Approaches to recapitulation in the musical forms of classical style and romanticism

Mikhail Ye. Pylaev


The article explores recapitulation as a specific musical phenomenon which is rare in the arts that exist in time. The article reveals a deep dialectic of the recapitulation as an agent of development and affirmation which drives changes even with literal repetition. Recapitulation is a convincing proof that academic music tends to produce complete and substantive musical forms. The analysis is deliberately limited to ternary and sonata forms. They are associated with the most effective use of recapitulation as well as with the organic combination of several approaches to form building. Based on the system of views developed primarily in Russian musicology, the article reveals a specific role of recapitulation and its characteristics. It further explores the role of repeatability which is manifest in the arts with high level of generalization (“pure” instrumental music, architecture, choreography).

The recapitulation in classical and romantic music is analyzed through its perception by a competent listener with a developed “sense of recapitulation”. This approach allows to focus on the effect of “frustrated expectations” as well as various interpretations and unique artistic solutions offered by composers. Theme and harmony are seen as the foundations of form (as a type of composition). They are used to approach retransition as well as a more or less significant reworking of the recapitulation which is sometimes expected at its very beginning.

A special focus is given to individual approaches to recapitulation in the works by W. A. Mozart, L. Beethoven, J. Brahms, and S. Rachmaninoff.

In view of the above, the author concludes that recapitulation is a complex phenomenon, which, to a certain extent, accumulates some essential qualities of European academic music of the second half of the 18th-19th centuries.

Keywords: recapitulation, retransition, musical form, classical and romantic works, analytical musicology in Russia

For citation: Pylaev M. Ye. Approaches to recapitulation in the musical forms of classical style and romanticism [Electronic source]. In: Sovremennye problemy muzykoznaniya / Contemporary Musicology, 2021, no. 3, pp. 17–42. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.56620/2587-9731-2021-3-017-042


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