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Twelve Studies in Chopin

Style, Aesthetics, and Reception

Maciej Golab

The studies collected in this book fall into four chief thematic areas of research on Fryderyk Chopin’s life, stylistic changes, creative output, and musical reception. The first one is devoted to the origins of the composer’s artistic formation in the context of his connections with the Main School of Music at the Royal University of Warsaw. The second thematic area is tied to the problem of Chopin’s musical language and transformation of his individual style. The third group of studies concentrates on issues in Chopin’s musical aesthetics, while the fourth and final one is devoted to the questions of composer’s reception in the 19 th -century musical culture in light of the practice of musical transcriptions at the time.
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4. Stylistic Change: from Stile brillante to the Late ‘Synthetic Style’

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The reason why the problem of stylistic change in Chopin’s music has not always been accorded special attention lies in the nature of Chopin’s musical language, whose evolution is not accompanied by spectacular turning points that result from a shift in the employed means of compositional technique. The musical language developed by the Viennese Classics, with its laws of tonality, syntactic rules, musical forms and genres, served not only Chopin, but also all other composers of the Romantic period. It was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that there emerged in the music of some of these composers tendencies which fixed the course for subsequent systematic transformations of musical language at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Changes in Chopin’s style are not marked by dramatic fissures, revealing instead the qualities of a gradual maturing: first through the assimilation and extension of the range of artistic means found in the musical tradition, and later through the formation of new artistic values on this basis. Thus, the evolution of Chopin’s style does not consist of “qualitative turning points”, but rather on “quantitative shifts”.

Some genres in Chopin’s output can be regarded as a terrain in which emerged specific harmonic, tonal, stylistic and formal innovations. These new qualities do not always entail permanent changes in Chopin’s style, and are not fixed in a stable association with other elements of the given genre, just as they do not always cause its irreversible change....

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