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Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin? (Read 830 times)

Offline lelle

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Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
« on: September 02, 2021, 08:55:33 PM »
I've been working a bit on the 2nd and 3rd Scherzos by Chopin, and I noticed that they both feature a particular rhythm: dotted quarter note, eighth note, quarter note. This rhythm is also heavily featured in the 2nd ballade, but with smaller note values - dotted eighth note, 16th note, eighth note:



This rhythm is also in the first scherzo (and a tiny amount in the 4th), but I don't know off the top of my head if this rhythm is in other pieces by his as well, but it's quite characteristic, and I wonder if anyone knows the significance of it? Is it a reference to something or did he just think it sounded cool? I became curious since it's such a present element in the 2nd scherzo and 2nd ballade in particular.

Piano Street's Digital Sheet Music Library

Chopin: Scherzo 2, opus 31
piano sheet music of Scherzo 2


Piano Street's Digital Sheet Music Library

Chopin: Ballade 2, opus 38
piano sheet music of Ballade 2


Offline jacobson747

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #1 on: September 02, 2021, 09:53:59 PM »
The siciliana is a musical style or genre often included as a movement within larger pieces of music starting in the Baroque period. It is in a slow 6/8 or 12/8 time. Loosely associated with Sicily, the siciliana evokes a pastoral mood, and is often characterized by dotted rhythms that can distinguish it within the broader musical genre of the pastorale.

Second Ballade: The use of a recurring iambic rhythm (weak-strong, e.g. quaver-crotchet/eighth note-quarter note), occasionally interspersed with the Siciliana rhythm gives the music an idyllic pastoral character.

Offline jacobson747

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #2 on: September 02, 2021, 10:05:46 PM »
Good question and observation. When I saw 6/8 time with "dotted 8th-16th-8th note", I thought of the Siciliana rhythm.  I then took text from a couple different sources and made small edits.  Hope this helps. 

Offline lelle

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #3 on: September 03, 2021, 10:57:20 PM »
Thanks! So no deeper symbolic significance then? I was curious, since it appears in several scherzos, if it had some hidden meaning I could use to influence my interpretation of the passages involved  ;D It's very fast in the scherzos as well, so not really pastoral in those cases, but in the Ballade, I agree with you.

Offline jacobson747

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #4 on: September 04, 2021, 12:41:08 AM »
Thanks! So no deeper symbolic significance then? I was curious, since it appears in several scherzos, if it had some hidden meaning I could use to influence my interpretation of the passages involved  ;D It's very fast in the scherzos as well, so not really pastoral in those cases, but in the Ballade, I agree with you.

Per Wikipedia:  Siciliana rhythm origins may be traced back to Italian Renaissance madrigals from the 1500s, in triple time with dotted rhythms. These madrigal rhythms may themselves derive from the dactylic hexameter of the epic poetry of ancient Greece and Rome.

I listened to Scherzo 2 just now (Rubinstein).  Great piece as is all his Ballades and Scherzos!  Scherzo 2 appears to be in ABA format with coda. Correct me if Im wrong. I agree that the use of the rhythm in the A section (B-flat minor/D-flat major) is not pastoral.  The B section in A major marked sostenuto on the other hand has a pastoral quality to my ear in the sostenuto section.  I see both 1) dotted quarter-eighth-quarter and 2) quarter-dotted quarter-eighth rhythms used in both the A and B sections.

You are asking great questions here.  Maybe others have thoughts and ideas on this rhythm and possible hidden meanings.

Offline lelle

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #5 on: September 05, 2021, 10:38:43 PM »
I listened to Scherzo 2 just now (Rubinstein).  Great piece as is all his Ballades and Scherzos!  Scherzo 2 appears to be in ABA format with coda. Correct me if Im wrong.

Some consider the 2nd scherzo oerplayed but I feel it's played a lot for a reason - it's a fantastic piece, lightning in a bottle tier. It's pretty much a modified ABA form with coda. I would write it out roughly as A A B B development A' Coda

Quote
You are asking great questions here.  Maybe others have thoughts and ideas on this rhythm and possible hidden meanings.

