University of Louisville

Reinforcing Weak Expositional Midpoints Using Extra-Formal Insertions

This paper concerns syntactic, extra-formal insertions within sonata-form expositions in the early string quartets of Luigi Boccherini (1743–1805). Specifically, I examine situations in which a problematic primary theme and transition obscure the identity of the transition and, potentially, the beginning of the secondary theme. I identify a set of insertions between the transition and secondary theme that clarify the organization of the exposition by supporting the division at the exposition’s rhetorical midpoint. This paper discusses Boccherini’s interesting solutions to a compositional problem in an effort to better understand the composer’s personal style as well as the early-Classical style.
These aberrant insertions are limited within Boccherini’s oeuvre to selected movements from his String Quartets, op. 2, G. 159–164 (1761), namely the second movements of the String Quartet in E Major, G. 163 and the String Quartet in C Minor, G. 159. Both movements include situations wherein the transition is indistinguishable from the primary theme. In G. 163, the primary theme and transition are fused to create a single, brief phrase that unexpectedly modulates to conclude with a half cadence in the dominant key. In G. 159, the transition uses the primary theme’s melody and concludes with an unexpected half cadence in the dominant key. The insertions that follow the transition are constructed around a standing-on-the-dominant one might expect to find before the end of the transition, but which in fact occurs after the transition’s concluding cadence and a literal or rhetorical gap.


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Rebecca Long is a visiting lecturer at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. She holds a Ph.D. in music theory from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Arkansas. Long has previously taught at the University of Houston and Mars Hill University.

Dr. Long’s research interests include musical form, music of the early- and mid-eighteenth century, and music theory pedagogy. She has presented research at the annual meetings of the South Central Society for Music Theory, Music Theory Midwest, and the Texas Society for Music Theory as well as the biannual Pedagogy Into Practice conference.

Rebecca Long