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In fact, the coda (mm. 168-203) is among the most tragic music to be found in any of the Ballades. There are numerous tragic elements in this special passage. Many of these aspects are to be found on the music’s surface, but some rather important subtle ones reside on a deeper level of structure. Most importantly (and most obviously) this music revisits the “storm and stress” topic from the previous rotations. Even so, however, the musical topography has been transfigured. The music here requires a kind of virtuosity from the performer that has not been demanded until then. Furthermore, notice the presence of many, many more authentic cadences in the tonic minor here. Until now, of course, there has been a paucity of PACs and IACs in the tonic. This is tragic because of the failure to escape the tonic minor. Another tragic aspect is the recomposition of the lament bass motive (the motive first heard in RT2). In the coda, we encounter three different versions of this motive. These motives are presented in Example 4.28. The salience of the chromatic pitch class D# is also tragic. This pitch is plentiful in the coda. It is made salient in a variety of ways here. Notice that it is often paired with d (Example 4.29, m.
169) This pitch emerged much earlier. It first occurred as a part of one of the few chromatic chords in the sunny Siciliano (Example 4.30, m. 39). It gains a greater importance shortly thereafter. Notice the passage from mm. 65-82 (Example 4.31). In that case, the pitch is re-sounded as the music actually loses energy and rather nonchalantly leads to a PAC MC in m. 83.166 Finally, Dis part of the sustained French Aug. 6th chord in m. 196 (Example 4.32). Surely, this is the most haunting moment in the work. There are several interesting things to note here: the repeated-note gesture from the opening measures finally appears transposed. Where it had been set on C earlier, it is now set on A, the key of the home tonic. It leads to another “tragic” 6/4 chord in m. 200 (again this is followed by an actual caesura). Perhaps most importantly, it brings together the pitches F and DThis shows that the key of F major has been subordinated and that A minor is the tonal victor of the struggle between the keys.
166 Interestingly, this is an instance of another TR in Chopin’s Ballades that seems to lose energy rather than gain it.
^ ^ ^ 8 6 5 Diatonic Model (mm. 170-1) ^ ^ ^ ^ 8 7 6 5 Chromatic Model (mm. 176-180) Example 4.28: The Various Forms of the Lament Bass Motive in the Coda of Ballade 2
In this chapter, I have considered Ballades 1, 2, and 4. I have probed their rotational configuration and have discussed each one’s relation to the Hepokoski/Darcy model. Furthermore, I have looked at TR dysfunction in each and have shown that Brower’s schemas for embodied plot are quite helpful as an aid for our understanding. We have seen, then, that my proposed apparatus is quite useful as a way of explicating many of the exciting formal ambiguities and interesting events in these works.
We have seen that these three Ballades are similar enough to be treated as a group. Here, it is necessary to recount their myriad similarities. First, in these works the rotational impulse is foregrounded.
These works are divided into clear-cut rotations and cycle through a pre-determined number of themes.
Furthermore, these rotations outwardly resemble deformed sonata expositions. We tend to experience these works being in dialogue with the sonata-model and not some other formal model such as the rondo.
Finally, these Ballades distort the sonata-model in similar ways: MCs are declined similarly, the same deformational key relationships appear frequently, and their thematic dimensions are distorted in similar ways.
Chopin’s Ballade 3 (Op. 47) is a challenging and intriguing work. Because it so fixedly defies categorization, it has been the object of considerably less conjecture than its three siblings. Still, however, it has been the object of significant scholarship. For me, the two most important discussions of this piece are Samson 1992 and Rosen 1995. I will begin with a short discussion of these important analyses and suggest an alternate reading of Ballade 3: one that views the work through a threefold lens that invokes the Sonata Theory model, Brower’s schemas for musical plot, and the notion of TR dysfunction.
