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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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5. Harmony and Tonality

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Harmony and Tonality


The historical changes affecting musical scholarship have left their mark on methods of interpreting harmony and tonality in Chopin. This subject is regarded as one of the most difficult in cognitive terms and at the same time the most fundamental for research into that composer’s œuvre, both from an historical perspective and with regard to music theory. Harmony and tonality in Chopin’s music is a relatively autonomous subject. Although positivist musicology isolated it from other “elements” of the musical work, today its essence can be better understood thanks to the consideration not just of melodic-tonal aspects of the musical work, but also its generic, stylistic and aesthetic contexts.

Two monographs devoted specifically to Chopin’s harmony deal with different aspects of this extensive problem area. The first of them, which remains current in many respects, is Ludwik Bronarski’s Harmonika Chopina.128 A momentous publication on a European scale in its day, this book treats its subject as broadly as possible (from modal elements to “free chromaticism”), yet it focuses mainly on describing in Chopin’s works the constitutive elements of the major-minor system. In Bronarski, Chopin’s tonal logos is presented as a rich and multi-faceted manifestation of that system. “The whole of Chopin’s harmony”, writes Bronarski in summarising his work, “appears to stand under the motto ‘the right chord in the right place’. Each chord seems irreplaceable, just the right one and just the right kind that is needed in a given relationship.”129 The other monograph, Maciej Gołąb’s Chromatyka...

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