Whom I Wish to Destroy Shall Be Destroyed!

Eduard Hanslick (1825-1904) is perhaps best know today for his attitudes about the music of his time, particularly his veneration of the more conservative music of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and conversely his vilification of the more progressive music of Richard Wagner (1813-1883). While these two composers exemplify Hanslick’s musical views, particularly throughout his own writings, it is his relationship with the composer Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) where he served the most impact. This essay will focus on the later work by Bruckner and the relationship between Hanslick and Bruckner around this period.
Before looking at Hanslick’s writings about Bruckner, it is important to contextualize both Hanslick’s opinions in general, as well as to look at other contemporary sources to explore the general attitude to Bruckner’s music. His contemporaries considered Hanslick primarily a critic, although he also held an important academic post in Vienna, as well as being an influential aesthetician. As mentioned earlier, Hanslick had a well-documented strained relationship with Wagner. This was originally caused by Wagner’s use of music as a dramatic tool, which lowered the value of music, which Hanslick decries in his Vom Musikalisch-Schönen (Hanslick, ein Beitrag zur Revision der Aesthetik der Tonkunst, 1858, pp. 35-36). Because of this professed love of absolute music, Hanslick decries the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) who uses program as a tool in many of his works. Despite Bruckner’s absolute musical approach, Hanslick’s views about Bruckner were influenced by the composer’s affinity for Wagner, demonstrated by the dedication of his third symphony to Wagner. Some critics of the time also struggled to appreciate the gargantuan proportions of Bruckner’s symphonies, and the consequent structural difficulties within Bruckner’s music, caused by the constant revisions required of him in order to obtain performances. This was because of the progressive attitude Bruckner had, which was also shared by very different figures like Franz Liszt (1811-1886) whom Hanslick also had a low opinion of at the time (Hanslick, ein Beitrag zur Revision der Aesthetik der Tonkunst, 1858, p. IX). It is important to remember Bruckner was neither the sole recipient, nor the worst affected by Hanslick’s scathing remarks. Of Wagner’s Prelude to Tristian and Isolde Hanslick is famously quoted as saying “[it] reminds one of the old Italian painting of a martyr whose intestines are slowly unwound from his body on a reel” (Tristan und Isolde) which demonstrates Hanslick’s ability to articulate cruel derisive comments. As Derek Watson states, it is hard to empathize with Hanslick, in part because of his formidable tongue, but also his position of power within Vienna(Watson, 1996, p. 50). Hanslick was in such a position of power he was able make such outlandish statements as “Whom I wish to be destroyed shall be destroyed!” (Harrandt, 2004, p. 32)
Bruckner received a mixed reception in Vienna. Part of the reason for the divide in opinion is down to the split opinion over music that is more conservative and more progressive, both categories that could envelop Bruckner’s output, as Bruckner was attached to more conservative practices of music and studied composition techniques extensively with Simon Sechter (1788-1867). The notable critic Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) said of him, “one single cymbal clash by Bruckner is worth all four symphonies of Brahms with the serenades thrown in”
“Das publicum geigte freilich nicht viel ‘resistance’ es fluchtete sum theile schon nach dem gweiten das dieser symphonischen riesenschlange, fluchtete in hellen haufen nach dem dritten, so das nur ein Neiner Rest der horerschaft im Genuffe des Finales verblich. Diese muthige Bruckner legion applaudirte und jubelte aber mit der wucht von Tausenden” (Hanslick, Neue Freie Presse, 1886)
This quote from Hanslick’s review of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E major shows Hanslick’s negative view about Bruckner’s music, combined with insight into the reception of the piece by the Viennese public at the time of the premiere. Hanslick uses the word ‘riesenschlange’ or snake to describe the unusual musical structure as well carrying sinister connotations and condemning the composition. This quote also concedes that no matter what Hanslick’s personal view of the music is, the audience applauded and cheered loudly after the performance. It is also important to note that Hanslick uses the same level of linguistic ingenuity when constructing praise for the work, and that despite his dislike for Bruckner; both the music and the man at this point; Hanslick is making an effort to remain impartial. Hanslick goes on to say “aber Bruckner ist Armeebefehl geworden und der gweite Beethoven im Glaubensartifel der Richard Wagner,”(Hanslick, Neue Freie Presse, 1886) which proclaims Bruckner to be the next Beethoven. If it were not for the political situation at the time, this might be seen as a compliment but is instead intended to attach the progressive nature of the composition. This is peculiar, as Hanslick had also proclaimed Brahms, a dear ally to be successor of Beethoven also, which could therefore be interpreted as praise for Bruckner.
“Ich bekenne unumwunden, das ich uber Bruckner’s Symphonie kaum ganz gerecht urtheilen konnte, so antipathisch beruhrt mich diese musik, so unaturlich aufgeblasen, frankhaft und verderblich erscheint sie mir. Wie jedes grobere werk Bruckner’s, enthalt auch die E-dur symphonie geniale einfalle, interessante, ja schone stellen – hier sechs, dort acht Tacte – gwischen diesen blitzen dehnt fich aber unabsehbares Dunfel, bleierne Langerweile und fieberhafte Ueberreizung.” (Hanslick, Neue Freie Presse, 1870)
This quote from the same review demonstrates Hanslick’s using bitter sarcasm to attack the work. The opening clause roughly translates as ‘we have no wish to hurt this composer for whom we entertain a high regard both as a man and artist’ which I would interpret to be written with mocking insincerity rather than genuine encouragement, and which is supported by the rest of the sentence ‘whose musical aims are sincere, albeit their treatment is strange’ which reflects Hanslick’s disapproval and sarcastic undertones. This also could be interpreted as showing Hanslick conceding there are elements of strong music within the composition. As Bruckner heavily revised his symphonies until his death, combined with the well-documented cuts he made to the performing versions of his scores, it is possible that the structure may have indeed been substandard for this performance and Hanslick’s comments therefore justified. It is likely that without the low confidence caused by Hanslick that Bruckner would have produced far fewer versions of his symphonies. What could be considered a patronizing tone in the opening statement is continued throughout this extract with Hanslick commenting ‘here six, there eight bars’ which uses positive criticism ironically to ridicule the piece. Hanslick also reveals here that he has trouble coping with the length of the symphony, ‘there are interminable stretches of darkness, somber boredom and feverish over-excitement’. This is important as there is some debate about how the large scope of Bruckner’s work was viewed by his contemporaries, and this statement reflects that the duration was an issue for some listeners. It is also important to note that there were many supporters for the extended scope of Bruckner’s music.
“In spite of his renown, Hanslick was far from universally revered. As a critic, he spoke solely for his time and class”(Sams). This statement demonstrates the kind of audience Hanslick was writing for, in addition to demonstrating the view that his contemporaries did not always value Hanslick’s opinions, however, this view is not further echoed in any of the other work I have come across. This is, however reflected in some the way he entered the music journalist profession; originally trained as a lawyer, Hanslick began his career writing articles for his local papers and the music journal Wiener Musik-Zeitung before he secured his position as a critic at the Neue Freie Presse, where he would eventually rise through the ranks to become chief music critic for the paper, and one of the most influential musical powers in Vienna. He had limited training in music theory, but actively read music history, however, despite this, his views as expressed throughout Vom Musikalisch-Schönen demonstrate reverence for what he called ancient music – included in this are composers such as Bach (Hanslick, ein Beitrag zur Revision der Aesthetik der Tonkunst, 1858). Modern insight into the general view of Hanslick’s criticism can be found in the statement “He was the typical cultured and eloquent journalist fashionable in Europe towards the end of the last centaury” (Doernberg, 1960, p. 74).
While Hanslick was not always highly admired for his writings, he was nevertheless extremely influential, and his prominence in the Viennese music world has been noted by several academics as seen in the following statement “Without Hanslick – nothing happens in Vienna” (Harrandt, 2004, p. 34). Like most critics, Hanslick’s views changed over time; and he praised both Bruckner and even Wagner when he first met them, although his views quickly soured over time. Conversely, his initial lack respect for Liszt began to change as Hanslick aged. “For Brahms, Hanslick was of some practical use; for Wagner he was an irritating nuisance. It was in connection with Bruckner that he gained in stature; here, he figures as the Adversary and doubtless enjoyed the distinction”(Doernberg, 1960, p. 75). As this statement reflects, Hanslick however is often shown to be a powerful figure, whereas Bruckner is often caricatured as a timid, almost cowardly figure. Because of the relative power of Hanslick, Bruckner was by far the most heavily effected by Hanslick’s often-harsh criticism. While Hanslick often criticizes Bruckner’s compositions, causing Bruckner stress and hurt, it is important to remember that Hanslick was on amicable terms with Bruckner. It is also important remember that while Bruckner’s compositions fell under harsh criticism Hanslick respected Bruckner’s musicality, which can be seen in the following review;
“In the professor of the local Conservatory, Anton Bruckner, we possess one of the most outstanding organ virtuosos, who at the last music festival in Nancy, then in Paris… performed on the famous organs of St Epvre, St Sulpice, and Notre-Dame with such success that he defeated the most renowned Belgian and French organists in formal competition. Only in Vienna is it impossible to hear Bruckner, for until now he, the Imperial Court Organist, has not been allowed to use the organ for a recital or even only for private practice.” (Hanslick, Neue Freie Fresse, 1870)
This review is unusual because Hanslick’s writing style focuses heavily on the composer, while generally spending little time commenting on the quality of the performance. This is true of Hanslick’s criticism in general, not just limited to Bruckner; Hanslick himself was strongly against the idea of a heroic singer or virtuoso performer. It is also important to remember that a large majority of the music that was performed in this period would be new music. It is because he had such high regard for Bruckner’s musicality that he made this variation to his customary writing style.
Hanslick said of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C minor;
“The Philharmonic Orchestra devoted its entire concert to a new symphony by Bruckner. It is the eighth in the series and similar to its predecessors in form and mood. I found this newest one, as I have found the other Bruckner symphonies, interesting in detail but strange as a whole and even repugnant. The nature of the work consists – to put it briefly – in applying Wagner’s dramatic style to the symphony.” (Hanslick, Music Criticisms 1846-99, 1963, pp. 288-290)
While this statement is clearly derogatory in nature, it is mainly just reiterating fact. Because of this, with only the clause “strange as a whole and even repugnant” used by Hanslick to express opinion on the concert, there is an inferred sense of credibility to the negative comments. Here Hanslick once again reiterates his failure to understand Bruckner’s work in its large scope, instead praising its details.
“Also characteristic of Bruckner’s newest symphony is the immediate juxtaposition of dry schoolroom counterpoint with unbounded exaltation. Thus, tossed about between intoxication and desolation, we arrive at no definite impression and enjoy no artistic pleasure. Everything flows, without clarity and without order, willy-nilly into dismal long-windedness. In each of the four movements, and most frequently in the first and third, there are interesting passages and flashes of genius – if only all the rest were not there! It is not out of the question that the future belongs to this muddled hangover style – which is no reason to regard the future with envy. For the time being, however, one would prefer that symphonic and chamber music remain undefiled by a style only relatively justified as an illustrative device for certain dramatic situations.” (Hanslick, Music Criticisms 1846-99, 1963, pp. 288-290)
This is an interesting and insightful paragraph. Hanslick reveals an acknowledgement that more progressive works may be more relevant to future generations than the more conservative music he cherished. Hanslick also makes positive comments in this paragraph, noting that there are moments in the music that he regards as genius, before continuing by again condemning the length of a Bruckner work. Structure is again commented on, as before. This may have been influenced by changes made to a performing score. While Hanslick notes some of the academic merit of the contrapuntal techniques, he continues by criticizing the artistic value of the work. This type of statement is typical of Hanslick; he makes a positive comment before later going on to criticize the work. This could be viewed as Hanslick attempting to give a rounded review of the work.
Derek Watson stipulates that the criticism, which Bruckner received heavily, deeply affected the composer. He became highly self critical as a result of criticism, and was nervous about performing or publishing his work. His letters show this insight into the composer’s feelings. The criticism of these later works are consistent with the criticism Hanslick made of Bruckner’s earlier works.
Throughout Hanslick’s criticism of Bruckner, he maintains a consistent stance on some aspects of Bruckner’s music. Most noticeably are Hanslick’s regular comments about the length of the concerts and consequently the large-scale structures used. This can be seen as a matter of opinion and not as a general consensus of how the public found Bruckner’s music. Another regular point of criticism is the dramatic nature of the music, often accompanied with references to Wagner. The points are interesting because both feature in Brahms’s music of which Hanslick approved of, and are surplus in his Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor. Like many of the critics that succeed him, Hanslick avoids using technical language wherever possible to ensure the maximum number of readers can access his judgments. Because Hanslick was such an early critic, some conventional practices were not commonplace with Hanslick and his contemporaries; Hanslick uses first person in many of his critiques. Hanslick was extremely articulate (much to the misfortune of Bruckner!) and would use his charismatic and witty writing style to engage readers. This sort of style is particularly evident with the earlier reference to ‘riesenschlange’.
While Hanslick attacks Bruckner’s compositions, particularly for their length and proclaimed Wagnerian influence, he does make attempts to remain impartial. He also developed an interesting and varied writing style, which is displayed in his writings about Bruckner. Despite Bruckner’s low self-esteem, caused in part due to Hanslick’s writings, with far fewer revisions and desperation for approval, Bruckner would ultimately have been very a different composer without his arch nemesis Eduard Hanslick.

