Schubert’s Large-Scale Sentences: Exploring the Function of Repetition in Schubert’s First-Movement Sonata Forms

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Caitlin Martinkus


In this article, I share findings from my analysis of first-movement sonata forms composed by Franz Schubert from 1810 to 1828. This work builds on prior studies of nineteenth-century sentences (e.g., BaileyShea 2002/2003, Bivens 2018, Broman 2007, Vande Moortele 2011, and Krebs 2013), offering an in-depth investigation of Schubert’s use of expanded sentence forms. I theorize the typical qualities of Schubert’s large-scale sentences, and highlight one of his more common instantiations: a sentence in which the large-scale continuation phrase begins as a third statement of the large-scale basic idea (that is, a dissolving third statement). I present four examples of this formal type as a representative sample: the C Major Symphony (D. 944/i), the C Minor Piano Sonata (D. 958/i), the C Major String Quintet (D. 956/i), and the D Minor String Quartet (D. 810/i). My analytical examples invite the reader to contemplate the negotiation of surface-level paratactic repetitions with deeper hypotactic structures. These large structures invite new modes of listening; exemplify the shift away from the relative brevity of classical precursors in the nineteenth century in favor of expanded forms; and problematize facile distinctions between inter and intrathematic functions. I conclude by positioning Schubert’s use of large-scale sentences, and his treatment of repetition therein, within the broader context of sentential structures. While present in a small number of eighteenth-century works, I suggest that this formal type came into its own in the nineteenth century.

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