Dissertation Index

Author: Nivans, David B.

Title: Brahms and the Binary Sonata: A Structuralist Interpretation

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles

Begun: January 1988

Completed: January 1992


There is within the Brahms repertory a special class of sonata composition whose thematic organization appears to suggest more than one formal interpretation. For the practitioners of thematic analysis, a combination of theme-complexes generates and determines the form of the composition; with respect to this particular group of works, thematicists maintain that the normal succession of principal and secondary themes followed by their immediate repetition invariably produces a two-part sonata with exposition and recapitulation but without an intermediary autonomous development section. Starting from the premise that (for Brahms) harmonic structure rather than thematic organization determines form, this dissertation offers an alternative view, in the tradition of Heinrich Schenker and Felix Salzer, of those compositions of Brahms often classified as binary, some of which by dint of their respective structural frameworks have central development sections, and form, consequently, ternary sonatas. The works included in this study are opp. 25/I, 26/IV, 34/IV, 68/IV, 81, 90/IV, 98/II and III, 114/IV, 8/IV (both versions), 51 no. 1/IV, 87/I, 101/I and 108/IV; the last five opuses are ternary sonatas.

Keywords: Music, Brahms, Schenker, Salzer, Sonata Form, Harmony, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Schoenberg, Developing Variation


Part I: Introduction
1: Thematicism, Schoenberg, and Brahms
2: Structuralism and Schenker
3: Schenker and Salzer
4: The Need for the Structuralist View

Part II: The Binary Sonatas
5: op. 25/I
6: op. 26/IV
7: op. 98/III

Part III: The Ternary Sonatas
8: op. 101/I
9: op. 8/IV (Original and Revision)
10: op. 108/IV
11: op. 87/I
12: op. 51 no.I/IV

Appendix A: op. 81
Appendix B: op. 114/IV
Appendix C: op. 98/II
Appendix D: op. 34/IV
Appendix E: op. 68/IV


David B. Nivans
Phone: (310) 640-9603
E-mail: dnivans@aol.com

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