Anglophone topic theory scholarship evinces only peripheral awareness of rich traditions of topical analysis that have existed outside its linguistic sphere. Many of the elements defining Anglophone topic theory today were present in the writings of Soviet musicologists, some dating back to the 1930s. Soviet “topic theory”—to use the term anachronistically—grew out of the method of holistic analysis (tselostnïy analiz) developed by Leo (Lev) Mazel’ and Viktor Zuckermann (Tsukkerman). Even the earliest scholarship of these theorists is peppered with references to topics, with the topical explorations embedded within broader considerations of style, history, and musical structure and discourse. By the early 1960s, a culture of topical analysis, one that emphasized topics' expressive and formal functions, was in place, and over the next decade it began to transform into a theory. The core of this essay is devoted to Mazel's and, especially, Zuckermann's understanding of topics and what they make possible in music analysis. Mazel's and Zuckermann's work stimulated the next generation of theorists—including Viktor Bobrovsky, Yevgeny Nazaykinsky, and Vyacheslav Medushevsky—to systematize and consolidate their ideas and take them in new directions. This study—part conspectus, part interpretation, and part critique—surveys the evolution of topic theory by holistic analysts and their disciples between 1930 and 1990.

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