Sunday morning, November 8, 11-11:50 CST

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Schubert and Chopin

Jonathan Guez (The College of Wooster), Chair

(Hyper)metrical Games in Schubert’s Early Piano Sonatas

Stephen Gomez-Peck (The Graduate Center, CUNY)


Near the end of his analysis of Franz Schubert’s Moment musical in F minor, D. 780, no. 3, Arnold Feil (1986) describes the rhythmic and metrical activity in the piece as, “a kind of game played on many levels with musical-rhythmic figures.” Feil’s near-exclusive focus on rhythm and meter in an instrumental work of Schubert’s puts him in the minority: explorations of rhythm and meter in this repertoire tend to be eclipsed by parameters such as harmony, form, and Beethoven’s influence on Schubert. Yet numerous studies of rhythm and meter in the instrumental works of other 18th- and 19th-century composers have led to rich and exciting ways of understanding, hearing, and performing their music.

This paper places rhythm and meter at center stage in analyses of several of Schubert’s early piano sonatas—those in F minor, D. 625; B major, D. 575; and E-flat major, D. 568—in an effort to stimulate considerations of rhythm and meter as a salient expressive feature in Schubert’s instrumental music. Using Lerdahl and Jackendoff’s (1983) metrical preference rules as my primary analytical framework, I argue that Schubert plays metrical and hypermetrical games by setting up metrical problems at the beginning of movements that lead to rhythmic drama, moments of metrical clarity, and moments of metrical confusion later in the piece. Three metrical games are discussed: (1) creating tension between possible beginning- and end-accented interpretations of themes, (2) obscuring or concealing notated barlines, and (3) odd-strong/even-strong switches.

Form-Functional Displacement in Schubert’s Sonata Forms

Caitlin Martinkus (Virginia Tech)

Caitlin Martinkus is a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include the music of Franz Schubert, musical form in the nineteenth century, historical and contemporaneous theories of musical form, and nineteenth-century improvisatory practices. She has presented research on these subjects at the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory, the European Music Analysis Conference, Music Theory Mid-Atlantic, and Music Theory Midwest.

Caitlin completed her PhD in Music Theory at the University of Toronto in 2017. Her dissertation, “The Urge to Vary: Schubert’s Variation Practice from Schubertiades to Sonata Forms,” reveals the many and nuanced ways in which elements of variation permeate Schubert’s idiom. Her most recent publication in Music Theory & Analysis considers Schubert’s use of variation techniques in the introduction and subordinate theme complex of the C Major Symphony (D. 944/i).

Caitlin is an affiliate of the Centre for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Music at the University of Toronto. Her research has been supported by Virginia Tech (Provost Mentoring Grant) and the Ontario provincial government (OGS).


Form-functional displacement in Schubert’s sonata forms results from two complementary musical processes. The first, a “developmental” or “dramatic” episode, occurs when tonal and formal processes more typically associated with development sections—e.g., “core technique” comprising model-sequence, fragmentation, foreshortening, and thematic liquidation—in expositions or recapitulations. The second situation can be seen as the inverse: it comprises development sections that are “un-developmental” in their construction. Here we find thematic material treated as we might expect in expositions or recapitulations; in Schubert’s idiom, this means processes of variation come to the fore. Such “variational” development sections have received comparatively little analytical attention, yet they are as important as developmental episodes in understanding the multifaceted role of functional displacement in Schubert’s idiom.

My analyses of D. 887/i, D. 958/i, D. 959/i, and D. 960/i illustrate developmental episodes and variational developments. For example, in D. 959/i the subordinate theme complex exemplifies core technique through the deployment of formal loosening devices, suggesting the beginning of the development section. Conversely, the development section is organized as a series of variations. Through an interrogation of form-functional displacement, this paper begins to address the rift between theory and Schubert’s compositional practice. In my conclusion, I consider an alternative lens—that of formal expansion—to frame this phenomenon. Ultimately, the expanded proportions in Schubert’s sonata forms problematize facile distinctions between interthematic functions, and require a reconfiguring of expectations surrounding the compositional possibilities available within a sonata form.

Analyzing Chopin’s Fourth Ballade Through a Two-Dimensional Lens

David Falterman (Eastman School of Music)


Although our tools for analyzing variation or sonata forms on their own have become increasingly nuanced over the last two decades, methods for studying the interactions between the two have typically relied on customized analytical systems specially designed for specific composers or pieces (Ivanovitch 2010; Martinkus 2017). This paper develops an analytical system potentially applicable to any sonata-variation hybrid by generalizing Vande Moortele’s (2009) “two-dimensional sonata form” and supplementing it with important contributions from Schmalfeldt (2011). I first reframe Vande Moortele’s two dimensions as “sonata form” and “variation form,” enabling me to apply his useful categories of “interpolated” and “double-functional” formal units to this music. In addition, more thoroughly integrating Schmalfeldt’s becoming principle allows the two dimensions to more flexibly permeate one another. I then demonstrate the applicability of this generalized two-dimensional perspective through a detailed analysis of two crucial passages in Chopin’s Fourth Piano Ballade, both of which incorporate techniques of retrospective reinterpretation across the dimensional divide of sonata and variation forms.

A fully generalized multi-dimensional approach would provide a dedicated analytical framework for studying pieces that combine any two (or more) formal types. Though a full treatment is beyond the scope of this paper, I conclude with some brief speculations about the potential of this approach in analyzing other hybrid formal types, such as sonata-rondo form.