Louise Bernard de Raymond

Les écrits théoriques d’Antoine Reicha à l’épreuve de l’analyse de ses quatuors: l’exemple de la ‘grande coupe binaire’/
The Theoretical Writings of Antoine Reicha to the Test of the Analysis of his Quartets

In the frame of an interrogation of the relevance of analytical practices founded on theoretical treatises themselves founded on a canonical repertory of works and composers, we have found Antoine Reicha’s case of particular interest: he is both one of the greatest theorists of his time (whose writings on instrumental music rely on analysis of Haydn’s and Mozart’s works) and a composer generally considered as a Kleinmeister.

This paper intends to compare the sonata form movements of Reicha’s 20 string quartets with his concept of ‘Grande coupe binaire’ (‘large binary form’) developed in the Traité de mélodie (1814) and the Traité de haute composition musicale (1826). The purpose of this confrontation is not so much to shed light on the quartets by a close look at the theoretical treatises, but to reinterpret the writings thanks to the works’ analysis. Indeed, a systematic and quantitative analysis of the string quartets reveals a significant proportion of stylistic features that are not theorized in the treatises. Reicha’s works seem to claim for a renewed interpretation of his theoretical concepts. One might wonder whether the theorist did not take an active part in marginalizing his own work in his writings and whether the musical works themselves can be considered as a theoretical guideline.