Sunday, April 27, 2008

Largo by Frederic Chopin

This is another recording from the book, Classical Music for the Church Service: Volume 2. Although Frederic Chopin wasn't really known for writing music for worship (unlike Johann Sebastian Bach), you will understand why this selection was included in a volume of music for worship services. It has a very hymn-like feel and structure. It is a simple melody moving in a series of chords. It also ends with a cadence that moves from the fifth back to the dominant. This is very typical in church music. For example, at the end of a sacred work, you'll often hear a concluding "A-men" held out at the end. That is quite often a cadence from the fifth to the dominant to help the music feel a firm resolution. Chopin ends this piece in a similar way. However, his conclusion is more subtle for two reasons:
  1. For the second-to-last chord he uses a B-flat seventh instead of a plain-old B-flat Major chord. This ads a harmonic disonance (yes, I know that is an oxymoron) helping to level out the grandoise feeling that might be there otherwise.
  2. For the final chord he leaves out the B-flat and writes only the dominant and third (E-flat and G). The B-flat is what ties the dominant of the B-flat seventh and the fifth of the E-flat Major chords together to give it a prominent feeling of resolve. He leaves out that note to create a more subtle conclusion to the piece. I should note that the B-flat is still in the listeners mind and ears because during the interval between the last two chords the left hand steps down from the dominant (E-flat) to the B-flat, then down one more to the E-flat for the final chord.

With all of that information fresh in your mind, now go and enjoy listening to Frederic Chopin's Largo BI 109 at my Lisztonian site or by using the convenient player below.