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Two Bach Preludes/Two Chopin Etudes, or Toujours travailler Bach-ce sera votre meilleur
moyen de progresser
Author(s): Robert W. Wason
Source: Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring, 2002), pp. 103-120
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Society for Music Theory
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1556089
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Two

Preludes/TwoChopin
travailler
Bach-ce
sera

Bach

Toujours
moyen

de

Etudes,
votre

or

meilleur

progresser

RobertW.Wason
Chopin's first acquaintance with the music of Bach dates back
to his childhood in Poland and his first teacher; thus, Bach seems
to have been with him from the beginning. But after his arrival in
Paris in 1831 at age 21, two years after Mendelssohn had conducted the "St. Matthew Passion" in Berlin but before Bach had
fully recovered from his long period of neglect, Chopin became a
truly passionate devotee of Bach's music. These were the years
when he wrote the Etudes and Preludes-works, in particular,that
show a strong influence of Bach. In 1838, Chopin, in Majorca
with George Sand, wrote to his friend and copyist, Julian Fontana,
from "a huge deserted Carthusian monastery where in a cell with
doors larger than any carriage-gateway in Paris you may imagine
me with my hair unkept, without white gloves and pale as ever.
The cell is shaped like a tall coffin, the enormous vaulting covered
with dust, the window small ... Close to [my] bed is an old
square grubby box which I can scarcely use for writing on, with a
leaden candlestick (a great luxury here) and a little candle. Bach,
my scrawls [Chopin refers to his Preludes] and someone else's old
papers ... Silence ... you can yell [but] still silence." The next
year, he wrote-this time from George Sand's estate in Nohant,
since the Majorcan trip had been largely disastrous-that "when I
have nothing particular to do I am correcting for myself, in the
Paris edition of Bach, not only the mistakes made by the engraver

but those which are backed by the authority of people who are
supposed to understand Bach-not that I have any pretensions to
a deeper understanding, but I am convinced that I sometimes hit
on the right answer."'Much later, Chopin's piano students continued to attest to his knowledge, from memory, of much of the WellTemperedClavier2 Thus the alternatetitle of this article, Chopin's
advice to his pupil Madame Dubois during his last meeting with
her in 1848 (a year before his death), is advice that he himself
took very seriously indeed.
For quite some time now, Chopin's debt to Bach has been well
known, particularlywith respect to surface resemblances between
Bach's C-major Prelude (wTc I) and Chopin's Etude op. 10, no. 1.
Early in this century, Hugo Leichtentritt even went so far as to
show how Chopin's harmonic scheme could be rendered in
Bach's figuration, and recently, Simon Finlow has demonstrated
the reverse, as seen in Examples 1(a) and (b).3 Allen Forte and
Stephen Gilbert have shown that the resemblance is more than
superficial-that it affects deeper-level musical structure of the
'See Walker 1966, 10. Complete quotationsare taken from Syndow 1962,
165 and 182.
2Eigeldinger1986, 61.
3Finlow1992, 70. Example 1(a) cited by Finlow from Leichtentritt1921-2,
vol. 2, 84-5.

104

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example 1. C-majorPreludes,afterFinlow 1992


(a) Chopin'sharmonieswith Bach's figuration

eFr

'K-i4

9:40.K-

do.
.K-

.7
>->

IL
.7.

..

" r .7.

..

.7.

(b) Bach's harmonieswith Chopin'sfiguration

------v

8F

8v-----------------

f
e

+! ?

5,..

5,

opening sections of both pieces.4 Although the present article


takes issue with details of their analysis, it continues on essentially the same tack, showing other structuralparallels and drawing in additional pieces as well.
Such "figural preludes" might be characterized as "nonnarrative": there are no musical "characters" participating in a
"drama"delineated by rhythmic "motives." Instead, the rhythmic
surface is deceptively placid, and the musical teleology determined purely by resources of pitch organization--or "harmony."
While Chopin's Viennese contemporaries were specializing in the
development of the narrativesonata, Chopin--only infrequently a
proponent of Sturm und Drang-often favored the more Baroque
compositional method of developing a piece from a single motive,
4See Forte& Gilbert1982, 188-90.

_ .

or "affect."5This is not to deny the influence on some of his music


of the sonata, and perhaps of its greatest proponent, Beethoven.6
But Chopin always remained partial to the figural texture, whether
he referred to the resultant piece as an "etude," or "prelude";
moreover, the texture occupied significant parts of his larger
pieces-even those marked by change of texture and rhythmic
motive. (One thinks of large ABA forms, such as the C#-minor
Fantasie-Impromptu, op. 66-a figural "etude" surrounding an
adagio melody.)
Bach's "figural prelude" has a heritage that stretches back to
the earliest keyboard music, and the texture was a clich6 wellknown to his contemporaries. The Musikalische Handleitung by
5See Chapter4, "BaroqueReflections,"in Samson 1994, 58-80.
6See Petty 1999.

