Polish Music Journal

Vol. 3, No. 1, Summer 2000. ISSN 1521 - 6039



ABSTRACTS OF ARTICLES
Vol. 3, No. 1 (Summer 2000)

Helman Piotrowska Turło Witkowska-Zaremba


Teresa Dalila Turło: "On the Chronology of Chopin Works (Sonatas, Nocturnes, Polonaises and Mazurkas): A Documentary Source Study."

(Article translated by Olga Zurawska)

The paucity of primary sources is a serious impediment in the study of Chopin's music; extant sources are often incomplete and scattered. For many years after the composer's death the same traits characterized information about the sources and this fact resulted in many false hypotheses. The author contradicts a stereotype of modern Chopin research according to which the investigation of a particular, basic issue (i.e. an individual work by Chopin) must be preceded by in-depth documental and monographic studies. The core of this study consists in a general discussion of the sources of the early sonata-forms, nocturnes, polonaises and mazurkas; the article also presents the current state of research into the chronology of composition and first editions of works belonging to the four genres. The author classifies and criticizes the sources, dividing them into two main groups. The first group (definite information) contains: (1) dated autographs; (2) Chopin's correspondence; (3) press notices regarding the publication and performance of the compositions; (4) testimonies by members of the composer's close circle (primarily information from Julian Fontana, Ludwika Jedrzejewiczowa, Oskar Kolberg and Chopin's pupils). The second group of uncertain material includes sources which enable one to approximate the dates of some of the compositions. These sources are comprised of: (1) undated autographs; (2) first editions; (3) information from Chopin's early publishers and biographers; (4) secondary information about Chopin's early publishers and biographers (secondary to the sources mentioned in the previous point). Chronological lists of pieces belonging to the four genres occupy a central place in the article; the lists include information about the genesis of these works as well as qualitative characterizations of their sources and first editions. The author's earlier research of this subject (i.e. her earlier publication co-authored with Chomiński, The Catalogue of Fryderyk Chopin's Works 1991) and the work conducted by Jan Ekier (1974) and Jeffrey Kallberg (1983) allow for compiling extensive documentation of the dates of composition and publication of works belonging to the four genres. In addition, the research also enables the author to correct certain dates, which were attributed erroneously, and to clarify inaccuracies in historical interpretations that have been perpetuated in Chopin studies until now.

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Zofia Helman: "Norms and Individuation in Chopin's Sonatas"

(Article translated by Radosław Materka and Maja Trochimczyk)

The research into the presence of sonata forms in Chopin's music (Niecks 1890, Huneker 1900, Leichtentritt 1921-22, Opieński 1928-29, Chomiński 1960) shows a clear and pronounced dependency upon the theoretical paradigms of the sonata-form that prevailed during that period. Consequently, early analyses of Chopin's sonatas pointed out their departures from the classical norm; subsequently the specific romantic features of the sonatas were stressed, in particular, the principle of deriving all the themes of a movement from one motivic substance. This aspect of Chopin's style was seen as heralding the late romantic sonatas of Franck and Liszt.

The present study eschews an appraisal of Chopin's sonatas from the perspective of an academic model of the sonata-form. The compositions are treated as individual solutions to the range of problems posed by the genre itself. In considering the question of changes in the sonata-genre in Chopin's music, the author strives first and foremost to reveal the relationships and tensions which arise between a repertoire of norms inherited from the past and the modification and extension of such old principles. The confrontation of actual compositional practice with the theory of sonata-form that prevailed at the turn of the 18th and the 19th centuries (Koch 1782- 93, Galeazzi 1796, Reicha 1834) is also of vital importance in this context. Chopin did not revolutionize sonata form. Irrespective of the changes which occur in the treatment of the genre, Chopin's sonata-form compositions generally preserve the four-movement cycle, with the consistent layout of movements; obviously, he also adheres to the framework of the sonata-allegro form, with its classic division into a repeated exposition, development and recapitulation. The manner in which the internal form of Chopin's sonata cycles is fashioned determines their division into two groups. The first group encompasses pieces written up to 1830 (Sonata in C minor, Piano Trio in G minor), the second group includes three sonatas from the late period. Initially, Chopin had recourse to various sonata- allegro traditions, although he avoided the scheme that was most widely employed and accepted by the theoreticians. In the Sonata in C minor, similarly to the Piano Trio, the exposition remained in a uniform tonality, while contrasts in the tonality of the subject were transferred to the recapitulation. The change in Chopin's style around 1837-39 was determined not so much by his re-acceptance of the sonata-genre that had been neglected in his music of the previous years, as by changes in the internal formation of the sonata-allegro and changes in his musical language.

