Book

Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

Seth Monahan

Published in print May 2015 | ISBN: 9780199303465
Published online April 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780199395668 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199303465.001.0001

Series: Oxford Studies in Music Theory

Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

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This book examines Gustav Mahler’s career-long engagement with sonata form. It argues that a dynamic, process-based sonata-form concept factors into all of his early and middle-period symphonies, informing not just their schematic design, but also their narrative/expressive character. The first three chapters lay out the interpretive machinery for the analyses to follow. Chapter 1 considers the role of sonata form in Mahler’s creative imagination, with special interest in (1) his consistent linkage of tonal plot and affect, and (2) the intertextual networks that link his sonata forms to one another. Chapter 2 examines the celebrated Mahler writings of Theodor W. Adorno and draws from that author several of the study’s leading interpretive themes, including the idea of Mahler’s deformational idiom as a “nominalist” indictment of prefabricated forms. Chapter 3 attends to issues of music and narrative, with special focus on the complex relation of single-movement narratives to those spanning entire symphonies. Chapters 4 through 7 are analytical studies of complete movements: Symphonies nos. 3/I, 4/I, 6/I, and 6/IV. On the one hand, each is concerned with the nature and extent of the movement’s dialogue with the traditional sonata plot. On the other, they seek to connect this sonata-form dialogue (1) to the processes implicated by Adorno’s vision of “novelistic” construction and (2) to the traditional programmatic frameworks that accompany the symphonies that embed them.

Keywords: Gustav Mahler; Theodor W. Adorno; Sonata Theory; novel-symphony; dialogic form; program music; sonata failure; musical narrative; hermeneutics

Book.  296 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

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Adorno’s “Novel-Symphony” in Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

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Dimensions of Mahlerian Narrativity in Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

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“A Demonic Haydn” in Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

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“A Play within a Play” in Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

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“The Objectification of Chaos” in Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

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“Tragedy Refuses a Nominalist Form” in Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

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