Doernberg, E. (1960). The life and symphonies of Anton Bruckner. London: Barrie and Rockliff.
Hanslick, E. (1870, January 11). Neue Freie Fresse (1928), p. 2.
Hanslick, E. (1870, January 11). Neue Freie Presse (1928), p. 2.
Hanslick, E. (1886, March 30). Neue Freie Presse (7755), p. 2.
Hanslick, E. (1963). Music Criticisms 1846-99. (H. Pleasants, Ed., & H. Pleasants, Trans.) London: Penquin Books.
Hanslick, E. (1858). Vom Musikalisch-Schönen. Leipzig: P. Reclam.
Harrandt, A. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner. (J. Williamson, Ed.) Cambridge: University Press.
Sams, E. (n.d.). Eduard Hanslick. Retrieved 4 6, 2010, from Centro Studi Eric Sams: http://www.ericsams.org/sams_vocehanslick_eng.htm
Tristan und Isolde. (n.d.). Retrieved 4 21, 2010, from Wikipeadia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_und_Isolde
Watson, D. (1996). Master Musicians Bruckner. (S. Sadie, Ed.) Oxford: University Press.
Worb, H. (2001). Bruckner, Anton. In S. Sadie (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Second Edition ed., Vol. 4, pp. 458-487). London: Macmillan.

Art or Craft?

Before weighing the significance of art against that of craft it is important to discriminate between these two terms, difficult to isolate the meaning of one term from another. One method is to look at the definitions of the words themselves. According to the Oxford dictionary, art is defined as:

  1. 1) The expression or application of creative skill and imagination, especially through a visual medium such as painting or sculpture.
  2. 2) The various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.
  3. 3) Subjects of study primarily concerned with human culture (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects).
  4. 4) A skill in a specified thing. (Soanes and Stevenson, 2006 p.73)

Whereas craft is defined as:

  1. 1) An activity involving skill in making things by hand.
  2. 2) Skill in carrying out one’s work. (Soanes and Stevenson, 2006 p.333)

These definitions demonstrate a vague resemblance between the terms, which in itself also highlights the historic link between the two. Art itself is generally ill defined, and introduces the problem of what to define as art? In addition to this, Batteux argues that craft has itself been presented as a constituent of art (1746 p.IX). This does not help discriminate one term from another, so for the purpose of this essay the distinction between arts and craft will be that art utilizes a concept, whereas craft is the abstract application of technique. Now that these terms have been separated their importance relative to one another can be argued.

Concept in art has changed dramatically since the start of the twentieth century, and has increasingly become an integral part of art, to the extent that in contemporary art the terms are practically synonymous. Subsequently most of the key works that influence contemporary art most strongly, are conceptual pieces. An iconic work in the development of conceptual art is Duchamp’s (1887-1968) Fountain (1917). Naumann and Kuenzli argues that the idea of a concept has been a part of art since the Renaissance, and that conceptual art like Fountain is merely a natural extension of this (1989 p.32).  However, while a conceptual icon, Fountain can also be argued to employ craft to create the required aesthetic; although the visual image of the toilet could be considered visually interesting, it is the idea behind putting it there that it the most striking characteristic of the work. The development of concept within art is not a new idea, and has maintained a symbiotic relationship with art throughout history, with many pieces utilizing concepts to illustrate ideas and messages. The difference here is that the concept is hidden within the art, and used to supplement the aesthetic; while in conceptual art, the concept is the art.

