Polish Music Journal
Vol. 2, Nos. 1-2. 1999. ISSN 1521 - 6039


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The Chopin Year (1) and Wilk Prizes 1998

Abstracts of Articles

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Halina Goldberg:

"Chopin in Warsaw's Salons"

Much has been said about Chopin's participation in Parisian salon life, but the salons frequented by Chopin in Warsaw are given marginal mention. Yet it is in Warsaw's salons that the young Fryderyk received his social grooming, and it is here that he met many of his future Parisian hosts or made connections that opened the doors to the most respected households of European capitals. But more significantly, he was fortunate enough to mature amidst intellectual discussions of his elders, aesthetic battles of his artistic peers, and musical experiences unattainable in public concert - stimuli for his mind and senses above and beyond the already excellent education that he had received at the gymnasium and the conservatory.

There is scant modern scholarship on salon life in Warsaw. The post-war Polish research emphasized the indebtedness of Chopin's music to folklore and down-played the contribution of intelligentsia and aristocracy as representative of bourgeois decadence and the aristocratic abuse of wealth. Yet I have found an abundance of information about this active salon culture in diaries, letters, and journal articles. Warsaw had over forty significant salons, and direct evidence of Chopin's musical presence can be established in most of them. These salons were just as splendid and socially refined as their counterparts in Paris or Vienna, and they sought the same level of intellectual and artistic experiences. The picture that now unfolds contradicts the accepted image of Warsaw as a cultural backwater and instead restores the Polish capital to its European status. [Author]

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Dorota Zakrzewska:

"Alienation and Powerlessness: Adam Mickiewicz's Ballady and Chopin's Ballades"

Music scholars have long been trying to determine the major influences on the Ballades of Fryderyk Chopin. Some, like Karol Berber, have pointed to ideological influences of the Polish emigration in Paris, while others, like James Parakilas, have given credit to the generic characteristics of the European literary ballad. In my own view, however, the most salient extra-musical factor in the background to Chopin's Ballades are Ballady, a series of poems by the 19th century Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz. In this paper I trace analogies between the collection of Mickiewicz's Ballady and Chopin's Ballades. As an introduction to my study of this homology, I present the ideology of the Polish emigration in Paris in the 1830s and 1840s, including prominent themes of alienation, powerlessness, morbid anxiety, pilgrimage and nostalgia, which were used by that expatriate society to identify itself. In the next step, I demonstrate analogies between these themes and their manifestations in Mickiewicz's Ballady. This analysis of Mickiewicz's poems forms the basis of my interpretation of Chopin's Second Ballade, where I discuss how certain textual and thematic features of the poems taken as a group can be mapped onto the form and musical discourse of the piano piece. In sum, although the associations between specific poems and Chopin's Ballades have been made by many authors, no one has distilled a single narrative archetype from the group of Mickiewicz's Ballady to apply to Chopin's works. [Author].

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Andrzej Tuchowski:

"Chopin's Integrative Technique and its Repercussions in 20th-Century Polish Music"

This article presents one of Chopin's methods of organizing large-scale works, dubbed by the author the "integrative pitch-axis technique." This technique first appears in mature works of 1835, and is especially prominent in the two Nocturnes Op. 27. In the Nocturne in C sharp minor Op. 27, No. 1, the main structural pitch-axes coincide with the elements of the tonic triad, i.e. "C sharp - E - G sharp" (the other pitches are also often spelled enharmonically as "D flat" and "A flat." Such tonal implications are absent from the design of pitch axes in the Nocturne Op. 27, No. 2; both pieces, however, mark the peak of structural coherence in Chopin's Nocturnes. The subsequent application of the integrative technique occurs in the second Scherzo, in B flat minor, Op. 31 (1837) where the pitch axes are used independently from a sophisticated network of motivic-cellular integrative links while the coda serves as a kind of a "resume" of the all pitch axes encountered throughout the piece. The main part of the article presents a post-Schenkerian analysis of the integrative technique in Chopin's Sonata in B flat minor, op. 35. The author points out the presence of three interconnected structural ideas in the introduction to the first movement and subtle interrelationships between the four movements, especially apparent in the widespread occurrences of overlapping minor thirds - used as nodal points in pitch motion and as vital elements of the pitch framework of the composition (highlighted by various textural and formal elements). Instances of integrative techniques similar to Chopin's are found in the music of Karol Szymanowski (example from "Songs of an Infatuated Muezzin") and Witold Lutosławski (example from the Fourth Symphony). Both composers highly regarded Chopin's music and discussed its impact on their musical thinking. In this paper, Szymanowski's statement that Chopin was "a futurist of the romantic epoch" (1923) receives a striking exemplification. [Maria Anna Harley]

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Jan Węcowski:

"Religious Folklore in Chopin's Music"

This article presents for the first time Chopin's usage of Polish religious folklore as raw material for his music. Chopin was exposed to this repertoire from his early childhood, in 1825-26 he worked as an organist for the "Wizytki" convent in Warsaw. His Polish childhood and youth provided him with ample exposure to a vast repertoire of religious songs some of which reappear in his works from the mature period. The composer drew from serious, expressive and dramatic songs, but was particularly attached to Marian songs of a patriotic character. The texts of these songs seem to have provided a creative inspiration; the source material included motives, phrases, and larger formal units. He borrowed these elements mostly from the beginnings and endings of the songs; all borrowed material was subjected to modifications, e.g. changes of directions and sizes of leaps, interruptions of themes with pauses, superimposition of motives from several songs. Melodies appear in counterpoint, with changed intervallic structure and various motivic transformations. Quotations of religious songs cited in this study come from Śpiewnik Kościelny i Dodatki [Church Songbook and Additions], ed. Michał Marcin Mioduszewski, published in 1838-1854. The musical examples are based on the edition of [F. Ch. - Complete Works], eds. Józef Ignacy Paderewski, Ludwik Bronarski, Jerzy Turczyński, Kraków: PWM, vol. 2 (1949), vol. 7 (1957), vol. 18 (1959), vol. 5, (1961). There are religious-song-sources for Nocturne in E flat major, op. 9, no. 2; Scherzo in B minor, op. 20; Bolero in A minor, op. 19; Cantabile in B flat major, op. 43; Etude in A minor, op. 25, no. 4; Etude in C sharp minor, op. 25, no. 7; Etude in A minor, op. 25, no. 11; Largo in E flat major, WN 61, Song no. 9 "Melodia" , op. 74. The copyright of this article remains with the author.

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Editor: Maria Anna Harley. Publisher: Polish Music Reference Center
Design: Maria Anna Harley & Marcin Depinski. Summer 1999.
Comments and inquiries by e-mail: polmusic@email.usc.edu