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John Rink’s important article, “Chopin’s Ballades and the Dialectic: Analysis in Historical Perspective” is the most comprehensive overview of the Ballade analyses. In this article, Rink describes three phases of critical response to these works: two early phases and a third phase that represents a dialectical synthesis of the first two. Example 1.5 outlines these phases below. As we can see from this diagram, there are many important analyses to be considered here. In phase 1, we find those 19th century analyses that attempt to match the four Ballades with some sort of narrative-extra-musical program.24 Schumann 1888 and Niecks 1902 are the two most important writers to be considered in this group.
Schumann, of course, was one of the earliest critics to associate the Ballade 2 with the poetry of Adam Mickiewicz. Besides this, he had less to say about these works than one might expect: he was content to provide pithy descriptions of the other three. This shows his “reluctance to engage with a ‘poetical work’ like this” (Rink 1994, 101). Such reluctance is characteristic of this initial critical phase.
The next phase of critical response, the architectural phase, is the antithesis of the phase 1. In this phase critics approached the four works on strictly musical grounds. The most important representative analyses of this phrase include Schenker’s analyses of the Ballade 1 in Free Composition and Leichtentritt’s important analyses. Leichtentritt’s work was the first to engage the Ballades on purely musical terms. As Rink states, his work relies “not on emotional keynotes, but on structural parameters” (Rink 1994, 101).
24 Indeed, there has been a tradition dating back to the mid-nineteenth century that claims that these four works are musical manifestations of the Ballades of the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz and even that specific Ballades were inspired by specific poems. For example, it was believed that Ballade 2 was inspired by Mickiewicz’s ballade Switez and that Ballade 3 was related to the poem Switezianka (Samson 1992, 17-35).
Besides showing numerous important diagrams of phrase structures and harmonic make-up, Leichtentritt makes an important claim on which my study relies. That is his notion that the genre of the Ballade is a sort of meta-genre, it is one that “combines elements of the Lied, rondo, sonata, and variation set.”25 The next important author from the second phase is Heinrich Schenker, whose middleground structural graph of the Ballade 1, is truly an important pillar. Example 1.6 presents his analysis of this work.
Example 1.6 Schenker’s middleground graph of Ballade 1, (Rink 1994, 103) 25 Rink 1994, 101-102.
form."26 The Schenkerian analytical approach has informed many other analyses of the Ballades including Krebs 1981 and Korsyn 1989. Krebs’ important work, a study of Ballade 2, evokes the issue of directional tonality and the double-tonic complex.27
The next critical phrase, a synthesis of the earlier two, invokes a crucial issue that still remains a contested topic. This is the relationship between the sonata and the Ballades.28 Leichtentritt 1922 was one of the first important authors to bring up this issue, as I have said.29 From Example 1.7, which displays more recent analyses, one would infer that this debate is over: clearly the sonata side has won out. Still, I will give attention to the lone dissenters Parakilas 1992 and Rawsthorne 1973.
Example 1.7 Two Sides of the Debate: Chopin’s Ballades and Their Relationship to Sonata Form 26 Rink 1994, 103.
27 Another major analysis that does the same is Kinderman’s study of the Ballade 2 (Kinderman 1988).
28 My discussion of the history of the Ballade/Sonata debate is highly informed by the one presented by Parakilas 1992, 84-77, who presents an interesting and thorough treatment of the issue.
29 It is quite popular to posit Lechtentritt and Schenker as having antithetical views on this issue; Rink does it as does Parakilas.
30 Parakilas 1992 is an invaluable survey of the instrumental Ballade. It demonstrates the efficacy of an approach that prizes a Ballade’s relationship to the narrative model and not the sonata model. According to Parakilas “what makes the Chopin’s Ballades similar in form to each other and distinct from other music is not a shared relationship to sonata form, but a shared analogy to another model, the narrative model that Chopin advertised in their title.” (Parakilas 1992, 87)
As Example 1.7 shows, Klein 2004 and 2008 and Rothstein 1994 are only two of the most recent scholars to claim that Ballades relate to sonata form.31 Several mid-to-late twentieth century writers, including Abraham 1960, Griffel 1982, Samson 1992, and Witten 1996 make similar assertions.
