Theory of Nineteenth-Century Sonata Form

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Julian Horton, Criteria for a Theory of Nineteenth-Century Sonata Form
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  Delivered by Ingenta to: ?IP: On: Tue, 13 Feb 2018 16:29:54Copyright Leuven University Press  Julian H Criteria for a Theory of  Nineteenth-Century Sonata Form Abstract Thanks to the work of Janet Schmalfeldt, James Hepokoski, Steven Vande Moortele,and others, progress toward a theory of form for nineteenth-century instrumental music has accelerated in recent years.This article addresses some of the theoretical and methodological issues to which this project gives rise.Taking medial-caesura usage inthe chamber and solo sonata forms of Beethoven,Schubert,Mendelssohn,and Brahmsas a representative corpus study,it focuses on questions of what constitutes a norm in  Formenlehre ,how we determine the criteria for establishing a practice as normative,and how these criteria relate to concepts of normativity in the human sciences. Finally, it oers a comparative analysis of how these issues aect sonata-formal strategies in the rst movements of Brahms’s First Symphony and Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony. Keywords Nineteenth-century music,  Formenlehre,  sonata form,medial caesura   &     International Journal of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory  4, # ,  2017, 147 –191 keynote article © Julian Horton and Leuven University Press  Delivered by Ingenta to: ?IP: On: Tue, 13 Feb 2018 16:29:54Copyright Leuven University Press    &    |  4, # ,  2017 | 147 –191  147  © Julian Horton and Leuven University Press |   Criteria for a Theory of  Nineteenth-Century Sonata Form  Julian H         The renewed interest in  Formenlehre  over the past two decades has opened up freshpossibilities for the theory and analysis of nineteenth-century form.Spurred on by the classically oriented theories of William Caplin,James Hepokoski,andWarren Darcy on the one hand, and by Hepokoski’s post-romantically oriented sonata-deformation theory on the other,theorists have approached the nineteenth-century repertoire with renewed vigor. Above all, momentum has gathered toward the creation of a formal theory, which explains the specicity of nineteenth-century forms by analogy with the taxonomies oered by form-functional or sonata theories. Sonataformrepresentsbothacentralconcernandamajorimpedimentforthisproject: the former, because it is the century’s most prestigious instrumental form; the latter,because the theoretical problems it poses are dauntingly complex. The ambition of a romantic  Formenlehre  is further obstructed by the lingering perception that nineteenth- century sonatas represent the moribund aftermath of their Viennese classical forebears.In much literature,the high-classical sonata’s centrality is axiomatic to the point of self- evidence. For Charles Rosen, this condition obtained thanks to the essential relationship betweenformandstyle:sonataformhadhistoricalrelevancesolongasitwasanexpression of musical style. Its codication in the early nineteenth century severed the link withstylistic evolution and transformed the sonata into a xed scheme, which composers   William E. Caplin,  Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven  (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1998), and  Analyzing Classical Form:An Approach for the Classroom  (NewYork and Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press,2013); and James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy,  Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms,Types,and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata  (NewYork and Oxford: Oxford University Press,2006,  Delivered by Ingenta to: ?IP: On: Tue, 13 Feb 2018 16:29:54Copyright Leuven University Press  Julian Horton       -     &    |  4, # ,  2017   148 more or less competently reproduced. In these terms, post-Beethovenian sonatas do not instantiate stylistic change, but uncomfortably conjoin classical form and romantic lyricism. The new  Formenlehre  has encouraged fresh perspectives on these issues.For Hepokoski and Darcy, the dierences between classical and romantic sonatas arise through the normalization of exceptions: the form’s history is driven after 1800 by the conversion of  “deformations,”or“purposelystrainedornon-normative[realizations]of anaction-space,” into norms: Deformations […] are common within the works of many dierent late-eighteenth- century composers. […] Such occurrences, in dialogue with a norm, should notbe regarded as redening that norm unless the composer continued to employthat idiosyncratic feature in other works […] or unless later composers pickedup the deformation as one of their more-or-less standard options. When thislater occurrence happens,the srcinal exception is no longer to be regarded as a deformation  per se  but becomes one of the lower-level defaults within the sonata-theory system.What was a deformation in Beethoven could become a lower-level default in Schumann,Liszt or Wagner—part of a larger network of nineteenth- century sonata-deformation families. In this model,classical norms remain not as dead schemes (  pace  Rosen),but as“regulative” structures underwriting the music’s anchorage in tradition.   Charles Rosen,  Sonata Forms  (New York: Norton, 1988), 292; and see also the frankly outrageous remarks at ibid., 293:“The stereotypes of sonata construction in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are representative not so much of a developing musical language as of the individual composer’s laziness or despair.”  