Skip to main content Accessibility help
    • You have access Access
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: November 2011

1 - The idea of cyclic form

    • Send chapter to Kindle

      To send this chapter to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      • The idea of cyclic form
      • Benedict Taylor, University of Oxford
      • Book: Mendelssohn, Time and Memory
      • Online publication: 05 November 2011
      • Chapter DOI:
      Available formats

      Send chapter to Dropbox

      To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      • The idea of cyclic form
      • Benedict Taylor, University of Oxford
      • Book: Mendelssohn, Time and Memory
      • Online publication: 05 November 2011
      • Chapter DOI:
      Available formats

      Send chapter to Google Drive

      To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      • The idea of cyclic form
      • Benedict Taylor, University of Oxford
      • Book: Mendelssohn, Time and Memory
      • Online publication: 05 November 2011
      • Chapter DOI:
      Available formats


The very term ‘cyclic form’ is confusing. Hans Keller was exaggerating only a little when he described it as ‘one of the most senseless technical terms in the rich history of musicological nonsense’. In fact, it is almost obligatory for commentators to offer some brief apology for their continued use of the term. Charles Rosen, for instance, states that ‘“cyclical form” is an ambiguous as well as a vague term’, whilst James Webster, in his influential study of Haydn's ‘Farewell’ Symphony, prefaces his text with a disclaimer on the unsuitability of the terms ‘cyclic’ and ‘through-composed’, before going on to use them nevertheless.

The term ‘cyclic’, as applied to music since c. 1750, can be used to describe:

  1. a work where part of one movement is recalled in another (examples include Haydn's Symphony No. 46, Beethoven's Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, Mendelssohn's Octet, Schubert's E♭ Trio, Schumann's Piano Quintet, and later pieces by Franck, Brahms, Dvořák, Elgar and Mahler);

  2. a work where separate movements are based on similar thematic material, often accompanied by the merging of individual movements (examples include Schubert's ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy, Mendelssohn's Third and Schumann's Fourth Symphonies, Liszt's B minor Sonata, and numerous works of Franck);

  3. a collection of miniatures, which make full sense only when considered as a whole (archetypically the Romantic song-cycle, but also including piano collections such as Schumann's Carnaval or Davidsbündlertänze).

