In order to form a greater understanding of the interaction of formal process and program in Strauss's Don Quixote, one must contemplate the ability of sound to imply expression and also to reveal the musical-poetic processes. While the tendency of Strauss's music to be programmatic is clear, the nature of the program in its interaction with the design in the tone poems is a more ambiguous question. Strauss inscribes Don Quixote's form (Introduction, Theme with Variations, and Finale), and includes thematic markings in the score as he did in other tone poems, but the 1897 piece presents a complicated problem for analysts in its invocation of variation form.
This paper posits a theory of Strauss's use of "form" to influence expression in Don Quixote. Specifically, the current study presents a theory of the tonal and thematic design of Don Quixote, focusing on a detailed thematic and tonal analysis of periodicity in variation three in order to elucidate issues of program, design and the symphonic in Don Quixote. Also discussed is the grouping of variations into other micro-forms within the piece. The literary technique of creating worlds within worlds is especially significant in this study. An interpretation of the concept of the symphonic form in the late nineteenth century in its dialog with an historical view of sonata form will also be significant to this investigation.