Among Bruckner’s three theme groups in his sonata exposition, the second group, or, in his term, the ‘Gesangsperiode‘, has often been characterised in a way that separates it from the main sonata discourse in which other two theme groups are involved. For example, Darcy (1997) highlighted the tonal alienation of the second group as an important deformational feature of Bruckner’s sonata form. Similarly, Hinrischen (2010) described its main role as the ‘Beruhignuszone‘ (relaxation zone) between the more dynamic first and third groups. Besides this tonal and rhetorical otherness, the peculiarity of Bruckner’s second group is nowhere more evident than in its internal formal design, which, in many cases, shows an unusual amalgamation of variation and ternary designs. However, this aspect has been surprisingly seldom explored in detail yet.
Aiming to provide an accurate picture of the unique formal structure of Bruckner’s Gesansperiode, this paper adopts a modified form-functional framework in tandem with the recent achievements of some Schubert studies (e.g. Hyland, 2016; Martinkus, 2017) dealing with the issue of variation in sonata form. Similar to some cases from Schubert, Bruckner’s use of variation form in the Gesangsperiode engenders a distinctive temporal sense of recursiveness, which, however, ends up being subtly adjusted and transformed by the insertion of ternary aspects. This paper further reveals that this multifaceted temporality is not only in sharp contrast with the more straightforward musical time of the other two theme groups, but also has a meaningful implication for the temporal-formal discourse of the whole exposition.
Sunbin Kim is a third-year doctoral student in Musicology at Durham University, where his research project is funded by Durham Doctoral Studentship. Under the supervision of Professor Julian Horton, he is investigating Anton Bruckner’s symphonic sonata form in the light of the ongoing debates regarding the application of recent formal theories to nineteenth-century music, especially focusing on form-functional aspects. Sunbin has given papers at several international conferences including Theory and Analysis Graduate Student Conference, Society for Music Analysis Annual Conference, and Royal Musical Association Annual Conference. He received both his BA and MM degrees from Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.