TwoBachPreludes/Two
ChopinEtudes 105
Friedrich Erhard Niedt-purportedly Bach's favorite thoroughbass treatise-gives a few humdrum recipes for such compositions.7 But in the hands of the master, they were to become something far more interesting: several of Bach's preludes underwent
considerable revision, documented in various sources, and recently, Joel Lester has shown that four of Bach's "figural preludes" were revised and positioned in the Well-TemperedClavier
in such a way as to offer us a pedagogy of the genre.8 Essentially,
the structureof such a prelude, as Lester points out, was described
in a famous passage by C. P. E. Bach:
There are occasionswhen an accompanistmust extemporizebefore the
is to be regardedas a
beginningof a piece. Becausesuchan improvisation
preludewhich preparesthe listenerfor the contentof the piece thatfollows ... the construction... is determined... by the natureof the piece
which it prefaces;andthe contentor affectof this piece becomesthe materialout of which the preludeis fashioned... Whenonly little time is
available... the performershouldnot wanderintotoo remotekeys ... At
the startthe principalkey mustprevailfor some time so thatthe listener
will be unmistakablyoriented... [Thekeyboardist]fashionshis bass out
of the ascendinganddescendingscaleof theprescribedkey,witha variety
of figuredbass signatures... A tonic organpointis convenientfor establishing the tonalityat the beginningand end. The dominantorganpoint
can also be introducedeffectivelybeforethe close.9
Philipp Emanuel continues by showing a number of sample
bass progressions (with figures), some of which are shown in
Example 2. Variants of such progressions had been studied by
keyboard students well back into the seventeenth century, under
the well-known rubric, "regle de l'octave" ("regola dell'Ottava").0
Lester proceeds to show that a descending octave bass progression
is the structural basis of all four Bach preludes, although it

Example 2. Octave-line harmonizationsand pedal points, excerpted


from C. P. E. Bach 1753 [1949]
6

6
5

6 5

9 8

56

98
76

98
76

7 6

7 6 5

98
76

98
76

98
76

6
5

9 8 9 8 7 6
5,

7 6 5 6 5 6 6
5

4
3

98
43

5,

7
98
4 3

&

74

6 5 4
43

5 4
325

7
5 4
2

567654436

4
3

76

5~62 6
3

6 4 6
2

76

9 8

5 4 6 5

5
35 46

433

7 6 6

6
5

5 6

4+

8
5

6
5

7676

74

7
6?
4

86
75

7698
7
4 3
5-

657

5676

7 66 7
56-

76
5-

4
2

6
5

4 # 7
5,

8 ?7
3 5

5
3

,7

7Translated
as "TheMusicalGuide"in Niedt1988.
8Lester1998.
9Bach[1753] 1949, 431 ff.
'oChristensen1992. Also see Lester 1992, 72-4.

6
8

a~101

4
2

56
4

447
3
2

5
4

106

MusicTheory Spectrum

becomes progressively more embellished in each. On the other


hand, C. P. E. Bach's translator,William Mitchell, takes pains to
point out that Philipp Emanuel never mentions "r6gle de l'octave."
Still, although he does not recognize one particular "rule,"as the
more prescriptive and unimaginative theorists did, his many examples amount to an elaboration of the idea.
Lester was very likely made aware of the structure of the Cmajor Prelude initially by the Dover publication of Schenker's
analysis-the first such analyses that were generally available in
the late sixties." For our purposes, the most important addition
over C. P. E. Bach's description is the notion of a structural soprano that parallels the octave bass-progression in 10ths above;
this motion through the C4 to C3 octave then proceeds to the dominant pedal, as recommended by Philipp Emanuel, and subsequently the tonic pedal.
Another feature of the piece described in Schenker's analysis
is phrase structure. Lester calls the opening tonic sectioncharacteristic of many Bach pieces, we might add-the "frame,"
and in this piece, it is not a tonic pedal, but a combined neighbornote motion of soprano and bass: 3-4-3 over 1-7-1. As is typical
of Bach's phrase formations, the fourth measure of the frame is
also the launching point for the next four-measure segment. One
might be tempted to propose a four-measure group starting in m.
5, with good motivic support, but there are problems in later
groupings. Schenker's interpretationhere is persuasive: the articulation of the primary melodic tone at the outset of the piece and its
motion to the upper neighbor and return in m. 4 enable us to hear
the first four measures as an "extension" (Dehnung) of the first
measure; moreover, the 4-measure segment in mm. 8-11 and its
transposition in mm. 16-19 confirm his reading and clearly articulate the division of the structuraloctave progression, first with a

"Schenker[1932] 1966.

