in polyphonic structure from the opening
period are hinted at with slight changes and the omission of several bars. However, this
short recalled theme is similar enough to the themes initial appearance to sound almost
like a literal restatement. (See Example 27a and b).

Example 27a. Mazurka No. 3, mm. 1-5

Example 27b. Mazurka No. 3, mm. 52-59

Immediately following this recollection is Tempo I, which indicates the return of
the A section. Different from the preceding phrase, which is used as something of a false
return, the Tempo I section (mm. 60-69) represents a literal repetition of mm. 10-19. In
the repetitions of identical phrases (3/4/3 phrase structure), a few markings are changed
or added. (See Example 28).


Example 28, Mazurka No. 3, mm. 60-69

Szymanowski closed the piece with coda beginning at m. 70, marked Sostenuto.
Within the three-voice structure, the bass provides pedal points in minor sevenths,
whereas the middle voice creates vertical, harmonic dissonances such as tritones and
augmented fifths by playing one (C sharp) or two notes (C sharp and D sharp) against the
bass pedal points. The melodic upper voice consists of pentatonic scale degrees. (C sharp,
D sharp, E sharp, G sharp, [A sharp]). All these features occur within a very soft dynamic
range, and the ending gesture also creates an effect of the gradual decay of sustained
sound. (See Example 29).


Example 29. Mazurka No. 3, mm. 70-77

In sum, polyphonic texture adapted from Goral music is a salient feature
throughout this mazurka. At times, Szymanowski combined the polyphonic texture with a
polytonal technique. Asymmetrical phrases, different types of dissonances, three-layer
structure, and the use of the pentatonic scale are also characteristics that appear
frequently throughout this piece.

Mazurka Op. 50, No. 4

Again using ternary form, Szymanowski employed many characteristic traits
from Goral music throughout this mazurka, such as three-part ensemble texture, several
varieties of asymmetrical phrasing, the Lydian mode and the Podhale scale, frequent
instances of dissonance, drones and bagpipe fifths accompaniment, and polytonality.
The piece opens with a period containing two four-measure symmetrical phrases


layered in three voices. In mm. 1 through 4, the middle voice carries the main melodic
theme, which is within the range of a sixth (B flatG). The bass part provides
accompaniment in block chords on the second and third beats of each measure,
resembling the bowing of a basy (in mm. 2, 3, and 4 this effect produces quintal chords,
creating dissonances by major ninths), and the top voice supplies accents on the second
beat of every measure. (See Example 30).

Example 30. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 1-4

The texture changes from three voices to two as the period continues. The right
hand plays the primary melody doubled in octaves while the left hand maintains a chordal
accompaniment with octaves. Compared to the first phrase, the second uses a wider range
by the left hand (featuring wide leaps between the second and the third beats). (See
Example 31).

Example 31. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 5-8


The following measures (mm. 9-14) feature asymmetrical phrases of four and
two measures. Whereas the piece starts clearly with a B-flat tonal center, the melody by
the right hand is partly in A major in mm. 11 through 14. Szymanowski emphasized every
beat by adding accents and sforzandi in a ff dynamic to create the wild sound of folk
music (except for mm. 13 and 14, where quintal chords with tenutos appear with quarter
rests on the first beats mf). (See Example 32).

Example 32. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 9-14

The next passage, mm. 15 through 34, introduces a new asymmetrical phrase
with six measures, repeated three times with slightly different changes in rhythm and
pitch each time. The phrase is divided into two subphrases of two measures and four
measures, respectively, and those two subphrases feature contrasting characters. The first
subphrase has two voices in different tonal centers, with the polytonality separated by a
major third between both hands (C and E in mm. 15-16, A and C-sharp in mm. 21-22, and
G-flat and B-flat in mm. 27-28). The right hand music is motivic, and the left hand
provides bass drones. The next four-measure subphrase presents three voices: the top
melody, which is longer and melodic rather than motivic, the middle voice, which is an
internal chromatic melody, and the open fifths of the bass voice. The last six-measure
phrase (mm. 27-34), however, is a variant on the first two-measure phrase pattern,
including two extra measures. (See Example 33).