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Keller, HansThe Classical Romantics: Schumann and MendelssohnSchönzeler, H.H.Of German Music: A SymposiumLondonOswald Wolff 1976 185
Rosen, CharlesThe Romantic GenerationLondonHarper Collins 1996 88
Webster, JamesHaydn's ‘Farewell’ Symphony and the Idea of Classical Style: Through-Composition and Cyclic Integration in his Instrumental MusicCambridge University Press 1991 7
Bingham, RuthThe Song Cycle in German-Speaking Countries, 1790–1840: Approaches to a Changing GenreCornell University 1993
Ferris, DavidSchumann's ‘Eichendorff Liederkreis’ and the Genre of the Romantic CycleOxford University Press 2001
Turchin, BarbaraRobert Schumann's Song-Cycles in the Context of the Early Nineteenth-Century Columbia University 1981
Kramer, RichardDistant Cycles: Schubert and the Conceiving of SongUniversity of Chicago Press 1994 8
Litzmann, BertholdClara Schumann, Ein Künstlerleben: Nach Tagebüchern und BriefenLeipzigBreitkopf & Härtel 1902
Vischer, Friedrich TheodorÄsthetik oder Wissenschaft des Schönen: Zum Gebrauche für Vorlesungen von Dr. Friedrich Theodor VischerReutlingen, Leipzig and StuttgartCarl Mäcken 1846
Finscher, LudwigDie Musik in Geschichte und GegenwartKassel and StuttgartBärenreiter and Metzler 1998
d’Indy, VincentCours de CompositionSérieyx, AugusteParisA. Durand 1903
Haimo, EthanRemote Keys and Multi-Movement Unity: Haydn in the 1790sThe Musical Quarterly 74 1990 242
Haydn's Symphonic Forms: Essays in Compositional LogicOxfordClarendon Press 1995
Stewart-MacDonald, Rohan H.Elements of “Through-Composition” in the Violin Concertos Nos. 23 and 27 by Giovanni Battiata ViottiAd Parnassum 3 2005 99
Réti, RudolfThe Thematic Process in MusicNew YorkMacmillan 1951 114
Bonds, Mark EvanWordless Rhetoric: Musical Form and the Metaphor of the OrationCambridge, MAHarvard University Press 1991
Schnell–Langsam–Schnell: Zur “klassischen” Theorie des instrumentalen ZyklusMusiktheorie 1 1986 214
Zaslaw, NeilMozart's Symphonies: Context, Performance Practice, ReceptionOxford University Press 1989 416
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm FriedrichPhenomenology of SpiritOxford University Press 1979 10
HegelWerkeFrankfurt am MainSuhrkamp 1979 23
Philosophy exhibits the appearance of a circle which closes with itselfThe Logic of HegelOxford University Press 1892 25
Science of LogicLondonAllen & Unwin 1969 842
Fichte, Johann GottliebDie Grundzüge des gegenwärtigen ZeitaltersBerlinVeit 1845 12
Abrams, M.H.Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic LiteratureNew YorkNorton 1971 218
GoethePoetische Werke: Vollständige AusgabeEssenPhaidon Verlag 1999 228
Brown, MarshallThe Shape of German RomanticismIthaca, NYCornell University Press 1979
Whitrow, G.J.Time in History: Views of Time from Prehistory to the Present DayOxford University Press 1988 19
Eliade, MirceaThe Myth of the Eternal ReturnNew YorkPantheon Books 1954
Munn, Nancy D.The Cultural Anthropology of Time: A Critical EssayAnnual Review of Anthropology 21 1992 93
Gell, AlfredThe Anthropology of Time: Cultural Constructions of Temporal Maps and ImagesOxfordBerg 1992
Bury, B.J.The Idea of Progress: An Inquiry into its Origins and GrowthLondonMacmillan 1920 7
ProclusElements of TheologyOxfordClarendon Press 1933
Koselleck, ReinhartFutures Past: On the Semantics of Historical TimeCambridge, MAMIT Press 1985 230
de Bruyne, EdgarThe Esthetics of the Middle AgesNew YorkFrederick Ungar 1969
Eco, UmbertoArt and Beauty in the Middle AgesNew Haven, CTYale University Press 1988
Wilkins, NigelRondeau (i)Sadie, StanleyThe New Grove Dictionary of Music and MusiciansLondonMacmillan 2001 646
Wiora, WalterMusik als ZeitkunstDie Musikforschung 10 1957 27
Greene, David B.Temporal Processes in Beethoven's MusicNew YorkGordon and Breach 1982 7
Motte-Haber, Helga de laHistorische Wandlungen musikalischer ZeitvorstellungenMotte, Diether de laNeue Musik: Quo vadis? 17 PerspektivenMainzSchott 1988 53