According to Kant, aesthetic interest does not come about through functional and practical concern, and therefore art does not need to serve a purpose (1781 p.83). This view is exemplified in readymade art. Kant also states beauty is not an attribute belonging to a piece of art or the beautiful aspects of nature; but is instead an awareness of the pleasure which attends the ‘free play’ of the imagination and the understanding (1781 p.83). This statement demonstrates the subjective qualities of art, which present the problem with varying opinion, and the problems with appreciation of subjective views, which cause difficulties as it implies dominance of certain views without requiring fact for justification. This is important to the discussion of art versus craft because is highlights the problem of judging one against the other using only speculation, and opinion as basis for merit. Some works of art, such as Robert Rauschenberg’s (1925) Portrait of Galerie Iris Clert (1961) demonstrates an artistic concept of wholly removing craft from the art. This work developed conceptual art, as it is a work defined by the creator, not the observer; thus, shifting the values placed upon an artist in relation to a consumer.

Because artistic value is held within an idea, it can be argued that conceptual art can be mass-produced on a large scale without losing artistic value. While examples of mass production can be found with both concept and technique based art, mass production is more evident in conceptual art because the time spent by the artist is taken up with creating ideas; once an idea is formed, it can be reproduced quickly with little extra artistic input. However, with craft based art, the time spent by the artist applying refined techniques will need to be repeated for each subsequent reproduction. Examples of such mass produced conceptual art can be seen with Damien Hirst’s (b.1965) Spot Paintings, which employed staff to implement Hirst’s ideas, without any further impetus from the artist. This is practice is supported the quote “the artist is seen like a producer of commodities, like a factory that turns out refrigerators” (Lewitt, 1977).

Conceptual art’s relationship with the public is unusual, with a noticeable divide in popular opinion, with strong feelings both for and against it. An example of the negative view can be seen in the flippant statement “For many, art galleries are places where stains, largely rectangular, hang on walls.” (Lyas, 1997 p.5) which uses the word stain to reference paintings derogatorily, indicating a dissatisfaction with contemporary art, and in particular is sociological environment.  This highlights the negative feelings some art viewers may hold about contemporary art.

The use of concept is not restricted to a high art culture; the increasing popularism and value found with graffiti artists, which often utilize both aesthetic and concept in works. An example of this is the popularity of graffiti artist Bansky (1974), which often focuses upon ideas, messages and the ironic use of existing material rather than relying on aesthetic alone to create interest.

While concept is important, it does not diminish the enjoyment people get from art that employs craft alone. Examples of such art can include music from both commercial pop and dance. People congregate to listen to such music in great numbers; “their ears are constantly stimulated by music; they dance with astonishing rhythm and dynamism; they are saturated with the narrative drama of the screen” (Lyas, 1997 p.4) which demonstrates enjoyment of craft as perceived in popular culture.  Some contemporary art heavily utilizing craft can be seen as a historic link to antiquated customs, continuing traditional practices without attempting to improve upon them.

The necessity for craft to present images has been diminished in modern times because of improvements in technology. An early use of art was to capture time, whether actual such as portraits, or fictitious like imaginary incidents. With new equipment like the camera, it became possible to capture and store moments in time, rendering the function of this type of craftsman obsolete. This produced the new art forms; photography and film. This development questions the need for the archaic craft of painting to contemporary society, as many of its uses have been superseded by other art forms. As such this also questions the relevance of craft for craft’s sake.

One reaction to the widespread acceptance of conceptual art, and its promotion by institutions like the Turner Prize was the Stuckist Art Movement. This group was formed from a group of people who shared contempt for the values held by many of the leading conceptual artists of the time; they criticize conceptual art, as well as post modernity in general.

“Punk, especially in its more extreme, non-commercial varieties, has a reputation for being bad music par excellence: a music that seems to go out of its way to be terrible, offensive, unlistenable” (Rodel, 2004 p.235) This type of music emphasizes the utilization of both craft and artistic concept, as the crafted aesthetic of a harsh and callous soundworld comes about from an artistic decision to create a musical response to their opinions on society as a whole. There are many examples where such a soundworld has been imitated in new work, and used out of context as reference to the original concept. Likewise, this soundworld has been used superficially because of its striking sound and used purely for its aural appeal without any significant attachment to concept. While such artistic concept requires application of specific techniques (or inherent lack of) to implement, it is the philosophical rebellion that is most characteristic of this type of music and as such would emphasize the importance of art over that of craft.

One problem with utilizing craft by itself is that without new ideas, existing forms can be oversaturated and art becomes merely a restatement of existing art. The statement “Bad music is everywhere! Just hit the scan button on your radio while driving down any highway in any state and listen to the constant regurgitating drone of the same formulaic pop song,” (Washburne and Derno, 2004 p.1) demonstrates this problem of the application of craft alone, and highlights the lack of ingenuity present when ideas are removed from the compositional process.  The application of craft in isolation as seen in such instances, often shows the restatement of a single aesthetic in excess until all musical potential has been extracted from the music and the music stripped. This oversaturation of similar music could be considered ironic when contrasted to the way in which some craft based music is presented; pop music is continually diminishing in length to prevent boredom, requiring little concentration in order to fully appreciate.

Salvador Dali’s (1904-1989) The Persistence of Memory (1931) is a good example of craft based art being used to convey a concept; this piece demonstrates the relative concept of the passing of time, which is represented by objects without the ability to track the passing of time. This view is shared by Blesser and Salter (2007), who state that here it is an idea that constitutes the art, and the concept is important, and less of the focus is placed upon the craft involved with the painting of the work and the technical ability Dali employed. From a visual perspective, the phrase “The pleasure buttons are the content of the illusions” (Pinker, 1997 p.526) is used to describe how it is the subject of visual art that evokes emotion, and not the medium in which the subject is portrayed that is most relevant. This observation on conventional art translates equally to conceptual art, for example; the skill involved in conceiving the geometry and design utilized many readyminade sculptures may promote visual interest, but less striking than the visual aesthetic is the use of concept; in this case the use of such found object.

As the previous statements imply, both art and craft are important, and each have their own characteristic merits. In general however, concept can be seen as more relevant to contemporary art than craft. While historically craft can be seen as the governing artistic power, the advancement of technology has surpassed the need for craft in some of the traditional arts; which has facilitated a shift in values advantaging concept. The view that art is more important than craft can also be seen in the major artistic bodies, with significant institutions like the Turner Prize demonstrating the value of art. While this is shown primarily through financial caché, the money is intrinsically linked to the artistic merits of art, as the use of money to evaluate the worth of art in these circumstances is merely intermediary. While there are some art groups like the Stuckists who argue the merits of craft; the importance of concept throughout the twentieth century is clearly evident, and it has influenced much of the produced art since. Indeed, the very fact that the Stuckists exist demonstrates the widespread acceptance of the relative importance of concept against that of craft; and places conceptual art in a position of authority over craft based art within modern society. This ultimately means that to today’s artistic community, concept is more important than craft.


Batteux, C. (1746) Les Beaux Arts, Paris: Durand.

Birchler, C., Burkholder, J. and Giger, A. (2003) Musical Borrowing, 4June, [Online], Available: http://www.chmtl.indiana.edu/borrowing/browsemn.html [3 January 2010].

Blesser, B. and Salter, L. (2007) Spaces speak, are you listening?, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Kant, I. (n.d) Critique of Pure Reason.

Keats, J. (1818) Endymion, London: Taylor and Hessey.

Lyas, C. (1997) Aesthetics, London: University College London Press.

Naumann, F. and Kuenzli, R. (1989) Marcel Duchamp, Mitchegan: MIT Press.

Pinker, S. (1997) How the Mind Works, New York: Norton.

Rodel, A. (2004) ‘Extreme Noise Terror’, Bad Music.

Soanes, C. and Stevenson, A. (ed.) (2006) Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th edition, Oxford: University Press.

Washburne, C. and Derno, M. (2004) Bad Music, New York: Routledge.

