Franz Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor: Precedents for an Analytical Evolution

Bryan Whitelaw

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Franz Liszt has all too often been discarded as the virtuosic showman, despite the fact that his several of works have often gained great praise and attracted scholarly engagement. However, one also finds striking development of formal design and tonal harmony in many of the works for his principal composition medium, the piano. This paper seeks to explore the practical application of James A. Hepokoski and Warren Darcy’s 'Sonata Theory' upon Liszt’s magnum opus for the instrument, the Sonata in B Minor.

    I shall first consider the historical analyses placed upon the work that deal with structural design, as it pertains to the paradigm of Classical sonata-form. Previous research reveals two main theoretical camps; those in favour of a multi-movement analysis (with conflicting hypotheses therein) and those in favour of a single movement sonata-form. An understanding of these historical conceptions of the piece allows one to then highlight areas of conflict and offer a new solution.

    Finally, I shall use Sonata Theory to survey the Sonata in B Minor’s landscape in a new light. The title ‘Sonata’ has clear generic implications, many of which are met by Liszt; 'Sonata Theory' provides a model with which to outline the compositional deformations employed by the composer and the implications of this practice. In particular, I offer new perspectives on the validity of the double-function form, insight into the rhetorical layout of a rotational discourse, and propose a nuanced analysis befitting of this striking work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016
    EventICTM/SMI Postgraduate Conference Programme - University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
    Duration: 09 Dec 201610 Dec 2016


    ConferenceICTM/SMI Postgraduate Conference Programme
    Internet address


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