Returning Cycles: Contexts for the Interpretation of Schubert's Impromptus and Last Sonatas

By Charles Fisk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Fields of Resonance

Thus the G that opens the finale of the B♭-Major Sonata does not simply mark a new beginning. Its resonance stirs a memory, highly specific even though subliminal, of the first movement's second phrase, its first response to its own beginning. By the time it returns as the theme of the finale, a rich and elaborate web of associations has been gathered from all the intervening music, as I shall eventually show. When the G recalls that first response, summoning it into self-definition as a theme, it establishes the thematic identity of the finale with roots that run deeply throughout the entire sonata.

Equally pervasive roots underlie the much more explicit return of the opening phrase of the A-Major Sonata's first movement in its finale. Here the original phrase returns, in cancrizans, as the concluding phrase (see ex.8 2a–b), in what Charles Rosen has called “only a framing device. 1 But as Ivan Waldbauer has shown, the bass of this framing idea is also, fundamentally, the bass of the Rondo theme itself. 2 His observation can be richly elaborated. The theme of this Rondo (see ex. 8.1a) marks the culmination of a gradual transformation, extending throughout the four movements of the sonata, of its imposing opening idea into lyrical utterance. In contrast to the B♭-Major Sonata, whose lyrical opening theme, “problematized” by the low G♭ trill, is its point of departure, the A-Major Sonata only comes to full lyrical self-expression as its eventual goal.

The finale of the C-Minor Sonata also contains a block of musical material that returns, in clearly recognizable form, from an earlier movement. Here

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