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Keble College, University of Oxford

Structural Dissonance Re-Imagined: The Finale of Elgar’s Violin Sonata, Op. 82

Contemporary critical reception of Elgar’s Violin Sonata in E minor, Op. 82 was divided: was this work old hat or modestly cutting edge? Study of the tonal intricacies of its finale can facilitate interesting answers to this question, which mediate between its implied extremes. The paper focuses on Elgar’s unusual treatment of sonata form’s traditional harmonic pillars, arguing that he radically changed their surface contents while still attempting to guarantee their continued relevance as organizing presences at a level below the musical surface. Particularly important is his articulation of the finale’s structural dominant. The music that follows on from an abortive cadence in V at the end of the finale’s secondary theme area might be thought to ‘translate’ the dominant into a more modern kind of musical language; it can thus be perceived as a genuine structural dissonance once more, rather than as a consonant cliché.


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Oliver Chandler is College Lecturer in Music at Keble College, University of Oxford. His research interests include the music of Edward Elgar and early British dodecaphony. His work has been published in Music & Letters, Music Theory Online, Music Theory and Analysis, Gamut, and Journal for the Society of Musicology in Ireland. Oliver is also a keen guitarist. He was awarded the guitar-departmental performance prize during his master's studies at Trinity Laban, Conservatoire of Music and Dance. He is currently writing a book on the post-tonal repertory commissioned by, or dedicated to, Julian Bream.

Oliver Chandler

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