Eighteenth-Century Form Revisited: Reconciling Koch’s Anlage, Sonata Theory’s Rotational Form, and Lester’s Parallel-Section Construction.

by Edward Klorman (The Juilliard School)

Abstract: While the sonata form of the High Classical style continues to attract significant analytical attention, formal structures of early-eighteenth-century two-reprise compositions remain a neglected subject. Yet a fresh examination of this repertoire, in light of recently developed (or rediscovered) analytical paradigms, would provide a broader context for understanding the development of formal procedures throughout the eighteenth century. In this paper, I will demonstrate through the analysis of selected movements by J. S. Bach and D. Scarlatti that certain procedures associated with sonata form have significant and under-explored precursors in Baroque compositions—namely, that Sonata Theory’s “rotational form” is essentially the same phenomenon as Lester’s notion of “parallel-section construction.” Both of these may be subsumed within a more basic formal principle: Caplin’s beginning-middle-end paradigm. 

Koch describes a model (Anlage) for two-reprise instrumental compositions comprising three main periods (Hauptperioden), each ending with a PAC. In Bach’s dances, each Hauptperiode exhibits a subtle but palpable internal structure of three formal functions: (1) an initiating idea (Koch’s Tema), (2) medial, modulatory material, and (3) a characteristic ending idea. Particular musical emphasis is placed on the cadential (ending) function; all three Hauptperiode-ending cadences are commonly achieved using parallel material that is marked for consciousness (Ratner’s “rhyming cadences”). Over the course of the composition, the recurrence of this distinctive ending idea signals the impending conclusion of each Hauptperiode. As each Hauptperiode progresses through beginning, middle, and ending functions, they trace an arc similar to what Sonata Theory calls a “rotation.” The first Hauptperiode is the paradigm against which the later two will be heard; the third Hauptperiode has the generic task of achieving closure in the tonic key, using the “ending” idea as the cadential agent. In sum, this paper calls for a broader chronological purview in studying the development of musical structure and style throughout the eighteenth century. 

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