The composition demands such a multi-faceted approach, for it is paradoxically conventional and refractory. On the one hand, much of its musical rhetoric stems from the classical tradition. In this sense, the piece “depends upon the conventions of the classical sonata.”167 On the other hand, its musicalrhetorical gestures are arranged and configured in such a way as to seem unique and idiosyncratic. As a result, the piece seems to have few, if any precedents.
Samson 1992 is rightly concerned with describing how the piece borrows from compositional norms. His description includes fairly detailed commentary about the interrelationships between the two main themes and a concise, synoptic description of the musical events in the piece. A central element of this discussion is a description of the formal attributes of the themes and the functional ambiguity that each displays.
Example 5.1 presents Samson’s formal chart of Ballade 3.
It conveys some important truths about the work. First, it imparts that the work contains three themes that are presented and recapitulated (themes I, II, and III). As Samson’s chart, shows, however, their recapitulations are not always
he claims that this section involves Theme II+I. I completely agree with Samson’s assertion that this musical module brings together these two disparate themes. In fact, I claim that this section is a very special kind of transition: the rotational synthesis TR. Such TRs bring together two previous themes (or textures) in a gesture that promotes huge energy-gain. This leads to a final working of Theme I with references to Theme III.
For Samson, a key to understanding this work is recognizing its dependence on the norms of the sonata. Importantly, he claims that “Chopin remodels the elements of sonata form by placing them in new contexts and subtly blending their traditionally separate formal functions.”168 This remodeling is much like the sonata-form deformations that are described by Hepokoski/Darcy. Samson’s description of the main themes and their relationship to one another is an important part of his description. Just as in the typical sonata, Samson reports a “conventional opposition of primary and secondary themes and of primary and secondary tonal regions and that these are presented in a formal context which preserves the functions of exposition and reprise. Yet the inner dynamic which motivates the succession of events is far from conventional.”169 Unfortunately, Samson never outright describes the inner dynamic he brings up. I claim that the inner dynamic that Samson has recognized can be described and understood as an impulse involving the Hepokoski/Darcy sonata-form model, the notion of TR dysfunction, and Brower’s overcoming-blockage and escape-from-container schemas.
Rosen’s discussion involves Chopin’s transformation of counterpoint and his use of lyricism in the context of narrative form. Rosen makes several important claims. First, he describes how the lyric and the narrative work together. According to Rosen “the fusion of the narrative and lyric in the Ballades is perhaps Chopin’s greatest achievement: he realized in music one of the major ambitions of the Romantic poets and novelists.”170 Secondly, he points out the manner in which “variations of texture, sonority, and periodic phrasing are not highly articulated as in sonata style, but apparently continuous.”171 Finally, he discusses the originality of the truncated return of the opening theme at the end of the work. I will return to this event later in my analysis.
Rosen 1995 (Example 5.2) views the work as having four distinct sections. It too, posits the existence of three main themes, labeled here as Themes A, B, and C. This chart indeed captures something of the spirit of the piece, particularly its juxtaposition of relatively stable thematic music and open-ended material. It also notes the underlying process of variation and describes something of the remarkable kinship among the themes. 172 Rosen’s chart, like Samson’s, is very convincing, yet problematic in two specific ways. First, neither of their diagrams clearly elucidates the tonal structure of the work. Example 5.3 presents the structural narrative in the form of a diagram. The tonal narrative described here is one of two different approaches to the dominant. Example 5.3 shows Ballade 3 as being comprised of two different approaches to a I:PAC, labeled A and B. The A progression (mm. 1-144) is an approach via the submediant. In the B progression, there is an additional approach to a I:PAC, this time through the subdominant.
170 Rosen 1995, 302.
172 Note Rosen’s claim that the A material is recomposed as Theme C.
Example 5.2: Rosen’s Formal Chart of the Ballade 3 The second major issue with Rosen’s analysis is its labeling of nearly every tonally-migratory section as a development.
173 Clearly, this is only a half-truth. While it can surely be argued that some of these sections (particularly the one from mm. 183-213) display some of the characteristics of a development section, such a view is unable to recognize its goal-directed nature. That is, we might view this section as being centrally concerned with energy-gain. Much of my following analysis shall deal with this important issue.
