Episode 172: Chopin's Mazurka That Never Ends

Mazurka in A-flat Major, Op. 7, No. 4; Mazurka in C Major, Op. 7, No. 5

rc-endless-200Composer Norman Martin is to blame for writing the infinite-loop children's song "This is the Song That Doesn't End" in 1988. Best known for topping lists of “Most Annoying Songs of all Time” and sending parents on car trips over the edge, this earworm has something in common with a mazurka Chopin composed in 1831: It’s meant to be performed repeatedly; forever. And, it’s intended to be funny.

There are five mazurkas in Chopin’s second set, his Opus 7, composed during his fruitful first years in Paris.

The third in the set begins to play with the boundaries of what the dance form is and how it might behave. It opens differently. It doesn’t jump right in to the main theme, nor does it come to an abrupt stop in the way most of the mazurkas do; instead, it actually ends.

And then there’s the fifth. “No. 5 is the opus’s surprise,” writes Frank Cooper, “twenty bars of music marked to be played senza fine, (endlessly!) – a rare example of Chopin having fun at the keyboard.”

All of thirty-four seconds long, no pianist on record has taken the composer up on his instruction, and prefer to stop before things get out of hand…or annoying. But suppose they did indulge the composer in his rare whim? They’d need an out. Conductor Alfred Walter figured out one for Johann Strauss Jr’s novelty piece, Perpetual Motion, saying to the audience "Und so weiter, und so weiter..." And so on, and so on... - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 172: Chopin's Mazurka That Has No End

Mazurka in A-flat Major, Op. 7, No. 4

Mazurka in C Major, Op. 7, No. 5