Anton Bruckner and the Development of the Symphony

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) significantly developed the Symphony, and it is in this genre that Bruckner’s work is generally most acknowledged. His symphonies are accessible on their fist listening, but provide further depth for those who seek it. It is important when analyzing Bruckner’s contribution to the genre to take note of his extremely well rounded academic studies, of which he pursued all of his life. It is his dedication to conservative practices of counterpoint and structure paired with his contemporary Richard Wagner  (1813-1883) influenced harmony and orchestral forces that made Bruckner’s music unique, but perhaps most importantly Bruckner’s symphonies more than any others brought a new sense of breadth to the symphony.

At the time Bruckner began to compose his symphonies the more adventurous composers (such as the Wagnerians) had virtually abandoned the genre, instead more interested in creating music combined with other art forms like theatre, dance and prose; the symphony was the domain of the more conservative composers like Johannes Brahms (1833-1879). Bruckner was unique in borrowing distinct elements from both groups. This fusion was applied with a deep understanding and appreciation of the genre; Bruckner was a well-read scholar and had studied comprehensively many aspects of music before contemplating writing a symphony. As a result of this Bruckner was 39 before he finished his first symphony, symphony No.00 – the Study Symphony in F Minor (1863) and still was an active scholar into his 40’s. Furthermore Bruckner was not generally well known after he was 60.

Bruckner’s inventive orchestration was influenced not only by Wagner, but also by the organ; Bruckner was an organ virtuoso who held the position of cathedral organist at Linz. Bruckner obtained this position by accident, characteristically unable to decide whether to apply, Bruckner procrastinated and eventually decided to not apply, luckily he went to watch the auditions and improvised a strict fugue on a theme the other applicants found too difficult. As an organ virtuoso Bruckner enjoyed triumph in St. Epvre at Nancy (1869), which led to well as successful tour in London (1871), later in life Bruckner would reminisce about his tour of London, and regretted not accepting invitations to tour again. It was as the organist in Linz that Bruckner befriended the opera conductor Otto Kitzler (1832-1915) who as Bruckner’s last composition tutor introduced Bruckner to the scores of both Beethoven and Wagner, and would later play a significant role in getting Bruckner’s work performed.

It is of some significance that Bruckner was generally accepted as a disciple of Wagner, whom Bruckner thought of as a master; an attribute which both attained Bruckner an increased criticism from the press, particularly from leading Vienna music critic Eduard Hanslick (1825-1904), and effectively giving a number of well wishing Wagnerians permission to adjust Bruckner’s music to better fulfill Wagnerite intentions. Also produced was a collection of performing editions, made by sympathetic conductors and even Bruckner himself to better allow his ambitious music to be performed, normally inducing significant cuts which effect symphonies overall structure. Disregarding these external editions the original autograph manuscripts Bruckner produced were subject to an ongoing purification process that already resulted in multiple original scores, with Bruckner showing no signs of preference towards any particular version. As a result many Bruckner approved versions of the same music exist. While Bruckner his usually associated with Wagner and Beethoven, it is important to compare Bruckner with Franz Schubert (1797-1928), both composers use Austrian folk music undisguised through meter, often enough for them both to be described as national composers, and while nothing in either composers scores hints any common ground towards other, some of Schubert’s music sounds like Bruckner’s and vice versa. However Bruckner’s music contains many newer innovations in harmony and scoring.

Bruckner’s influence changed the way later composers consider the length, structural development and general grandeur the symphony has to offer. All the symphonies are in four movements, for the opening movements Bruckner incorporates a personalized sonata form. The middle movements are a slow movement followed by a ¾ scherzo, though with symphonies eight and nine the middle movements are reversed. The modification of sonata form is derived from the requirements of the increasingly chromatic 20th Centaury, he studied sonata form with the renowned tutor Simon Sechter (1788-1867) by postal tuition, although extended the sonata form to allow for enharmonic changes, a feature which Sechter strongly disapproved of. An example of extending sonata form can be seen as early as symphony no.1 in C Minor (1866 revised; 1877, 1891). Here Bruckner introduces a third theme in the exposition, as a consequence the codetta is removed. Bruckner usually adapts sonata form through the use of key relationships; Bruckner often begins symphonies in an alien key before working the music through to the tonic (see example 1). At the time Bruckner was composing the development section of sonatas had gone completely. The structure of Bruckner’s symphonies was very important as most of his symphonies last for around an hour, an uncommonly long duration at the time. The symphony no.2 in C minor (1873 revised; 1876, 1877, 1892) incorporates interconnected ideas appearing throughout movements, particularly the first movement and the finale.

Example 1: Bruckner, Symphony No.6, “Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell” movement IV bb. 1-4. The music opens in A minor and E Phrygian before arriving at the Symphonies key of A Major.

Bruckner’s model for the symphonic form was derived directly from Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), in particular his symphony no.9 in D minor Op. 125 chorale (1824). Bruckner was one of the earliest composers to acknowledge this work fully. Bruckner drew a sense of grandeur from this symphony, which he incorporated into his own works. This can be seen in Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3 in D minor (WAB 103) Wagner symphony (1873 revised; 1877, 1891):

the texture and gestural character of the opening passage, bars 1 to 46, resembles that of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in its trajectory from pianissimo tremolando string texture to fortissimo unison tutti theme (Horton, J. page 176).

However, unlike Beethoven’s symphonies Bruckner did not try to set a new atmosphere with each symphony. As a general trend, after Beethoven the number of composers writing symphonies gradually declined, consequently by the time Bruckner was composing the number of composers writing orchestral music in traditional symphonic forms has declined, and as a result the importance of sonata form had also deteriorated, with composers preferring improvisation and fantasia as forms for their works. The sonata form became increasingly undisciplined which helped Bruckner modify the form to suit his harmonic needs. Similarly to Schubert, Bruckner would use unusual and unconventional modulations. From the 4 years Bruckner studies with Sechter, Bruckner learned about root progressions, which Bruckner then applied to form his modulations. From Bruckner’s organ background we see various pedal points appear in Bruckners work.

Throughout his symphonies, Bruckner takes thematic development to greater levels of depth, and in ways that appeared alien to numerous contemporaries. Bruckner often developed material through the use and combination of inversion, retrograde, augmentation, diminution and fragmentation. It is because of the highly manipulated themes that Bruckner’s developments often showed little resemblance to the main theme, and as a result his music was misunderstood to be a stream of unrelated ideas within a single work. Here Bruckner can again be likened to Schubert, as both composers would continue to develop a motif until they could fully exploit its potential. These tools are used to enhance the music and to add to the listener’s enjoyment of the music, not solely to demonstrate his theoretical knowledge, however Bruckners music was written intellectually which contrasts other romantic composers.  As a consequence of his lifelong academic studies, Bruckner often struggled to follow basic music theory rules in a time when the rules were being threatened more readily than ever before. Bruckner would refine his works thoroughly, checking for parallel octaves and unison (in melodic lines, not scoring). When Friedrich Klose (1862-1942) asked Bruckner why he searched for parallel octaves in his work, while Richard Wagner ignores their importance, Bruckner replied “Wagner, the Master, was permitted such things, but not Bruckner, the schoolmaster” (Doernberg, E. page 14).  Bruckner also a very romantic composer; examples of romanticism are present throughout many of his works. Unprepared dissonances, wide intervals in the melody and complex tonal relationships over a basic root progression are all features of Bruckners work. At the time Bruckner was writing composers tended to use the melodic shape of the main theme and add elaborations, which listeners of the time would recognize as the main theme more easily than Bruckners distorted fragmented quotations. Bruckner’s music can be said to use motivic ideas, an influence from Wagner. The idea of thematic music was not limited to pitch. Bruckner’s symphonies benefit from rhythms providing coherence. It is from Bruckner’s symphonies that the Bruckner rhythm arrives; the duplet-triplet combination (see example 2&3). The rhythm originates from the third symphony. Another rhythmic feature found throughout Bruckner’s symphonies is the double dotted rhythm (see example 4).

Example 2: ‘the Bruckner rhythm’

Example 3: Bruckner, Symphony No.3, “Maessig Bewegt” movement I bb. 101-102. First use of the Bruckner rhythm in a theme.

Example 4: Bruckner, Symphony No.7, “Trio” movement IIIb bb. 1-4. Use of double dotting.

