Perceptions of structural inadequacy in Schubert’s sonata forms, as manifest in publications by critics such as Stratham, continued to reinscribe Schubert’s marginalized position as a composer of instrumental music. To avoid perpetuating the notion that Schubert’s repetitions are incompatible with sonata forms, recent scholarship considers Schubert on his own terms. To accomplish this, many scholars adopt alternative modes of discourse.
Regardless of the interpretive or analytical framework employed, a concern for repetition and ways to frame it positively remains central to many discussions of Schubert’s idiom. A common thread emerging in these analyses is the presence of variation in Schubert’s sonata forms.
For example, consider the concept of parataxis (or paratactic construction), now one of the more common descriptors of Schubert’s treatment of repetition: this term, adapted by Elaine R. Sisman from the study of sentence structures (in linguistics), serves as the literary correlate to additive musical forms. For Sisman, the Classical theme-and-variation set epitomizes paratactic construction in music. Thus, scholars identifying such paratactic constructions in Schubert’s sonata forms are (often tacitly) acknowledging and highlighting the similarities between Schubert’s structures of repetition in sonata form, and those more commonly associated with theme-and-variation form. […]
Repetition is conspicuous throughout Schubert’s oeuvre, permeating his instrumental as well as his
vocal music. Moreover, repetition has remained central to the conversation surrounding Schubert’s
compositions for well over a century. […]
Through a thorough consideration of Schubert’s musical-social life and for-profit publications, it becomes clear that other forms of musical engagement influenced Schubert’s use of variation in sonata form. Emphasizing Schubert’s use of variation from a practical perspective frames his sonata form practice in more broadly stylistic terms. In general, considering the musical lives of other composers, as a means of informing one’s analytical perspective, could certainly prove fruitful for analysis. The resulting norms established via analysis would reflect a composer’s practice more holistically. […]
In forging a new link between contemporary Formenlehre and a composer’s practice, the analytical framework employed throughout this dissertation provides a model for the theorization of style and its application in analyzing musical form. Moving forward, in adopting a similar mode of contextualizing analysis—identifying inter-generic trends in a composer’s oeuvre reflective of their holistic musical lives—scholars of nineteenth-century music, and musical form, can delve deeper into the idiosyncrasies of any composer.
[…] Schubert’s reputation suffered from constant comparisons with Beethoven because of their historical and geographical proximity. Scholars today still perceive the need to consider the composer on his own terms in order to redress the marginalization of Schubert. […] Indeed, as Jeffrey Perry notes, “one might even ask whether Schubert’s sonata/variation hybridizations were not of greater relevance as concrete models to Brahms, Mahler, and others than were Beethoven’s essays in such hybridization.” In this regard, further elucidation on the presence of variation in nineteenth-century sonata forms is an immensely promising avenue for future research.
It is instructive, for instance, to consider in brief the similarities between Schubert’s sonata forms and those of Johannes Brahms, whose thematic transformations have often been analyzed in language that recalls variation procedures. Walter Frisch’s description of the treatment of thematic material in Brahms’s sonata forms is exemplary in this regard: “the higher-level reinterpretation of a theme at each of its appearances in the sonata form is indeed one of Brahms’s most characteristic and powerful techniques.” The same could be said of distributed variations in Schubert’s idiom. Or, consider processes of loose variation that blur the boundaries between thematic variation and development; in Brahms’s oeuvre this compositional strategy manifests, albeit to greater extremes, in the form of developing variations.