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  • Composer under examination: Frédéric Chopin

  • Musical piece under examination: Scherzo No. 1 in B minor

  • Excerpt under examination: Final Cadence


Chopin's Scherzo No. 1 in B minor concludes triumphantly via a bold plagal cadence of C♯m7(♭5)/B-Bm, which is ii4/2-i in B minor. This final cadence sounds very much like an "Amen" at the end of a choral hymn song, as a final "Amen" is written as a plagal cadence with two syllables.

AMEN!!!

Because of this, I am starting to wonder if Chopin was a Christian. Is there really any evidence that says he actually was?

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    Personally, I don't think a plagal cadence, no matter how strong or bold, is evidence that the composer is Christian. You might get a better answer to this question, actually, on Christianity, if you want to try there... Plagal Cadences don't seem to be a great match for MusicFans SE.
    – user45266
    Dec 9, 2019 at 5:40
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    @user45266 - this is off-topic on Christianity SE.
    – user7708
    Dec 9, 2019 at 6:35
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    @user45266 - why do you think a plagal cadence is not evidence that the composer is Christian? (Related Question.)
    – user7708
    Dec 11, 2019 at 9:22
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    In the „raindrop“-prelude, Chopin cites two bars from the St. Matthews passion. Does this mean he is Christian or does it mean he knew his Bach? Dec 14, 2019 at 16:06
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    @Maika_Sakuran0miya it’s in bar 62 and again in bar 70 (if that is what you mean by measure). The citation is mentioned in the German Wikipedia article about the prelude, unfortunately not in the English one. But Bach uses stanzas from a hymn by Paul Gerhard, as explained in the English Wikipedia article about “Oh sacred head, now wounded”, see section “Melody and use”. That matches the one used in the prelude. Dec 16, 2019 at 9:02

1 Answer 1

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Frederik Chopin was almost certainly born and bred as a Catholic, as were almost people in Poland during his lifetime. His father, Nicolas Chopin, was a Frenchman from Lorraine who had emigrated to Poland in 1787 at the age of sixteen. Frederik was baptised on Easter Sunday, 23 April 1810 in the same church where his parents had married, in Brochów. The parish baptismal record cites his given names in the Latin form Fridericus Franciscus, which strongly implies a Catholic church. But even though he grew up Catholic there is little evidence that he was strongly religious. There are accounts that he had strayed from his religion, but returned to it on his deathbed.

But I wouldn't consider the use of a plagal cadence as any evidence of Christian religious affiliation. A couple of examples: Felix Mendelssohn, who was Jewish, wrote plagal cadences at the end of his overture to "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and at the end of the first movement of his 5th Symphony ("Reformation Symphony").

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    "Why wouldn't you consider the use of the "Amen" as any evidence of religious affiliation?" The issue is whether a final plagal cadence is necessarily an Amen. If you contend that it is in this case, then that contention needs separate proof.
    – Rosie F
    Oct 16, 2019 at 9:19

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