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The Preludes and Beyond

Bengt Edlund

The first study of this volume looks for reminiscences of Dies Irae in Chopin’s works. A great number of allusions and affinities are found in the preludes as well as in Chopin’s output. The study also yields insights into Chopin’s composition method. These intertextual findings are used in an attempt to establish the extra-musical content of the Second Ballade. Five preludes – A minor, E minor, B minor, A major and C minor – are closely examined, using diverse analytical approaches. A primary concern is to critically assess previous readings, and Schenkerian ones in particular. An analysis of the initial right-hand passage of the F-minor étude from Méthode brings up matters of idiomatic and ontology.


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Chapter 3. Music at the analyst’s couch and at the musician’s stand The tonal structure of the E-minor Prelude


Chapter 3 Music at the analyst’s couch and at the musician’s stand The tonal structure of the E-minor Prelude The aim of this paper is to examine a Schenkerian reading of a well-known but tonally non-standard piano piece. Does this “tonal” analysis stand up to critical scrutiny? Is it helpful for the musician? Since both these questions will be answered in the negative, an alternative account will eventually be advanced. Carl Schachter has studied Chopin’s E-minor Prelude Op. 28, No. 4 (cf. Ex. 1) very carefully and in a way that betrays a strong personal commitment to its qualities. His interest in this remarkable one-page work is attested in three papers. He has dealt specifically with the relationship between voice leading and strict counterpoint; this prelude is used in an essay on “the triad as place and action”; and he has worked out a thorough analysis of its tonal structure, an investigation that includes a study of pre-publication sources.1 Being the most comprehensive account, the latter text will make up the basis for the present discussion, and all citations and examples will stem from it. It is impossible to present all aspects of Schachter’s study here, but Exs. 2 a -f give a fair idea of his reading and may serve as a reference for the critical remarks to follow. The foreground and middleground sketches 2a and 2b show the voice-leading connec­ tions and how the Ursatz is distributed; in addition, the foreground 1 Carl Schachter, “Schenker’s Counterpoint”, The Musical...

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