cadence in the dominant and then with a returnto the tonic.'2 This
interpretationbecomes most compelling when we propose a normative durationfor the descending middleground of E5-E4 of two
measures for each tone starting in m. 4. (The half-step motions,
C-B, F-E, in each of the two tetrachords are held off in the manner of a "middlegroundsuspension".)'3
Prior to publishing the analysis of the C-major Prelude,
Schenker presented a less-developed analysis of the C-minor
Prelude from WTCI, which is shown in Example 3.14 (The thick
brackets underneath the analysis are my additions; they will be
discussed below.) In comparison with the C-major Prelude, the
"tonic pedal" is the most prominentelement of the frame-in both
soprano and bass. Neighbor-note motion now ultimately forms a
complete neighboring VII7 chord in m. 3 (although buried in inner
parts), and the tonic returns in m. 4, as it did in the C-major
Prelude. Emerging from the inner voices of the opening, structural
3 then appears as Eb4, initiating a descent in seventeenths (that is,
an octave plus a tenth) with the bass through the first tetrachordof
the bass-octave descent. At this point, the bass moves up an octave
(so as not to give away the C2 goal yet, presumably), and thus the
bass-soprano interval is now reduced to a tenth.'5 The dominantpedal section then enters at m. 21 (with structural 3 retained to
overlap the entrance of the pedal). Background 2 arrives over the
"2Thereplicationof this four-measuresegmentis one reasonwhy Lerdahl&
Jackendoff(1983, 261) "locatethe change [of hypermeter]at m. 8, in conjunction with a combinedgroupingoverlap and metricaldeletion."However,postponing the metricalshift until this point places the two 4 chords(both of which
seem like suspensions)in weak hypermetricmeasures,which runs counterto
the propertiesof suspensions.
13Cf.Komar1971, 119: "Thecadencesat bars 1 , 19, and32 suggest the location of some of the large-scaledownbeats"Also see Lerdahl& Jackendoff
1983, 262 ff.
14See Schenker[1926] 1996, 48. This analyticalgraph,publishedin 1926, is
essentially the same as the one Schenkerpresents at the outset of Schenker
1923.
'1SchenkerspendsconsiderableeffortdescribingBach's departure,at letters
b) and c), from the patternestablishedat a).

Two Bach Preludes/TwoChopin Etudes 107

Example 3. Analysis of Bach, C-MinorPrelude,after Schenker1926 [1996]

b)

a)

c minor:

...o
.o/
_.

.....

(5-

6-)

I
2

c)

----------------- -----

---

--......-

"'-

---

- -- -' "-

.
pr s o

opresto
64
II

(II)

V-

7
4
_5

adagio

_.
-7-

I
~3

4-03

0t3

108

MusicTheory Spectrum

preexisting dominant at m. 28, leading to an arrivalon C in m. 34.


The harmony at this point avoids resolution both because it is the
dominant of IV, and because C3 is not the goal of the bass line; C3
is elaborated as an out-of-time improvisational aside, after which
C2 arrives to complete the bass-line descent, and, as in the Cmajor Prelude, the soprano returnsto the obligatory register of the
opening-all of this a remarkable structuralparallel with the Cmajor Prelude that goes well beyond the minimal demands of the
"r6gle de l'octave."
Schenker does not take on the issue of phrase structure in the
C-minor Prelude; I have grafted my interpretationonto his analysis in Example 3, using thick brackets to denote phrase groups up
to m. 24. If we were to suggest a rhythmic norm for the descending octave line, it would seem to be, once again, two measures per
tone. Thus, the last measure of the four-measure frame-this time
a tonic pedal-returns to EK,while m. 5 puts that Eb in place as
E 3. (The change of register in m. 5 gives the illusion of a group
starting at this point.) But if four-measure groups are heard to start
in m. 4, two successive ones emerge: mm. 4-7 and 8-11. These
support the first tetrachord of the descent, EB, D, C, Bb. Indeed,
the first eleven measures of each piece parallel one another closely
-note the 4 chords in parallel positions. At m. 12, Bach breaks
the pattern (just as he did in the C-major Prelude), but we are still
able to project two more four-measure groups: mm. 12-15 and
16-19 for AK,G, F, EB. The first of these seems convincing, with
the caveat that G is shortchanged to one measure while F gets
three. However, not only does the first group seem to anticipate
the second, but that group, mm. 16-19, includes the end of the descent in m. 18, making m. 19 superfluous. The bass takes off immediately to destroy any sense of stasis or arrivalby harmonizing
the goal E6 with various pre-dominants. These ultimately give
way to the dominant pedal (m. 21), at which point the beginning
of a group seems to be in order. Could it be that the arrival of soprano F3 in m. 15 is not an anticipation of the next group, but its
actual start?The bass line certainly lends support to this interpretation: the 4 in m. 15 acts like a 9-10 bass suspension that resolves

in the following measure, while the soprano F is suspended


against the bass as 4 (m. 17) to 3 (m. 18); two measures of predominant follow. Thus, it seems that mm. 12-14 are a threemeasure (or abbreviated four-measure) group, while mm. 15-20
are a six-measure group (actually a four-measure group with twomeasure extension). The arrivalof the dominant pedal brings with
it a clear four-measure group, while the subsequent single-voice
elaboration of the dominant starts a four-measure group that overlaps the arrivalof structuralsoprano 2 (m. 28). From here on, the
phrase structure is appropriately telescoped to fit with the erratic
succession of tempi, all designed as an out-of-time improvisation.
(Phrase groupings at this point become increasingly tentative.)
Clearly, the piece is considerably more varied and complicated
than the C-major Prelude in its phrase structure.