Abraham 1960, who makes the notable claim that Chopin’s Ballades are set in sonata form, presents succinct discussion of all four Ballades. His treatment of these works, especially how he regards their relationship to the sonata is well worth comment. According to Abraham, Ballade 1 showed “signs that Chopin was beginning to understand something of the real essence of sonata-form.”32 Abraham presents simple formal charts to depict the form of three of the four Ballades (No. 1, 3, and 4). Example
1.8 presents his chart of Ballade 1.
Example 1.8 Abraham’s Formal Chart of Ballade 1 (Abraham, 1960, 55) Even though this chart is simple, it reveals much about Abraham’s view of the piece, and of the Ballade genre as a whole.
One immediately notices that tempo and tempo relationships play an articulative role in this work. Besides this, Abraham’s discussion presents the work as a relatively clear sonata, with an underlying arch form and two themes that are presented and recapitulated. Notice that Abraham, like several other authors, conceives of this work as displaying a reverse recapitulation. Also 31 Although his study is more geared toward performance issues and thematic ambiguity, Rothstein makes brief comment about form in the Ballades. According to Rothstein 1994, 2-3, “all of the Ballades make some reference to the conventions of nineteenth-century sonata form; the Ballade 2 is again a partial exception, being less sonata-like than the others.” Notably, he and Klein were the first scholars to evoke the Hepokoski/Darcy model in reference to Chopin’s Ballades. As he claims “the term ‘sonata deformation,’ coined by James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, could be used—with appropriate qualification in each case—to describe the formal rhetoric of the first, third, and fourth Ballades.” 32 Abraham 1960, 54-5.
development, even though, according to him, even though he claims that it “consists rather of variation and improvisation than of true development.”33 Abraham has less to say about Ballade 2, except that it is a “modification of the same form.”34 There are, however, a few important things that Abrahams mentions in regard to Ballades 3 and 4.
Abraham claims, for example, that Ballade 3 “follows nearly the same structural plan as the G minor, but with three principal subjects instead of two, and with the development placed after the reprise.”35 He also discusses the fusion of theme A with theme B in what he calls the development section. Finally, he claims that Ballade 4 is “a masterly deformation of sonata form.”36 Clearly then, Abraham’s discussion of the four Ballades is particularly relevant for us. His discussion was one of the first to suggest and provide solid evidence for a strong relationship between the Ballades and the sonata. Another important writer who discussed this issue was Griffel 1982. He, like Abraham, posits that the Ballades contain features that “constitute sonata form.”37Importantly, he claims that there are six features in the Ballades that make them sonatas. These are presented in Example 1.9 Six Features That Constitute Sonata Form, According to Griffel The presentation of a first theme in a tonic key and of a second theme in a contrasting key during the exposition The connection of these contrasting themes through a transitional mechanism involving modulation The presence of a developmental section in which such compositional operations as modulation, fragmentation, and recombination of thematic fragments occur A build-up of tension during the development section, with a climactic peak leading directly into the recapitulation A recapitulation of at least one of the main themes from the exposition A special closing section for the movement as a whole, which one can safely call a coda Example 1.9 Six Features That Constitute Sonata Form, According To Griffel Most of the claims made by Griffel here are justifiable. The biggest issue is that of the supposed development sections. It would be unwise to claim that each one of the Ballades contains a separate 33 Abraham 1960, 55.