In the later sonatas the Chopinesque model of the sonata-allegro was established with the following four groups of features: (1) a binary division into exposition and development with recapitulation, (2) a clear thematic conflict, (3) the opening of the recapitulation with the second theme, and (4) the unification of thematic material. In respect to the first characteristics, Chopin's expositions are longer than those appearing in the sonatas of, for example, Schubert and Schumann; the ratio of Chopin's expositions to second parts consisting of the development and the recapitulation is more or less 1:1, whereas the beginning of the recapitulation appears approximately at the golden section. (2) The second subject (in the relative major, with the lyrical characteristics of a cantilena) does not have the character of a subsidiary idea but plays a vital role in the form as a whole and is not of secondary importance when compared with the first subject. (3) The recapitulation opens with the second subject in the tonic major. The omission of the first subject results not so much from an avoidance of literal repetition as from dramaturgy of form. Elements of the first subject are not introduced until the end of the recapitulation. (4) Chopin's sonatas-cycles are distinguished to a greater or lesser extent by a tendency towards unification of thematic material in individual movements, or, indeed, in the whole cycle, by means of small motivic cells. Irrespective of this multi-factored model which provides solely a compositional framework, each of Chopin's late sonatas has its own, distinct and individual features and creates a specific variant of the model. Individuation is linked with transformations of the musical language as well as with the individual dramatic conception of each sonata.

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Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba: "Versification, Syntax and Form in Chopin's Mazurkas"

(Article translated by Maria Pilatowicz)

The mazurkas - dance miniatures that Chopin composed throughout his entire creative life - constitute suitable material for an attempt at investigating the stylistic changes that occurred within the framework of a single genre. Only the mazurkas with opus numbers that were published during Chopin's lifetime are considered in the present study. The methodological framework for the analysis of the genre is provided by theoretical principles of classical period form, accepted by Koch, Riepel, Marx and Riemann. The investigation centers on the combined action of the basic constituents of period-form, the syntax revealing themselves through Taktordnung with its own symmetry and segmentation that consitute a logical successor to the Taktordnung. In the mazurkas these constituents of the periodic form are treated in an individualized and differentiated manner which is coupled with a degree of relaxation of the connection between syntax and metrics, a connection that lies at the foundation of classical norms. The first element of periodicity to be thoroughly studied is the relationship of "antecedent- consequent." Compositional devices which serve to obliterate this relationship - while retaining the other constituents of periodicity - may be observed from Op. 7 (1824-32) onwards. Op. 7 also reveals the first signs of a different procedure based on a weakening of the mid- period caesura with a simultaneous enhancement of the "antecedent-consequent" relationship. The compositional devices which serve to weaken, mask and display the mid-period caesura have enabled the construction of syntactic entities extending beyond the framework of the segmentation that results from the classical Taktordnung. The most subtle of these devices is slurring "against the phrase," operating - in effect - against the fundamental constituents of periodicity and at times re-organizing the form of the composition. The final constituent of periodic structure to be reconsidered in the mazurkas is the Taktordnung and the binary principle organizing the basic tissue of the musical substance, and at the same time marking out the pulse of "periodic rhythm." This principle was clearly undermined in Op. 56, no. 3 (1843-44).