We turn now to some structuralparallels with music of Chopin.


First, it is important to note that the pedagogical basis of the
"r6gle de l'octave" survived well past the eighteenth century.
Thus, while some of the structuralparallels noted here may be the
result of Chopin's engagement with Bach's keyboard music, some
may be ascribable to the survival of an eighteenth-century
keyboard pedagogy, an assertion supported in the following
discussion.
The "r6gle de l'octave" is closely allied with the discussion of
harmonizing the "unfiguredbass" that may be found in such early
eighteenth-century treatises as those by Saint Lambert, Gasparini,
and Heinichen;16thus, one is tempted to regard it as an early pedagogical device designed to teach a compositional skill that ultimately was more efficiently handled by Rameau's harmonic theory. Yet, in the middle of the century, Joseph Riepel (naive though
he certainly was) would report that he knew of no thorough-bass
'6See Saint Lambert[1707] 1991, 45-99; Gasparini[1708] 1963, 26-47;
Buelow 1966 (a study of Heinichen's treatise Der Generalbass in der
Composition[Dresden:1728]), 200-18.

TwoBachPreludes/Two
ChopinEtudes 109
manualin which the device was not mentioned.'7In fact, the device continuedto live on in Italiantreatiseson keyboardimprovisation, called partimenti.'8Such treatiseshave a long historyof
theirown,but,most suggestivefor ourtopichere,the Italiantradition was takenup by the Frenchin the early nineteenthcentury,
as seen in treatisesby Choron/Fiocchi(1804), Fetis (1829), and
successfulvirtuosopianistwith
Kalkbrenner-theextraordinarily
whom Chopin contemplatedstudy upon his arrivalin Paris. It
wouldbe ideal,of course,if we coulddocumentChopin'sknowledge of Choron/Fiocchior F6tis,but as of this writingthatis not
possible. Chopin'stheoryinstructionwith J6zef Elsner(Director
of the WarsawConservatory)seems to have centeredon German
pedagogicalmaterials,most notablyJohannPhilip Kirnberger's
Die Kunst des Reinen Satzes in der Musik.19This may be read as

placingChopinin the "BachSchool,"butcertainlymoreobliquely


If it is impossible to say whetherChopin
than Mendelssohn.20
studiedFrenchpartimentimanualsbefore arrivingin Paris,it at
least seems likely thathe wouldhaveencounteredsuchpedagogical materialsonce his teachingcareertheregot underwayin the
1830s.
modelsbased
Example4 shows some selectedimprovisational
treatiseof
uponthe "reglede l'octave"takenfromKalkbrenner's

Chopin'sEtudes show an extraordinaryoriginality.Indeed,the


pieces in score presenta unique visual appearancethat has inIn large measure,
spired commentaryby Douglas Hofstadter.22
this is preciselywherethe greatoriginalityof manyof the Chopin
Etudes resides-on the surface;and there is certainlynothing
wrongwith that.(Therearealso pieces thatare strikinglyoriginal
at deeperlevels, suchas the Etudeop. 25, no. 3, in F major,which
overshootsa presumedthematicrepetitionon the dominantto preThe Etudesdealtwithin the present
sentit at the tritoneinstead.23)
article,however,are clear cases of Chopintropingon traditional
structural
archetypes.
Let us turnnow to the C-majorEtude,op. 10, no. 1, writtenin
1829 or 30, beforeChopin'sarrivalin Paris.One of the most significant features in this piece is a regularityof four-measure
phrase structureso consistentthat it establishesa deeper-level
meter-a hypermeter, as Edward T. Cone called it.24 Example 5

presentslook similarto othervirtuosopianomusic of the period,


as shownin writingsby Collet,Finlow,andSamson-all of whom
have dealt with Chopin'sEtudes in the context of other piano
studiesof the period.21Surely,these authorshavebeen successful
in showingthatChopin'spianotextures,in some cases, may have
been inspiredor suggestedby earlieretudes, but just as surely,
most of the surfacerhythms,textures,playingtechniques,etc., of

shows a hypermetricreductionof the piece in the mannerof Carl


it articulatesa four-measurehypermeterthroughout,
Schachter;25
shownby the meterin whicheach measureof the originalequals
one half note of the transcription.(In order to translatethe
seventy-ninemeasuresof the Etudeinto twenty hypermeasures,
the transcriptionassumesthat the final fermatacould last a full
extrameasure,whichseems quiteplausible.)
Certainly,the most originalfeatureof the piece is the thematic
arpeggiation,whichassumesthe supplenessof the handandwrist
rotationtypicalof the Chopinstyle as well as the damperpedalof
the pianoforteto sustainthe cascadingarpeggios.At first,the figurationwouldseem to throwthe whole notionof structuralregister
into doubt,but on closer inspectionit turnsout thatthe arpeggios
are completely consistent registrally,so that the voice leading

"Christensen1992, 101 ff.