A common thread, the desire to relate Ballade 3 to existing formal gestures, unites both of these analyses. Indeed, Ballade 3— while unique— does in fact borrow from implicit compositional norms.
For Samson, sonata form must be invoked as the “ideal type” against which (these) unique statements have been counterpointed.”174 173 To be sure, Rosen does recognize a retransition in the passage from mm. 183-213.
174 Samson 192, 45.
Rosen echoes this statement when he maintains that the Ballade 3 “cannot be described either as ternary or as sonata, it clearly borrows from both.”175 He also claims that it works “against” these norms.176 Samson and Rosen are undoubtedly correct that the piece dialogues with pre-existing models. I believe that the Hepokoski/Darcy sonata form model will shed some light on our deeper understanding of this composition. Even though this model has great power, it is most successful when buttressed by other analytical models and ideas as well. Through the adoption of the Hepokoski/Darcy sonata paradigm (Hepokoski/Darcy 2006), Brower’s schemas for musical plot structure (Brower 2000), and the idea of TR dysfunction, this essay seeks to engage the Ballade 3 on its own terms.
5.2.1 Ballade 3: Rotational Make-Up, Sonata-Dialogue, and Dysfunctional TR I now present my new analysis which considers rotational strategy, the Sonata Theory model, TR dysfunction, and Brower’s schemas. Example 5.4 is a background formal analysis of Ballade 3. From it, we can see that the work exhibits only a small number of themes (P1, P2, S1, and S2). These insistent thematic recurrences lend the piece a rondo-like quality. Interestingly, it is the S sections of the music (mm. 54-115 and mm. 146-212) that act as refrains. That is, we might consider Ballade 3 as being a reverse-rondo. A reverse-rondo is a multi-sectional work in which a refrain that is not presented as the opening theme recurs multiple times. As such, a reverse-rondo might be considered a deformation of the typical rondo. Such reversed schemes are common in Chopin’s larger works (all of Chopin’s named sonatas, that is the three piano sonatas and the cello sonata, feature reverse recapitulations).177 Of course, the notion of the reverse-rondo is only one way which we could make sense of Ballade
3. Rotation 1, for example, has the expositional function of initiating the first theme group, establishing the global tonic, and stating the contrasting B theme. Rotation 2, by contrast has the synthetic function of bringing the two theme groups into closer contact. Finally, rotation 2 has a closure function.
Examples 5.5, 5.7, and 5.9 are detailed accounts of the three rotations. They show how sonatarhetorical gestures and the rotational impulse interact. I will begin with Example 5.5, my account of 177 By reverse scheme, I mean that theme groups are recycled in reverse order. A common manifestation of what I call a reverse scheme is the reverse recapitulation in various Mozart sonatas, such as the 1st movement of K. 311.
178 Notice that mm. 52-53 and 144-145 feature inter-modular music, a repeated-note gesture that stands between the two main thematic areas.
between thematic and transitional material. Notice that P1, a closed thematic unit, is followed by a rather lengthy multi-modular TR (mm. 9-36) that struggles to gain enough energy to modulate. Despite this struggle, a successful medial caesura is not achieved. The MC we get prepares the wrong key (vi-not the dominant) and is declined. Importantly, this declined MC in m. 36 is followed by the re-appearance of P1 in the tonic.
Many of the more idiosyncratic elements in rotation 1, including the MC issues can be traced to a single phenomenon: TR dysfunction. TR in the opening rotation (Example 5.6) exhibits much dysfunction. Most obvious is its reluctance or difficulty in moving away from the tonic orbit. This feature puts this TR module in dialogue with a very common TR paradigm in Chopin’s large works: the Unyielding Tonic TR. This kind of TR, in which the gravitational pull of the tonic is so strong that it hinders the TR process, appears in numerous other works by Chopin as well, including Ballade 1, and the Cello Sonata.