34 Ibid., 56.
35 Ibid., 108.
36 Ibid. Fascinatingly, this suggestion of sonata-form deformation predates the sonata theory model by nearly 50 years!
37 Griffel 1982, 127.
work, to view these developments as having the goal-directed nature of transitions.38 The writings of Jim Samson 1992 and 1985 have proven to be foundational for the generation of analysts that followed him. Certainly, Samson argues that the Ballades have a clear relationship with the sonata. Like Abraham, however, he does not argue that the works are wholly set in sonata form, but make clear references to it. In his discussions, Samson, like Hepokoski/Darcy stresses the importance of compositional norms. According to Samson, “Far from ignoring sonata form we need to recognize it as the essential reference point for all four Ballades—the ‘ideal type’ or archetype against which unique statements have been counterpointed.”39 Witten 1996 is another notable study. 40 He goes a step further when he says “Chopin does not merely use sonata form as a point of departure—he carries the principle of statement-intensification to new heights not foreseen in the works of his predecessors."41 1.2.4 The Cons: A Possible Alternative?
As we can see from Example 1.7, the overwhelming majority of analysts claim that the Ballades do make reference to sonata form. There are a few writers, however, who argue that they do not. Chief among these are Rawsthorne 1996 and Parakilas 1992. Rawsthorne, even though he admits that “the sonata principle is implicit in at least three of the Ballades," does not recommend that they be viewed as sonatas.”42 As he says, “it would be foolish to regard these pieces from the point of view of sonata movements, in spite of certain resemblances.”43 Importantly, in the course of his relatively lengthy prose discussions of the Ballades, he claims that the classical model of sonata form is “quite unnecessary for their understanding.”44 38 I will discuss the natures of and difference between development, transition, and re-transition in Chapter 2 in much detail.
39 Samson 1992, 45.
40 Witten’s 1996 Schenkerian-inspired study is currently undervalued as it contains much insight about the structures of the four Ballades. Witten discusses several key structural features in these works, including the placement of the large scale dominant as close to the end of each work as possible, the consistent use of the submediant as an upper neighbor to the structural dominant, and the deployment of wedge progressions that close in on scale degree 5.
41 Witten 1996, 119.
42 Rawsthorne 1996, 45.
understanding of the Ballades. This is not the case with Parakilas 1992, who claims that the Ballades can most profitably be understood as musical manifestations of what he calls the “Ballade process.”45 Parakilas posits several key characteristics of the Ballade process: “a focus on one character and that character’s change from an active to a passive role that is initiated by a defiant act from the central character and completed by a response to that act.”46 Additionally, he claims a three-part form can be found in all four of Chopin’s Ballades. He presents two important examples, diagrams of Ballades 1 and 3.
Parakilas’s analysis of the three- stage form of Ballade 1 appears in Example 1.10. Notice that Parakilas sees the work as featuring an introduction followed by three stages. The first two stages are subdivided into two and three scenes respectively. The third stage, however, is not subdivided. It features the characteristic reckoning.47 Interestingly, Parakilas’s partition of the work into three stages is nearly consistent with mine, which views the work as consisting of three rotations. The difference here, of course, is that Parakilas sees the primary theme (the opening g-minor theme) as appearing as a kind of prelude to the scenes that occur between it. I, on the other hand, see the primary theme as serving as the initiator of the rotational process.
There are two significant issues that need to be addressed in Parakilas’s analysis. The first is his labeling of certain musical modules as passagework and precipitating themes. The theme which begins in m. 36 must not be regarded as a new theme, but rather it should be seen as relating to the primary theme.
Inexplicably, he misses the fact that the passage from mm. 36-68 is a long, dependent transition and dismisses the music from mm. 44-67 as mere passagework. He does the same thing when he claims the music beginning at m. 124 is passagework. Clearly, this music is part of a dissolving consequent that began in mm. 114.
45 Parakilas 1992, 34-37 46 Ibid., 35.
47 Unfortunately, Parakilas does not chart the defiant act that he claims is such a crucial narrative component of Chopin’s treatment of the Ballade genre.
2 1 2 3
206-64 8 36 154 106 138 166 194 124 44 68 94 Example 1.10 Three- Stage Form in Ballade 1 (Parakilas 1992, 73)