"8SeeChristensen1992, 110.
19SeeSamson 1999.
20SeeTodd 1983.
21Collet 1966 and Finlow 1992. Also see Samson 1994, Chapter 4,
"BaroqueReflections."

22Seefigures9-2 and 9-5 (pp. 175 and 179) in Hofstadter1985.


23SeeBrown,Headlam& Dempster,1999. Also see Salzer 1973.
24Cone1969.
25Schachter1999 collects the relevant essays, which originally appeared
individually.

1849, Traite d'harmonie du pianiste. The textures Kalkbrenner

110

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example 4. Excerptsfrom Kalkbrenner1849


legato

1r -777

Brilliante

"W

.L

iNs

NO.14

cresf,

( 0.

Presto

Prst

L6 1

TwoBachPreludes/Two
ChopinEtudes 111

Example 4. [continued]

cres.

8
-:

r6

~TI

0'

,-.

"
r- - : -'. - .

"
t" , I
,..' ', I", '..d'
, ', J - F"

comes through as shown in the reduction (although the "righthand part" is replicated an octave below, and in two successive
octaves above the written part throughout the piece). This consistency of pattern is absolutely essential in communicating the basic
voice leading behind the surface (and essential to the visual appearance that impressed Hofstadter). The importance of voiceleading detail to Chopin is clear from his obsessive editorial refinement of it, documented in the best editions. Unfortunately,

---

F,,

_ -

"- t"

" '

ll

such continuous editing is also the source of discrepancies between his original manuscripts and the various contemporaneous
printings, making determination of an "authoritative score" a
controversial matter.
The regularity of phrase structure in op. 10, no 1, is a significant departurefrom the Bach style, in which overlapping phrases
and elisions are typical and in which continuity and forward motion reign supreme. Indeed, the present analysis maintains that the

112 MusicTheorySpectrum
Example 5. Hypermetricreductionof Chopin,op. 10, no. 1. o =

Al

B2r

3IFC

Bi

m. 9

4f

LI

m.17

m.25

............... .

j
;

"

B3

Al

_
,,- )

~ ~

~~"#~

U-

c.L.,--1-

m,

f
...

,,GO,,a

do

I~d1
I4

W-.

1""?

9"~~e
" '
io- ..........

Tr

-t_

0,,d

"

i-

Io

-'

y r r , rF

first sixteen measures of the piece (four hypermeasures in the reduction) are an interruptedclassical period-structurereinterpreted
within Chopin's harmonic language. (If Chopin appropriated a
Baroque compositional technique to his own purposes, he of
course placed it within a phrase and harmonic idiom in which he
habitually worked.) The first half-phrase moves to VII7/V and
thence to V in the second half-phrase (the whole comprising the
first eight measures); meanwhile, structural3 moves to 2. But on
the very last quarterof the phrase (end of m. 8), 2 is inflected to #2,
becoming thereby a leading tone back to 3, and the consequent
phrase picks up on 3 again.

-i

.....o

"

, ,

Complete closure at the end of the A section in m. 16 is prevented by overlapping the 2-1 soprano with the return of the primary melodic tone, 3, above. Two hypermeasures (eight real measures) now occur, which present the full course of the B section of
the piece: VI to ViVI (E major), labeled B 1 in the analysis. Up
until this point, hypermeasures, each made of four measures, have
themselves grouped duply; however, the rest of the B section
(mm. 25-48) groups into 3 + 3 hypermeasures, labeled B2 and
B3. This division of B2 and B3 is clear for at least two reasons:
first, the harmonic rhythm slows in mm. 33-6; and second, mm.
25-36 are easily read as the prolongation of a single harmony,A7,

