About this work
Chopin's output of mazurkas, numbering 51, expands to over 60 when one counts early versions and juvenile efforts. He had a lifelong interest in this dance genre, writing his first mazurka when he was ten and his last in 1849, the year of his death. He also devoted much effort to the genres of the waltz and polonaise, but wrote much larger works in the latter form. His mazurkas, numerous though they were, were generally quite short.
Quite short indeed: in some cases, they last less than a minute. The E flat minor Fourth Mazurka is one of the shortest Chopin wrote, with only the pipsqueak Ninth clocking in marginally ahead of it in most performances. The Fourth Mazurka is a curious piece, expressing an austerity and brusqueness in its dead-serious manner. Yet, for all its stiffness and seeming inelasticity, this mazurka comes across as an effective nugget of autumnal grayness, a striking black-and-white sketch of a cloudy sky. Its one-dimensional character was a bold stroke for the 30-year-old composer.