Joyce Yip

The Roles of the Coda in Selected Mazurkas of Chopin

Coda brings a concluding and satisfying end as well as answers questions, releases tension, resolves conflicts, and allows new critical readings of a literary work. These properties could apply equally well to codas in music. Some studies of coda have appeared, but even so, coda is commonly regarded as an extrinsic component and therefore not essential to a composition. In Schenkerian analysis, coda is only a foreground phenomenon, a suffix extending and reinforcing a closure already reached with the completion of the Ursatz. If it is unthinkable to omit a coda in a performance, why then would it seem permissible to exclude a coda in an analysis?
In Chopin’s mazurkas, codas appear frequently with a variety of functions, such as recasting thematic and harmonic materials, highlighting motivic and poetic ideas, and bringing tonal resolution and registral completion. These codas should be considered a vital section worthy of our exploration. By examining them individually to reveal how each contributes to an organic whole, I aim to show that codas are indispensable in understanding the overall form of Chopin’s mazurkas, functioning much more than mere appendices.

The codas of five mazurkas (Opp. 24/2, 41/1, 50/3, 56/1, and 56/3) will be discussed. They pick up, restate, and even develop earlier music. Tonal conflicts are resolved in all but Opp. 41/1 and 50/3. These unresolved conflicts should not be seen as a failure in releasing tonal tension; rather, the resulting slight unrest captures the essential sonority and contributes to the characteristic well-roundedness of the work.