Two Bach Preludes/TwoChopin Etudes 113

albeit through an interesting Tristan-like detour to the flat-side of


the circle of fifths, and an enharmonic return (B75 becomes Fr+6
in D minor).26B3 now picks up in m. 37 with a clear cycle of
fifths and an acceleration of the harmonic rhythm (to two chords
per real measure) in mm. 43-4, followed by a deceleration back to
one chord per measure in mm. 45-8, all of this acting as a retransition back to Al, which returnsin m. 49.
The ubiquitous cycle of fifths of the B2 and B3 sections is yet
another trace of Bach and the Baroque, of course; after all, the A
section was essentially a "frame,"supportedby a cadence. But the
middleground line behind all of this is at least as important. Jim
Samson seems to have had this piece in mind when he writes that
"the sense of harmonic flow in both Bach and Chopin is achieved
by maintaining a dissonant tension over extended periods, and by
long-range linear motions which emerge throughthe figuration,creating a strong counterpoint with the melodic bass."27The primary
melodic tone E5 (to choose the most likely in the three-octave "registration")is first reintroducedfrom a third above after the first hypermeasureof B2; at this point, E5 begins a descent through an octave that finishes with the acceleration of harmonic rhythm in the
second hypermeasureof B3; the new, lower-registerE4 is now prolonged by neighbor-note motion in the last hypermeasure of B3.
This octave descent is accompanied by tenths in the bass, just as it
was in Bach, though the tenths are elaboratedby intervening7ths to
form the cycle-of-fifths progression. Still, the parallel with Bach
and the "regl6 de l'octave" formula is striking.All of the preceding
discussion is summarizedin the analysis shown in Example 6.
The slowing of harmonic rhythm in mm. 45-8 allows an extended arpeggiation in mm. 47-8 that restores the original register
of the primary melodic tone (the return of the "obligatory register"?). The return of Al in m. 49 leads to the expected return of
A2 in m. 57, which in turn seems to lead to B 1. This time, how26Analternateinterpretationis thatV7/vi is "resolved"into the next chord,
and when A majorreturnsas a triadiccadentialgoal, it is VI#.
27Samson1994, 61.

ever, the apparentgoal of B 1, V/VI, is a divider between the overall V and the returning I that occurs in m. 69, although melodic
closure is anything but clear. Subsequent pedals on I and V in the
closing section continue to fill out the parallel with the Baroque
prelude. Example 7 shows the analysis.
We turn now to the "bookend"mate of op. 10, no 1: op. 25, no.
12, in C minor. By all reports, this piece was composed at least six
years after op. 10, no 1, although the two pieces seem to be extremely close in all ways, except perhaps chronologically. Many
have noted the similarity of this Etude to op. 10, no 1, with regard
to surface diminution: both hands participate in the arpeggiation
this time around. Samson also notes that "again there are echoes
of Bach-the Prelude in the same key from Book 1, for instance
-in the tolling 'chorale,' against which subsidiary material
emerges in flexible rhythms."28The parallels run more deeply than
that, as we shall see.
A significant difference from the Bach works-or from op. 10,
no 1, for that matter-is the register in which the right-hand
arpeggiation starts: by starting in the C3-C4 octave, the downbeat
of each measure announces a "tenor melody" since the tone will
be sustained by the pedal. Such tenor melodies catered to
nineteenth-century aesthetic tastes, the same tastes that preferred
Gounod's revision of Bach's C-major Prelude with its superimposed melody to the unadorned original. (Incidentally, proof that
the tenor octave is indeed the primary melodic register occurs
later in the piece when the echoing C4-C5 octave briefly takes a
pedal instead of doubling the tune.)
Example 8 shows the hypermetric analysis. In order to make
the distinction between melody and bass in the analysis more easily readable, the tenor melody has been notated up an octave
throughout. Once again, one measure of the original score equals
a half note in the reduction, and once again the piece consists of
twenty hypermeasures, but this time there are eighty-three real
measures instead of seventy-nine (accounted for by including two
28Samson1994, 71.

114

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example6. Analysis of Chopin,op. 10, no 1, mm. 17-49


m. 17

m.25

37

N
?3
7

10

10

10

V/VI V7/II

VI

10

10 7 10 7 10 7 10 7

10 7

VI

10

V/VI V

IIVI

Example7. Analysis of Chopin,op. 10, no. 1, mm. 49-end


m 57

m.49

2:

m.69(Codetta)

VV__VI_-_

_____

III#

hypermeasures). A quick scan through the reduction shows that


the rhythmic structureof the Etude is more complicated than that
of op. 10, no 1, just as Bach's C-minor Prelude is more complicated that his C-major Prelude. While most of the piece falls into
four-beat hypermeasures, the connection between the opening
thematic section and the change of mode to C major is a six-beat
hypermeasure;given the opening hypermetric structure,we might
regard the last two half notes in the 3 hypermeasure as beginning
a new four-beat hypermeasure (see the tentative, overlapping 4
placed over the top of the example at this point). However, the
repetition of this C-major section in Abconfirms four-beat hyper-

V7

__

measures starting at m. 15, which remain the norm until an


extension to a 3 hypermeasure occurs to bring about the final
cadence of the piece.
Example 9(a) shows an analysis of opening thematic section,
labeled Al. It begins with double-neighbor melodic motion
around structural 3, supported by a tonic pedal in the bass (the
first hypermeasure). The parallel with Bach's C-minor Prelude is
striking, as shown in 9(b): one opening motive is the retrogradeor the tonal inversion--of the other. It is difficult to overstress
the importance of this motive to the piece: it recurs in the theme
of the B section, and becomes especially important in the

TwoBachPreludes/Two
ChopinEtudes 115
Example 8. Hypermetricreductionof Chopin,op. 25, no. 12. o =

m. 15

(Retransition)

ofA
motive
SCf.

I_-,
m. 31

m. 25

Extension

Etni

55

m.

71-.n.

A
t

I ..

'
.

