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Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas$
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Seth Monahan

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199303465

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199303465.001.0001

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Adorno’s “Novel-Symphony”

Adorno’s “Novel-Symphony”

The Dialectic of Freedom and Determinism

(p.35) Chapter Two Adorno’s “Novel-Symphony”
Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

Seth Monahan

Oxford University Press

To build a richer interpretive apparatus, the study turns to the celebrated Mahler writings of Theodor W. Adorno. It begins with a thorough overview of Adorno’s Mahler-image, with special focus on the related concepts of “novelistic” construction and “variant form.” With these techniques, Mahler countered the contrived, top-down coherence of traditional Viennese sonata form with a discursive, antischematic, and emancipatory “nominalism,” one that gave free rein to the inbuilt impulses of his diverse thematic constituents. But this bottom-up conception stands in productive tension with the pressures exerted by traditional forms and also by an emergent, top-down organic logic. After exploring the many points of contact between this dialectical view of Mahlerian form and that of Sonata Theory, one can reimagine the emancipatory allegory of the “novel-symphony” as a function of the sonata drama itself as defined in Chapter 1.

Keywords:   novel-symphony, Theodor W. Adorno, musical physiognomy, variant, Sonata Theory

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