Associative Harmony, Tonal Pairing, and Middleground Structure in Schumann's Sonata Expositions

Peter H. Smith

in Rethinking Schumann

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780195393859
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894406 | DOI:
Associative Harmony, Tonal Pairing, and Middleground Structure in Schumann's Sonata Expositions

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Scholars and critics historically have disparaged the function of tonal pairing in Schumann's sonata forms, even as the technique has met with critical approval in the context of the composer's piano and vocal works. This chapter joins a more recent trend toward a positive reassessment of Schumann's sonata practice through a study of tonal pairing in the expositions from the first movements of three of his most popular works: the Piano Quintet, the Piano Quartet, and the Rhenish Symphony. Tonal pairing works in the service of the diverse formal exigencies of the three expository types—two‐part, continuous, and three‐key—represented by these movements. In the quintet, a chromatic E‐flat Minor—G‐flat Major interaction highlights the arrival of the medial caesura's II‐♮ by allowing this II‐♮ to manifest a sudden turn from a dark flat‐side realm to the bright sharp‐side world of the dominant. The diatonic continuity of a I‐iii pairing in the quartet, by contrast, creates a web of associative connections across tonic and dominant areas in the service of the breathless sweep of a continuous exposition. Analysis of the symphony reveals a pattern of tonal imbrications that serve yet another essential sonata function: to counterbalance self‐contained lyricism in the middle section of the symphony's three‐key exposition.

Keywords: tonal pairing; associative harmony; sonata form; two‐part exposition; continuous exposition; three‐key exposition; Schenkerian analysis; linkage technique

Chapter.  10687 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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