Gestural Patterns in Kujaw Folk Performing Traditions: Implications for the Performer of Chopin's Mazurkas




Zaborowski, Monika

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



One of the major problems faced by performers of Chopin’s mazurkas is recapturing the elements that Chopin drew from Polish folk music. Although scholars from around 1900 exaggerated Chopin’s quotation of Polish folk tunes in their mixed agendas that related ‘Polishness’ to Chopin, many of the rudimentary and more complex elements of Polish folk music are present in his compositions. These elements affect such issues as rhythm and meter, tempo and tempo fluctuation, repetitive motives, undulating melodies, function of I and V harmonies. During his vacations in Szafarnia in the Kujawy region of Central Poland in his late teens, Chopin absorbed aspects of Kujaw performing traditions which served as impulses for his compositions. This study examines how certain qualities of movement or gesture experienced in Kujaw music are embedded in Chopin’s mazurka style. Modern performances of Chopin’s mazurkas are too often far removed from these original sources. This thesis aims to reconnect the pianist with the gestures embedded within Chopin’s mazurka styles by: i) assessing the gestural nuances in Kujaw folk music; ii) identifying these trends as gestures and notational elements in Chopin’s mazurkas; and iii) examining historical performances of Chopin’s mazurkas to demonstrate the techniques that performers have utilized to capture these folk patterns and traditions. Field recordings from the Kujaw region, and historical recordings of Chopin mazurkas played mostly by Polish pianists accompany the discussion.



Chopin, Mazurkas, Performance, Kujawy, Folk, Poland, Gesture