The University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
The Sentence as Large Scale Form in Wagner’s Later Operas: A Preliminary Study
Classical form is not something usually associated with Wagner’s post-Lohengrin operas. The sung drama seems for the most part to be through-composed—the music moves fluidly so as to fit the arc of the drama and the details of the text. Attempts to organize Wagner’s music into formal sections can often fail to account for the forward-driving, symphonic nature of the music. In this paper, in considering three duets from Die Meistersinger, I build on Matthew BaileyShea’s discussion of sentences in Wagner’s music (2002), to posit larger scale “sentential sections” which constitute a kind of loose formal organization. While it is similar to Lorenz’s description of “bar form,” the term “sentential section” more accurately depicts the formal process in music that lies somewhere between a clearly organized opera “number” and text-driven through-composition. Focusing on three duets, I will show how each is organized by phrase-length, expository “basic ideas”, and followed by longer, developmental “continuations.” Such organization will also be viewed as a loose sonata-like exposition-development structure. An analysis of the Sachs/Eva duet “Gut’n Abend Meister…” (see attached sketch) will suggest how these and related forms convey musical and textual meaning. I will conclude by applying these formal categories to an extended section from Tristan to suggest how my adaptation of classical formal functions can effectively describe the workings of “through composed” late Romantic music and beyond.
Samuel Lord Kalcheim is a contemporary composer of mostly common-practice music. He is currently a doctoral candidate in music composition the University of Oregon and will graduate in June 2020 with a supporting area in music theory. An expert in the style and practice of the Classical and Romantic periods, Samuel has written an extensive body of compositions. He specializes in large multi-movement chamber works, including three string quartets and several sonatas, but is equally adept at writing opera, and for orchestra and chamber orchestra. Samuel extends his compositional interests into theory and theory pedagogy, approaching the analysis and teaching of form and harmony with the “insider” view of a composer and practitioner. Samuel is currently working on a textbook that uses four-voice schemata to teach harmony and voice leading.