Schenker, Mazel, and Chopin: Elements of Linear Analysis in the Work of Leo Mazel

Ellen Bakulina, University of North Texas

This paper uncovers hitherto unrecognized conceptual connections between Russian and North- American music theory through an examination of the 1937 monograph (untranslated into English) on Chopin's Fantasy, op. 49 by the Soviet musicologist Leo Mazel. My two principal objectives are (1) to draw parallels between Mazel's and Schenker's work, and (2) to build an original Schenkerian reading of Chopin's Fantasy based on both Mazel's and Carl Schachter's analyses of the piece. I thus show that elements of linear-analytical thinking can be implicit in analysis ostensibly unrelated to Schenker's work or to graphic techniques.

Several elements in Mazel's book have direct relevance to Schenkerian theory. First, Mazel explains mm. 1-2 as projecting a perfect fourth on two levels, one as a filled-in version of the other -- an expression somewhat resembling the idea of a linear progression. Second, Mazel's harmonic reductions essentially represent a middleground-level imaginary continuo (William Rothstein's term). Finally, the most remarkable section is Mazel's discussion of the Lento passage, which he calls the "central episode", mm. 199-235. He explains this passage as a sort of extension (or prolongation) of the G-flat major harmony, which then becomes an augmented-6th chord and moves to an F-major chord. Mazel's analysis essentially amounts to a prolongational idea due to a reference to a structurally retained tone G flat (not his expression) and a large-scale bass motion G-flat-F. I finish by offering a strictly Schenkerian reading of the Fantasy that incorporates Mazel's semitonal-motion idea at multiple structural levels.