Bruckner also contributed to the orchestration used in symphonies. It was only upon seeing the score to Wagner’s opera Tannhaeuser und der Sängerkrieg auf der Watburg (1845), introduced to him by his teacher Otto Kitzier that Bruckner began to write truly great music. The score inspired Bruckner demonstrated large scale forces that would give new options to the composer. It is important to note that it was Wagner’s orchestra, not Wagner’s orchestration that Bruckner would use most heavily in his work. Wagner used many instruments such as anvils purely for the creation of certain sound effects within his operas; Bruckner omits these instruments from his scores, however in his last three symphonies Bruckner even uses Wagner horns. Typically Bruckner symphonies use paired woodwind, four horns, two or three trumpets, three trombones, one tuba, timpani and strings although some of the later symphonies slightly extend this.

It is characteristic in Bruckner’s symphonies to see frequent unison passages (see example 5) as well as large-scale orchestral tutti. Bruckner adopted this style of writing in part because of his history with the organ. These help contribute to the originality of Bruckner’s work. Within some Bruckner score unusual terms appear, such as “’Misterioso, breit und feierlich’ (noble and solemn), ‘sehr ruhigund feierlich’ (very calm and solemn)” (Doernberg, E. page 4). Bruckner’s music appropriately “has been labelled with the word ‘mysticism’” (Doernberg, E. page 4). Bruckner’s symphonies all start softly, however they all have subtle differences.

While Bruckner clearly brought his own individuality to his work; only Bruckner could have written his latter symphonies, and Bruckner did introduce structural, stylistic and majesty to the genre, which would later influence composers like Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), one does feel that disregarding form and the aesthetic value of his music his music is mostly strengthened by his assimilation of other composer’s ideas (particularly Wagner’s) into the symphony. However one sympathizes with Bruckner who’s music was often presented to listeners of his time in an abridged form, altering Bruckners structure and thematic developments, in that his original manuscripts written for the future contain mixtures of ideas diverse enough to make his music some of the most distinctive around; and he, one of the most contemporary symphony composers of his time.

Example 5: Bruckner, Symphony No.7, “Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht schnell” movement IV bb. 93-96. Use of unison and orchestral tutti.


Bruckner, A (1869) Symphony No. 0. London: Eulenburg

Bruckner, A (1954) Symphony No. 7. London: Eulenburg

Cohrs, B-G. (2006) ‘Anton Bruckner Symphony No. IX D-Minor, Finale’ available from http://www.abruckner.com/Data/Documents/SPCM_REV06_Introduction.pdf [Accessed 13/12/07]

Doernberg, E. (1960) the life and symphonies of Anton Bruckner. London: Barrie and Rockliff

Engel, G. (1940) ‘The Life of Anton Bruckner’ in Chord and discord a journal of modern musical progress, 2/1. Available from http://www.abruckner.com/Data/editorsnote/articlesandessays/otherarticles/Anton%20Bruckner%20by%20Gabriel%20Engel.pdf [Accessed 8/12/07]

Horton, J. (2004) Bruckner’s Symphonies analysis, reception and cultural politics. Cambridge: University Press

Worb, H. (2001) ‘Bruckner, Anton’ in S. Sadie (ed.) The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians: Second Edition. London: Macmillan, Vol. 4, 458-487.

—– (n.d.) ‘Anton Bruckner’. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Bruckner [Accessed 13/12/07]


Bruckner, A (1881) Symphony No. 6. Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frakfurt, conducted by Eliahu Inbal. Teldec,

Bruckner, A (1896) Symphony No. 9 in D minor. BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Bernhard Klee. BBC,

An Analysis of Mendelssohn, Op.19, No.6.

While I do not believe this piece to fall strictly into an existing structure, it bears strongest resemblance with rounded binary form. The basic form of a rounded binary piece is shown below.

A Ba or AB(a)

As with simple binary form, rounded binary form is monothematic and harmonically closed. The main difference between rounded and simple binary is the “a” section returning at the end. This is in the tonic key, concise and abridged from the original “A” section, which helps differentiate the structure to ternary form. The material will usually be modified, to prevent modulation away from the tonic (which is what we would expect to get in the “A” section) or to add significant closure to the piece.

As with the Beethoven, a table briefly outlining the structure is in the appendices at the end of the document.

We begin the music with an accompaniment pattern, which I have labeled motif A forming an introductory 2 bar phrase. It is shown below. This motif is used predominantly in the left hand throughout the piece. The initial use of the tonic chord establishes the key of G minor. The first theme arrives in bar 3 and is shown below. This 3 bar theme is used as a four bar phrase because of the harmony provided by an adapted motif A. The music remains in the tonic G minor throughout this phrase (indicated by inclusion of F#s as the only accidentals), and we end the phrase with a strong cadential progression, ic V7 i.

Motif A:

Theme A:

In bar 7 we begin the next phrase, and in the process introduce motif B. Beginning in the upbeat to bar 9 we get motif Bi which is repeated in sequence, with the thirds in bar 9 becoming sixths becoming motif Bii. Bar 10 uses a short melodic fragment, which appears only once in the piece, it is used in thirds, which helps relate it to motif Bi. The harmony here is simple using only chords i, iv and V. The phrase can be interpreted as being either 4 bars long or 6 bars long, because the D in the right hand of bar 11-12 resolves the phrase, but a 4 bar phrase works better within the overall context of the work (the music in this section is made up of 4 bar phrases. The 4 bar phrase is stronger because this allows the next phrase to begin at bar 11, which is a repeat of the preceding change with the final bar leading towards the dominant instead of the tonic. We return to motif B in the upbeat to bar 12. This is sequenced as before, but the final note of the sequence (beat 1½ of bar 13) is shortened to allow the new material to be introduced. This new material is motif C. At bar 15 we end the use of motif C with a downward arpeggio of D minor. Bar 16 sees a repeat of motif C, now hinting at motif Bi by harmonizing in thirds, hinting at D minor, and leading towards the end of the phrase in bar 17.

Motif Bi: Motif Bii:

Theme B:

Melodic fragment:

Motif C:

In bar 17 we imitate motif C, without the harmonization in thirds. We also establish a new key, G major. The G pedal in the bass begins to feel like a dominant, helping to modulate to the subdominant, C minor. We begin to see a new right hand pattern in bar 19, which can be seen as either an original motif, or an inversion of motif A. Because of the limited range of material in this piece, I think it most likely to be a new motif, hereafter referred to as motif D.

Motif D:

Inverted Motif A

Deriving Motif D from Motif A:

Motif A is inverted The components Motif D

of motif A are transposed

At bar 25 we get an interesting linking phrase, which occurs only once. The repeated D implies a dominant chord leading into the G Minor of the next section. This can be interpreted as a bridge section between the “A” section and “B” section. We once again see motif D, this time more homophonic, because of the added chords. The way motif D is notated at this point supports derivment from motif A. The texture is noticeably different from bar 18-24 because of the sparser left hand, now only providing accompanying “stabs” juxtaposing the earlier fluidity provided by motif A. This is however only an accompaniment to the new theme that has appeared in voice one of the right hand, beginning in bar 26.

Theme C:

While the first three bars of this theme use an original rhythmic cell, the fourth bar uses the rhythmic cell from motif B. The second bar is an exact repeat of the first bar of the theme.

Theme C is repeated in bar 30. This begins the same as before, but the second bar of the theme, bar 31 uses a different register for the G’s in the accompaniment, after that theme changes, the first difference is the use of B§’s in bar 31 to end with a G7 chord. From here, the material changes, leading bar 34, where we reintroduce motif A and motif B as well as arriving back in G minor. Bar 36 breaks theme B; what we would expect to follow motif Bi is motif Bii, however the rhythmic cell is used but the pitches are altered to produce a G minor chord (the tonic chord) which I shall name motif E, which is then followed by Bii in bar 37, and motif E twice in bar 38 and 39. This 5 bar phrase features a lot of diminution in the dynamics that helps add closure to the piece.

An imitation of theme A is heard again in bar 40, with the first note of the theme omitted. The right hand is similar to the opening and helps draw the listener to a cadence like idea beginning in bar 44. This is the “a” section from the overall structure. The repeat of the left hand from bar 44 in bar 45 helps add closure to the piece and the final ring of D in 45 beat 1½ feels like a dominant, which is resolved with the G in bar 46, with the extension of the tessitura in the low register.

