Marc Rigaudière

Heinrich Schenker’s Position in the Tradition of the ‘Formenlehre’

Although Schenker overtly ironized on some aspects of the traditional theory of forms, among others on the fact that it too often rests on the identification of themes or motives, turning some analysts into “Motiv-Statistiker” (Der Tonwille 1, 1921, 31), it is nevertheless obvious that his own analytical works until volume II of Das Meisterwerk in der Musik (1926) still largely make use of concepts and terminologies that belong to this tradition. Through the numerous quotations, often sarcastic, from the ‘literature’ in his study of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (1912) as well as in some essays in Tonwille and Meisterwerk, one knows which are the targets of his critique of existing theories, among which A. B. Marx and H. Riemann figure prominently. The list of works in his personal library also allows identifying other texts that Schenker knew.
On the basis of the corpus which must have formed the theoretical background for Schenker’s ideas, I intend to trace links between Schenkerian analytical readings and the theoretical tradition from which they are supposed to take distance. I will also trace the origin of notions that recurrently appear in Schenker’s writings, such as ‘Gedanke’ or ‘Vordersatz/Nachsatz’.