The Medial Caesura Declined in Schubert’s Sonata-Form Expositions
The medial caesura (MC) is a mid-expositional break that divides a sonata-form exposition into two parts. It acts as a tonal and formal proposition, a suggested plan of action that, to be accepted, requires a convincing S-candidate and a key other than the tonic. Failure to launch any of the typical S-opening types or to move away from the tonic after the MC may indicate that the proposed gesture is being retrospectively declined, as if the subsequent music were unable, or perhaps refused, to move past the MC effectively. This situation often results in the reopening of pre-MC space, suggesting a return to either P or TR and an eventual articulation of a new, rhetorically stronger MC. In this paper, I investigate Schubert’s handling of declined MCs within sonata expositions, demonstrating how the strategy’s formal and expressive outcomes may be directly associated with a given MC pair. I examine four different declined/accepted MC pairs, organized as follows: 1) a declined Classical MC is followed by another Classical MC; 2) a declined MC in a non-normative key is followed by a Classical MC; 3) a declined Classical MC is followed by an MC in a non-normative key; and 4) a declined MC in a non-normative key is followed by an MC in the same key or in another non-normative key. The conclusion shows that declined/accepted pairs involving tonally unconventional MCs often implicate formal and tonal complications that require some kind of correction or compensation, resulting, for instance, in a multimodular S, a modulatory CF, or a direct motion to the EEC. Interestingly, even when dealing with the Classical/Classical pair, Schubert constantly avoided the Classical deployment sequence, experimenting with innovative strategies that impacted the exposition’s layout in some way. It seems that, in Schubert, the declined-MC strategy exceeds its inherent rhetorical (and coloristic) function, frequently incorporating structural significance.
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