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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 6. Reconsidering the C-minor Prelude


Chapter 6 Reconsidering the C-minor Prelude “Every valid interpretation thus represents, not an approximation of some ideal, but a choice: which of the relationships implicit in the piece are to be emphasized, to be made explicit?” (Edward T. Cone) Ever since I first read Edward T. Cone’s classic little book on musical interpretation, the brevity of his remarks on Chopin’s C-minor Prelude Op. 28, No. 20 has remained a challenge: there is much more to be said about this thirteen-bar piece and its interpretation.1 Cone’s approach to interpretation has very much come to be my own2 - the ability to distinguish and then convey various options inherent in a musical text is at the core of interpretation - and in what follows I will apply some analytic methods that may be useful when preparing a performance of this piece.3 I will in turn consider matters of motivic content, harmony and rhythm, melodic implications, and tonal reduction. Finally, pursuing the far-reaching effects of certain findings, aspects of form will be discussed.4 1 Edward T. Cone, Musical Form and Musical Performance, New York, 1968; his discussion of the C-minor Prelude (pp. 34-35) serves as an illustration to the citation chosen to begin the present essay. 2 For a more comprehensive discussion of some basic issues of interpretation, cf. Bengt Edlund, "Sonate, que te fais-je? Towards a Theory of Interpretation”, The Journal o f Aesthetic Education, 31(1997), 23-40 3 For further similar accounts, cf. Bengt Edlund, “Prelude to the Art of Continuation...

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