Sonatas, Nocturnes, Polonaises and Mazurkas:

A Documentary Source Study

by Teresa Dalila Turło

translated by Olga Żurawska


The paucity of primary sources is a serious impediment in the study of Chopin’s music; extant sources are often incomplete and scattered. For many years after the composer’s death the same traits characterized information about the sources and this fact resulted in many false hypotheses. The author contradicts a stereotype of modern Chopin research according to which the investigation of a particular, basic issue (i.e. an individual work by Chopin) must be preceded by in-depth documental and monographic studies. The core of this study consists in a general discussion of the sources of the early sonata-forms, nocturnes, polonaises and mazurkas; the article also presents the current state of research into the chronology of composition and first editions of works belonging to the four genres. The author classifies and criticizes the sources, dividing them into two main groups. The first group (definite information) contains: (1) dated autographs; (2) Chopin’s correspondence; (3) press notices regarding the publication and performance of the compositions; (4) testimonies by members of the composer’s close circle (primarily information from Julian Fontana, Ludwika Jedrzejewiczowa, Oskar Kolberg and Chopin’s pupils). The second group of uncertain material includes sources which enable one to approximate the dates of some of the compositions. These sources are comprised of: (1) undated autographs; (2) first editions; (3) information from Chopin’s early publishers and biographers; (4) secondary information about Chopin’s early publishers and biographers (secondary to the sources mentioned in the previous point). Chronological lists of pieces belonging to the four genres occupy a central place in the article; the lists include information about the genesis of these works as well as qualitative characterizations of their sources and first editions. The author’s earlier research of this subject (i.e. her earlier publication co-authored with Chomiński, The Catalogue of Fryderyk Chopin’s Works 1991) and the work conducted by Jan Ekier (1974) and Jeffrey Kallberg (1983) allow for compiling extensive documentation of the dates of composition and publication of works belonging to the four genres. In addition, the research also enables the author to correct certain dates, which were attributed erroneously, and to clarify inaccuracies in historical interpretations that have been perpetuated in Chopin studies until now.




The research into the chronology of Chopin works has recently undergone extensive development in Poland as well as in English-speaking countries. The current study serves to enrich both the documentary aspect of Chopin studies and editorial work on his compositions. There has been a need for a modern catalogue of the composer’s works—like those of Schmieder, Kochel or Kinsky. Due also to the necessity of publishing the National Edition in an “urtext” form, Polish Chopin studies have faced new tasks, the most important of them being the question of historical attribution—i.e., establishing the most precise possible chronology of works and publications on the basis of extensive research.

The unquestionable progress in Chopin studies in recent years has resulted in the publication of two major reference works by Kobylańska (in 1977) and by Chomiński and Turło (in 1990).[1] These two volumes are essential not only for editorial purposes but also for conducting basic research into the composer’s oeuvre. Earlier attempts at historical attribution based on an examination of style were not successful, and proved that the only certain way to determine the time a work has been written is through extensive research into factors other than the analysis of style. Bronarski’s failed attempt to determine the completion date of the Nocturne in C Minor, WN 62, shows that musical analysis should not be overused in historical research.[2]

The goal of my project is to give a compact presentation of earlier research into the chronology of completion and publication of Chopin compositions,[3] confined to the genres the composer practiced his whole life, i.e., sonata forms, nocturnes, polonaises and mazurkas. The sources for research into the chronology of Chopin’s works vary in number, quality and reliability. In terms of quality, they can be divided into six groups. The majority of vital information comes from Chopin’s correspondence, especially letters to publishers.[4] (Chopin’s correspondence will be marked by “k” in the article.) Some reliable information about the time when the works were written comes from the author’s notes in the manuscripts (which will be marked by “a”) and from newspaper advertisements for publications and performances of his works (these items will be marked by “p”). As for his early pieces, however, which are the hardest to date, we have to rely on reports from Julian Fontana, Ludwika Chopin-Jędrzejewicz, and Oskar Kolberg. (These reports will be marked with an “r” in the article.) However, the reports are often questioned in reference books and their dubious status will be indicated by placing a question mark next to “r” (r?).[5] The last group of sources categorized according to their quality fall into the literary tradition of the time, and therefore do not provide a reliable information about the chronology of Chopin’s compositions (this group will be marked with a “w”).

My study presents the sources in two ways. The first (text) deals with Chopin’s early career. The second (charts) describes current research into the chronology of completion and publishing of the sonata forms, nocturnes, polonaises and mazurkas.

Little is known about the circumstances in which the Sonata in C Minor was completed. It was later given opus number 4 and published after the composer’s death. Yet there are grounds to believe that it was written at the same time as the Variations in B-flat Major, Op. 2. The manuscript score of the Variations (Kobylańska, No. 6; hereafter abbreviated to Kob.) is dated 1827, but the editorial manuscript of the Sonata in C Minor (Kob. No. 928) prepared for Haslinger was assigned opus number 3. In his letter to Tytus Wojciechowski of 9 September 1828, Chopin confirmed that he sent both those works to a foreign publisher; he stated they were both already in Leipzig.[6] That year is generally regarded as the date of completion of these works. It is not clear why the composer mentioned Leipzig in the letter since later correspondence suggests that it was Haslinger of Vienna who published both compositions.

The third piece delivered to the same publisher and originally marked “number 4,” are the Variations in E Major on a German song “Der Schweizerbub.” Marcel Szulc claims that this piece was composed between 1820 and 1826.[7] After seeing Haslinger when he was in Vienna for the second time in November 1830, Chopin stated unhappily that both the Sonata in C Minor and the second series of variations still had not been published. The first Variations in B-flat Major, Op. 2 were not published until the spring of 1830.[8]Later references to the Sonata in C Minor in Chopin’s correspondence caused some confusion because they misleadingly suggested that the work had been published in 1839. Most confusing of all was the publishing number on the first published versions of the Sonata in C Minor and Variations in E Major, which corresponded with that date. Chopin confirmed that he received the draft prints—most probably with that number. But he also claimed he was not going to send them back to the publisher.[9] After the composer’s death those draft prints were published by the heir of Tobias Haslinger (who had died in 1842). Due to this complicated genesis, the first edition of the work, with the original number on the title page, has a note in the publisher’s remarks stating “Chez Charles Haslinger quondam Tobie.”