Berger, KarolBach's Cycle, Mozart's Arrow: An Essay on the Origins of Musical ModernityBerkeley, CA and Los Angeles, CAUniversity of California Press 2007
Poulet, GeorgesStudies in Human TimeBaltimore, MDJohns Hopkins Press 1956
Quinones, R.J.The Renaissance Discovery of TimeCambridge, MAHarvard University Press 1972
PopePoetical WorksDavis, HerbertOxford University Press 1966 250
Turgot, Anne-Robert-JacquesPlan de deux Discours sur l’Histoire UniverselleOeuvres de Turgot et documents le concernantSchelle, GustaveParisAlcan 1913 285
de Condorcet, NicolasEsquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humainParisAgasse 1795 4
Wendorff, RudolfZeit und Kultur: Geschichte des Zeitbewusstseins in EuropaOpladenWestdeutscher Verlag 1983 357
Brown, Jane K.Goethe's Faust: The German TragedyIthaca, NYCornell University Press 1986 42
SchillerSämtliche WerkeMunichCarl Hanser 1962 570
Nostalgic Teleology: Friedrich Schiller and the Schemata of Aesthetic HumanismBernePeter Lang 1995 3
Schlegel, FriedrichPhilosophie der GeschichteViennaKlang 1829
Rumph, StephenBeethoven After Napoleon: Political Romanticism in the Late WorksBerkeley, CA and Los Angeles, CAUniversity of California Press 2004
Wiora, WalterDie Ausbreitung des Historismus über die Musik: Aufsätze und DiskussionenRegensburgBosse 1969
Garratt, JamesPalestrina and the German Romantic Imagination: Interpreting Historicism in Nineteenth-Century MusicCambridge University Press 2002
Bann, StephenRomanticism and the Rise of HistoryNew YorkTwayne 1995
Crane, SusanCollecting and Historical Consciousness in Early Nineteenth-Century GermanyIthaca, NYCornell University Press 2000
Toews, John EdwardBecoming Historical: Cultural Reformation and Public Memory in Early Nineteenth-Century BerlinCambridge University Press 2004
Großmann-Vendrey, SusannaFelix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und die Musik der VergangenheitRegensburgBosse 1969
Hobsbawm, EricRanger, TerenceThe Invention of TraditionCambridge University Press 1992
Schumann, RobertSonaten für PianoforteNeue Zeitschrift für Musik 2 1835
Gesammelte Schriften über Musik und MusikerKreisig, MartinLeipzigBreitkopf & Härtel 1949 59
Lütteken, LaurenzDas Monologische als Denkform in der Musik zwischen 1760 und 1785TübingenNiemeyer 1998
Dahlhaus, CarlLudwig van Beethoven: Approaches to his MusicOxford University Press 1991 31
Cone, T.The Composer's VoiceBerkeley, CAUniversity of California Press 1974
Abbate, CarolynUnsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth CenturyPrinceton University Press 1991
Monelle, RaymondThe Sense of Music: Semiotic EssaysPrinceton University Press 2000
Steinberg, Michael P.Listening to Reason: Culture, Subjectivity, and Nineteenth-Century MusicPrinceton University Press 2004 9
Klein, RichardThesen zum Verhältnis von Musik und ZeitKlein, RichardKiem, EckehardEtte, WolframMusik in der Zeit: Zeit in der MusikGöttingenVelbrück Wissenschaft 2000 62
Taylor, CharlesSources of the Self: The Making of Modern IdentityCambridge, MAHarvard University Press 1989 127
Continental Philosophy since 1750: The Rise and Fall of the SelfOxford University Press 1988
Bowie, AndrewAesthetics and Subjectivity: From Kant to NietzscheManchester University Press 2003
Music, Philosophy, and ModernityCambridge University Press 2007
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm FriedrichAesthetics: Lectures on Fine ArtOxfordClarendon Press 1975
Schleiermacher, FriedrichÄsthetikOdebrecht, RudolfBerlinde Gruyter 1931 394
Schopenhauer, ArthurWerkeZurichDiogenes Verlag 1977 535
Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm JosephSystem des transzendenten IdealismusSämtliche WerkeSchelling, K.F.A.StuttgartCotta 1856 466
Berlin, IsaiahThe Roots of RomanticismHardy, HenryLondonChatto & Windus 1999 93
Burnham, ScottBeethoven HeroPrinceton University Press 1995
