«A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College In partial fulfillment of ...»
Another recent study of Ballade 4 is Robert Morgan 2008. Morgan’s article explores how “modular thinking,” or the “use of fixed musical units repeated at pitch and in transposition, with or without superficial alterations, and in different juxtapositions and combinations” plays a large role in Chopin’s conception of form.”72 Morgan discusses a number of pieces besides Ballade 4, including two mazurkas (Op. 68, No. 2 and Op. 41 No. 1), the Nocturne in G major, Op. 37, No. 2, and the Fantasy in f minor, Op.
71 I will view many of these details in Ballade 4 differently in Chapter 4.
72 Morgan 2008, 186.
“deeply influences the overall tonal and formal construction.”73 In regards to the main theme, Morgan (like Suurpää) identifies its strong inclination toward the subdominant (the key of B
Example 1.18 Morgan’s Two Charts of Ballade 4 (Morgan 2008, 199-200) Morgan actually provides two different views of Ballade 4. In Example 1.18A, we see a view of the form that, like Suurpää’s tries to fit the work into the Procrustean bed of sonata form, complete with an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. This chart is overall quite consistent with the one presented by Suurpää (Example 1.16). Importantly, both of these authors claim that the passage beginning at m. 100 fills the function of a development.
I offer an alternative view, one that is informed by the concept of TR dysfunction and its possible consequences. Example 1.19 is my interpretation of Rotation 1 of Ballade 4.74 73 Morgan 2008, 198.
Example 1.19 Chart of Ballade 4, Rotation 1 This view interprets the passage beginning at m.
100 to be more TR. This is just one example of how the TR impulse can re-emerge at an inappropriate time in order to compensate for its earlier inadequacy.
If we reconsider the first TR (TR1, mm. 67-80) we will see that it, like most of the TRs to be found in Chopin’s output, suffers from TR dysfunction. This is a kind of dysfunctional TR that I have termed the “defective TR.” Defective TRs encounter some sort of impediment that hinders the energy-gaining process and the progress toward the MC. The main impediment in this TR, a TR that is borne from dissolution of P, occurs in m. 71. The block here is a loud chromatic chord (a viio7/Bminorthat acts much like a wall into which the music has been driven. This important chord has a major consequence: it causes a significant formal deformation. The key of theme B will not be the mediant, as is usual for a sonata that is set in the minor mode. It necessitates a pull toward the key of the subdominant, something that was initiated much earlier in the first statement of A. Besides this chromatic chord blockage, there is one other aspect of dysfunction here and that is modal identity. That is, the major key (B in which B emerges, is polluted by its parallel minor, particularly by multiple instances of scale degree . Notice the presence of multiple Gin this passage, including the highest note of the chromatic blockage chord in m.
71. This too, can be seen as a symptom of TR dysfunction.
74 In this case, I have substituted the terms “A” and “B” for “P” and “S” because of the lack of rhetorical opposition between the two main themes in the work.
I will provide in chapter 4. This formal interpretation of the work highlights its rotational makeup.
Morgan must be given the proper credit for being the first writer to truly recognize these important details.
1.3.6 Berger/ Suurpää/Klein/Morgan Conclusion Even in this preliminary discussion of the four Ballades, the power of a multi-faceted analytical approach becomes apparent. When considering these often-discussed works, it is important to seriously examine previous analyses, even if they are problematic in some way. As I have said, many of these contain much truth. This is certainly the case with the analyses provided by Rosen, Berger, Suurpää, Morgan, and Klein. Importantly, there is much that unites these seemingly disparate analyses. First, and probably most important, is the impulse to utilize new analytical methods to understand these works, whether through an approach that favors narrativity in music or one that evokes punctuation form.
