The Polonaise and Mazurka in Mid-Eighteenth Century Dresden: Style and Structure in the Music of Johann Christian Roellig

Nigel Springthorpe

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While recent studies have explored the significance of the Polish style in the music of Georg Philipp Telemann and Johan Sebastian Bach and the importance of the Polish dances in Dresden has long been recognized, the eighteenth-century German polonaise remains a largely neglected area of inquiry. The restoration of the library of the Singakademie zu Berlin in 2000 has made it possible to explore an important collection of mostly unica sources of music by Saxon composers from c1740-c1763, amassed by the Meissen porcelain mosaic artist Carl Jacob Christian Klipfel (1727–1802). Klipfel’s collection includes music of Johann Christian Roellig (born 1716), possibly the most prolific composer of polonaises in Dresden during this period and one of the earliest German composers to write mazurs (mazurkas) in instrumental works. The first-hand knowledge of the Polish style that musicians of the Saxon electoral court and Count von Brühl gained as a result of the frequent journeys to Warsaw resulted in Dresden polonaises that are relatively un-‘Germanized’. This article examines the social and musical context of the polonaise in the mid-eighteenth century Dresden including the repertoire of the annual Redouten (masked Balls), then examines the polonaise and mazurka of Johann Christian Roellig and his contemporaries, including Johann Georg Knechtel, Georg Gebel and Gottlob Harrer. A survey of the use of polonaises in Redoutentänze, symphony, and partita reveals significant differences in style and structure between these genres.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-209
Number of pages27
JournalEighteenth-Century Music
Issue number2
Early online date16 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • polonaise
  • mazur
  • mazurka
  • Dresden
  • Redouten
  • Breitkopf
  • Roellig
  • Klipfel
  • Partita
  • Knechtel
  • Meissen
  • Singakademie zu Berlin
  • Bach W.F.

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