Style, Aesthetics, and Reception
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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