Form theorists have shown increasing interest in applying the methodologies of Caplin and of Hepokoski and Darcy to sonata forms of the nineteenth century. Many of these efforts proceed under the assumption that late eighteenth-century norms continued to influence Romantic sonata form even in the face of nineteenth-century innovations. Vande Moortele contrasts this “negative” approach to an as-yet-unrealized “positive” theory that would derive its concepts directly from nineteenth-century music. A multipart strategy interrogates the positive methodology championed by Vande Moortele and such like-minded theorists as Horton and Wingfield. Examination of Horton’s recent analysis of Brahms’s First Symphony reveals the unacknowledged presence of classical norms casting a “negative” light—although an essential and beneficial one—on his presumably “positive” methodology. A corpus study of subordinate theme closure in Dvořák’s mature chamber music responds both to Horton’s interest in asynchrony between formal design and tonal structure and to his and Vande Moortele’s calls for expanding the range of composers included in these endeavors. Attention to a less studied composer betrays the persistent gravitational pull of classical conventions, in contrast to Horton’s and Vande Moortele’s argument that a Romantic-centered corpus would tend to diminish that pull. Detailed analyses of select Dvořák movements focus on subordinate theme closure but also embrace broader concerns, such as form-functional contrast among P, S, C, and coda; characteristics that signal end-of-the-beginning versus end-of-the-end functions for cadences; the interaction of tonal pairing and formal design; and Dvořák’s recapitulatory reinterpretations of his expositional strategies. The analyses illustrate limitations of corpus study as contrasted with close reading of individual movements. The close readings underscore the need to engage both circumpolar norms and progressive linear developments, even in music written in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
Dvořák and Subordinate Theme Closure: “Positive” Analytic Results for a “Negative” Approach to Romantic Form
Peter H. Smith is professor of music at the University of Notre Dame. He serves as editor in chief of Music Theory Spectrum and on the editorial boards of Theory and Practice, the Indiana Theory Review, and the Journal of Schenkerian Studies.
Peter H. Smith; Dvořák and Subordinate Theme Closure: “Positive” Analytic Results for a “Negative” Approach to Romantic Form. Journal of Music Theory 1 October 2020; 64 (2): 203–240. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00222909-8550783
Download citation file: