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Mozart's ‘Haydn’ Quartets: Composing Up and Down without Rules

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Esther Cavett-Dunsby*
Merton College, Oxford


In Classical sonata form, the second group - usually in the dominant or relative major - is normally recapitulated in the tonic. This means that a composer of sonatas must choose whether to transpose the second group in the recapitulation up or down a fourth/fifth or sixth/third. What advice, then, would Mozart have offered if his pupil Thomas Attwood had asked him how to decide whether the second group should come back transposed up or down?

Research Article
Copyright © 1988 Royal Musical Association

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1 This essay originated in a paper for the 1985 King's College London IAMS Colloquium series and was subsequently reformulated as part of my doctoral dissertation, ‘Mozart's Variations Reconsidered. Four Case Studies (K 613, K 501, and the Finales of K 421 (417b) and K 491)‘ (University of London, 1985)Google Scholar

2 W A Mozart. Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, Kritische Berichte, X, Supplement, 3/30/1 Thomas Altwoods Theorie- und Kompositionsstudien bei Mozart, ed Daniel Heartz and Alfred Mann (Kassel, 1969), 108 (my translation)Google Scholar

3 See, for example, Charles Stanford, Musical Composition A Short Treatise for Students (London, 1912), Reginald Owen Morris, The Structure of Music An Outline for Students (London, 1935), Gerald Abraham, Design in Music (London, 1949), Hugo Leichtentritt, Musical Form (Cambridge, Mass., 1951)Google Scholar

4 The Music Forum, 4 (1976), 195-235Google Scholar

5 Schenker, Heinrich, Beethoven, die letzten Sonaten Sonata As Dur Op 110 Erlauterungsausgabe, ed Oswald Jonas (Vienna, 1972)Google Scholar

6 Free Composition (Der freie Satz), trans and ed Ernst Oster (New York, 1979), 12 and 107-8.Google Scholar

7 Readings in Schenker Analysis and Other Approaches, ed. Maury Yeston (New Haven, 1977), 54-71Google Scholar

8 For a survey of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century theories of sonata form, see William S Newman, ‘The Recognition of Sonata Form by Theorists of the 18th and 19th Centuries’, American Musicological Society Papers (1941), 21-9, Newman, The Sonata in the Classic Era (3rd edn, New York, 1983), Newman, The Sonata since Beethoven (3rd edn, New York, 1983), Leonard Ratner, ‘Harmonic Aspects of Classic Form’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 2 (1949), 159-68, Ratner, Classic Music Expression, Form and Style (New York, 1980), Bathia Churgin, ‘Francesco Galeazzi's Description (1796) of Sonata Form’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 21 (1968), 181-99, Birgitte Plesner Vinding Moyer, ‘Concepts of Musical Form in the Nineteenth Century with Special Reference to A B Marx and Sonata Form’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 1969)Google Scholar

9 Reicha, Antoine, Traité de haute composition musicale (Paris, 1826), ii, 299Google Scholar

10 The Sonata in the Classic Era, 21Google Scholar

11 Koch, Heinrich Christoph, Introductory Essay on Composition. The Mechanical Rules of Melody, Sections 3 and 4, trans Nancy Kovaleff Baker (New York, 1983), 199-200Google Scholar

12 In this connection, see Abraham, Gerald, The Concise Oxford History of Music (London, 1979), 485-7; Charles Rosen, Sonata Forms (New York, 1980), 1-5, James Webster, ‘Sonata Form’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed Stanley Sadie (London, 1980), xvii, 497-508Google Scholar

13 Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel, Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, trans William J Mitchell (London, 1974), 441.Google Scholar

14 Drabkin, William, ‘Register’, The New Grove Dictionary, xv, 683-4.Google Scholar

15 See in this connection Eric, Wen, ‘A Disguised Reminiscence in the First Movement of Mozart's G minor Symphony’, Music Analysis, 1 (1982), 55–72Google Scholar

16 The music example additionally highlights the cello's notes a-c'-b♭ in bars 84–5 These notes – though in a different register – are included in the first violin in bar 16 of the exposition, and they form the peak of the first violin's semiquavers in bar 87Google Scholar

17 Schenker conceived sonata form as a divided structure, the exposition and development before the interruption, the first and second groups of the recapitulation after it (see Schenker, Free Composition, 133-41).Google Scholar

18 Ibid., 138Google Scholar

19 The thematic function of this quasi-vanation formation within the overall form of the movement is revealed when the last variation of the ‘theme’ of the second group introduces a version of the opening of the first group (Example 3(a))Google Scholar

20 ‘Register and the Large-Scale Connection’, 54Google Scholar

21 Ibid, 53Google Scholar

22 This example from the C major Quartet is discussed from a different perspective in my article ‘Mozart's Codas’ forthcoming in Music Analysis, 7 (1988)Google Scholar

23 Schenker analysed this movement at an earlier stage in his periodical Der Tonwille (4, 1923, p 19 and supplement), before he had formulated fully his concept of the fundamental structure His foreground graph in this earlier analysis shows e'“ in bar 69 but e” in bar 64, and his graphic notation suggests that the fundamental line is in the lower octave His commentary on the graph is concerned not with register but more with the function of the subdominant reprise He does not refer to this aspect of the reprise in connection with his various analyses of the movement in Free Composition, even though his remote-level graph (Example 14 here) shows clearly how his concept of the fundamental structure influenced his interpretation of the movement. ‘Recapitulation’ is written beneath the return of 3 after the interruption, implying that the second group in the recapitulation is the beginning of the ‘structural’ reprise, whilst the first group is the beginning of the formal repriseGoogle Scholar

24 See Churgin, , ‘Francesco Galeazzi's Description (1796) of Sonata Form‘Google Scholar