Clearly, there is an impulse to understand these works as relating to the traditional sonata-allegro tradition. This is evident, to at least some degree, in all four of these newer analyses. We might say, then, that the recent trend in Ballade reception is one that is quite open to interpretations that, at the very least, see sonata form as a point of departure. The issue here, of course, is precisely to what degree the works conform to the sonata model. In Berger’s analysis, the issue of sonata form is something of a non-point;
he chose to understand the work using his signature analytical methodology, punctuation form. For Klein and Suurpää, the sonata model is more explicit. Two others who adhere to views that are closest to the one I will espouse are Jim Samson (Samson 1992) and Charles Rosen (Rosen 1998). It is my premise that the sonata-allegro model is indeed a relevant starting point for an understanding of Chopin’s four Ballades. As I shall show, it can explain much that occurs in these works in a way that is deeper and more profound than even these perceptive authors have discovered. This shall be the focal point of chapter 4 in this essay, in which I systematically examine Ballades 1, 2, 4.
Relatively little has been written about Chopin’s practice of writing sonatas.75 This is due in large part to the widespread belief that he was at best a miniaturist, a composer who was more at home with smaller, more compact forms.76 This notion, that Chopin neither understood nor could work with the prestigious sonata, must be reconsidered.77 It is the objective of this chapter to rehabilitate such assumptions. A study of these works reveals that even though they harbor some new and idiosyncratic features, they are the product of a mind that held a deep and articulate understanding of the genre. It also affirms that the sonatas, like the Ballades, can often be better understood via a three-tiered hermeneutic that utilizes the Hepokoski/Darcy Sonata Theory model, the notion of TR dysfunction, and Brower’s schemes for musical plot.78 This chapter, while also intended as an overview of the sonatas, will most sharply focus on the most notable and intriguing aspect of Chopin’s compositional practice: his altogether personal treatment of TR 75 For two important discussions of these works as a group, however, see Leiken 1992 and Samson 1985.
76 Two important essays that touch consider Chopin’s mastery of the miniature are Kallberg’s “Small Forms: In Defense of the Preludes” (Kallberg 1996, 135-160) and Rosen’s “Chopin: from the Miniature Genre to the Sublime Style” (Rosen 1999, 410-452). Particularly interesting is Rosen’s essay because it studies how Chopin’s practice of writing the mazurkas informed his idiosyncratic treatment of larger forms.
77 This mistaken assumption that Chopin’s sonatas were of a lesser quality than his other works, dates from the 19th century. Truly, Chopin’s sonata forms presented quite a challenge to his contemporaries. Characteristic is Schumann’s review of Piano Sonata No. 2 (Newman 1983, 489-90) in which the esteemed critic characterizes the piece as a sphinx. Even Eduard Hanslick expressed puzzlement over their inclusion as an organic whole (Newman 1983, 490). It was not until the next century that musicians began to see the large-scale unity in the work (Petty 1999). Piano Sonata No. 3 proved to be less problematic for critics (and audiences) during Chopin’s lifetime, even though it was by no means considered a perfect work. The Cello Sonata (Op. 65) fared even less well than its two siblings and was harshly criticized by Hanslick for “a lack of aptitude for handling the larger forms and for the polyphony expected in a duo” (Newman 1983, 494). It too, has experienced resurgence in the modern repertoire and is now recognized as an “undervalued masterpiece” (Rosen 1998, 466).
78 See Hepokoski/Darcy 2006 and Brower 2000.
aspect of his TR practice is his frequent reliance on what Hepokoski/Darcy term the de-energizing TR.79 This chapter will begin with a brief overview of the sonatas. It shall discuss Chopin’s preference for the type-2 sonata, his treatment of P- and S- spaces, and his unique caesura rhetoric. It will continue with consideration of Chopin’s special brand of TR procedures, especially his treatment of the de-energizing TR. Finally, the chapter will conclude with an analysis of the first movement of Piano Sonata No. 2 that acknowledges the de-energizing TR as the focal point of the musical drama.