Marx, A. B.Ludwig van Beethoven: Leben und SchaffenBerlinJanke 1828 265
Newcomb, AnthonyOnce More “Between Absolute and Programme Music”: Schumann's Second Symphony19th-Century Music 7 1984 233
E.T.A. Hoffmann's Musical Writings19th-Century Music 14 1991 295
Donelan, James H.Poetry and the Romantic AestheticCambridge University Press 2008
Abrams, M.H.The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical TraditionOxford University Press 1953 156
Young, EdwardConjectures on Original CompositionLeedsScolar Press 1966 12
Thaler, LotteOrganische Form in der Musiktheorie des 19. und beginnenden 20. JahrhundertsMunichEmil Katzbichler 1984
Bent, IanMusic Analysis in the Nineteenth CenturyCambridge University Press 1994
Solie, RuthThe Living Work: Organicism and Musical Analysis19th-Century Music 4 1980 147
Montgomery, David L.The Myth of Organicism: From Bad Science to Great ArtThe Musical Quarterly 76 1992 17
Neff, SeverineSchoenberg and Goethe: Organicism and AnalysisHatch, ChristopherBernstein, DavidMusic Theory and the Exploration of the PastUniversity of Chicago Press 1993 409
Hoffmann, E.T.A.Beethovens Instrumental-MusikPoetische WerkeBerlinAufbau Verlag 1963 102
Marx, Adolph BernhardForm in MusicMusical Form in the Age of Beethoven: Selected Writings on Theory and MethodBurnham, ScottCambridge University Press 1997 66
Dahlgren, LotteBref till Adolf Fredrik Lindblad från Mendelssohn, Dohrn, Almqvist, Atterbom, Geijer, Fredrika Bremer, C.W. Böttiger och andraStockholmAlbert Bonnier 1913 20
Grey, Thomas: on the origins of “leitmotif” as critical construct and musical practiceBent, IanMusic Theory in the Age of RomanticismCambridge University Press 1996 199
Bekker, PaulGustav Mahlers SinfonienBerlinSchuster 1921 44
Buhler, JamesBreakthrough as a Critique of Form: The Finale of Mahler's First Symphony19th-Century Music 20 1996 125
Longyear, Rey M.Beethoven and Romantic IronyThe Musical Quarterly 56 1970 647
Bonds, Mark EvanHaydn, Laurence Sterne, and the Origins of Musical IronyJournal of the American Musicological Society 44 1991 57
Chua, Daniel K.L.Haydn as Romantic: A Chemical Experiment with Instrumental MusicSutcliffe, W. DeanHaydn StudiesCambridge University Press 1998 120
Schulenberg, DavidThe Instrumental Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel BachAnn Arbor, MIUMI Research Press 1984 138
Schleuning, PeterDie freie Fantasie: Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung der klassischen KlaviermusikGöppingenKümmerle 1973
Cooke, DeryckThe Unity of Beethoven's Late QuartetsThe Music Review 24 1963 30
Reynolds, ChristopherThe Representational Impulse in Late Beethoven, I: Acta Musicologia 60 1988 43
Kerman, JosephAn die ferne GeliebteTyson, AlanBeethoven Studies 1New YorkNorton 1973
Marston, NicholasVoicing Beethoven's Distant BelovedBurnham, ScottSteinberg, MichaelBeethoven and his WorldPrinceton University Press 2000 124
Burnham, ScottLandscape as Music, Landscape as Truth: Schubert and the Burden of Repetition19th-Century Music 29 2005 31
Fisk, CharlesReturning Cycles: Contexts for the Interpretation of Schubert's Impromptus and Last SonatasBerkeley, CA and Los Angeles, CAUniversity of California Press 2001
Chusid, MartinSchubert's Cyclic Compositions of 1824Acta Musicologica 36 1964 37
Dahlhaus, CarlSonata Form in SchubertFrisch, WalterSchubert: Critical and Analytical StudiesLincoln, NEUniversity of Nebraska Press 1986 8
Mercer-Taylor, PeterThe Cambridge Companion to MendelssohnCambridge University Press 2004 72
Konold, WulfDie Symphonien Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdys: Untersuchungen zu Werkgestalt und FormstrukturLaaber Verlag 1992
Cooper, John MichaelMendelssohn's Italian SymphonyOxford University Press 2003
Schmidt, Thomas ChristianDie ästhetischen Grundlagen der Instrumentalmusik Felix Mendelssohn BartholdysStuttgartM & P 1996 33
Werner, EricMendelssohn: A New Image of the Composer and his AgeLondonFree Press of Glencoe 1963 171