Transitional Functions: The Emergence of the Anticipatory Transition in Nineteenth-Century Sonatas

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Luis Matos-Tovar. (2023). Transitional Functions: The Emergence of the Anticipatory Transition in Nineteenth-Century Sonatas. Current Musicology, 111.


In sonata form, the transition module has specific primary functions and labels any other uncommon ones as deformations or, rather, idiosyncrasies. Considering the difference in compositional styles and techniques used between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the latter undergoes a trend explored by some nineteenth-century composers: a development in its transition module, which ostensibly confining it to an idiosyncratic feature or a lower-level default of the transition (Hepokoski and Darcy, 2011). I argue that composers utilized this technique in transitions to foreshadow themes in subsequent modules, yielding an additional function of the transition. This paper examines nineteenth-century sonatas, providing an analytic overview of my findings and introducing a concept I call the “Anticipatory Transition,” offering an additional function to the transition–—distinct from other concepts by previous scholarship.


Building off the work of Schenker's concept of “linkage technique” and its contribution to the development of new themes in subsequent thematic modules (Smith, 2007), as well as Schmalfeldt's adoption of Dahlhaus’s’ “processual” ideas (Schmalfeldt, 2011; Carro, 2020), the anticipatory transition is employed through two avenues: first, a literal “copy-and-paste,” and second, a “spun-out” transition. I analyze four case studies that utilize anticipatory transitions in nineteenth-century sonatas. It is important to examine the function of transitions more deeply and explore other possible outcomes because the material within can inform other thematic modules and contribute to the cohesiveness of the work. My analyses demonstrate that anticipatory transitions—profound than mere deformations and limitations—offer a deeper sense of unity and a broader perspective within sonata form.
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