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CHOPIN'S 'BARCAROLE IN F SHARP MAJOR' OP. 60. A SENTIMENTAL SONG OR A ROMANTIC POEM? ('Barkarola Fis-dur' op. 60 Chopina. Piesn sentymentalna czy romantyczny poemat?)

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Chopin's 'Barcarole in F sharp major' Op. 60 is one of the compositions characterized by an especially ample reception. The work was frequently described in programmatic terms, which can be called 'external' impressions but at the same time these impressions were marked by a certain detachment from internal musical phenomena that could determine programmatic interpretations of one kind or another. The author poses a question about why there are hermeneutic interpretations of the 'Barcarole' (inter alia those by Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, and Karol Stromenger) and carries out a detailed analysis examining internal, strictly musical relationships within the structure of the whole composition. The method of analytical discourse is the observation of the clash of two idioms: the idiom of song (Gondoliera) and the epic idiom. The analysis of the whole composition carried out from this perspective shows a characteristic balancing of musical action between the two idioms and the possible consequent repercussions for the reception of the 'Barcarole', which surprises the listener with its complexity and multifaceted nature also in this aspect. The composer surprises us from the first tunes of the piece by referring to the idiom other than that indicated in the title - to the narrative, epic idiom with a tempestuous tone. Despite the fact that all the main musical themes in their original shapes refer to selected external features of Gondoliera, they are in a way woven in the narrative structure, which consistently and inevitably leads to an extremely dynamic and even dramatic finale. The listener is exposed to both idioms and finds himself as if at the crossroads: on the one hand, he feels the stimuli that indicate a sentimental romance, on the other hand the musical idiom of the narrative and its finale evoke associations with some indeterminate but ongoing drama. In this way the composer's strategy vis-a-vis the genre, consisting in the clash of two largely contrasting musical idioms and certain indeterminate sets of musical features, creates an indistinct semantic range, which can be defined in different ways by different interpreters, but it is probable that with different points of view there will remain such common features as 'the mysterious', 'a hidden message', 'hidden depths'. The present research suggestion sheds light on the possibilities of understanding the work itself, its reception and the possibilities of its performing interpretations for Chopin's 'Barcarole' remains a unique composition in the history of musical literature, an unprecedented work no one tried to continue, which is placed among the jewels of European music like the carefully cherished memory of a kiss in a cosy gondola.
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  • Artur Szklener, Instytut Muzykologii Uniwersytetu Jagiellonskiego, ul. Westerplatte 10, 31-033 Krakow
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