“I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that this piece is much more mature than the first Sonata… This rondo sounds much more late Chopin.” - Pianist Gleb Ivanov
Talk about a Chopin composition with a split personality. Its official title is “Rondo à la Mazur,” - that is, a “Rondo in Mazurka form.” Chopin wrote it when he was 16, and it was published as his Op. 5, next to his Op. 4 first Piano Sonata. Though pianist Gleb Ivanov is among many who think the Op. 5 is a far more interesting piece. But he finds the title a bit puzzling. Is it a Rondo, or a Mazurka?
“Rondo can refer definitely to the form…Mazurka to the style and to the rhythm," he says. "But if it says Rondo à la Mazur, it doesn’t matter what structure it’s written in…in the style of the Mazurka, right? So I think it’s more Mazurka than Rondo.”
Listening to the piece, you almost get the feeling that Chopin himself is trying to figure out not only the answer to the question, but also the direction of his career. The Rondo was a compositional staple of the era: Mozart, Beethoven, and scores of others wrote Rondos. The Mazurka was the rustic, uniquely Polish cousin to the elegant Viennese waltz. Conservatory…or countryside? There’s a little bit of both in here.
Chopin’s Op. 1 is a Rondo. He wrote all of five in his lifetime, and not a single one after his student years. But what followed this Op. 5 hybrid was Chopin’s dazzling set of Op. 6 Mazurkas…the beginning of what would become nearly sixty in the form, sealing Chopin’s legacy as the undisputed Master of the Mazurka. - Benjamin K. Roe