Like many of his contemporaries, Chopin wrote relatively few compositions that he explicitly named sonatas.80 The ones he wrote, however, are an exceptional body of works that demand close examination. Chopin’s sonata forms can be divided into two categories: early and mature. I consider those early works to be the ones written between 1827 and 1830 (Example 2.1A). This group includes Piano Sonata No. 1, the Piano Trio, and the two Piano Concerti. Conversely, I consider mature works to be those written after 1830: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3, and the Cello Sonata (Example 2.1B).81
79 De-energizing transitions are those TRs which are characterized by energy-loss rather than energy-gain. By energy-loss, I mean that the passage in question seems to lose momentum or exhibit some kind of ambivalence about its prescribed generic goals. As we shall see, momentum-loss can be manifested in a variety of ways including decrease in loudness, thinning out of texture, or premature energy diffusion.
80 The composers from the generation after Schubert and Beethoven did indeed write relatively few piano sonatas.
Schumann, for example, wrote only three piano sonatas. Liszt wrote two and Brahms wrote three. Mendelssohn’s piano sonatas, although he wrote three, have not earned a spot in the standard piano repertoire.
81 Two important discussions of the piano sonatas as a group are Samson 1992 and Leiken 1992. Both essays deal with characteristics of the works themselves, Chopin’s unique way of composing sonatas, and his response to and engagement with the tradition of the eighteenth-century sonata.
Many scholars criticized and commented on this seemingly bizarre practice, citing the provincial nature of his musical education or claiming that Chopin outright misunderstood the rhetorical demands of the genre.82 Even though Chopin’s early sonata-form works are bewildering from a number of perspectives, their unique formal logic emerges when viewed through the lenses of Sonata Theory and Brower’s image schemas. These works, in which traditional MC rhetoric seems to be reversed, afford a glimpse into his later works in which the accomplishment of a normative, answered caesura that prepares the tonic is a structural goal.
2.1.3 Sonata Types and Exposition Types As the above charts show, Chopin composed sonata movements of three different types: 2, 3, and
5.83 In his early career, Chopin preferred the more common type 3 sonata, those that feature three rotations. In his maturity, however, he only composed type 2 sonatas, or double-rotation sonatas.84 Chopin composed no works that feature the continuous exposition: all of his first movement sonata form works are of the two-part variety. Study of Chopin’s sonata practice reveals a definite maturity in his handling of the form. In his early career, Chopin was an experimenter in the form; his early sonatas display some unique features. Most notable is the fact that few of their expositions modulate. At first 82 See Samson 1994, 1992; Rosen 1998; Leiken 1992.
83 Of course, Chopin composed works of the type 4 variety, but they remain outside of the scope of the present chapter.
84 Type 2 sonatas are those works with reverse recapitulations. In a reverse recapitulation, the expositional thematic configuration is cycled through in reverse order. That is, S appears before P.
with an altogether new paradigm. In Chopin’s early sonatas, the impulse to produce a normative, answered caesura that prepares a secondary key is a structural impetus. This impulse may override structural boundaries. We shall see this played out in a number of Chopin’s later compositions, such as Piano Sonata No. 2 and several of the Ballades.
2.1.4 Chopin’s Sonata Rhetoric: P, S, and C spaces As Chopin progressed and matured as a composer, his sonata rhetoric became more systematic and individualized. Clearly, Chopin began to prefer to fill the zones of sonata space with specific kinds of music. For Chopin, certain musical topics (such as the nocturne or the Berceuse) were rhetorically appropriate for certain musical spaces. We can see an evolution in Chopin’s personal sonata rhetoric. In his early music, action zones tended to be filled with music that is, for the most part, rhetorically neutral.
In his maturity, however, these modules come laden with topical connotations.
Chopin tended to fill his P-spaces with two kinds of thematic configurations: the parallel period and the grand antecedent (Example 2.2). The P-Spaces in Chopin’s three major sonata-form works are presented in Examples 2.3A-C. Chopin did not seem to harbor a special proclivity for either kind of construction, as each appears equally in his output.85 For the most part, Chopin filled the P-spaces of sonata form with music that is either topically neutral or genre-nonspecific. That is, his P -spaces do not correlate to specific genres. One does not encounter, for example, any P themes that resonate with the topical essence of the Mazurka or the Polonaise. We do, however, encounter some P themes that correlate to more generalized musical affects such as the “storm and stress” in Piano Sonata No. 2 and the march in Piano Sonata No. 3.