In the meantime Karol Haslinger also co-published the Sonata in C Minor with his Parisian representative, Simon Richault. The French publisher, in accordance with French law, donated the first so-called “mandatory issue” of the work to the Bibliotheque Nationale, where a dutiful librarian assigned the volume the date on which it was received: “Dépôt 1851 Mai.” That date is now considered to be the date of publication for both Haslinger’s Austrian version and the French one by Richault. Since the two versions are very similar, one could assume they were based on the same manuscript (Kob. No. 928).

That manuscript is an interesting example of the neat musical notation characteristic of Chopin’s early years. Each part of the work contains metronomic markings that the composer ceased to use later. On the title page there is an extensive dedication that is, however, missing from the published version. The dedication enumerates the honorary titles of Józef Elsner, to whom the work was dedicated. Chopin’s musical notation used in that work caused future editors to add corrections, especially with regard to notes with chromatic accidentals.[10]

The Sonata in C Minor could have been a result of Chopin’s composition studies under Elsner. The composer most probably treated it as a student exercise; this attitude would explain why he was not unduly preoccupied with it. In the correspondence with Tytus Wojciechowski, Chopin wrote more extensively about his works composed after the three-year period of compositional studies. These numerous references make it easy to deduct when the next cycle of works was written (Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 8 and both piano concertos).[11] Unfortunately, Chopin’s manuscripts of the concerti have not been discovered. In the half-manuscript of the Piano Concerto in F Minor, Op. 21 (Kob. No. 258), which was located in the archives of Breitkopf and Härtel and which is now stored in the National Library in Warsaw, the composer notated the solo piano part in its entirety; of the orchestral voices he notated those that begin and end the different segments of the work; the manuscript is arranged as a piano score. The full versions of the orchestral voices are notated in that score by a copyist. It is interesting though, that the order of particular instruments in the score was preserved and that it resembles the order one can find in other Chopin scores; order, we should add, different from notation practice common at that time. As was the case with Chopin’s compositions, in opus numbers 2, 13 and 14, the parts of the cello and the double bass are separated from the remainder of the strings and are noted below the piano part. A similar arrangement can be found in the manuscript of the Trio, Op. 8 (Kob. No. 81), where the piano part is placed below the violin, with the cello part located below the piano.During Chopin’s lifetime no score of his was published with full orchestral accompaniment. Therefore the first editions of those works contained only the piano part and reduced the tutti orchestral parts to a piano score. The prices printed on the title pages of those works suggest that only the scores with complete orchestral voices were distributed. On the title page of the German first edition of the Concerto in E Minor, Op. 11 there is a note saying the work could be performed in two ways: “avec Accompagneiment d’Orchestre ou de Quintuor ad libitum.” Since Chopin foresaw the practice of performing the concertos as solo works, he added a figurative accompaniment in the Larghetto of the Concerto in F Minor, Op. 21, in the part to be performed with the orchestra in unison (mm. 45-72). That accompaniment, added in handwriting to the issue of the French first edition belonging to the student Jane Stirling, was published in the Oxford edition by Eduard Ganche and recently also in the National Edition by Jan Ekier.[12]The sonata form that Chopin was accustomed to in his youth he also used later in life. In his discussion of the Sonata in B-flat Minor, Op. 35, Józef M. Chomiński writes that the sonata cycle seems to have originated from the middle part of Chopin’s life.[13] The Funeral March had been written at least half a year before the composer wrote to Fontana in August 1839 to say that he was working on a sonata that would contain the March already known to his friend.[14] The manuscript, however, of the part of the March dated “9-28-1837” by the composer (Kob. No. 570) has never been found. The description of that manuscript in auction catalogue by L. Liepmannssohn’s company for May 1921 should be considered truthful. Therefore, it should be assumed that the March was written in 1837. Later on, especially in the performing tradition of amateurs, the March came to exist as an independent piece—so much so that the publishers of the first edition of the sonata, the Breitkopf and Härtel company, also published it separately as a work in its own right. Judging by the existing editions of the March, it must have had several reprints.Unfortunately, the manuscript of the Sonata in B-flat Minor has not been found. Only the editorial copy by Adolf Gutmann is known (Kob. No. 573). It allows for a conclusion about what the musical notation in the manuscript looked like. Here, more than in other manuscripts, here the composer used an abbreviated way of noting the musical text. Even the accompaniment of the first theme in the part Grave (Doppio movimento) is marked by the appropriate repetition signs in the measures repeating certain figures of the accompaniment. In the Funeral March the repetition of whole measures is also marked in a similar way. The repetition in the Scherzo as well as the the March is marked by numbers which refer the contents of the repeated measures to the earlier specific spots.As in the Mazurka in B Minor, Op. 33, No. 4 (see the copy by Fontana; Kob. No. 542), a notation mistake in the Finale was repeated in several later editions of the Sonata in B-flat Minor. The copyist numbered the first ten measures, and then repeated all ten numbers in the repetition starting from measure 39. Analysis of the text shows that only 8 measures or 12 measures should be repeated. Chopin crossed out the redundant measures (48, 49) by hand in the copy of the French first edition belonging to Maria Szczerbatów. They must also have been removed from one of the first reprints of the French first edition since they can be found neither in the C. O’Méary copy nor in the notes belonging to Jane Stirling. Yet in the first German edition (and in its later reprints or new editions, including the 1913 edition by Friedman), the Finale of the Sonata in B-flat Minor is longer by those two measures.Bearing in mind the abbreviated musical notation in the Sonata in B-flat Minor described above, one cannot conclude that Chopin always revised, made corrections, and added variations when composing. Sometimes the composer wanted a mechanical, identical repetition, as in the Sonata in B-flat Minor. Therefore it is understandable why later editors of Chopin’s texts sought to standardize the similar or sometimes identical details of the text rather than vary it.The composer informed his sister Ludwika when the Sonata in B Minor, Op. 58 was completed in a letter written one year later.[15] In the chronological list below the date of completion of the works is determined by the copyright sale receipt dated 21 December 1844. The chronology of the completion and first editions of the sonata forms based on research is as follows:

