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30

CHAPTER

TWO

music is the proper and true sonata .... Just as the subjects of the ode are uncommonly diverse and
treated at quite different lengths, so is this true of the sonata. The composer is therefore in no
instrumental composition less restricted-as far as character [is] concerned-than in the sonata, for
every emotion and passion can be expressed in it. For the more expressive a sonata is, the more the
composer can be heard, as it were, to speak; the more the composer avoids the commonplace, the
more excellent is the sonata.18

From this brief sampling, it is clear that notions of expression, and by implication, topic were
central to theoretical and aesthetic discussions in the eighteenth century.19 At the same time, there
is no settled modus operandi for the analysis of expression; what is considered "expressive"
varies from writer to writer. Moreover, if everything in a composition is assumed to be at
least potentially expressive, then our division between structure and expression must seem,
at best, fragile.20
Our theorizing instincts are, however, fed by the foregoing quotations in one specific
way. We can draw up a list of topics, being the sum total of topics found in the works analyzed
in this book.

1. alla breve

epfindsamkeit)

17.
minuet
22.
15.
16.
19.
27.
recitative
march
om
Turkish
bra buffa
music
rocket
23.
sarabande
18.
musette
26.
Sturm
und
Drang
20.
21.
25.
opera
pastoral
singing
style
24.Mannheim
sigh
motif
(Seufzer)

Figure 2. The Universe of Topic

This list, given as Figure 2, will be referred to as a provisional universe of topic-its provisional
status necessitated first by the high degree of selectivity exercised in the choice of works to
analyze (hence the dozens of topics found elsewhere in Classic music that are, however, nonoccurrent in this book's repertoire), and second, by the fact that as later research uncovers more
topics, the universe will expand accordingly. The idea of expression is therefore limited to the
particular notion of topic and to the limits of this universe.21
I )
Turk, School of Clavier Playing, 383.
Newman, The Sonata in the Classic Era, Ratner, Classic Music, and Allanbrook, Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart all
include extensive quotations on this subject from various eighteenth-century sources. See also Alexander L. Ringer, "The
Chasse as a Musical Topic of the 18th Century" and David Charlton, "Orchestra and Image in the Late 18th Century"
for further discussion of mimesis in eighteenth-century music.
20 On the distinction between structure and expression, see Newcomb,
"Sound and Feeling."
21 The present universe of topic, culled from various sources, is less comprehensive than that found throughout Ratner,
18
19