Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Granat, Zbigniew. “Dreams and Intertextuality in Chopin’s A-Minor Prelude.” Journal of Musicological Research (August 2022): 1-37.

Fryderyk Chopin’s Prelude in A Minor, Op. 28, No. 2 contains musical material borrowed from two songs by Franz Schubert, which can be contextualized by the role of the Parisian salon and Schubert’s reception in France. The subject of Chopin’s Prelude is a song without words, depicting two personas (the singer and the piano) who struggle and ultimately fail to recapture a distant song. As Chopin made his entry into Parisian salon culture in the 1830s, Schubert’s music was also being discovered in Paris thanks to the efforts of Franz Liszt and opera singer Adolphe Nourrit, both of whom Chopin associated with. One of the earliest Schubert lieder to reach French salons was Nacht und Träume, D. 827 (published 1825). The textural layout of Chopin’s Prelude strongly resembles the opening of Nacht und Träume, specifically the phrase “Heil’ge Nacht” (holy night). Chopin augments the dissonance of the model, inverting Schubert’s poetic “dream.” Chopin also borrows from another Schubert lied: Der Wanderer, D. 489 (published 1821). Specifically, Chopin borrows the tune of the phrase “mein geliebtes Land” (my beloved land). A second brief motive could also relate to the phrase “wenig froh” (little joy). In alluding to these two Schubert songs in a convoluted manner in his Prelude, Chopin evokes the realm of dreams, a frequent theme in his music. The dream analogy helps to explain the two performer personas in the piece as existing within the mind of the dreamer. The narrative of a troubled performance can further be read as a metaphor for a wanderer’s journey toward an imaginary homeland. The Prelude’s harmonic journey toward (but failing to reach) the “Polish key” of A major supports this reading. A “program” for the Prelude can be created by superimposing the text of the borrowed Schubert songs onto Chopin’s song without words. It is possible that, given the culture of musical reworking in Parisian salons, listeners would have recognized Chopin’s borrowed material and genre bending. Rather than treating the Schubert fragments as quotations, Chopin recontextualizes them to create a multi-layered musical and metaphorical narrative.

Works: Chopin: Prelude in A Minor, Op. 28, No. 2 (12-32)

Sources: Schubert: Nacht und Träume, D. 827 (12-15, 25-26), Der Wanderer, D. 489 (17-20, 25-32)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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