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his claims of a central defiant act and a reckoning of that act. Still, though, it could have been more successful if it would have been able to make reference to the genre of the sonata which is so apparent in
closely informs my perspective on Chopin’s Ballades. In this seminal work, Rosen provides ample description of all four of the Ballades in his chapter entitled “Chopin: Counterpoint and the Narrative Forms.” His comments take the form of prose descriptions and basic formal tables. He praises the
Ballades for their synthesis of opposed impulses, the narrative and the lyric:
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. It is largely for this reason that Classical criteria of form apply so awkwardly to the Ballades, although we cannot entirely dismiss them as the composer was still working with them, or, more interestingly, against them.48
descriptions of Ballades 1, 2, and 4. Rosen’s description of Ballade 1 is typical of his approach. In this description, Rosen posits the importance of Chopin’s use of refrain, details the organicism in the work’s motives, considers the work’s overall form, and notes its dependence on the operatic tradition that was so prevalent during Chopin’s formative years. He writes that the themes in Ballade 1 “correspond to verse patterns often found in opera libretti.”49 Below (Example 1.11) is Rosen’s account of the form of Ballade 1. Rosen pays special attention to the appearances and re-appearances of four central, motivically integrated themes: 1A, 1B, 2A, and 2B.
Even from his simplified chart of the form we can take away several ideas that will be useful in the study of this Ballade. First, is the fact that much of his labeling depends upon and evokes (sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly) the norms of sonata form and rondo form. Notice that Rosen does not partition the work into the standard sonata form, with an exposition, development and recapitulation. He maintains, however, that sonata form must be an important point of reference for all four of the Ballades.
It is my contention that the sonata elements in this and the other three Ballades are more basic and more controlling than even Rosen allows.
Second is Rosen’s special concern for issues of tonality. Even though he does not resort to an overlysophisticated methodology for this, he emphasizes the returns of the two major tonalities in the work: G minor and Emajor.
Finally, Rosen emphasizes “the crucial role of dynamics in Chopin’s conception of form.”50 His chart (Example 1.11) clarifies the dramatic trajectory of Ballade 1: a soft start in the initial section, a gradual build to a fortissimo in the second, a drop down to pianissimo at the beginning of the third section, and a return to loudness in the final section.
Rosen’s discussion of Ballade 2 is no less perceptive. Even though Rosen claims that the themes of Ballade 1 closely resemble operatic models, he says precisely the opposite about Ballade 2 in which the main theme takes the form of a “medieval ballad.”51 He also touches on another important facet of this electrifying composition. This is the fact that the piece itself is a fragment. According to Rosen, “… it begins in the middle, as if it had been going on for some time… ”52 Rosen downplays this Ballade’s dependence on the classical sonata. Rosen makes an excellent comment about how the tonalities in the two main themes are related, saying “the opening of the Ballade 2 is a model of how to allow one tonality to grow out of one another without the formal modulation and oppositions of a sonata exposition.”53 On the contrary, chapter four shall show that the dependence on the norms of the classical sonata is just as strong—and even stronger— here as they are in the other three Ballades.
51 Ibid., 328.
52 Ibid., 239.
53 Ibid., 332.
aspect of the work, that it may exemplify tonal pairing, directional tonality, or a double tonic complex, has been touched upon by several other commentators.54 But what is important about Rosen’s discussion of this work is his claim that the true attainment of a minor is achieved through what he calls a “synthesis.”55 Unfortunately, Rosen does not outright define what he means by synthesis in this case, but it is at least clear that he has recognized the fact that the two main themes are amalgamated at a climactic moment near the end of the work. We shall see that this bringing together of disparate thematic modules happens in other works by Chopin as well.
Rosen also discusses Ballade 4 emphasizing the presence of variation and its role in the formal discourse. He also concentrates on another very important aspect in Ballade 4, and this is persistent, unyielding ambiguity. For example, he writes a great deal about the opening and principal theme of this work.56 Finally, Rosen sets forth certain principles of construction that are inherent in each of the four Ballades. There are several and they are presented in a table below (Example 1.12).
Features two thematic groups in different keys, but that display little contrast in affect.
These themes contaminate each other (either by development or recombination) There is an appearance of the operatic stretto which serves to raise the tension The return of the original material is greatly truncated The return is followed by a virtuoso coda, based on new material.
Example 1.12 Rosen’s Characteristics of the Ballade Genre57 54 These include Krebs 1982, Kinderman 1988, and Korsyn 1989 among others.
55 Rosen 1998, 333.
56 The ambiguity in Ballade 4 seems to be a major issue with other authors as well. See Cone 1994 and Rothstein 1994.
57 Rosen 1998, 335.
Michael Klein is another author from whom we have significant recent commentaries about the Ballades. Klein’s work focuses on issues of narrativity in music and his analyses of Ballades 1 and 4 are worth a close look (see Example 1.13).
Very importantly, as Example 1.13 shows, Klein claims that these works are in a dialogue with sonata form. He says that both of these works can be viewed as having an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. Klein is unwilling to use any other kinds of sonata-form terminology in his discussion, as he states “rather than view these Ballades as unruly sonatas, it seems more productive to discover their formal/expressive logic.”58 Klein’s claim that they have a unique formal/expressive logic is very potent and rewarding. Truly, his formal parsing of the works reveals much about their inner structure. The problem is, the sonata form model can give us more insights about these works than Klein, or any other author admits. The perspective afforded by the Sonata Theory model is especially valuable.59 As Example 1.13 shows, Klein also makes a differentiation between different topical resonances in these two works. A look at his analyses shows that these two works tend to exhibit a relatively small number of recurring topical features, including the waltz, the Berceuse, apotheosis, Polonaise, and pastoral topics. This is one of the most perceptive and helpful parts of his analyses.
