St Anne’s College, University of Oxford

The C0 strategy: From Haydn’s First to Beethoven’s Ninth

Close examination of the works of the Classical Era suggests that composers of this period employed a number of ‘formal strategies’: certain standard arrangements of themes, cadences, and other musical features, that constitute a set area of the larger sonata form. In this paper I discuss one such strategy, which I name the ‘C0 strategy’. This term derives from Hepokoski and Darcy’s analysis of the form of the secondary theme group in the first movement of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, a form that they (mistakenly, I argue) identify as a ‘[possibly] unique deformation’. I show that the C0 strategy, which takes place in the secondary key area of sonata-form expositions, was common in compositions of the 1750s and early 1760s, and that the format in the first movement of the “Eroica” is actually a very late instance of this strategy. I use the corpus of Haydn’s symphonies composed before 1765, in which the C0 strategy features commonly, to define the strategy and its limits: Haydn’s pre-Sturm und Drang works are rarely discussed by theorists, and for many of these movements the C0 strategy offers a more precise and historically pertinent formal model than traditional types. Finally, I briefly observe that the first movement of Beethoven’s Ninth offers a deformational, and probably the last, instance of this strategy.


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John Bowcock is a DPhil student at the University of Oxford, St Anne’s College. He completed a BA in Music at the University of Oxford, St Anne’s College, graduating in 2015, and an MPhil at the University of Cambridge, Darwin College, graduating in 2016. He has taught tutorial courses on Analysis and on Mozart’s Concertos at various Oxford colleges.

John Bowcock