Table 1: Chronology of Chopin’s Sonatas.

Source types:
“a”—manuscripts; “p”—publicity and press materials;
“k”—Chopin’s correspondence; “r”—reports by friends;
“r?”—reports questioned by scholars;
“w”—literary writings. Upper-case abbreviations list editions (see note 16).

Sonata in C Minor Op. 41827 w and 1828 k Sept 91851 R, H
Trio in G Minor Op. 81828 k Sept 9, Nov 27; and 1829 a k Oct 20, Nov 41832 K
Piano Concerto in F Minor Op. 211829 k Oct 3, Nov 141836 S, B&H, WTD
Piano Concerto in E Minor Op. 111830 k March 27 – Aug 311833 S, K
Sonata in B-flat Minor Op. 35 Funeral March1839 k Aug 8 1837 a Nov 281840 T, B&H, W
Sonata H Minor Op. 581844 k Dec 211845 M B&H,W
Sonata in G Minor Op. 651845 k Dec 26 and 1846 a k Oct 111847 S


There is little source data for research into the nocturnes originating in Chopin’s early years. According to Julian Fontana, the first work of that genre is the Nocturne in E Minor, completed in 1827 and included by Fontana in Opus 72. That piece, like the first four polonaises (B-flat Major, A-flat Major, G-sharp Minor, B-flat Minor) and some later mazurkas (A Minor, Op. 68 No. 2, B-flat Major for Mrs. Wołowska, and A-flat Major for Mrs. Szymanowska) escaped notice by the composer’s sister, Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, and was not included in her incipit list Kompozycje niewydane.[17] In the past its date of 1827 was taken for granted. Nonetheless, recently Jan Ekier questioned it and suggested the work had been composed between 1828 and 1830.[18] Having no new research data, however, one should treat any recently suggested date of completion as hypothetical.

The absolute lack of manuscript data does not allow for a plausible conclusion about how Chopin dealt with the problem Jan Ekier is preoccupied with, i.e., how he notated dotted rhythms in the melody against the triplet background in the accompaniment.[19] That problem is particularly prominent in the Nocturne in E Minor. There, already in the third measure, the characteristic pattern of a dotted eighth-note with a sixteenth note appears against a typically nocturne-like accompaniment based on arpeggiated triads. The notation of that measure in the first edition by Fontana is not uniform. In a version of the French edition by Meissonnaire, the vertical arrangement of the notes suggests the sixteenth note should be performed at the same time as the third note of the triplet. The same notes arranged a bit differently in a version of the German edition by Schlesinger suggest that the sixteenth note be performed after the third note of the triplet (as, in a similar context, with the first part of the Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven).Writing of the first collection of the Nocturnes, Op. 9 numbered by Chopin, Zdzisław Jachimecki was not able to determine the dates of their completion using their stylistic and technical characteristics. He stated they might have been written in 1828, 1829 or even 1830.[20] Today it is assumed that the whole collection was completed in November 1832, when M. Schlesinger was in the process of completing the deal for their publication with F. Kistner (see the discussion of this issue by Zofia Lissa).[21] It is absolutely certain though, that 1830 is the year when Chopin ceased working on an unfinished manuscript of an untitled work with no time signature (Kob. No. 1216), listed in many editions as a nocturne. That work is referred to in the incipit list by the composer’s sister as “The lento sent to me from Vienna 1830, lento of the genre of a nocturne.” As in the case of the Polonaise in G-flat Major, Zdzisław Jachimecki disregarded a note by Mieczysław Karłowicz about that list,[17] and stated that the work was difficult to date. Jachimecki was right to deny its artistic value—finding in it only motifs from the Concerto in F Minor and the song Życzenie [The Wish]—and that had been pointed out even earlier by Mikhail Bałakiriev, who titled the work “Reminiscences. Nocturne pour le piano.”[23] Rather than an unfinished work, this piece seems to be an experiment in auto-quotation in an exercise for the composer’s sister. A typical simultaneous polymetry can be found here, which could hardly have been intentional. Chopin tried introducing quotes from earlier works in odd meters into the musical process, in even meter of 4/4 (mm. 21-28). Eventually he gave it up. His sister Ludwika, probably with the help of Oskar Kolberg, made several changes when copying the manuscript Chopin had sent her; the likelihood of this occurrence is suggested by Kolberg’s correspondence.[24] She disposed of the polymetry by introducing rhythmic fragmentation in the melody. However, she could not handle a certain metric distortion (an excess of quarter notes) which thus appeared in the measure before the change of meter to 3/4. That mistake was corrected by Bałakiriev, who divided the measure with five quarter notes into 2/4 and 3/4. That way he created a kind of metric interpolation.A different approach is presented by Jan Ekier in a volume for National Edition (WN) of Chopin’s works entitled Różne utwory [Various works].[25] Ekier considers the manuscript with polymetry to be an earlier version of the manuscript while regarding the text modified by Ludwika as a later version, recreated from a copy. He also suggests there was another manuscript that cannot be found. The above difficulties caused the Lento to be omitted in several editions (e.g., the complete edition by Breitkopf and Härtel and the Universal Edition by Raoul Pugno). Jan Kleczyński, the editor of the Complete Works by Chopin published by Gebethner and Wolf in 1882, claimed that the Poznań first edition by Leitgeber of 1875 was not known to him, which seems surprising today.[26] Another interesting matter in the research of early Chopin nocturnes is the issue of variations. The numerous additions in the fingering and the omitted chromatic accidentals in the copies of the first editions of nocturnes belonging to Chopin’s students show that genre was the composer’s favorite in his teaching. The study of the musical interpretation of a nocturne under the supervision of the composer reveals that the composer considered it an occasion to modify the original text. Here a very special example is the Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 with its numerous variations noted in different sources. The most variations could supposedly be found in a separate publication by Karol Mikuli. Unfortunately, no copy of that publication, which was listed in the publishing catalog by Kistner as “Nocturne fur Pianoforte mit des Autors authentischen Verzierungen,” can be found today.[27] There is however, a Peters’ edition by H. Scholtz listed in Hofmeister’s publishing catalog for 1898-1903, which describes the work as “Nocturne mit des Autors Varianten.”[28] It turns out that all but one variation thought of as Mikuli’s are included in the edition by Scholtz. Today it is difficult to learn if it was by mistake that Mikuli was credited for spreading the variations included by Scholtz. It could also have been that Attilio Brugnoli was familiar with a presently-unknown copy of Mikuli’s edition when he first listed the variations in a footnote in the volume Nocturnes of 1935 by Ricordi.[29] Like the sonata forms, the nocturnes were better documented in the later period of Chopin’s work. But no manuscripts or editorial manuscripts of the nocturnes from Opus 9, 15 and 32 are known today. The editorial manuscript of opus 27 is incomplete and includes only the second Nocturne in D-flat Major. It is also the only known manuscript of a nocturne with metronome markings. Thus it is not certain if the metronome markings that can be found in the first editions of both the earlier opuses were noted by the composer himself, or whether they were suggested by the publishers: Kistner for Opus 9, Breitkopf and Härtel for Opus 15, and M. Schlesinger for both the opuses.Starting from the Nocturnes, Op. 15, the chronology within this genre is based on the dates of deals with the publishers. As mentioned before, the documentation was found and recreated for the F. Chopin Society Archives in the 1950s and 1970s from the files of Breitkopf and Härtel, and Wessel. The availability of the receipts and offers collected and published by Jeffrey Kallberg in 1983 has already contributed to the research on the chronology of works, and it could be a starting point for further research. Still open is the question of the date of completion of certain works within the opus. For instance, Chopin’s letter to Fontana says that both the nocturnes from Opus 37 were written months apart. Not having seen Fontana for almost a year, Chopin reminds him in the letter about the Nocturne in G Minor, to be connected with a new Nocturne in G Major which he was composing at that time.[30] The chronology of completion and first publication of the nocturnes is characterized by the following data and supporting research evidence (Table 2):

