Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales
Ambiguous and unfixed structure(s): Form through articulation in the finale from Brahms’s Cello Sonata in E minor
Studies on the relation between musical form and performance have traditionally focused on musicians’ handling of timing and dynamics, not only because of the correlation found in a number of performances between hierarchical phraseological structure and coordinated decreases in both parameters—a phenomenon usually known as phrase arching (Henderson 1937) or phrase-final lengthening (Todd 1985)—but also because of these parameters’ easier quantification. However, other parameters, including articulation, can play a no less significant role in the emergence and, potentially, perception of musical structures. The processes of performance and inference are, moreover, so unique to each musician and/or beholder that traditionally score-based, Manichean, approaches to musical form have already started to be revised.
To explore this phenomenon, I study five recordings of the finale from Brahms’s first Cello Sonata, Op. 38. In it, the composer seems to have left undetermined the junctures where the transition, the second subject, and the recapitulation start. He also combined procedures typical of both the sonata and the fugue to produce a true formal hybrid. Focusing on the performers’ manipulation of articulation, as well as on parametric fluctuations and patterning, I address the following questions:
How can musical articulation be empirically measured and analyzed?
Which parameters are most relevant in the emergence and perception of formal relations?
How can compositional formal ambiguity be materialised, concealed, or created in performance?
This paper ultimately explores how musical form can, on the basis of its performance, be considered as multivalent.
Ana Llorens combines the double perspective of the performer and the scholar. After obtaining her BA in cello performance, she completed her degree in Musicology, along an MPhil, at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. She conducted her PhD research at the University of Cambridge; in it, she specialised in music analysis and theory of form. Ana is technical supervisor in the ERC project DIDONE, based at the Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales. Her research focuses on the analysis of large musical corpuses, both scores and recordings. She is funded by a research grant from Spain’s Ministry of Science, Education, and Universities.