Example 33. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 15-34

In contrast to section A, Section B (mm. 35-68) exhibits a much simpler and
leaner quality. All phrases (except for the last phrase with six measures) are symmetrical,
consisting of four measures. The texture is rather similar to Chopins: a mostly


straightforward accompaniment with three-quarter-note figures for the left hand and a
lyrical melody with simple rhythmic figures by the right hand (shown in Figure 1 in
chapter 1). (See Example 34).


Example 34. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 32-68

The passage below suggests many dissonances created by tritones in the chords.
(See Example 35).

Example 35. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 43-46

The next section, the return of A (mm. 69-98), is almost a literal restatement of
the primary section, except for slight changes in the beginning and an omission of four
measures at the end. (See Example 36a, b, c, and d).


Example 36a Mazurka No. 4, mm. 1-8

Ex36b. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 69-76


Example 36c. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 27-34

Example 36d. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 95-98

A coda follows from m. 99 to the end. Bagpipe open fifths in the accompaniment
are repeated until the last three chords. However, there are two rhythmic types of open

fifth accompaniment in the coda (

). (See Example 37).


Example 37. Mazurka No. 4, mm. 97-115

A two-measure phrase, mm. 99 and 100, repeated also in mm. 103-06, exemplifies the
composers interesting treatment of mode and scale. The right-hand melody incorporates
the whole-tone scale (G flat, A flat, B flat, C, [D], and F flat), while at the same time both
the right and the left hands are clearly situated within the Podhale scale (G flat, A flat, B
flat, C, D flat, E flat, and F flat). Furthermore, the Lydian mode is used in the lower
melodic part for the right hand in mm. 101 and 102, which melodically is reminiscent of
the opening theme. (See Example 37). Szymanowski continued to integrate material
already presented while introducing new materials that are not completely assimilated
until the end of the piece. From m. 107 on he used asymmetrical phrases of five and four


measures consisting of material first introduced in section A (mm. 15-34). The initial
appearance is a polytonal, six-measure phrase. However, in this case both hands of the
first 5-measure phrase beginning at m.107 are in a single tonality, B-flat. Interestingly, in
mm.112-14 (the reappearance of the material in the last four-measure phrase) polytonality
returns, a minor third apart this time (B-flat by the left hand and G by the right hand). To
this point the ending would certainly seem to be soft. The dynamics stay the in ppppp
range, with meno mosso dolce, poco sostenuto, and rallentando emphasizing this mood.
However, the piece ends abruptly, fortissimo, with three accented octave notes (dominant
and tonic in B-flat). The last one, a B-flat octave with an added fifth drone, is reinforced
by sff with a fermata.



With his first contact with the Gorale and their music in the Podhale region in the
early 1920s, Szymanowskis enthusiasm for Polish nationalism was rejuvenated.


that time he began to research authentic Goral music in depth. Through this research he
realized how important Chopin was in the history of Polish nationalism and became
determined to succeed him in Polish musical heritage. He chose the mazurka to represent
his nationalistic passion and successfully conveyed the musical features of the Goral style,
which he believed to be the purest and most authentic form of Polish nationalistic music.
The main focus of this document has been to examine Mazurkas Op. 50, Nos. 1-4,
which exhibit an abundance of the characteristics of traditional music in the Podhale
region of the Tatra Mountains in Poland. These Mazurkas exhibit Szymanowskis great
ability to adopt the Gorales musical traits into the form of the mazurka, a compositional
framework. As demonstrated in the examples in this document, Szymanowski employed
musical elements under the influence of Goral music throughout the first four mazurkas
in Op. 50: modal scales (in particular, the Lydian mode, the Podhale mode, the pentatonic,
and the whole-tone scale by implication), three-voice texture suggesting the instrumental
ensembles found in Podhale, descending melodic contours within a narrow range,
polyphonic writing, hints of duple meter, asymmetrical phrasing, voice-crossing, Podhale
rhythm (short-long dotted rhythm), polytonality, dissonances (achieved by tritones, minor
and augmented seconds, minor sevenths, quintal chords, and so on), wild dynamic


contrast, and abrupt mood change. 48

This study will contribute to a better understanding of Szymanowski, who was
one of the most influential Polish composers in the early twentieth century and a true
successor to Chopins Polish nationalism. It will also highlight his Mazurkas, Op. 50,
which successfully combine the national musical genre, the mazurka, with traits of Goral


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