Motif E:

This piece differs from rounded binary form in a number of ways. Firstly there is little internal repetition within the piece, in a strict rounded binary form composition we would expect repeat marks as follows:

|: A 😐 |: B(a) 😐

The second major difference with rounded binary form is the structural modulation, or the inherent lack of it. We would expect the “B” section to arrive in a new, but related key. Since the tonic key is minor, we would expect to move to the relative major. We remain in the tonic throughout the majority of the B section, which is not what we would expect. We would also expect a number of internal modulations within the “B” section, however tonality is static throughout the section.

In general, the structural model comes through, ABa, but the specifics of the model contrast to what Mendelssohn chooses to do.

An Analysis of Beethoven, Symphony No.1, movement 4.

Because of the similarities between this movement and the standard formal model for sonata form, I believe the movement to be in sonata form.

Before attaching a structure to the work, it is important to first understand the standard formal model. In sonata form the broadest structure can be defined as:

(Introduction) → Exposition → Development → Recapitulation →  (Coda)

In later pieces, sonata form movements may begin with an introduction. This is not a part of strict sonata form, but used only to add weight to a movement. Usually the introduction will not be included in the repeat of the exposition.

The exposition begins by introducing the first subject group. This statement is made in the home (tonic) key, which for this piece will be C Major. Generally, this will be more dramatic and energetic. This will usually be followed by a bridge (or transitional) section, which will help modulate from the tonic key of the first subject to the second subject; this section is sometimes disregarded completely. Because the tonic of this movement is major, the second subject group will appear in the dominant key, (if the tonic was minor we would expect this to be in a minor key); therefore, we would expect the key for this section to be G Major. Contrasting the first subject, this theme will be of a different mood, typically more lyrical. This is followed by a codetta (or terminary) section, which will both conclude the exposition and help lead into the development section. The last bars may be different between the repeats; this is to lead back to the tonic if repeating the exposition, or to lead into the development section.

The development is used to expand material introduced in the exposition. It will normally begin in the key the exposition ended in and end in the dominant, preparing the music or the recapitulation. Due in part to the chromatic movement often used in this section, the development section is the least stable section. The music is typically derived from ideas heard in the exposition, but may include some new ideas. Development is usually derived through a number of techniques including modulation through a variety of keys, thematic fragmentation, sequential movement, imitation, the juxtaposition of contrasting motifs and themes, rhythmic alteration, as well as motivic changes such as augmentation and diminution. The development section will end with a retransition, which will help lead back to the tonic key through heavy use of the dominant seventh chord of the piece.

The recapitulation is an altered repeat of the exposition. We would expect to begin with an exact repeat of the first subject in the tonic key. This will be followed by a Transition section, which will be altered to prevent key change, to remain in the piece’s home key. This is sometimes achieved by the introduction of new material, or by creating a brief additional development, sometimes called a secondary development. This will be followed by the second subject, which will now be in the tonic key, further adding to a general sense of closure. This will be followed by a codetta in the tonic key.

In some cases, music will continue after the final cadence of the recapitulation with a coda, which will contain material from the movement (excluding the introduction, as this is not a part of the strict sonata form). Codas, when present, vary considerably in length, but, like introductions, while used for various reasons, including the need to provide a more substantial end to a long piece of music, are not a part of the sonata form itself. The coda will end with a perfect cadence in the home key.

This model can be related to Beethoven. The introduction begins in bar 1 and ends in at the end of bar 7. This music does not appear in the music that follows, which means it cannot be a part of sonata form in its strictest form. The music in sections builds into what I shall refer to as Motif 1. This motif first occurs in bars 6-7 and is used heavily throughout the work.

Motif 1:

The exposition can be interpreted to begin at bar 6 or 8 and continues until the end of bar 97 first time ending. This is because motif one (beginning in bar 6) could be seen to be part of the first subject. This is reinforced further by the tempo change, separating bar 6 from the introduction. We could also interpret the exposition to begin in bar 8 because this is where the material begins when repeated. My personal interpretation is that the exposition begins in bar 6 and the repeated material includes this through the repetition of motif 1 in the exposition first time ending. Theme 1 is the first thing we hear in the exposition, arguably beginning a bar and a half before the exposition with Motif 1 in the middle of bar 6. This theme is arguably the more dramatic theme of the piece. Theme 1 is shown below.

Theme 1:

This begins in C Major but in bar 13 F#’s emerge which indicate a modulation into G Major, the C# is used as a chromatic colour, it is not a modulation.

The upbeat to bar 15 sees the introduction of motif 2. This is used in a descending sequence in the violins. Behind this the viola, cellos and later double basses play a 6 note fragment, which could be derived from the fragmentation and augmentation of the ascending scale of motif 1. This material ends with a cadence in C major in bar 22. The cadence while strong does not indicate a section change because motif 2 is then introduced in the woodwinds, first in the bassoon, then the oboes and flutes. This material (bar 22-30) is reorchestrated repetition of bar 14-22.

Motif 2:

Bar 30-38 remains in the tonic and uses an ascending figure which I have labeled motif 3. This is used in the oboes, trumpets and trombones and represents the end of the first subject group and remains in the tonic throughout.

Motif 3:

We begin the transition (or bridge) section in bar 38 with a sequenced inversion of semi-motif 1. We begin to modulate at this point, beginning in A minor in bar 38-41, passing through D Major in bar 42, G Major in bar 43 cadencing on C Major in the end of bar 43-44. Then through G Major for the rest of bar 44 and into D Major in bar 45 ending in G Major in bar 47 through to the end of the bridge in bar 55, ending with an imperfect cadence.

We then begin the second subject group in bar 56 with the introduction of theme 2. As we would expect theme 2 is more lyrical than theme 1. As we would expect, we are clearly in G Major, which is the overall dominant. Towards the end of this section, we begin to head towards C Major with F naturals in bar 68.

Theme 2:

In bar 70 we get a stark contrast in texture and intensity. We modulate chromatically from D Major to G Major. The homophonic texture builds tension, which is released with perfect cadence in bar 77-78. This texture and harmony is reminiscent of a similar section from the first movement of the symphony, alluding to the larger structure of the work. In bar 78 we jump again into a new texture. A series of perfect cadences begin which adds both security of the G Major key and a sense of closure to the second subject group. The characteristic perfect cadences are new material that shall be called motif 4.

Motif 4:

In bar 86 we begin the codetta, which lasts until the end of the first time ending. This is in G Major, which was used for the second subject, as we would expect. C#’s emerge in bar 93 moving into Major. In bar 96 (first time ending) the dominant seventh chord is used to modulate to the tonic C Major ready for the repeat of the exposition. The codetta is made up from an ascending sequence of motif 1. Beethoven has ended this section with motif 1 leading into theme 1. We can interpret the codetta to include either first and second time ending or just the first time ending, with the second time ending either using motif 1 to lead into the development section, or the second time ending starting the development section.

An important structural change takes place in bar 98 where the development section begins. Motif 1 is used in different transpositions between short chordal phrases. Because Beethoven uses diminished sevenths in the chordal phrases, the tonality is ambiguous. Bar 108 brings a new texture and a new key as well as sharp dynamic contrast. The Bb pedal roots the tonality in Bb Major. The homophonic texture is accompanied by an arpeggic melody.

In bar 116 we see familiar material; a fragment motif 2 can be seen in the violin I part. Motif 1 can also be seen supporting this in the cello part. We also modulate to the dominant of the current key, F Major.

Motif 1 then moves to the Violin I and later Violin II, Viola and Cello in bar 126. Descending scales are used antiphonally to balance motif I. This scalic passage can also be seen as a shortened inversion of Motif I. By Bar 130 we see the continuation of scales combined with the introduction of the rhythmic cell from motif 4in bassoons and the full motif 4 in the flute and oboe parts. We then move from F Major towards G Major through the cycle of fifths.

Antiphonal exchange in bar 130:

In bar 140 we see another change in texture. The upper winds show an augmented motif 3. This section is firmly rooted in the tonic minor C Minor. In bar 148 we see the restatement of motif 1 in the violins. The violas and cellos antiphonally balance this. This is halted in bar 156 with an elaborate cadential pattern in G Minor ending on bar 160.  To add further closure to this section in bar 160 the bass line from this cadential pattern is taken up by the winds and harmonised in thirds. The end of this section overlaps with the emergence of the recapitulation.

