With fifty-eight to his name, how could one of Chopin’s Mazurkas be crowned “the most beautiful”? Some go so far as to say it’s his most beautiful composition, let alone Mazurka.
His students dubbed this Mazurka in A minor, "The Mourner’s Face." For once, Chopin didn’t object. It feels for all the world like a Nocturne; the dance impulse defines it as a Mazurka. Chopin composed it in May, 1834. It’s the final of four in the Opus 17 set which he dedicated to Madame Lina Freppa, an aspiring singer whose salon Chopin frequented. The set opens in a swashbuckling manner. Biographer Fredrick Niecks dubbed the second of the four, "The Request." (Chivalry, bold or not, has manners, after all.) The third adds novelty, switching back and forth between two key signatures. Then, as Vladimir Horowitz said, comes a “very intimate” moment.
I don’t know about you, but the whole thing makes me want to know more about this Madame Lina Freppa.
Curiously, after Chopin wrote home raving about the evenings in her company, his father replied, “Just take care of yourself…dear child, a young man can easily err…be always circumspect and give no cause for rumours.” Seems none of Chopin’s affection for Madame Freppa, though veiled in his letters, was lost on dear, old dad.
It certainly wasn’t lost on Sergei Lyapunov, who uses the theme to great effect in a symphonic poem depicting Chopin’s home and homeland.
And how, hearing this, could it be lost on any one of us? - Jennifer Foster