Table 2: Chronology of Chopin’s Nocturnes.

Source types: “a”—manuscripts; “p”—publicity and press materials;
“k”—Chopin’s correspondence; “r”—reports by friends;
“r?”—reports questioned by scholars;
“w”—literary writings. Upper-case abbreviations list editions.

NocturnesDate of CompletionFirst publication
E Minor (Op. 72 No. 1) WN 231827 r?1855 M, SBerl
Lento C-sharp Minor WN 371830 r1875 L
Op. 9 No. 1-31832 k Nov 21832 K
Op. 15 No. 1-31833 k Oct 281833 S, B&H
Op. 27 No. 1-21835 k June 301836 S, B&H, W
Op. 32 No. 1-21837 k July 201837 S, SBerl, W
G Minor Op. 37 No. 11838 k Aug 8, 18391840 T, B&H, W
G Major Op. 37 No. 21839 k Aug 81840 T, B&H, W
Op. 48 No. 1-21841 k Oct 91841 S
F Minor Op. 55 No. 11842 a[31]
Op. 55 No. 1-21843 k Aug, Dec 19 and 1844 k July 161844 S, B&H
Op. 62 No. 1-21846 k Aug 13, Sept 201846 S, B&H, W
C Minor WN 621847 w1938 MP


Chopin’s earliest polonaises were discussed and published by Zdzisław Jachimecki, who was right to believe that these earliest childhood works were not known to researchers or audiences in the 19th century. The Polonaise in G Minor, played today by beginning pianists, disappeared from sight for over 110 years. Knowledge of its composition and publication was available only from a note in the magazine Pamiętnik Warszawskiof 1818. A copy of the published work was found by Jachimecki as late as 1926. He did not manage to distribute the text until 20 years later when he included this work in Chopin’s Polonezy z lat najmłodszych[Polonaises from the Youngest Years] he edited in Cracow in 1947. It was published by the Krzyżanowski Publishing House. Somewhat earlier in 1943, however, Mieczysław Idzikowski had copies of that work made on light-sensitive paper for a limited number of musicians.

