Meghan Naxer

Rotations, Interlacing, and Motivic Transformation in Franck’s Symphony in D minor, Op. 48

Recent years have seen a wealth of scholarship on sonata deformations in late 19th-century music, including work by Hepokoski, Darcy, Monahan, and others. The music of César Franck, however, has not figured prominently in these discussions, despite the fact that Franck's works are as formally innovative as anything written during the period and have become accepted as part of the orchestral canon. My paper explores Franck's novel approach to sonata form by focusing on the first movement of one of his most famous works, the Symphony in D minor, op. 48. The initial reception for the work was negative, especially in regard to the repetitive nature of the first movement and the cyclic form of the whole symphony. Tovey, however, praised the symphony for its form in his Essays in Musical Analysis and, more recently, Deruchie elaborated on the importance and transformation of the third scale degree in the melodic structure. While Reddick applied a rotational approach to Franck’s chamber music, the symphony has not been explored from such a perspective.
Franck’s symphony uses repetition to achieve a hyper-rotational form that creates unique tonal relationships in order to bring about a significant motivic transformation of the P-theme from its original minor mode to a major-mode version spanning the entire work. In addition to six rotations in the first movement, the development features a compositional technique of interlacing: intricately crossing formal elements together. Franck’s use of rotations and interlacing thematic modules create a imaginative sonata form that allows for the flexibility of pairing atypical key areas in order to facilitate motivic transformation.