Anne Hyland

‘Form’ and ‘Formung’ in Schubert’s Variations on a French Air, D624: Voice-Leading as Structure

The resurgence in ‘Formenlehre’ over the past 15 years has tended towards an engagement with sonata form, the concerto, and, to a lesser degree, rondo form. In contrast, there has not been a comprehensive study of variation form since Elaine Sisman’s work on Haydn (1993) that attempts to address the analytical and theoretical lacunae which have historically surrounded the form. In particular, the central methodological issue that confronts the analyst of independent variation sets remains foremost: how can one honour the inherent parataxis of a variation movement’s ‘outer form’ or design (‘Form’), while simultaneously accounting for it as a complete entity by revealing a hypotactic scaffold or ‘inner form’ (‘Formung’) which supports it?

This paper confronts this issue by demonstrating the methodological rapprochement of ‘Formenlehre’ (privileging ‘Form’) and voice-leading analysis (representing ‘Formung’) in a reading of Schubert’s 8 Variations on a French Air in E Minor, D624. While this movement displays recognizable conventions of the genre, such as progressive rhythmic diminution, organization of variations into groups, and use of a culminating pair of variations, its large-scale tonal scheme is remarkable in establishing the keys of the major submediant (C major) and the sharpened minor submediant (C-sharp minor), as well as the parallel major. The inherent logic of this tonal scheme is revealed only through analysis of the theme’s voice-leading, which anticipates the work’s tonal outline, thereby providing an over-arching structure, one which is simultaneously derived from and independent of the theme.
Ultimately, in navigating between voice-leading and surface parameters such as motive, register, and pitch salience, this paper demonstrates the hypotactic correspondences between local and global elements in this set of variations, while also celebrating the movement’s paratactic outer form. It thereby brings variation into dialogue with ‘Formenlehre’ and linear analysis, and their productive interaction.