The collection of Chopin’s youthful polonaises, Polonezy z lat najmłodszych, also included the Polonaise in B-flat Major of 1818 and the Polonaise in A-flat Major of 1821, known from earlier publications which escaped Jachimecki’s attention. Similarly to Aleksander Poliński (1914, 17-18), he overlooked the publication of the childhood Polonaise in B-flat Major, WN 1 in the magazine Nowości Muzyczne [Musical Novelties] by Leon Chojecki in 1910.[32] Despite his claims of priority, Jachimecki was not the first publisher of the Polonaise in A-flat Major, WN 3 dedicated to Wojciech Żywny. The work is known from a facsimile reproduction of the manuscript and its transcript by Jan Michałowski in an edition issued by Gebethner and Wolf in 1901. Furthermore, we should note that in 1938 the work was included in the volume “Polacche” of the Italian collection of Chopin works, published by Ricordi and edited by Brugnoli. [33] The origins and chronology of the three earliest polonaises are not questioned, but little is known about the later ones which the composer did not intend for publication. When trying to determine the chronology of the first six polonaises not published during Chopin’s lifetime, one has to rely solely on contradictory reports by the composer’s friends, such as Julian Fontana, Oskar Kolberg, Ludwika Chopin Jędrzejewicz, and a Warsaw publisher, Józef Kaufmann. For instance, the latter informs us that the Polonaise in G-sharp Minor WN 5, which he published in 1864, had been written when the composer was 14. Yet Kolberg, who cooperated with Breitkopf and Härtel’s publishing house on the volume Nachgelassene Werke (the 13th volume of the collected works issued in 1878-1880), provides a supposed composition date two years earlier. That date was questioned by Friedrich Niecks. Bearing in mind both sources, Jachimecki tried to reach a consensus and stated the years 1822-1824 as the date of completion of the work.[34] In Chopin’s correspondence there are few references to his early polonaises. He mentions only the Polonaise in F Minor, later included by Fontana in Opus 71, and a lost work, which Chopin calls “the ‘Polonaise Barber of Seville’ that is quite popular.”[35] Only one dated manuscript of the Polonaise in F Minor is known of the group of polonaises in G-sharp Minor, B-flat Minor, G-flat Major, and the polonaises with opus numbers provided by Fontana: D Minor, B-flat Major and F Minor. It is the manuscript with a dedication and a later date, not the one of its completion (Kob. No. 1049)The research data for the Polonaise in G-flat Major is so incomplete that Jachimecki attempted to prove its authenticity based on what he calls a “stylometric analysis” (1934). That argument would have probably been supported by different evidence had not Jachimecki overlooked or neglected the information in the incipit list of Chopin’s works by Ludwika Chopin Jędrzejewicz published in the work of Mieczysław Karłowicz.[36] In her list, the composer’s sister does not mention the two childhood polonaises in B flat Major and A-flat Major; neither does she refer to the later polonaises in G-sharp Minor and B-flat Minor. She does, however, include the Polonaise in G-flat Major. Jachimecki probably found it necessary to go against what he considered the reliable opinion of Frederick Niecks, who thought that only a manuscript could constitute proof of authenticity.It is worth mentioning though, that Niecks’ opinion was probably influenced by the information included in the editorial catalog by Breitkopf and Härtel,[37] where the Polonaise in G-flat Major was listed in the group of works attributed [unterschobene] to Chopin. That categorization was therefore a simple consequence of the fact that in the above mentioned volume, Nachgelassene Werke, part of a collection of Chopin’s compositions issued by Breitkopf and Härtel and edited by Johannes Brahms, the Polonaise in G-flat Major was omitted. There was a simple reason for that: Oskar Kolberg was responsible for delivering the text of the Polonaise in G-flat Major to the publisher but he failed to do so in time. Kolberg’s correspondence reveals that he was questioned and hurried about it by the publisher. Furthermore, his correspondence with Marceli Szulc proves that although a search for the work was conducted, Kolberg could not find the first edition by Józef Kaufmann. This edition was already rare in those days, and it remains unknown today.[38] Eventually Breitkopf and Härtel received a copy of the Polonaise in G-flat Major published by Gebethner and Wolf and edited by Kleczyński in 1882—that is after the above volume was published. From the editorial notes on a copy which still exists in A. van Hoboken’s collection, it is clear that plans were made to include that work as number 36 in the volume of Nachgelassene Werke. Since it is very likely that volume was not reprinted, Breitkopf and Härtel published the polonaise separately, as may be deduced from a note in the Hofmeister catalogue for the years 1886-1892.[39] That edition also remains unknown. Nonetheless, there is an edition of the Polonaise in G-flat Major in the magazine Die Musik (1908). This edition is based on an unknown source and the work is longer by one measure because measure 31 is repeated. That version of the work was included in PWM’s set of Dzieła Wszystkie [Complete Works] edited by Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The chronology of completion and first publication of Chopin’s polonaises is included in Table 3.

Table 3: Chronology of Chopin’s Polonaises.

Source types:
“a”—manuscripts; “p”—publicity and press materials;
“k”—Chopin’s correspondence; “r”—reports by friends;
“r?”—reports questioned by scholars;
“w”—literary writings. Upper-case abbreviations list editions.

PolonaiseDate of CompletionFirst Publication
B-flat Major WN 11817 r1910 NM
G Minor WN 21817 p1817 C
A-flat Major WN 31821 a Apr 231901 G i W
G-sharp Minor WN 51822 r? Kolberg or 1824 r? Kaufmann1864 Kauf
B-flat Minor WN 121826 r1880 B&H
D Minor (Op. 71 No. 1) WN 61827 r?1855 M, SBerl
B-flat Minor (Op. 71 No. 2) WN 141828 rCa 1853 Chrz
F Minor (Op. 71 No3) WN 91829 k1855 M, SBerl
C Major Op. 3 (with Introduction)1829 k Nov 14 and 1830 k Apr 101831 Mech
E-flat Major Op. 22 (with Andante Spianato)1830 k Sept 18 and 1833 k Sept 1834 w. .
Op. 221835 k June 301836 S, B&H, W
Op. 26 No. 1-21835 k June 301836 S, B&H, W
A Major Op. 40 No. 11838 k Jan 22 18391840 T, B&H, W
C Minor Op. 40 No. 21839 k March 7, October 81840 T,B&H, W
F-sharp Minor Op. 441841 k Aug 231841 S, Mech
A-flat Minor Op. 531842 k Dec 15 and 1843 k Aug, Oct 151843 S, B&H
A-flat Major Op. 611846 k Aug 13, Sept 201846 S, B&H,W