I'm glad you think so! I felt it might just be a way too specific thing I put undue focus on due to my own piano-nerdiness :D

Offline owen david

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #6 on: September 14, 2021, 01:16:42 AM »
Not a direct answer but was just watching a YT vid where the lecturer was saying there was a Chopin piece where it's written 7 notes in the RH over 6 in the LH. He said there's no way anyone can really play that strictly speaking and so you kind of smuggle the 7 notes in between the 6.  That was very good advice I think in the sense that what really matters is the overall effect of what you are playing not achieving some sort of mathematical perfection. It has to be understood a score has its own limitations - it can never capture the real magic of a performance.

Online ranjit

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #7 on: September 14, 2021, 07:50:30 AM »
Not a direct answer but was just watching a YT vid where the lecturer was saying there was a Chopin piece where it's written 7 notes in the RH over 6 in the LH. He said there's no way anyone can really play that strictly speaking and so you kind of smuggle the 7 notes in between the 6.  That was very good advice I think in the sense that what really matters is the overall effect of what you are playing not achieving some sort of mathematical perfection. It has to be understood a score has its own limitations - it can never capture the real magic of a performance.
It's possible to do 7:6 accurately, I think. (Look up Jacob Collier doing 20:21). The question is whether that was necessary or intended, and I think for Chopin a precise polyrhythm is usually not the point.

Offline jimroof

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #8 on: October 15, 2021, 01:41:21 AM »
Just my opinion, but I have always felt that musical notation that involves all kinds of poly-rhythms should NEVER be played 'accurately'.  It should be played musically, as IF the performer just had this idea flow from the fingers.  7 against 4, followed by 11 against 4 should sound like a stream of pearls that end up being 18 against 8... but accelerating.

Many years ago I sat in my teacher's studio as about 6 of us played and critiqued each other.  One person played some Chopin Nocturne and it had one of these sections and it sounded as if they had exactly worked out the literal notation with incredible precision.  I commented "It sounds as if you worked that out with incredible precision" and they said "Thank you".  I did not mean it as a compliment.  It was cold and expressionless.  It needed to sound like the pianist 'just had this idea' and it came forth in expressive freedom as opposed to being squeezed out in perfectly metered shackles.

I chalk this up to the limitations of musical notation.  Chopin put his ideas down as best as the notation would allow, but we all know he was famous for his sense of rubato and my guess is, he made it sound improvisational and free, then had to conform that freedom to the constraints of notation.
Chopin Ballades
Chopin Scherzos 2 and 3
Mephisto Waltz 1
Beethoven Piano Concerto 3
Schumann Concerto Am
Ginastera Piano Sonata
L'isle Joyeuse
Feux d'Artifice
Prokofiev Sonata Dm

Online ranjit

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #9 on: October 15, 2021, 02:34:19 AM »
Chopin put his ideas down as best as the notation would allow, but we all know he was famous for his sense of rubato and my guess is, he made it sound improvisational and free, then had to conform that freedom to the constraints of notation.
I definitely agree with this. People should have the experience of improvising naturally and then trying to notate it themselves. It teaches you so much about the limitations of notation. Things which seem dead obvious when listened to are often nightmares to notate and look like some ultra-fancy new age composition when they're actually quite simple to the ear.

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Any info on this particular rhythm in Chopin?
«Reply #10 on: October 16, 2021, 10:36:28 PM »
I definitely agree with this. People should have the experience of improvising naturally and then trying to notate it themselves. It teaches you so much about the limitations of notation. Things which seem dead obvious when listened to are often nightmares to notate and look like some ultra-fancy new age composition when they're actually quite simple to the ear.

Or even just composing in general. I don't compose anymore but used to in the past, and I feel it has influenced how I read scores a lot. You realize there is a limit to how literal you can be when reading the score, because as you say, when you try to notate your own ideas, you discover what a pale representation the score is of the real deal.