Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven

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Oxford University Press, USA, 1998 - Music - 307 pages
4 Reviews
Building on ideas first advanced by Arnold Schoenberg and later developed by Erwin Ratz, this book introduces a new theory of form for instrumental music in the classical style. The theory provides a broad set of principles and a comprehensive methodology for the analysis of classical form, from individual ideas, phrases, and themes to the large-scale organization of complete movements. It emphasizes the notion of formal function, that is, the specific role a given formal unit plays in the structural organization of a classical work.

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There are too many inconsistencies in this methodology. Whereas multiple interpretations of a phrase are certainly possible, the author fails to define with any certainly the criterion about which those interpretations are to be based. This can, in effect, lead to more questions than answers, rendering the entire analysis moot at best, and tiresome at worst. 

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About the author (1998)

William E. Caplin is at McGill University.

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