Chopin’s mazurkas reached final form that satisfied the composer somewhat later than the polonaises. Although as early as at the age of 16 Chopin decided to release the first mazurkas in B-flat Major, WN 7 and G Major, WN 8, he did so only for friends in the form of lithography copied on loose sheets of paper. Today, only the sheet containing the text of the Mazurka in G Major is known. The sheets probably served as a basis for the copies of mazurkas now preserved in the National Library in Paris and the first Polish edition by R. Friedlein of 1851, which includes both works. Chopin himself delivered his first collections of Mazurkas, Op. 6 and Op. 7 to foreign publishers as late as 1832. Those collections include 9 works whose dates of completion are difficult to determine. It should not be assumed that the order of these mazurkas within the Opus numbers corresponds to the chronological order of their creation.

In terms of chronology, the first and last mazurkas grouped in Opus 6 and Opus 7 were completed seven years apart. The manuscript of the Mazurka in F-sharp Minor, Op. 6, No. 1 is known to exist; it is dated 1832 (Kob. No. 27). According to Kolberg, the Mazurka in A-flat Major, Op. 7, No. 4 was written in 1824. Since the Mazurkas in A Minor, Op. 7, No. 2 and in E Major, Op. 6, No. 3 were included in Emilia Elsner’s album dated 1830, one can assume that they were both composed at the same time. The exact dates of completion can be found on the two manuscripts of the Mazurka in F Minor, Op. 7, No. 3. A souvenir note of that work in the Aloys Fuchs’ album even contains a precise date, i.e., the day of the month—20 June 1831. An inscription with a date that is one month later may be found on the second manuscript of that work; the fact that the third one is not dated at all makes the chronology questionable. There is no source information about the chronology of the Mazurkas in C-sharp Minor and E-flat Minor from Opus 6, nor for the chronology of the Mazurkas in B-flat Major and C Major from Opus 7.

According to Oskar Kolberg, the oldest of all mazurkas is the Mazurka in A-flat Major (later known as the fourth in the series of works in Op. 7). It should be clarified that Kollberg attributed the date of 1824 to the original version of that work,[40] which is so different from the version the composer meant for publication that Ewald Zimmermann (editor of the “Urtex” version for Henle) was right not to include it in Opus 7, but separately in an appendix to the mazurkas volume. Thus, it is clear that Chopin rewrote the work later, probably in 1830. The draft manuscripts of the piece that are known (Kob. Nos. 71-72) make it possible to follow the transformation the work underwent.[41]

A similar observation could be made about two other mazurkas, in C-sharp Minor and E-flat Minor from Opus 6. We know of their undated draft manuscripts; they were obviously written earlier than the final version meant for publication (see Kob. No. 31, 43). In both manuscripts the basic outline of those works can be recognized—and it could be assumed they were both created in that form at the same time. The repetition signs of the consecutive parts were added later. In the first phase the basic melodic and harmonic concept was conceived, and the details of the pieces were worked out after that.

Another important question connected with the chronology of the early Chopin mazurkas is the date for the completion of the Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17, No. 4. Musicologist Zdzisław Jachimecki thought that that work depicted life in a Polish village with the “ever-present” Jewish innkeeper. According to Jachimecki, Chopin supposedly depicted this characteristic figure by “changes of chromatic ornaments and shifting of accents.”[42] That suggestion cannot be accepted by any means since it was not because of Chopin (nor as Jachimecki claims—the tradition) that the mazurka came to be known as The Jew. Rather, the name comes from two authors writing quite irresponsibly about Chopin’s music: Marceli Szulc and Jan Kleczyński. They felt free to interpret a statement by Oscar Kolberg, who wrote to Szulc in his letter of 1 February 1876 about a Jewish innkeeper who watched a wedding procession.[43] That kind of story, according to Kolberg, resulted from Chopin’s improvisational practice: such stories were told in the composer’s presence to inspire his improvising.

Yet Jachimecki took Szulc’s reports for truth and claimed that the scene with the Jewish innkeeper was the subject matter of the Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17, No. 4. Furthermore, the author added information about a performance in Szafarnia by the 14-year-old Chopin of a work called The Jew. It would be hard to explain why the Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17 that Szulc called The Jew would be identical to the work performed in Szafarnia in Chopin’s earliest years. Connecting these two pieces of random information from different sources resulted in attributing the time of the completion of the Mazurka in A Minor to Chopin’s childhood, even though it was too sophisticated in its harmonic and textural layers for that attribution to be true.[4] Jachimecki himself realized the stylistic discrepancy between the work and its assumed historic context, and he tried to justify it by saying that only the first draft of the work was created at that time. Yet, that draft does not exist, neither has its existence ever been confirmed by evidence. Therefore one should exert caution when considering Jachimecki’s justification.

In his early years, Chopin’s inspiration for the mazurka genre can be found in the above-mentioned original score of the Mazurka in A-flat Major (later in an altered version included in Op. 7 as No. 4) and two Mazurkas lithographed in 1826, without opus numbers, the Mazurkas in G Major, WN 8 and in B-flat Major, WN 7. The idea that there also existed an unfinished draft of the Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17, No. 4 is untenable—it is a confabulation. As Józef M. Chomiński writes, it is a complete misunderstanding to look for an improvised version of The Jew in that piece. That work represents the absolutely mature form of a stylized mazurka with all the individual characteristics of Chopin’s style.[45]

The following Table 4 represents the chronology of completion and first publications of the fourth genre this study examines, i.e. the mazurka.

Table 4: Chronology of Chopin’s Mazurkas.

