Rotational Projection in Beethoven's "Appassionata" Sonata (CityMAC)

Music Analysis Conference (CityMAC), City University, July 2018

The principle of ‘rotational form’ is foundational to Hepokoski’s formal
definition of late nineteenth-century ‘sonata deformations’ outlined in his
1993 monograph, Sibelius, Symphony No. 5. Strikingly, the concept of
‘rotation’ loses any deformational function in Elements of Sonata Theory
(2006) as Hepokoski and Darcy extend its application back from the ‘early
modernist’ music of fin-de-siècle symphonicism into the eighteenth century.
Despite this unacknowledged contradiction, a discrete list of pieces that
supposedly present rotational form ‘on its own’ appears in both publications.
This list implies the works it includes – Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’ Sonata,
first movement, for example – are in some way formally distinct from the
thousands of other rotational movements. Nevertheless, the current
definitions do not account for whatever this particular distinction might be.
To formulate a theory of a specifically nineteenth-century and deformational
use of rotation, a rigorous analysis of these pieces and their recurring
materials is required.


This paper will present a Sonata Theory analysis of the Appassionata’s five rotation
Allegro Assai using voice-leading analysis and Janet Schmalfeldt’s concept
of becoming to demonstrate the presence of a process that I term ‘rotational
projection’. In this movement, musical material is allowed to project forth
beyond, against, or outside the formal expectations of its contextual function
within the sonata by calling forth other material that cannot be predicted by
the referential rotational ordering of the exposition, but nevertheless makes
sense in context that it reappears. The result is a rotational form but not one
that always conforms to the order of the exposition.

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