The appearance of motif 1 in the tonic in the violin I is significant because it leads again into theme 1 at bar 164. This is unchanged from the exposition. Bar 170 brings motif 2. This differs from the exposition however; this is shortened by the cadence that appears in bar 177 but motif 2 appears in the bassoons, which leads into an extension of the motif 2 sequence. We then add the descending scale (or possible shorten inversion of motif 1) in bar 188 in violin I, as well as a possible reference to motif 3 with the upper woodwind.  In bar 190 we get the familiar trill like phrase we see in bar 54; this arrives earlier than it previously did in the exposition as the transitional section is omitted from the recapitulation. At this point, we are heading again towards the tonic, C Major.

At bar 192 we see the reintroduction of theme 2, and the beginning of the repetition of the second subject group. Theme 2 is, as we would expect in the tonic key of C Major. Theme 2 has been extended to bar 209. Bar 210 brings a repeat of the homophonic texture heard in bar 70-78 in the tonic key.  This is again followed in Bar 218 with the perfect cadences of motif 4 to finish the second subject group firmly in the tonic in case of ambiguity caused by the chromatic movement in bars 210-216.

The codetta is repeated at bar 226 including motif 1 in the violins. Bar 232 adds double dotted rhythms to build into the cadences at bars 234-35 and 236-37. A big imperfect cadence in G minor (the tonic minor of the dominant) is heard first, followed by an imperfect cadence in the tonic. At bar 238 we see ascending scales implying a shortened motif 1, which is then shown in its entirety in 242-43, leading into a repeat of theme 1 beginning bar 244.

We are now repeating the section as we did with the exposition, due to the changes in the material Beethoven has chosen to notate the repeat of the section, contrasting the exposition where the material was repeated exactly (with the exception of the first and second time endings). This is because Beethoven repeats only the first subject group; omitting the transitional section, second subject group and codetta.

The descending sequence of motif 2 heard in the upbeat to bar 15 is repeated at bar 251. The bassoon uses the ascending scale more than when first heard, but is the same duration 7½ bars long. After a brief bar delay motif 2 is then moved to woodwinds as in the exposition. In bar 266 a new cadence is introduced ending the first subject group and introducing the coda.

Making an 8 bar phrase in bar 251-258:

This concludes the recapitulation, which is where we would expect to end the piece according to strict sonata form procedure, but to add more substantial closure to the significant duration of the symphony a coda is added beginning bar 266. The cadences initially heard establish key and begin to provide the closure we would expect from the piece. The cadences can be seen as either new material or possibly an implied extension of motif 4. The flutes in bar 270 are derived from motif 1. The violins I and II, clarinets, bassoons and oboes then take this up. In bar 283 crescendos are used to anticipate the intensity of the final section of the coda. Bar 289 sees the return of motif 1 in full, where it is used up a diatonic third in bar 291 to build into the bar 293, where homophonic tutti cadences in the tonic key of C major are used to firmly end the piece. The cadential movement also highlights the decline in harmonic tempo with the final chord repeated in bar 302 and 303.

An Analysis of Clair De Lune from Suite Bergamasque

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) composed Clair de Lune, the third movement from the Suite Bergamasque in 1888 (first published in 1903). It is important to note that with the exception of the poetically titled Clair de Lune, suite Bergamasque is created exclusively from Baroque movements. The choice of compound triple meter for this movement shows the contrast to the dance movements and helps allow Debussy freedom to articulate the music differently.

In addition, Clair de Lune is compositionally, the most adventurous piece of the suite. The positioning within the suite is important; it is the suite’s third movement, and is the lyrical climax of the suite. The use of structure and proportion within the movement is significant;

Most important of all, they show ways in which the forms are used to project the music’s dramatic and expressive qualities with maximum precision. (Howat, R. Page 1)

The opening theme of Clair De Lune is derived from music heard in the preceding movements of the suite. This is worth mentioning, as while Debussy has composed a movement that may itself warrant detailed analysis, it is important to remember that care has been taken with both compositional material and structure on a macroscopic level.

Thematic Fragment as it appears in the Prélude:

Thematic Fragment as it appears in the Menuet:

Theme 1’s constituents;

Theme 1 is created from various constituents. The upper turns shown in pink on the above diagram originate from the thematic fragments used between movements. The first half of the theme (blue) is voiced in thirds, but the latter half is not. The second half of the theme is sequential, shown by the yellow.

The second theme of the movement is constructed from the rhythmic cell shown below. This rhythm is used in the right hand to form melodies; such as the second theme in bar 27-36, or in the transitional section in bar 39-40. The accompaniment also shows this rhythm in bar 29; in the arpeggio; the return to the previously arpeggiated note occurs on this rhythm.

Rhythmic Cell

Accompaniment picking up rhythmic cell

Overall Structure

While the overall structure of the movement is ambiguous, I think the form best fitting the movement is ternary form, extended by a coda created from material originating in section B. On a superficial level, the overall structure of ternary form; A B A, fits the structure of the movement well. In ternary form, the first and third sections (A) are normally identical, although commonly, the third section will feature more ornamentation than the first section; while the middle section (B) contrasts sharply with it. The thematic material in the A and B sections would sharply contrast; which they do here. An alternative to ternary form could be rounded binary form, again with an added coda. While the general structure ABa fits the music, the form is less likely to be rounded binary because two main themes are used, therefore the music is not monothematic, nor are the sections harmonically open. The movement remains mostly in the tonic, the only modulation occurring in bars 37-42, which means the sections are harmonically closed.

The length of sections sequentially decreases by two bars as shown bellow.

26 Bars Long

Bar 1-26

Section A

24 Bars Long

Bars 27-50

Section B

22 Bars Long

Bars 51-72

Section A + Coda

Proportion of Sections

It is worth mentioning that Paul Verlaine’s poem Claire de Lune, which is probably the inspiration for this movement – both the titles Bergamasque and Claire de Lune originate in this poem; is in three stanzas, mirroring Debussy’s use of three sections in this movement.

Running Commentary

The composition opens in Db major with a tonic chord. Here Debussy has already broken two rules of conventional voice leading; Debussy begins without the tonic note, introducing it later, where the mediant of the chord (F natural) is doubled. This gesture could also be interpreted as opening with chord iii (still with doubled mediant) moving to chord I on the third beat of the bar; however I think this is less likely to be Debussy’s intention because of the use of a Db chord in bar 9 when the phrase is imitated. The choice of chord I is also supported by the left hand for the opening four bars, which implies a chord-a-bar harmonic rhythm. Throughout the opening phrase the left hand part begins to slowly descend, while the diatonic opening theme floats above in the right hand. In Bar 2 Gb and A; an augmented second, show Debussy’s confident use of unconventional intervals. Bars 5-6 are used sequentially in bar 7-8, the last beat altered to lead into the repeat of the theme in bar 9 with a traditional perfect cadence. The opening 8 bars are repeated in bars 9; with some decoration, harmonic substitutions and other changes. The opening F Ab idea re-enters with an ascending octave gesture. The harmonic substitutions can be seen in bar 10; the Gb o7 is changed for a Gb  6 chord.

Bar 15 could be interpreted both as the finishing of the previous phrase, making it 8 bars long, or as the start of the next block in material; the change in texture is significant, we now have a homophonic texture. The right hand chords in this section should be seen as a melody, the harmony is in the bass part of the left hand. The harmonic rhythm at this point has slowed. The dynamics at this point is still pianissimo. An ascending left hand figure is introduced in the bar 19. This texture continues until bar 26. The harmony, while compositionally inventive, is still heavily rooted on conventional diatonic harmony; there has been occasional chromatism but the music feels diatonic. While the music feels distinctly diatonic, it does not feel rooted in the tonic key of Db major, the key itself remains ambiguous until the final cadence in bar 72, as use of non functional harmony also occasionally implies the relative minor of Bb minor.

In bar 27 we begin the B section; new thematic material is introduced, as is a change in accompaniment; we now have an arpeggio figure in the left hand. The music at this point is in two bar phrases. The first two bar phrase uses the rhythmic cell shown earlier to create a melodic phrase. Below this, the bass ascends a third each beat. The chord used on the third beat of bar 27, bIIIb is an unusual harmonic choice within conventional tonality and shows Debussy experimenting with non-functional harmony; this creates a new and interesting sound world, made more obvious by the preceding chord III(a). The harmony at this point is therefore; I III bIIIb. The harmonic rhythm slows at bar 29, with a sustained I chord moving to II in bar 30. In bar 31-32 we have an imitation of bar 27-28, the rhythm and general contour of the right hand melody is the same. Under this, we have more unusual harmony, the harmonic rhythm has returned to the dotted crotchet pulse and what appears to be an A9 chord with a doubled seventh, followed by the progression IV iii and is repeated again in the following bar.