Source types:
“a”—manuscripts; “p”—publicity and press materials;
“k”—Chopin’s correspondence; “r”—reports by friends;
“r?”—reports questioned by scholars;
“w”—literary writings. Upper-case abbreviations list editions.

MazurkaDate of CompletionFirst Publication
A-flat Major Op. 7 No4First version 1824 r. .
G Major WN 81826 k Jan 8 18271826 lithography
B-flat Major WN 71826 k Jan 8 18271826 lithography lost
A Minor (Op. 68 No. 2) WN 131827 r1855 M, SBerl
E Major Op. 6 No. 31830 r1832 K
A Minor Op. 7 No. 21830 r1832 K
C Minor (Op. 68 No. 1) WN 241830 r?1855 M, SBerl
F Major (Op. 68 No. 3) WN 251830 r?1855 M, SBerl
F Minor Op. 7 No. 31831 a July, June 201832 K
F-sharp Minor Op. 6 No. 11832 a1832 K
B-flat Major WN 411832 a June 241909 “L”
Op. 6 No. 1-41832 k Nov 21832 K
Op. 7 No. 1-51832 k Nov 21832 K
Op. 17 No. 1-41833 k Nov 271833 P
Op. 24 No. 1-41833 k Nov1835 S
A-flat Major WN 451834 a1930 G&W
G Major (Op. 67 No. 1) WN 261835 r?1855 M, SBerl
C Major (Op. 67 No. 3) WN 471835 r1855 M, SBerl
Op. 30 No. 1-41837 k July 20, Sept 111837 S, W
E Minor Op. 41 No. 11838 a Nov 281840 T, B&H, W
Op. 33 No. 1-41838 k Apr 4, June 271838 S, B&H, W
Op. 41 No. 2-41839 k Aug 81840 T, B&H, W
A Minor Gaill.1840 p Dec 241841 Chab
A Minor Notre Temps1841 k Sept 30, Oct 281841 BFM
Op. 50, No. 1-31842 k Jan 141842 S, Mech, W
Op. 56 No. 1-31843 k Aug, Dec 19 and 1844 k July 161844 S, B&H
Op. 59, No. 1-31845 k 18-20, July, Aug1845 Stern, W
B Major Op. 63 No. 11846 a May-Nov1847 S, B&H, W
A Minor (Op. 67 No. 4) WN 591846 a1855 M, SBerl
Op. 63 No. 1-31846 k Oct 111847 S, B&H, W
G Minor (Op. 67 No. 2) WN 641848 r? Mrs.Jędrzejewicz and 1849 r? Fontana1855 M, SBerl
F Minor (Op. 68 No. 4) WN 651848 r? Mrs.Jędzrzejewicz and 1849 r? Fontana1855 M, SBerl

These conclusions concering chronological attributions for the four genres practiced by Chopin reflect the results of contemporary research into the origins of the composer’s works. Although it could be assumed that most of the existing sources are known to the researchers, the discovery of entirely new musical sources prove that the question of chronology will have to be continually revised and improved in the future (see Wróblewska-Strauss, 1987).[46] However, the answers to some of the questions, especially those related to the early years, will probably have to remain hypothetical.


[1]. Krystyna Kobylańska, Rękopisy utwórow Chopina. Katalog [The manuscripts of Chopin’s works], vol. 1-2 (Kraków: PWM, 1977). Józef Chomiński, and Teresa D. Turło, Katalog dzieł Fryderyka Chopina [The catalog of Fryderyk Chopin’s works] (Kraków: PWM, 1990). [Back]

[2]. Ludwik Bronarski, “Dwa nieznane utwory Chopina” [Two unknown works by Chopin], Kwartalnik Muzyczny 6, nos. 21/22 (1948). [Back]

[3]. Chomiński and Turło, op. cit.[Back]

[4]. See a collection of copyright sale receipts by Breitkopf and Hartel, and Wessel was first published by Jeffrey Kallberg in 1983; Kallberg, “Chopin in the Marketplace: Aspects of the International Music Publishing Industry in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century,” Notes 39, no. 3-4 (1983). Through Kallberg’s research new sources for the study of the chronology of Chopin works emerged; see also Teresa D. Turło, “Z zagadnień chronologii pierwszych utworów Chopina” [From the issues of the chronology of the earliest works by Chopin], Rocznik Chopinowski vol. 19 (1987): 149-150. [Back]

[5]. Ludwika Chopin-Jędrzejewicz, Kompozycje nie wydane [Unpublished Compositions], ca. 1854. Oskar Kolberg, Korespondencja Oskara Kolberga [The Correspondence of O.K.], part 1 (1837-1876), edited by Maria Turczynowicz, in Oskar Kolberg, Dzieła Wszystkie [Complete Works], vol. 64 (Warsaw: Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze, 1965). [Back]

[6]. Bronisław E. Sydow, ed., Korespondencja Fryderyka Chopina [F.C.’s Correspondence], vol. 1 (Warsaw: PIW, 1955), 79. [Back]

[7]. Marceli Antoni Szulc, Fryderyk Chopin i utwory jego muzyczne. Przyczynek do życiorysu i oceny kompozycji artysty (Kraków: PWM, 1986), 45. [Back]

[8]. Korespondencja, vol. 1, 155. [Back]

[9]. Korespondencja, vol. 1, 145-146. [Back]

[10]. The composer did not feel it necessary to remind his audiences that after the introduction of a chromatic accidental sign in a certain spot, key signatures take over again. Hence in order to avoid mistakes, you have to cancel the introduced accidental even in the same measure. [Back]

[11]. See the chronological list of sonata forms listed below, in Table 1. [Back]

[12]. Jan Ekier, “Introduction” to the Wydanie Narodowe Dzieł Fryderyka Chopina [National Edition of F. Chopin’s Works] (Kraków: PWM, 1974).[Back]

