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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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9. Polonaise: The Riddle of its Melodic Figure


In this chapter I wish to go back to traditional methods of musical work analysis and symbolic interpretation, which were later negated by positivist science. The approach I shall embrace today has so much methodological precedence that there is no need to recall it comprehensively. Suffice it to mention Arnold Schering’s ‘deciphering’ of a musical work’s content, or the exegesis of nineteenth-century symphonies as performed by Constantin Floros. Yet in contrast to the music of Beethoven or Mahler that was analysed by the above-mentioned scholars, the output of Fryderyk Chopin has rarely been the subject of symbolic interpretation throughout its critical history. Whatever efforts were undertaken in that direction are worthy of mention, therefore, because of their focus on some forgotten aspects vital to our understanding of the national message of Chopin’s sound aesthetics.

Throughout the twentieth century, the works of Chopin have been subjected to so many different analyses by such a wide number of scholars in a multitude of analytical and interpretative essays that the real challenge now resides in defining a new, hitherto unknown object of further research. It is my aim today to define precisely such a sound object. In the musical language of the composer’s Polonaises, there exists a figure that constitutes one of the most striking riddles that I have encountered in my scholarly career. As we know, Chopin was a master of perfecting minute musical details. He delighted in this kind of finishing work on a daily basis – both as a...

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