The varied treatment of the individual constituents of periodic form determines the variety of the mazurkas within the genre. The emphasis on the "antecedent-consequent" relationship together with the simultaneous masking or displacement of the conclusion of the period, the expansion of the phrase and the disturbance of its rhythm lead to an increase in expression and a dramatization of form. The blurring of the "antecedent-consequent" relationship, on the other hand, with the simultaneous exposure of the metric factor leads to an abstraction of musical form. This variety announced its presence in the very earliest opus numbers, reached its widest range in Op. 41 (No.1 and No.2) and Op. 56 (No.2 and No.3) and was then significantly reduced in Op.59 and Op.63.

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Maria Piotrowska: "'Late Chopin:' Remarks on Chopin's Last Works"

Article translated by Joanna Niżyńska and J. Peter Schertz

The article contains notes on three works dating from Chopin's final years of composition: the Barcarolle in F-sharp major Op. 60, the Sonata in G minor for piano and cello Op. 65, and the song, Melody for voice and piano to a text by Zygmunt Krasiński. These are unique pieces which lie outside the development lines of style that can be drawn within the framework of individual genres. The exceptional position of these three pieces is determined in each case by the variety of factors: the generic variant of the characteristic piano piece; the scoring; the expression. All three pieces are united by a common feature: a mastery of late style. The hermeneutic intention of the article has not been assisted by the isolation of the individual works; the author has therefore referred to examples of hermeneutics of classical origin where the subject of hermeneutic interpretation is a single work. Since this characteristic is best applied to the Barcarolle, a commentary about this work occupies a central place in the article. Here, the point of departure is Karol Stromenger's hypothesis (1934) that the Barcarolle was an individual setting of Z. Krasiński's poem "Przed¶wit," being, on the one hand, a poetical expose of the poet's Messianic system and, on the other, a hommage to Delfina Potocka. The author attempts to develop and document Stromenger's convincing suggestion that calls into question a popular thesis about Chopin's negative attitude to Polish Messianism. It also sheds new light on certain personal details. What is without doubt, however, is that the experience of Krasiński's work by the composer of the Barcarolle was certainly in the order of a "cultural experience", of which Op. 60 is the final "expression." The sonata Op.65 is examined, among other perspectives, from the viewpoint of its connections with the youthful Trio Op. 8. In both these works there are influences of Beethovenian gestures assuming a more elusive and sublime character in the Sonata. A hint of romantic irony links this work with the Barcarolle, while both pieces display unequivocal autobiographical features. In the light of its connections with Krasiński's poem, the Barcarolle evokes and reaffirms the world of values most highly revered by the composer. A similar rhethorical gesture is found in the Sonata Op. 65, where the main theme of the first movement makes referrence to Chopin's Warsaw piano concertos; thus, the sonata has the character of a clear reminiscence. When placed in the period in which these works were written, their hermeneutical content may be comprehended as an expression of the moral defense of the composer's inner "self" whose autonomy he doubtlessly felt was threatend. The deepening depression pervading Chopin's life revealed itself in the song, Melody the text of which leaves no doubt as to Chopin's preoccupation with the contents of great Polish Messianic poetry. The seven-line text of the song read in the context of Krasiński's whole poem, bestows a deeply pessimistic tone upon this late masterpiece, making it, along with works Op. 60 and 65, a musical example of the "introvertism" of Chopin's late creative period.

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NOTE: The abstracts have been adapted, with small stylistic corrections, from their English-language versions (by K. Tylko-Hill) published in the Polish edition of Przemiany stylu Chopina (1993).



Editor: Maja Trochimczyk. Publisher: Polish Music Center
Copyright 2000 by the Polish Music Journal.
Design: Maja Trochimczyk, Marcin Depinski.
Editorial assistance: Blanka Sobus.
Comments and inquiries by e-mail: polmusic@email.usc.edu