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Modal Conflicts, Harmonic Complexes, and Paratactic Lyricism in Anton Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony

HU, RUIXUE (2021) Modal Conflicts, Harmonic Complexes, and Paratactic Lyricism in Anton Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Anton Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony is considered the ‘boldest’ work by the composer and generations of scholars, yet it continues to suffer analytical neglect due to the lack of appropriate theories that can explicate its harmonic logic, especially in the first movement. Consequently, the form of the outer movements remains under-explored. Contra-Carl Dahlhaus’s claim that Bruckner’s symphonic style is primarily rhythmic rather than diastematic, this thesis reveals Bruckner’s unconventional organization of pitch relationships as the foundation of its cyclical outer movements by examining Bruckner’s extensive use of harmonic complexes and his intricate deployment of motivic elements. Adapting Julian Horton’s concept of ‘orbital tonality’, this thesis introduces a three-dimensional prismatic model to account for the first theme in the first movement. It also formulates a series of concept, including ‘applied subdominant’ and ‘plagal complex’ to illuminate the omnipresent plagal progressions in the Symphony as one of the main counterparts to the traditional tonic-defining dominant relationship. The thesis argues that Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony is a watershed in his development as a composer of large-scale instrumental form because he echoed the lyrical spirit and compositional approaches of Schubert by systematically replacing dominant relationships with an organic combination of Phrygian and plagal elements to create a cyclical symphony that is unique among the Romantic oeuvres. Many of the compositional approaches developed in this symphony paved the way for his later symphonies and composers of later generations. It is also wished that the theoretical concepts developed in this thesis can contribute to the study of related works, especially that of Bruckner, Schubert and Mahler.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Music
Keywords:Bruckner, Schubert, Neo-Riemannian Analysis, Sonata Form, Deformation, Lyricism, Parataxis
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Apr 2022 10:23

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