Chopin Barcarolle Op 60 Analysis Essay

1 The most comprehensive source for Heinrich Schenker’s mature theory and analytical technique is his Free Composition (Der freie Satz [1935]), trans. and ed. Ernst Oster (New York: Longman 1979).

2 See Schenker, Heinrich, Free Composition, p. 99.

3 See Larson, Steve, ‘Musical Forces and Melodic Patterns’, Theory and Practice22/3 (1997–1998): 55–71.

4Cadwallader, Allen, ‘Prolegomena to a General Description of Motivic Relationships in Tonal Music’, Intégral2 (1988): 1–33.

5Burkhart, Charles, ‘Schenker’s “Motivic Parallelisms”’, Journal of Music Theory22/2 (1978): 145–175.

6Cohn, Richard, ‘The Autonomy of Motives in Schenkerian Accounts of Tonal Music’, Music Theory Spectrum14/2 (1992): 150–170.

7 In a classic essay, David Lewin clearly illustrates the significance of context in elucidating the function of individual musical events. If the musical and analytical contexts are not specified, we cannot really define, Lewin argues, the function of individual musical events. See Lewin, , ‘Music Theory, Phenomenology, and Modes of Perception’, Music Perception3/4 (1986): 327–392.

8 See Larson, Steve, ‘Strict Use of Analytic Notation’, Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy10 (1996): 37–77.

9 See Krebs, Harald, ‘Some Early Examples of Tonal Pairing: Schubert’s “Meeres Stille” and “Der Wanderer”’, in The Second Practice of Nineteenth-Century Tonality, ed. William Kinderman and Harald Krebs (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996): 17–33.

10 See Almén, Byron, A Theory of Musical Narrative (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008).

11 See Rothstein, William, ‘Analysis and the Act of Performance’, in The Practice of Performance: Studies in Musical Interpretation, ed. John Rink (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995): 217–240.

13 See Lester, Joel, ‘Performance and Analysis: Interaction and Interpretation’, in The Practice of Performance: Studies in Musical Interpretation, ed. John Rink (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995): 197–216.

14 See McCreless, Patrick, ‘Analysis and Performance: A Counterexample?’, Dutch Journal of Music Theory14/1 (2009): 1–16.

15 In the French first edition of the Nocturne, there is a fleeting semiquaver G at the end of bar 16. However, this brief G is not sufficient to transform the chord into a root-position sonority.

16Schachter, Carl, Unfoldings: Essays in Schenkerian Theory and Analysis, ed. Joseph N. Straus (New York: Oxford University Press, 199), p. 137.

17 The sentence in bars 9–16 is not an archetypal one, as William Caplin would describe it (see Caplin, William, Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998): 35–48); most importantly for us, the presentation phrase is not tonic prolongational and the continuation phrase does not end in a cadence. Owing to limitations of space, it is not possible to here address aspects of nineteenth-century sentences.

18 Such non-congruence of temporal functions is not uncommon in Chopin; for an analysis of the Nocturne, Op. 62, No. 2 that concentrates on this issues, see Suurpää, Lauri, ‘Non-Congruent Temporal Functions in Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 62, No. 2’, Dutch Journal of Music Theory16/1 (2011): 64–71.

19 John Rothgeb, incidentally, agrees with Hood and reads a structural tonic in bar 17 as well as an interruption in bar 16; Hood appropriately refers to Rothgeb’s analysis in her book. See Rothgeb, John, ‘Chopin’s C-Minor Nocturne, Op. 48, No. 1, First Part: Voice Leading and Motivic Content’, Theory and Practice5/2 (1980): 26–31. Some other aspects in their harmonic readings are different, however; most importantly, Rothgeb reads a prolongation of the dominant in bars 8–16, while Hood reads the return of the structural tonic in bar 11.

A masterpiece pulsating with a blissful feeling of love

The Barcarolle, Op. 60 is a grand, expansive work from the late period in the oeuvre of Fryderyk Chopin. Written in the years 1845-46, it was published in 1846. Chopin refers in this work to the convention of the barcarola - a song of the Venetian gondoliers which inspired many outstanding composers of the nineteenth century, including Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Liszt and Fauré. Yet it is hard to find a barcarolle that would compare with Chopin's work for beauty and compositional artistry.

Attention is quite often drawn to the Barcarolle's affinity with the nocturnes, and also with the Berceuse, Op. 57, which may be interpreted as "music of the evening and the night" (Tomaszewski). But one should not overstate this affinity, since the Barcarolle is considerably longer than most of the nocturnes and appears to reach deeper. Venice, which it evokes, can also be pictured in sunshine, not only "to moonlight", and the Barcarolle is also quite different to lullabies and dreams-it spins a tale that is hot and intense. It is perhaps less a "song of the night" than a "song of love". It is certainly close to the nocturnes and the Berceuse, meanwhile, in the particular richness and refinement of its ornamentation.

The Barcarolle proceeds in a moderate tempo, in 12/8 time. The basis for its development is the tuneful melodic line, reminiscent in style of Italian bel canto. The melody is accompanied by a repeated accompaniment figure in the bass (on the principle of ostinato), whilst the melody itself is led in characteristic doublings-primarily in thirds and sixths. The ornamentation of the melody encompasses a variety of means, including double trills (in thirds), contributing to an exceptional expressive and colouristic richness. The form of the work can be generally defined as tripartite, A B A1 (reprise), with an inner, tonally contrasting, section in A major. One can also distinguish a short, intriguing introduction and an exquisite coda.

Many commentators draw attention to the aura of eroticism that is strongly present in this exceptionally beautiful composition. Also stressed is the work's Italian, southern atmosphere, and particularly its links with Venice, although the Italian tone would appear to be restricted here to the function of picturesque decoration, serving to brilliantly convey a truly universal message.

The Barcarolle is generally considered a masterpiece. One of the most beautiful pianistic interpretations was created by Dinu Lipatti.

Artur Bielecki



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