Trends and patterns in Chopin’s evolving compositional conception of rhythm and metre practice: a case study of the 17 waltzes (ca. 1829-1847)

Monteiro, John Richard Ling (2022) Trends and patterns in Chopin’s evolving compositional conception of rhythm and metre practice: a case study of the 17 waltzes (ca. 1829-1847). MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This dissertation examines Chopin’s 17 waltzes as a collection of miniature works, which I broadly categorise into either ‘Virtuosic’ or ‘Sentimental’ pieces, while also paying attention to the melancholic subset found within the sentimental waltzes. Musicologists and analysts have paid limited emphasis on these waltzes, only singling out and focusing on Chopin’s published waltzes, with limited scrutiny of his unpublished dances.
I derive five rhythmic and metric principles which this study centres around: ‘Unity and Contrast’, ‘Vibrancy’, and ‘Tension and Release’. Trends and patterns are uncovered while tracing the evolutionary journey that Chopin undertook in composing his waltzes from 1828 to 1847. These 20 years are broken down into three periods: Warsaw, mature, and the later years.

I further argue that the Warsaw waltzes play significant roles in how musical ideas originate, which Chopin uses in his later works, whilst varying them in his terms. As such, insights are drawn, enriching, and enhancing our understanding of Chopin’s compositional practice of these waltzes. I also draw parallels between his waltzes and his miniature works found in his other genres (e.g., Mazurkas, Nocturnes, Preludes), and the works of other nineteenth-century composers. Lastly, I establish a weighted hierarchy comprising three levels (essential, frequent, and idiosyncratic), distinguishing how often Chopin uses these stylistic features.

This study raises several insights when examining Chopin’s waltzes as a collection of dances, which otherwise would not have been brought to clarity. Key findings include how Chopin recollects distinct patterns when he wrote his waltzes, often culminating in more sophisticated ideas in the later waltzes like those in Op. 64. The melancholic subset including Chopin’s own favourite (Op. 34, No. 2) comprise distinct rhythmic ideas used exclusively. Likewise, Chopin favoured the use of single-tone repetitions, acciaccatura motifs and multi-bar trills in the virtuosic waltzes. The oompah-pah was often varied in all his waltzes, while various metrical dissonances were used in both groups.

Within the waltz oeuvre, Chopin’s compositional thought process is clearly mapped out through thoroughly investigating his more recognised published pieces and those in his private collections. This study affirms his relentless drive toward reinventing his rhythmic and metric ideas, while at the same time, opening possibilities for how he interpenetrates these notions across his other miniature works.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts
Supervisor's Name: Butt, Professor John and Code, Dr. David
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-83309
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2022 09:40
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2022 09:40
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83309

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