Texas Society for Music Theory

Heinrich Schenker's Analytical Conception of Orchestration

Timothy Cutler, Austin College

Detractors of Schenkerian theory insist that it limits its analytical scope to pitch-related matters, ignoring aspects of the music that supply color and warmth. One such musical parameter, orchestration, has been ignored by Schenkerians and non-Schenkerians alike. On the surface, it appears that Schenker had little to say about this topic. But a thorough investigation of his work proves the opposite: Enough information exists in his writings and analyses to suggest that orchestration is a topic that Schenker pondered deeply ("Organic coherence?underlies the art of orchestration"), and he believed that orchestration is an integral part of musical expression, not merely superfluous icing on the compositional cake.

Schenker's ideas about orchestration were transmitted in two ways. First, there are explicit comments in sources such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Second, there is implicit information contained within his more theoretically oriented analyses of orchestral works, including Beethoven's Third and Fifth Symphonies, Mozart's Symphony no. 40, and Haydn's "Chaos" from The Creation. Regarding the latter category, I will show how matters of scoring either concur with or contradict Schenker's analytical readings, as well as infuse some of my own observations into his analytical findings.