Reimagining Beethoven's Piano Sonatas:
A Theoretical Fantasy on the Multi-Movement Sonata-Cycle

  • George Peck

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Using a 21st-century analytical toolkit, this thesis presents a reimagining of the
Western Classical multi-movement design from the perspective of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. By building upon contemporary Formenlehre and neo-Schenkerian theory, it will illuminate and expand upon the concept of large-scale tonal and structural relationships within a deep-background hierarchical level of Beethoven's 32 adult piano sonatas. It is hypothesised that this deep-background level – one that transcends the structures of individual movements – provides tonal and structural cohesion to the sonata-cycle as a whole via large-scale (inter-movement) voice-leading techniques.

The methodology employed involves the presentation of thorough, complete analyses of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas (the significance of which should not be understated, including over three thousand individual musical examples), and an accompanying ‘chorale-style’ recomposition of the same material, thus fulfilling a second goal: the creation of a modernised analytical portfolio on the 32.

These analyses will then be used to inspect the relationships between tonal and structural aspects of a cycle's internal movements, and those same features of the complete multi-movement sonata-cycle. Following this, features of a normative Beethovenian ‘sonata-cycle form’ can be modelled. It is to be argued (and demonstrated) that concepts of deep-background tonal prolongation, symmetry, balance and resolution fundamentally underpin each multi-movement sonata-cycle as a single work. These concepts can be successfully applied to the data that results from the aforementioned analyses, and the ways they manifest within deep-background structural designs are laid bare
Date of Award12 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSteven Jan (Main Supervisor)

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