116

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example9.
(a) Analysis of Chopin,op. 25, no. 12, mm. 1-9

XT
m. 9

I-

(b) Analysis of Bach, C-MinorPreludefrom WTC I, mm. 1-5

66

retransition. The Al phrase continues to a structural 2, which


moves to tonic closure on the strong-beat 3 of the second hypermeasure. 2 is embellished by 3 as an incomplete upper neighbor
(supported by the dominant over the tonic pedal), a typical device
of Chopin's harmonic language, and one which cannot fail to
evoke its parallel-major,enharmonically equivalent cousin, #22,last
seen in the same position in the C-major Etude. But the two colorations have very different effects: this time, the opening eightmeasure phrase clearly closes on the tonic with a structural3-2-1
in the tenor register, which continues through an echoing diminuted octave-descent in the soprano register, as I is picked up to
continue as 8-7-6-5-4.
A2 starts as a restatementof Al, but after the surprisingchange
to the parallel major in m. 12, the neighbor figure this time embell-

ishes 5 in m. 14, transformingthe double-neighborfigure into what


might be called a "cambiata"F-E?-Ab-G. This leads directly to the
B theme, although this theme clearly evolves from a diminution of
A (in the parallel major) in m. 16 to the downbeat of m. 17, along
with its embellished extension, again through a 3-2-1 descent, in
mm. 18-20. It is importantto add that the extension of the foreground arpeggiation figure by yet another octave gives additional
emphasis to the E in m. 15. The B theme is then repeated in Ab
majorin mm. 23-30, although the last two beats of m. 30 head back
to C minor via a Fr+6.What follows is a sixteen-measure span that
prolongs the dominant of C minor, stating various transpositions
and combinations of the "cambiata"variantof the double-neighbor.
Example 10 provides an analysis of mm. 15-46. Once again,
we see Jim Samson's "long-range linear motions which emerge

TwoBachPreludes/Two
ChopinEtudes 117
Example10. Analysisof Chopin,op. 25, no. 12,mm.15-47

m 31

m.23

m.15

10

m.42

m.47

10

i;9

w - IM I- 0
o
6 5~

:,
a'-I;

IVI

through the figuration."Moreover, this particular long-range motion is a variant of the same descent we have seen in each of the
other pieces we have examined: 3 (this time with change of mode
to major) initiates a descent to I (m. 24), which becomes 3 of Ab
(VI), supporting a continuation of the descent to Ab (m. 30), and
thence to G (m. 31). While G is prolonged throughoutmm. 31-46,
the transposition scheme of the cambiata motive (up diatonic
thirds) effectively arpeggiates a V?9 over the course of the retransition, the seventh of which resolves strongly to 3 with the return
of A (m. 47). Thus, the B section is hung on the same octave-line
through 3 that we have seen in each of the other pieces, although
this time there is no doubt that the soprano "tune"is far more important than the bass line, which essentially reduces to the three
pedals, I, VI, and V. The Baroque "regle de l'octave" in the bass
gives way in importance to a structural tenor melody in this
nineteenth-centurywork.
Needless to say, there are other features of these pieces deserving of our attention beyond those discussed here. One of these is
certainly the notion of affect: in maintaining that there is a connection between Bach and Chopin, the topic seems ultimately inescapable. The drama of the "Ocean Etude," as one sometimes
hears op. 25, no. 12, called, certainly calls to mind the traditional

dramatic affect of C minor, not so far from Bach's conception of


that key. (The piece also calls to mind the "Revolutionary Etude"
that ends op. 10; Chopin seems to have wanted a dramatic close to
both collections.) Can we say more? Might tuning bear upon the
issue here? A recent investigation of the subject claims that temperaments prevalent in Chopin's time (documented by the piano
makers of the day) were "circulating" (that is, all keys were
playable), but not equal (thus, even those of us without absolute
pitch would be able to differentiate keys by their individual tuning).29In the case of the F-major Etude, op. 25, no. 3, mentioned
earlier, the issue is extraordinarilysignificant: the "recapitulation"
of the tune in C major (V), is overshot, such that a "false recapitulation" in B major occurs instead. This passage is in the low register of the instrument, and in contrast to the piano dynamic of the
opening tune in F, a forte dynamic underscores the appearance in
B. It certainly seems relevant to point out that F major would be
close to just in a temperament of the day, while the major third
B-D# of B major (likely derived in most temperaments as B-E6)
would be one of the widest available and would beat wildly in
comparison to the F-A third. But is temperament relevant to the

29Jorgensen1991 presentsan exhaustivestudyof the topic.

