Ambiguity of Tonal Meaning in Chopin’s Prelude op. 28, no.
Music Theory Online, 18 (3.8).
This paper focuses on Chopin’s Prelude in G minor, op. 28, no. 22, which derives its passionate character from
its particularly individual treatment of tonal and rhythmic ambiguity. The upbeat to the theme of the Prelude (rhythmically
distinctive as it includes the only sixteenth note in the entire piece) is tonally ambiguous. In some of its appearances, it seems
to have two conflicting interpretive possibilities, functioning as dominant and tonic harmony at the same time—supporting
and . The Schenkerian analytical notation employed in this paper follows guidelines for which Steve Larson uses the term
“strict use.” This analytical method clearly depicts the remarkable ways in which the motto seems to present simultaneous
conflicting meanings. Ambiguity not only characterizes the surface of this work, but it also permeates various levels of
structure, and encompasses both harmony and meter.
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