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Thread: Tempo of a Mazurka?

  1. #1

    Default Tempo of a Mazurka?

    In my e-book Mandolin Duos from around 1900 I chose a Mazurka by Ferdinando de Cristofaro as my next piece to play. In the notes to the piece you can read, that de Cristofaro advised the students using his method to play a Mazurka in the tempo of a Menuet.
    Most Menuets are played at 110 to 130 BpM, but that seemed definitely to slow for the de Cristofaro Mazurka. So I set my metronome at 134 BpM.
    https://soundcloud.com/tele1310/elec...-de-cristofaro
    I then had a look at other Mazurkas:
    Calaces Mazurka Op. 141 is about 120 BpM, but there is more action between the beats:

    But, what really impressed me was the Italian LA MAZURKA DI PERIFERIA:

    About 152 BpM, a tempo in which it is possible to play the Mazurka by de Cristofaro.
    What do you think? What is the right tempo for de Cristofaros Mazurka?

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    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    Mazurka-playing for one group of dancers, just as a sort of data point:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7VcdhDXBzY

  3. #3

    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    Thanks, jesserules.
    The music in the video you linked are rather Reels than Mazurkas though.
    "This is a really lovely video.... but there was no mazurka to be found anywhere, it was completely full of reels "
    But I found this nice video played by Martin:

    This should be about 126 BpM.
    The same tune played a little faster:

    About 136 BpM. That is similar to the tempo I chose for de Cristofaros Mazurka and the feeling of the music isn't so different...

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    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    That'll teach me to trust the titles on youtube!

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    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    Here is a video of an Italian Mazurka. I count it about 135 bpm. It has some interesting comments about mazurkas on the YouTube page.

    Pava S/N 21
    Kentucky KM-505

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    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    There is a charming anecdote about a young, over-eager 19th-century pianist who was determined to get the answer to this very question from the proverbial horse's mouth, legendary Polish pianist Frederic Chopinó after all, who would know better than he?

    At the end of a heated conversation and countless demonstrations and counter-demonstrations on the piano by the two pianists, they couldn't even agree on what meter Chopin played his famous Mazurkas in, let alone at what tempo!

    A note to seekers of all things measurable...

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    Fwiw, I wrote a "Mazurka of Malevolent Spirits" in a recent ballet and suggested the rather slow tempo of 100 bpm. But this is for a student ballet, and I wasn't sure whether the young dancers could handle a faster clip.
    John Craton
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  10. #8

    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    To me, it depends on how elaborate the melody is. In the comments to the clip ToyonPete linked, you can read:
    The mazurek is always found to have either a triplet, trill, dotted eighth note (quaver) pair, or an ordinary eighth note pair before two quarter notes (crotchets).
    The mazurka by de Cristofaro, which is written in 3/8 only has a few sixtienth notes to divide the eighth notes, but nothing more complicated, that could inhibit the flow.
    So, it's basically a waltz.
    I settled for a tempo of 142 bpm.

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  12. #9
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    Quote Originally Posted by crisscross View Post
    To me, it depends on how elaborate the melody is. In the comments to the clip ToyonPete linked, you can read:
    The mazurek is always found to have either a triplet, trill, dotted eighth note (quaver) pair, or an ordinary eighth note pair before two quarter notes (crotchets).
    The mazurka by de Cristofaro, which is written in 3/8 only has a few sixtienth notes to divide the eighth notes, but nothing more complicated, that could inhibit the flow.
    So, it's basically a waltz.
    I settled for a tempo of 142 bpm.
    Nicely played! I would say that tempo sounds about right for this tune. I wonder what the source is -- I've looked through the Christofaro method and while there are three (!) mazurka duets in that book, none of them corresponds to your tune. I note, however, that Christofaro himself says on the question of tempo:

    "Manner of playing the Mazurka: In the rhythm of the Mazurka, the Quarter-notes are played tremolo; this rhythm not being so lively as that of the Waltz."

    More generally, I'm not sure the question of how fast a mazurka is makes any more sense than asking how fast a waltz is: there are slow ones (some very slow), and fast ones (some very fast). The same tune may be played by different players at quite different speeds. In addition, a tune called "mazurka" from Ireland would have quite a different feel from an Italian one. The quote you have found is taken verbatim from the Wikipedia entry for mazurka, but to the extent it is a hard rule at all would apply only to the original Polish type of mazurka. In my experience, Irish mazurkas are usually fairly plain whereas Italian ones are often complex.

    Then, of course, there is the issue of playing a mazurka at a speed that the dancer -- or indeed, more importantly, the player -- is comfortable with. No point playing a tune fast if the result sounds rushed and sloppy. I have a tendency of playing rather slowly on my recordings because I tend to record while learning the tunes and I'd rather play them cleanly than at speed. If I played the same tune every night in a dance band I may well be comfortable with playing them faster. This does not, however, mean that they necessarily should be played faster -- just because a player can play cleanly at a faster tempo doesn't mean the tune benefits from it.

    However, a mazurka is quite definitely not a waltz, even if it may look much the same on the page. The strong accent in a waltz is one the first beat, whereas in a mazurka it is irregularly placed on the second or third beat -- this is what gives the mazurka its characteristic unpredictability and inherent tension which differentiates it from the strict ONE-two-three of the waltz.

    Martin
    Last edited by Martin Jonas; Jan-03-2018 at 5:48pm.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    Martin makes many excellent points. I would just add that along with the nationality of the mazurka you also have to account for whether you are playing for a performance only of playing for dancers. In the latter case the dancers would tell the musicians if the tempo or even the accents were appropriate and danceable. Even in classical circles as Victor noted there are speed variables and I would guess that even the same performer might play a particular piece in varying tempi depending on mood or situation.
    Jim

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  16. #11

    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    Thanks again for all the answers! It wasn't my intention to get a universal metronome setting for a Mazurka.
    It's just, that I think, I never played one, and hence, don't know too much about this dance.
    I come from a classical guitar background, and played my share of Menuets, Sarabandes, Walztes or Gavottes, but never a Mazurka.
    There are some and probably the best known is Maria Louisa by J.S. Sagreras. The tempo comes close to the tempo I chose for de Cristofaro's Mazurka. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsvNpiRn9p4
    But my question didn't just concern the tempo.
    When Martin writes:
    However, a mazurka is quite definitely not a waltz, even if it may look much the same on the page. The strong accent in a waltz is one the first beat, whereas in a mazurka it is irregularly placed on the second or third beat -- this is what gives the mazurka its characteristic unpredictability and inherent tension which differentiates it from the strict ONE-two-three of the waltz.
    then, that is very useful information for me.
    Today, I played the Mazurka again, and delibarately tried to accentuate the second beat in some places, and the third beat in others, to make it sound less Waltz-like.
    I've still got to work on the unpredictabillity, but I think, I know a little better, how to do it now.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    This is my only recording of a mazurka and I am not sure if I am playing it right tho a lot depends on the accompaniment as well -- those two are excellent musicians and one is even Italian-American, but none of us grew up playing this stuff. I suppose if I were re-recording this I might make the notes even more dotted. I learned this one from Giovanni Vicari's playing on an old LP I have.

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  19. #13

    Default Re: Tempo of a Mazurka?

    Sounds very nice, Jim! The eighth notes have a swing feeling.
    The same goes for Martin Jonas' Version of Sonny's Mazurka, whereas the group in the follow up video plays it with straight eights.
    When I find the time, I'm gonna try to swing de Cristofaro too...

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