SOUND PATTERNS

A Structural Examination of Tonality, Vocabulary, Texture,
Sonorities, and Time Organization in Western Art Music

by PHILLIP MAGNUSON

THREE ANALYSIS PROJECTS

Chapter 39. Frederic Chopin: Prelude in E Major, op. 28, no. 9

Chapter 38. W. A. Mozart: Minuet in D Major
.
Chapter 40. Richard Strauss: Morgen

PRELIMINARIES

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) wrote the Prelude in E Major, op. 28, no. 9, in the mid 1830's, near the beginning of the Romantic era. You can read background information about this piece at Chopin Preludes.

You need to prepare by doing three analyses of this piece:

  1. Phrase design (label, length, construction, characteristics, cadence)
  2. Schenkerian graph (for each phrase)
  3. Roman numerals (by the phrase)

This composition defies the process of a standard Schenkerian graph, but the background is vital to understanding the harmonic actions. Graph the scale degrees in the soprano (they move both up and down by step) and their bass support. Project the implied harmony from this graph before attempting the actual Roman numeral analysis and compare the two.

The Roman numeral analysis for this is extremely complex, and requires not only knowledge but logic and a good imagination. In spite of the traps that Chopin sets, everything has been discussed in this text to arrive at good answers.

The score is located in Music for Analysis [#346, CD track #92]. Listen to a performance on YouTube.

39.1 SOME GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE MUSIC:

39.2 FIRST PHRASE [a]

  1. Phrase design:
    • Standard 4-measure phrase
    • Polyrhythms, with the simple and compound subdivisions souding simultaneously
    • Half cadence, but contains a 7th and is in first inversion

  2. Schenkerian graph:
    (Roman numerals are IMPLIED harmony)

  3. Roman numerals:

    The implied harmony in the graph above gives a fairly accurate view of what really happens harmonically.

39.3 SECOND PHRASE [a']

  1. Phrase design:
    • Standard 4-measure phrase
    • Similar material to first phrase
    • Half cadence, but dominant occurs late in the last measure

  2. Schenkerian graph:
    (Roman numerals are IMPLIED harmony)

    Some of the pitch areas are respelled enharmonically to show their actual function within the excerpt.

  3. Roman numerals:

    The implied harmony in the graph above gives some information of what actually happens. but Chopin presents some interesting surprises, particularly beat 1 of m. 7: the harmony simply cannot be explained adequately. In the overall context of the global key, it is subdominant, but the context leading into it contradicts that explanation, and the context following it provides yet another contradiction.

39.4 THIRD PHRASE [a'']

  1. Phrase design:
    • Standard 4-measure phrase
    • Similar material to first two phrases, combines to make a 3-phrase period
    • Perfect authentic cadence (the only real cadence in the piece)

  2. Schenkerian graph:
    (Roman numerals are IMPLIED harmony)

  3. Roman numerals:

    The implied harmony above is quite accurate in predicting the actual harmony.

39.5 SUMMARY

In spite of the complexity of the analyses above, a graph of the entire 3-phrase period shows the relative simplicity of Chopin's structure:

Note that the all of the important ^5's serve as an opening motion to a straightforward ^3 - ^2 - ^1 in the soprano, which begins halfway through the piece.


Links to chapters in this unit:
Chapter 38. W. A. Mozart: Minuet in D Major
Chapter 40. Richard Strauss: Morgen

Link to previous unit: CHROMATIC PROCEDURES III: Advanced Vocabulary

Link to next unit: MICROCOSMS: Musical Styles of the Twentieth Century


Copyright 2008-2009 by Phillip Magnuson.

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