At this point we have now subtly changed dynamic to piano from pianissimo; while we have seen crescendos and diminuendos written into the score, along with hairpins in bars 13, 14, and 29 this is the first marked change in dynamic. Bar 35-36 is a repeat of bar 27-28 an octave higher. The last dotted crotchet of bar 36 is written enharmonically to prepare for the modulation at bar 37. The piece has now moved into E major, the first modulation to occur in the piece. In addition to the modulation, the texture also changes. The overall tessitura shifts suddenly upwards at this point. The rhythm in voice 1 of the left hand is based upon the end of the rhythmic cell shown earlier. The music continues to ascend throughout this bar, the music rises by a third each beat. Debussy is building tension with a full arsenal of devices to prepare for the climax of the piece. Beginning in bar 38 we hear a prominent descending chromatic scale in the bass until bar 39 beat 2. We also see the rhythmic cell used in full again. We see a prominent forte at bar 41, from a dynamics perspective this is the climax of the piece. The right hand begins a descending scale in thirds throughout bars 41-42. We resume Db major at bar 43. To smooth the modulation back to the tonic key, a dominant chord is sustained in the left hand from bars 43-46, over a melody based on the rhythmic phrase seen in bar 37. Harmonic interest is created in bar 45-46 when chords are played in the right hand over the dominant Ab pedal. Bar 47 reintroduces the rhythmic cell in the right, while a figure derived from it is played in the left hand. Between these parts, the harmony is arpeggiated and sustained notes in the middle register of the piano can be heard. In bar 50-51 the B section ends with an ambiguous chord, a sustained #V7 sus4d, the dominant feeling of the chord helps expose the tonic key and the section is harmonically closed.

At bar 51 the music returns to the opening theme and the start of the final section. The bar begins with an ascending iii chord leading into the opening theme, which leaves the dissonant dominant of the previous bar technically unresolved, although because of Debussy’s treatment of the materials the tension feels to have been resolved. The dynamic is marked PPP, which is the quietest dynamic in the piece. The theme has undergone alterations since its introduction. The duration of the F and Ab have been shortened, and the final beat of the bar has been changed to an octave F. The tonal ambiguity of the music is also highlighted with the lack of a Db in the opening bar; implying the chord is now an F minor, rather than a tonic with a doubled mediant. The subtle harmonic tension of bar 2 is removed in bar 52, and the music appears far more triadic than before. While in bar 2 a V7 is used, decorated with a suspension and a upper turn, bar 52 uses a III7 chord, while the music is clearly recognizable as the opening theme, the music has been re-imagined with harmonic substitutions, and new figures for the left hand material. From bar 51-53 a dominant pedal figure is repeated in the bass; which by bar 53 has become a traditionally dissonant 7th of the vi7d chord, this resolves downward to Gb in bar 54, the mediant of the V7c chord. This section finishes at bar 65.

The coda now begins in bar 66, the arpeggio figure seen alludes to section B; the first two beats of the bar are taken from the accompaniment in bar 27. The melody in beats 2-3 of bar 67 is rhythmically simple and is different from the rhythms of preceding themes, but the contour of the melody is the same as the opening of theme 2, seen on the final beat of bar 27. The flowing arpeggio is interrupted in bar 67 by a pause on the ic chord. A chord of Bb minor is written in bar 71, which is an example of the insecurity of the key, before the tonal ambiguity of the piece is finally removed with the final chord of  Db major chord in 72.


Debussy, C. (1978) Suite Bergamasque. London: Peters

Howat, R. (1986) Debussy in Proportion. Cambridge: University Press

Long, M. (1960) At the piano with Debussy. London: J.M. Dent & Sons

Nichols, R. (1972) Debussy. Oxford: University Press

Schmitz, E. (1950)  The Piano Works of Claude Debussy. New York: Sloan & Pearce

Analyzing the Development of the Opening Melody of “L’apres-Midi d’un Faune”

The central melodic fragment of the piece begins in the opening bar of the work as a solo for flute. Here we fall chromatically, with the omission of C natural / B Sharp which appears later in the motif in the ascension. This fragment is then repeated exactly in the next bar to form the main melodic phrase. The end of this phrase is picked up in bar 8 in the Oboe, only transposed down a major second. This fragment is repeat in the next bar similar to the repetition of the initial melodic fragment in the opening.  In bar 11 the solo flute then plays a repeat of the opening melody, however bar 13 is chromatically altered, and in bar 14 beat 2 we have a C sharp instead of the B we would expect. The cello part in bar 11-12 could be a hint towards the ascending figure of the main melodic fragment. In bar 17 we have further hints towards the main melodic fragment, in the Oboe, Clarinet and later Violin I parts, we see a semi-interpretation of the fragment, the rhythmic values have be extended, and to keep the phrase the same length, notes have been omitted.

Because of the change in meter in bar 21, the restatement of the flute melody has to be rhythmically altered. This is allowed by extending the duration of the first note. At this point the pitches are still the same as the opening. In bar 23 the fragment is used extended again, however it is now transposed to begin on an A natural. The note values relative to the transposition remain the same.

In the cor anglais part at bar 25, we see a chromatically descending figure, perhaps imitative of the descending of the opening fragment. In bar 26 we see the flute playing the fragment again. Both flute parts in bar 27 could be interpreted to take their notes from the ascending figure of the melodic fragment. The clarinet in bar 31 could attempts to imitate the flute fragment, transposed to beginning on a C natural. The contour of the melody begins the same but changes towards the end of the bar. This happens again in bar 34, but this time the clarinet is transposed to begin on an E flat. In the oboe at bar 37, we see a counter reminiscent of the opening melody, but with note removed and intervals changed. In 39 we se a syncopated motif in the oboe part., We also a hint of the beginning fragment in bar 41 in the violins. In bar 46 the cor anglais and clarinets begin with what looks like an inversion of the main fragment, although this changes towards the end of the bar. At the same time the violins play a realization of the fragment in the enharmonic equivalent of the original key, D flat.

In bar 53 the fragment is hinted at in the cor anglais.

The figure appearing in the winds at 55, later moving to the strings could be seen as an imitation of an augmented opening descending figure, but this is used significantly to suggest it is in actuality a new melody / motif. The upper winds in bar 61-62 play a decorated version of the fragment.

In bar 71 the strings introduce a quasi-realization of the melodic fragment, the opening notes appears as a turn, followed by descending notes, which then ascend back to the initial note. We see the flute play a more obvious fragment in 79-81. This has been altered to fit with meter change, and augmented. We now begin on E natural. This is succeeded by another adaptation of the main melody in 82-83. In bar 83 the oboe begins a decorated version of the main motif, adding a trill, an acciaccatura and various articulation, as well as the change in rhythm. This is repeated exactly in bar 84.

In bar 86 the fragment returns again to the flute, now beginning in E flat, extended rhythmically and altered in the sequence of notes, now the first interval change is chromatic, not diatonic, however Debussy’s treatment of this makes the subtle change almost undetectable to the ear. Because of this, the range the notes descend decreases, and the we descend a perfect fourth instead of the original tritone. The oboe picks up an extended part of the main melody in bar 89. In bar 90 the oboes decorated melody is passed to the cor anglais in the original starting note of C sharp. The chromatic alteration of the first note, to produced a chromatic run is also evident here. The oboe dovetails the ascending figure of this fragment. Important to note here is that once again the range of the descending movement is decreased, we go down to an A sharp, compared to the original G natural. In bar 94 an intervalliclly similar fragment is used in both flutes, as well as being hinted at in the subsequent bar.

The flute and solo viola play an interpretation of the fragment at bar 100. The fragment only descents a perfect fourth however, and is repeated in the next bar. In 103-104 the oboe plays a sequence made from the end of the main melody. The melody is last hear in the cor anglais at 107, as well as a realization of the melody in the violins. The cor anglais part plays the intervalliclly smaller fragment