Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers/Nathan John Martin

Half-Cadence Type and Formal Function in the Mozart Sonatas

In our recent article “The Mozartian Half Cadence”, we proposed a new typology of half-cadence types developed through a handcrafted corpus study of the Mozart piano sonatas. We grouped the various subtypes we identified into four overarching classes defined through characteristic three-voice contrapuntal patterns: the converging, expanding, simple I-V, and doppia half cadences. In this paper, we undertake to examine interactions between cadence type and formal function on both intra- and inter-thematic levels. First, we identify those patterns that most characteristically appear in 8-measure and 16-measure periods (i.e. the simple I-V and converging cadences) and we explain their prevalence by showing how these two types lend themselves to ready recomposition as perfect authentic cadences in consequent phrases. Second, we ask which patterns are most typical of particular inter-thematic articulations, such as the ending of transitions and development sections, as well as internal half-cadences within subordinate themes. Third, we examine a series of concrete analytical examples, showing how the generalizations proposed in parts one and two elucidate the complex interaction between intrinsic and contextual formal function in Mozart’s music—how, thanks to the correlations we identify, particular half-cadential patterns can come to suggest precise locations in the temporal unfolding of a composition’s form.