Appalachian State University
Implication of juxtaposition on the structural and expressive construction of
two nocturnes by Frédéric Chopin
The paper studies the structural and expressive motivation behind Chopin’s use of parallel, transposed passages in the middle section (B1 and B2) of two of his ternary-form nocturnes: Op. 32/2 in A-flat major and Op. 62/2 in E major. Analogous to the use of juxtaposition—a technique that places two elements side by side in order to show a contrast or a new relationship between them—such organization in these two nocturnes enhances harmonic conflicts that are specific and fundamental to both tonal and expressive design. In Op. 32/2, the literal transposition B1 by a half-step in B2 creates an oppositional stance. But underneath this intense chromaticism lies an inter-sectional connection: B1 and B2 respectively presents in new context elements from the two and only two chromatic events in Section A; Section B is a composing out of a chromatic motive that affects one of such events in Section A.
Modal contrast constitutes the expressive drama in Op. 62/2, with each section presenting a different manner of interaction between the opposite modes. B1 and B2 are related by a third, respectively featuring G# and G. B1 maximizes the harmonic potential of G#, traversing C# minor, E major, and G# minor; G dominates B2, receiving middleground harmonization from E minor and G major. But the motion towards B minor at the end of B2 makes a problematic restoration of E major for the oncoming reprise. Section A’ takes on an unconventional role of sustaining the harmonic tension, delaying the tonic arrival.
Hiu-Wah Au is associate professor of music at Appalachian State University. Her research interests are Schenkerian theory, variation form, and performance and analysis. She has presented papers at Music Theory Southeast, the Music Theory Society of New York State, and the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic, and has published articles in Gamut, Intégral, and Journal of Schenkerian Studies.