PerceptionsofadichotomybetweentheromanticlyricstyleandclassicalformareespeciallyprominentinSchubertandMendelssohn scholarship; see, for instance, Felix Salzer,“Die Sonatenform bei Schubert,”  Studien zur Musikwissenschaft  15 (1928), 86–125; and Su-Yin Mak,  Schubert’s Lyricism Reconsidered: Structure, Design and Rhetoric   (Saarbrücken: Lambert, 2010), and“Schubert’s Sonata Forms and the Poetics of the Lyric,”  Journal of Musicology  23/2 (2006), 263–306, https: // doi .org/10.1525/jm.2006.23.2.263; Friedhelm Krummacher,“Zur Kompositionsart Mendelssohns: Thesen am Beispiel der Streichquartette,” in Carl Dahlhaus (ed.),  Das Problem Mendelssohn  (Regensburg: Bosse, 1974), 169–84, trans. Douglass Seaton as“On Mendelssohn’s Compositional Style,”in Seaton (ed.), The Mendelssohn Companion  (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001), 551–68, and  Mendelssohn—der Komponist: Studien zur Kammermusik für Streicher   (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1978); and Greg Vitercik,“Mendelssohn the Progressive,”  Journal of Musicological Research  8 (1989), 333–74, Hepokoski and Darcy,  Elements of Sonata Theory ,11.  “[Sonata theory] provides a foundation for considering works from the decades to come—late Beethoven, Schubert, Weber, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Bruckner, Strauss, Mahler, the‘nationalist composers,’and so on.As we point out from time to time, most [classical] sonata norms remained in place as regulative ideas throughout the nineteenth century”(  Elements of Sonata Theory , vii).This view represents a shift in perspective from Hepokoski’s earlierwork, which conceives late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century “post-sonata” procedures as deformations of the “standard-textbook”form; see Hepokoski,  Sibelius: Symphony No.5  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1993,,5.  Delivered by Ingenta to: ?IP: On: Tue, 13 Feb 2018 16:29:54Copyright Leuven University Press  Julian Horton       -     &    |  4, # ,  2017   149 The historical stance of form-functional theory has been less overtly expressed, thanks in part to Caplin’s focus on syntax rather than form as such. As a result, perspectiveson the nineteenth-century repertoire that are indebted to Caplin have not generally articulated a unied historical position.Janet Schmalfeldt links theory and history via the notion of “becoming,”which is both a theoretical concept and a category in the history of ideas tracking back to Hegel. This allows her to posit a processual notion of form, which emerges historically in analogy with the progress of idealist philosophy. Becoming signals a twofold change in the way form is understood: it privileges form’s “cominginto being”over the concatenation of generic conventions, and it underwrites formal processes with a guiding “idea” reecting a new consciousness of form as a self-sucient category.This perception suggests that romantic sonatas deserve a historical status that Rosen disavows.We can understand Beethoven’s formal self-consciousness as initiating an historical coming of age, rather than a decline; and increasing awareness of form and theability to reect upon it as a vehicle for the conveyance of ideas imply historical maturity, not decadence.The self-reective, processual sonata’s historical signicance is evidenced by its accretion of cultural and political baggage. The world-historical aspirations of  Beethoven’s Third, Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, for instance, depend crucially on sonata form’s ability to narrate teleological processes, a capacity that vertiginously raises the form’saestheticandpoliticalstakes.ItishardtoreconcilethesedevelopmentswithRosen’s idea that the sonata after Beethoven no longer“has a history.” Arguing more overtly for a  Formenlehre  that liberates nineteenth-century sonatasfrom their classical indenture, Steven Vande Moortele has diagnosed the need for “atheory of Romantic form that denes in a positive manner the practice of successive generations of composers without losing track of the ongoing relevance of earlier normsand conventions.” Elaborating this aim as it applies to the concert overture, he advocatesa genre-specic approach, which classies form-functional procedures in historically andgenerically bounded contexts.To this end, Vande Moortele seeks a path between what he   See, for example,“What Are Formal Functions?,”in Pieter Bergé (ed.),  Musical Form, Forms and“Formenlehre”   (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2009), 21–49, especially 32:“the privileging of function over type distinguishes my approach from that of,say,Charles Rosen,or James Hepokoski andWarren Darcy.[…] I see classical form as arising out of a common set of formal functions, which are deployed in dierent ways to create multiple full-movement types.The common element is not sonata form per se,but rather the functions that make up the various forms.”  Janet Schmalfeldt,  In the Process of Becoming: Analytic and Philosophical Perspectives on Form in Nineteenth-Century Music   (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press,2011),especially 3–21 and 23–57. As Rosen phrases it; see  Sonata Forms  ,292.  Steven Vande Moortele,“In Search of Romantic Form,”  Music Analysis  32/3 (2013), 404–31, https: // .12015, at 424. Other recent excursions into this territory include Andrew Davis,“Chopin and the Romantic Sonata: The First Movement of Op. 58,”  Music Theory Spectrum  36 (2014), 270–94, https: //; and Peter H.Smith,“Cadential Content and Cadential Function in the First-Movement Expositions of Schumann’s Violin Sonatas,”  Music Theory and Analysis   3/1 (2016),27–57,
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