118

MusicTheory Spectrum

present discussion? To cite one possibility, the E-major triad that


often "divides" C and G in op. 10, no 1, would sound distinctly
more "dissonant" than the C-major and G-major triads on either
side of it in one of these circulating temperaments (E-G# would be
wider than C-E or G-B). Moreover, differently tuned keys might
preserve different affects, and perhaps that is one reason why
Chopin's C-major and C-minor Etudes seem to share many affective qualities with the Bach Preludes in the same key. But that is a
topic to pursue in detail in another article.
It must be admitted that in its structuralcomparison of works
of Bach and Chopin, the present essay cannot escape the controversial topic of "influence." Purposely, the genre that probably
transmitted that influence of Bach to Chopin is narrowly defined
here, while, at the same time, the precise source of that influence,
whether it be the works of Bach or rather mundane pedagogical
works for keyboard, remains unclear. "Influence" itself is a much
larger topic in recent Bloom-influenced studies.30Were we to attempt grander statements in this regard, we should certainly have
to factor in the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution and, as a
consequence, the technology that made the beginnings of the
modern piano possible. In an extreme interpretation, it might be
maintained that Chopin simply brought the Bach prelude into that
modern world: the "strength"of his reading of Bach owes much to
this technology and the new playing techniques that arose as a
of which were certainly invented by
consequence-some
to
the virtuosity of Paganini to the new
transfer
Chopin.31 Seeking
a
host of lesser lights created a new
and
medium, Chopin, Liszt,
musical literature to do so. The industrial technology that gave
rise to the modern piano also ushered in an extraordinarily productive period of metal instrument building: the range-extending
winds, the saxophones, and other exotic instruments that later fell
out of favor. Clearly, this was a period in which the past could be
30Korsyn 1991, for example.
3'Theconnection between compositionalstructureand practicalmattersof
instrumentaltechniqueis takenup in Kinzler1977.

made to weigh lightly on many musicians while a bright future of


new instruments and techniques beckoned.
To be sure, as instrumental forces stabilized (to the extent that
they are still essentially the same today), the distinction between
"performer" and "composer" began to crystallize, and both the
Romantic aesthetic and a welling historical consciousness lent
that "composer" an identity and charge requiring "originality."
Certainly the "Anxiety of Influence" became greater with later
generations (and greatest in the 20th century) as the weight of
history increased; but when Chopin first became seriously acquainted with Bach's music, Bach was hardly the mythic figure he
was to become during the course of the nineteenth century.
The present article has also attempted to demonstrate that
Schenkerian analysis can be used as a tool with which to make
some reasonably clear statements regarding the evolution of
"style" (in a very limited repertoire,to be sure). While the middleground structure shown here might seem to suffer from the same
"generic disease" that both Meyer's archetypes32and other Schenkerian middleground "motives" suffer from (that is, there seems
nothing particularlyunique or memorable-at least from a motivic
point of view-about an octave scale), it has, nevertheless, some
interesting features. First, the bass progression of this abstractmiddleground formation was in fact reified as a concrete pedagogical
aid for at least two-hundred years, enabling us to make a connection between musical structureand the pedagogy of improvisation.
Second, the structuralsoprano of this middleground-the so-called
"octave line"-is most unusual in the background of a composition, and not terribly common in the middleground either.
Certainly, motions through thirds and fifths are far more common
(in approximately that order). Further, in all four pieces considered in the present article, the octave line elaborates the background tonic area of the piece before the move to the background
dominant, and thence to background tonic return. What at first

32Meyer1989.

Two Bach Preludes/TwoChopin Etudes 119

blush might seem to be "generic" is really considerably more special. By looking closely at middleground formations in these two
Chopin Etudes, the present essay hopes to have put greater detail
into Jim Samson's perceptive notion of "long-range linear motions
which emerge through the figuration, creating a strong counterpoint with the melodic bass," and in so doing, to have elucidated
one of Chopin's most profound connections to Bach.
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Hofstadter, Douglas. R. 1985. Metamagical Themas. New York:


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ABSTRACT
Chopin'sinterestin the music of Bach has long been known,if perhaps
underrated.Of particularimportancearoundthe time Chopinarrivedin
Paris(1829), the influenceof Bach is mostprominentin his worksof this
period,especiallythe Etudesand certainof the Preludes.The presentarticle begins by consideringthe relationshipof the baroque"figuralprelude"to the largercontextof Baroquekeyboardand compositionalpedathe structureof an improvisedfiguralprelude
gogy. After demonstrating
as describedby C. P. E. Bach,andthe embodimentof this structural
plan
in J. S. Bach'spreludes,the papercontinuesby demonstrating
anotherpotentialsourcefromwhichChopinmayhavedrawncompositionalmodels:
the improvisationmanualof the early 19th century,in which the same
structural
patternsurvives,clothedin early 19th-century
pianisticbravura.
Thus the structuralresemblancesto the Baroquepreludethat this study
findsin Chopin'sEtudesare hardlyanachronistic,
althoughit seems clear
that in the case of Chopin,his studyof Bach is the primarysource.The
paperthen revealsdeep-levelstructuralrelationshipsbetweenChopin's
C-MajorEtudeop. 10, no. 1, andBach'sC-MajorPrelude(wTCI), moving on as well to another pairing of Chopin's C-minor Etude op. 25, no.
12, and Bach's C-minor Prelude from WTCI. The study uses Schenkerian
analysis as a means of making clear statements about the evolution of
musical "style."