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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 19th-century musical culture in light of the practice of musical transcriptions at the time.
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8. Imaginatio Crucis in the Last Song Melodia?


It was probably Bernard Jacobson who first pointed out the existence of musical symbolism in Chopin’s works. In his analysis of The Ring song he wrote: “Musical symbolism is always a subjective matter, but it is hard not to detect it in the morbid involution of this song’s melody, which inevitably suggests the circularity of a ring”.212 If we agree with Jacobson that the melody of The Ring – as write Krystyna Tarnawska-Kaczorowska in her valuable monograph of the genre – “insistently twists, turns and rings”,213 we may not exclude that Chopin ‘encoded’ determined extramusical content through sound symbolism not only in this song, but in the entire genre. The existence of perceptibly obvious, almost banal musical correlates of categories of ‘locality’ or ‘Polishness’, evoking national folklore in such songs as Drinking Song, The Messenger, Lithuanian Song or Leaves are Falling would confirm the premise that the literary text sometimes inspired the composer, who was usually so reluctant to reveal his own emotions, to step outside the circle of Romantic absolute music, with all its consequences.

Let us now focus on the old music-rhetorical figure called imaginatio crucis. This figure, as we know, consists of a four-note imagination of the lying cross, clearly prefigured by symbols of musical notation. Can the interpretation of this figure – undoubtedly characterised by semantic heteronomy – in the works of Bach and Chopin enter the area of external work interpretation? For reasons obvious to any music historian, the analytical interpretation of this figure in...

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