[13]. Józef Chomiński, Sonaty Chopina (Kraków: PWM, 1960), 86.[Back]

[14]. Korespondencja, vol. 1, 353. [Back]

[15]. Korespondencja, vol. 1, 2, 138. [Back]

[16]. The following list contains abbreviated names of the publishers of the first editions of Chopin sonata forms, nocturnes, polonaises and mazurkas:

R – Simon Richault, Paris;H – Tobias Haslinger, Vienna;K – Fr. Kistner, Leipzig;S- Maurice Schlesinger, Paris;B and H – Breitkopf and Hartel, Leipzig;W – Wessel Co.,London;T – E. Troupenas, Paris;M – J.Meissonnier, Paris;SBerl – A.M. Schlesinger, Berlin;MP – Towarzystwo Wydawnicze Muzyki Polskiej, Warsaw;NM – “Nowości Muzyczne”, Warsaw;C – I.J. Cybulski, Warsaw;G W – Gebethner and Wolf, Warsaw;Kauf – Józef Kaufmann, Warsaw;Chrz – J. Chrząszcz, Żytomierz;Mech – Pietro Mechetti, Vienna;”L” – “Lamus”, Lwów;P – I. Pleyel, Paris;Chab – Chabal, Paris;BFM – Bureaux de la France Musicale, Paris;Stern- Stern Co., Berlin.For further information about the publishers see Chomiński, Turło (1990, 252-337). [Back]

[17]. For a description of this copy see Kobylańska’s catalog, Rękopisy utworów Chopina. Katalog, 1220. [Back]

[18]. Ekier, “Introduction,” 62.[Back]

[19]. Ekier, “Introduction,” 20-21. [Back]

[20]. Zdzisław Jachimecki, Chopin. Rys życia i twórczości [Chopin: An outline of his life and work] (Kraków: PWM, 1957), 167.[Back]

[21]. Zofia Lissa, “Chopin,” Muzyka 5, no. 1 (1960): 17-18. [Back]

[22]. Mieczysław Karłowicz, Nie wydane dotychczas pamiątki po Chopinie(Warszawa, 1904), 377. [Back]

[23]. For a description of this copy see Kobylańska’s catalog, Rękopisy utworów Chopina. Katalog, 1220. [Back]

[24]. Maria Turczynowiczowa, ed., Korespondencja Oskara Kolberga. Część I (1837- 1876), vol. 1, p. 508, in Oskar Kolberg, Dzieła wszystkie, vol. 64 (Warszawa, 1965). [Back]

[25]. Jan Ekier, Różne utwory (WN, 23, 26). [Back]

[26]. Jan Kleczyński, Jeszcze o “Adagiu” czy “Nokturnie” Chopina, Echo Muzyczne, Teatralne i Artystyczne 11, no. 43 (1894): 513-514. [Back]

[27]. Verzeichniss des Musikalien-Verlags von Franciszek Kistner in Leipzig (Leipzig 1894), 35. [Back]

[28]. H. Scholtz, Hofmeister’s Publishing Catalog For 1898- 1903, Nocturne mit des Autors Varianten (1904), 142. [Back]

[29]. Many of the variations in the Nocturnes, Op. 9 were included in the volume of Nocturnes edited by Jan Ekier and published in Wiener Urtext Ausgabe in 1980. For a discussion of such variants see Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, Chopin: Pianist and Teacher as Seen by His Pupils (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 77-79 and p. 150-153. [Back]

[30]. Korespondencja, vol. 1, 353. [Back]

[31]. It is the first version of the work, written in F Minor. [Back]

[32]. Aleksander Poliński, Chopin (Kijów, Warszawa: 1914), 17-18. [Back]

[33]. Jan Michałowski, Polacche (Ricordi, 1938). [Back]

[34]. Zdzisław Jachimecki, Chopin. Rys życia i twörczości (Kraków: PWM, 1957), 114, 115-116. [Back]

[35]. Korespondencja, vol. 1, 60. [Back]

[36]. Karłowicz, Nie wydane, 377-378. [Back]

[37]. Breitkopf and Härtel (1888), 44. [Back]

[38]. Korespondencja Oskara Kolberga, ed Turczynowiczowa, vol. 1, 502-510.[Back]

[39]. Scholz, Hofmeister (1893), 120. [Back]

[40]. The Italian pianist visited Poland in 1937 and it was probably then that the piece’s origin was brought to his attention; this work was not, at that time, included in collections. In the commentary to Polonaise in A-flat Major (WN 3); Brugnoli made a reference to the manuscript, that—currently stored at Warszawskie Towarzystwo Muzyczne—is considered to be the earliest of the manuscripts by the 11-year-old composer known today (see Kobylańska, Rękopisy, no. 1184). [Back]

[41]. See Kolberg’s note on the manuscript, in Kobylańska, Rękopisy, no. 71. [Back]

[42]. Jachimecki, Chopin, 152-153. [Back]

[43]. Korespondencja Oskara Kolberga, vol. 1, 561. [Back]

[44]. That issue was discussed during a symposium on Chopin in Warsaw in 1986, “Ostateczny tekst czy ostateczne teksty Chopina.?” See Wojciech Nowik, “Od szkicu do tekstu,” Rocznik Chopinowski (1988): 157-161. [Back]

[45]. Chomiński, 39. [Back]

[46]. See the author`s comments about this issue in Turło, “Z zagadnień chronologii,” in Wróblewska-Strauss, 1987, 146-147. [Back]

Dr. Turło, born in 1931, is a Polish musicologist and a Chopin specialist with a long list of publications to her credit. She has worked at the Fryderyk Chopin Society in Warsaw. Turło is the author of Katalog dzieł Chopina (Kraków 1990) and many articles about Chopin’s creative process.