Texas Society for Music Theory

Form in Shostakovich: Toward a Post-tonal Sonata Principle

David Castro, University of Oregon

Nearly everyone who writes on the topic of form in the music of Dmitri Shostakovich acknowledges his use of sonata form. Following classical models, he frequently employs it in the first movements of string quartets, symphonies, and concertos. What has yet to be established, however, is just what compositional means go into producing the sonata experience in his music. While Shostakovich indeed employed the thematic/motivic aspect of formal design in his compositions, theorists have yet to adequately explore the other aspects of musical space that contribute to the unfolding of the form in his works. In order to account for the large-scale processes that take place over the course of a complete movement I propose to examine three key aspects of ShostakovichÕs music: themes and motives, pitch collections, and referential pitches. I mean to demonstrate that all three of these aspects work together in his music to create a convincing centric sonata experience in the first movement of his String Quartet No. 2, Op. 68 (1944). By considering the parameters of collection and referential pitch as independant topics I make possible certain judgments that are difficult to assert when one tries to discuss key areas in Shostakovich in a (narrowly defined) tonal sense. His music lacks too many of the features of tonality (including both functional harmony and functional scale degrees) to allow for a mapping of tonal theoretical models directly onto his music. This approach arises out of the music itself, allowing the salient features I observe in this repertory to suggest the most appropriate analytical approach.