Formal fusion and rotational overlap in sonata forms from the Chamber music of Brahms, Dvor˘ak, Franck, and Grieg

Date of Completion

January 2009






While many well-known studies of classical sonata form discuss trends shared by several composers in the same era, studies of sonata form after Schubert tend to focus on the works of individual composers. Using genres of non-programmatic sonatas and chamber music, this dissertation will examine sonata procedures common to Brahms, Dvořák, Franck, and Grieg. Trends in sonata procedure in this repertory fall into two broad categories: expansion of formal areas beyond the eighteenth-century norms, and the exploration of schematic, often symmetrically conceived, tonal designs, both within sections and across entire movements. Both trends tend to result in formal fusion, which occurs when a single section of music simultaneously fulfills more than one formal function. The expansion of thematic areas in sonata expositions infuses those sections with functions traditionally associated with different formal areas, often thwarting listeners' expectations. These expanded areas are frequently treated differently in a “developmental” recapitulation that either confirms or contradicts the infused functions. These four composers used alternative key schemes in sonata-form expositions far more frequently than composers active in the classical era, and these schemes often initiate a pattern that continues through the development or the entire movement. Such schematic tonal designs cross the boundaries between the main formal divisions, or thematic rotations (exposition, development, recapitulation, and coda), creating rotational overlap. The most common types of large-scale fusion and rotational overlap in these works are the off-tonic recapitulation, the “developmental” recapitulation, tonal closure pushed into the coda section, and schematic tonal designs spanning two or more thematic rotations.^