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Monday, March 07, 2005

Chopin: Prelude in F# Major Op. 28 No. 13

The more i listen to Chopin the more I enjoy him. His pieces are just like listening to a person tell a story. Every piece is filled with such emotion and attention to detail, it's absolutely brilliant. This piece is no different.

We start off with a repeated phrase group. The first five measures produce a I-I-I-V-I effect ending on a PAC. This phrase is repeated. The chord are played on the downbeat, with arpeggiations on the next 2 beats. The third time through we have a shift, instead of the V chord we delay it with a V/ii, followed by a modulation to the dominant, with a V chord held through two measures before resolving to our PAC in the dominant. Next we have a quick wandering passage that returns us to the original key, which is repeated, with small changes. When we repeat this section a Non-chord tone grabs our attention, signaling a larger change is about to occur. This NCT (a fa in a I chord) doesn't really change our key, but allows us to elaborate on the original theme, adding an extension to the section, moving away from the PAC deceptively (the fa's resolution would make it an IAC anyway), before resolving finally after a 4 measure extension to a PAC in F# Major, closing the section. We have another short linking measure, leading us down to our B section. The B section begins in D# minor (relative minor) and we have a significant timbre change at the eighth notes take on a different feel, instead pulsing (double-stopped) instead of just adding a coloring to the downbeat. The melody is a little slower, as the eighth notes become more filler material, the melody is allowed more breadth of phrasing. This section is much shorter than our A section, consisting of only one repeated phrase. Although we are in D# minor we really tonicize other keys, adding to the transitional feel of this section. We cycle through keys, with simple cadences in each, never feeling true stability until the F# Major returns, finally ending with a PAC. Our return of the A section is half as long as our original, as we move straight to the second time through. We have the return of our NCT as well as the extension that is tied to it. We PAC to end the piece, but still remain wandering a little, as the melody doesn't settle right away, extending it two bars further, before finally settling down.

I love this piece because I can totally see all the things it is a precursor (sp?) for. Chopin's sense of pitches and their interplay can directly be linked to later 19th century works, as well as jazz music of the 20th century. I could definately feel the wandering line of a jazz piece, as the chords were fairly simple, but the direction Chopin took them in was not exactly expected. I would consider this a simply ternary piece, but barely. We do have two complete sections, but the return of the A could easily be tied to the B section. I'm not convinced that this isn't a rounded binary form, since the end of B and return of A lack a definately delineation betwen the two. The A section is closed, since we begin and end in the same key. Since the B section moves to the relative minor we do fit the criteria of having separate keys, and the thematic shift is evident. However, I'm not toally convinced that Chopin wasn't thinking rounded binary...


mvittorio said...

I enjoy reading your blogs because you give a very detailed analysis and then you include your own opinions as well. I like the idea of relating jazz to this piece. I found the same difficulty determining form of ternary in my blog. Maybe this fact should be based on personal opinion. Is it possible that Chopin didn't even know what which he wanted?

Spoonaloompa said...

First of all - great job commenting on structural phenomena besides a harmonic analysis. I basically left that out.

I disagree with your analysis of the B section, though. I heard a cadence on beat three of the second measure, and that was in C# minor. If you look at the chords leading up to it, D# minor functions well as the ii in a ii V I centering on C#. Otherwise, I agree with most of the things you said. Great analysis.

Julia MacDonald said...

I too enjoy the extreme detail you take in your analysis. You have such a passion for the music that it overflows into the people reading what you write about it. I also love how you link Chopin's music to the music of this century. The connections you make are remarkable.

John Styx said...

I doubt anyone keeps up with the comments, but I make sure to listen to the piece. This helps me immensely in alysis, even when I can't figure out a chord by looking at it, I can hear its function it the whole of a piece, very helpful for someone who isn't really good at looking at a score (like me). Thank you for the compliments!

Martin Buber said...

wow, you really got into the chords and the theory underneath the structure. Impressive.

Jamie Lamontagne said...

Interesting analysis, but I would be more careful in what you consider a cadence. For instance, you say there is a PAC cadence in m. 5. First of all, if this is a cadence, it would be an IAC cadence. But, I don't believe there is a cadence there.

The piece is 38 bars, and having a cadence, a PAC at that, that soon in the piece is unlikely. The roman numeral analysis you give for the first five bars (I-I-I-V-I) is correct, but this isn't a cadence; it is a tonic prolongation.

Looking at the form of this piece would help in your analysis. For instance, the A section (mm. 1-20) is a 16-bar period (with an extension). The first 4 bars make up the basic idea, and mm. 5-8 make up the contrasting idea leading to a HC (Half cadence). The basic idea is repeated in mm. 9-12, and mm. 13-20 is another contrasting phrase (which is extended) leading to the first PAC in F# major (F# is in the top line).

Consulting a book written by one of my professors at McGill University, Prof. William Caplin on Classical forms would help greatly. The book is called "Analyzing Classical Forms" and targeted towards the music of the strict classical period (Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven) but it will still help give you some ground since romantic music is and extension of the classical period.