Also notable are Klein’s dichotomies between lyric/narrative time and Satz/Gang. As Klein states, narrative time is “time passing” while lyric time is “time arrested.”60 Interestingly, these differences in formal function map quite well onto Sonata Theory’s differentiation between P, S, C, and TR- space.
Klein’s thoughtful analyses also highlight some of the striking similarities between Ballades 1 and 4.
Both works start with a short introduction in lyric time and end with a tragic coda in narrative time. It is 58 Klein 2004, 31.
59 Elsewhere, Klein invokes the issue of the Hepokoski/Darcy model and its efficacy as a tool for understanding Ballade 2 (Klein 2009, 118-199). Here, he makes some very important claims that are worth revisiting. He suggests that the Ballades exhibit the presence of and rotation through themes in different keys. He rightly asserts that Ballade 2 is in dialogue with the type 2 sonata. This is as far as he is willing to go, however. It is my position that the Hepokoski/Darcy model is even more useful as a tool than Klein admits.
60 Klein 2004, 38.
Ballades, as the achievement of apotheosis.
Example 1.13 Klein’s Analyses of Ballades 1 and 461 According to Klein, “in Chopin’s larger works, including the Ballades, formal/expressive logic is directed toward what Cone calls apotheosis, ‘a special kind of recapitulation that reveals unexpected harmonic richness and textural excitement in a theme previously presented with a deliberately restricted harmonization and a relatively drab accompaniment.
’”62 It is notable that in these two works, the apotheosis does not occur in the codas, but rather occurs sometime before that. This reveals much about the inherent tragedy in the codas of these two works: they serve as ‘counter-apotheoses,’ overturning pseudo-transcendences that occur usually about two-thirds through the work. This is an important issue in Ballades 1, 2, and 4.
Karol Berger has discussed Ballade 1 in both historical and analytical contexts (see Berger 1993 and 1996). He, like Klein, makes a distinction between the different types of musical time in Chopin’s Ballades. For him, as for Klein, the dichotomy is between narrative and lyric time. As he claims, “the problem of any large complex, narrative form with continuity” has a solution, what he terms “probabilistic causality.”63 Berger’s methodology is highly idiosyncratic and it produces some analyses that, like this one, are highly complicated and difficult to interpret.64 Example 1.14 is Berger’s analysis of the “punctuation form” of Ballade 1. Punctuation form is “the way the work is articulated into a hierarchy or parts by means of stronger and weaker cadences.”65 Punctuation form, then by virtue of its emphatic focus on the articulative role of cadences, can be seen as being related to the Sonata Theory model.
Example 1.14 Berger’s Analysis of the Punctuation Form of Ballade 1 (Berger 1996, 51) 66 63 Berger 2006, 47.
64 It may be for these reasons that his method of analysis never really spread through the music theory community.
65 Berger 2006, 47.
66 It will be useful to explain the designations “l” and “e” in Berger’s chart. “L” indicates that the section is linked with the following, while “e” indicates that the section is elided with the following. (Berger 1996, 50)
that Berger refrains from ascribing any kind of rhetorical function to all of the themes.67 Notice that he does actually label some of the music as being either episodes or transitions. As we can see, he does not parse the work as a sonata; he doesn’t make any claims for an exposition, development or recapitulation.
Unfortunately, Berger does make some significant interpretive errors, particularly in the realm of formal function (see Example 1.15). For example, he posits three “appendices” that follow the exposition of what he calls “the first balanced phrase (mm. 9-36).” 68 Clearly, due to its energy gaining nature, the music from mm. 36-67 could be regarded as a lengthy, multi-modular transition.69 Example 1.15 Berger’s Analysis of the Harmonic and Thematic Plans of Ballade 1 (Berger 1996, 53)
Suurpää’s analysis of Ballade 4 appears in the context of a description of the different ways in which the tonic-dominant space of the Bassbrechung, the space between the first two background Stufen, can be 67 Berger does, however, make the claim that the opening moderato (m. 9-90) “preserves unmistakable traces of the Sonata-Allegro tradition” (Berger 1996, 49).
68 Berger 1996, 49.
69 In fact, this long, dysfunctional, belabored TR is clearly involved with a kind of TR paradigm that I have identified as the Unyielding Tonic. I will discuss this important passage at length in chapter 3.
Schenkerian graphs in his discussion. Example 1.16 is Suurpää’s formal chart for Ballade 4. My gloss appears as the topmost text. Clearly, this is one analysis that claims that this work is in a dialogue with the sonata.
Example 1.16 Suurpää’s Formal Analysis of Ballade 4 (Suurpää 2000, 466) Notice his division of the work into introduction (mm.
1-7), exposition (mm. 8-134), recapitulation (mm. 135-211), and coda (mm. 210-end). Importantly, Suurpää evokes the Hepokoski/Darcy concept of rotation in his analysis, even though he uses it to describe the cycling through a middleground motive. I have termed these as “motivic” rotations and they are designated in the graph as R1, R2, R3, or R4. What Suurpää actually refers to as the rotational material is the motive presented at the bottom of Example
1.17. This is the motion of the bass voice from scale degree 1 to 5 via an intermediate scale degree 4.
From this graph we can see that this motive is progressively enlarged throughout the course of the work.
Notice that in rotation 1, the subdominant event, actually appears as a localized, subordinated event.
The Bdoes not have a stem or a flag. In rotation 2, it appears flagged and stemmed, to indicate its greater salience. In rotation 2, the flagged and stemmed note is prolonged via a lower-neighbor note motion 70 Suurpää 2000, 451.
participates in a chromatic voice exchange and an unfolding.71 Example 1.17 Suurpää’s Schenkerian Background /Structural Analysis of Ballade 4 (Suurpää 2000, 478)