Senior Honors Projects, 2020-current

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Music (BM)


School of Music


John R. Peterson

Jason Haney

Eric R. Guinivan


Robert Schumann’s first piano sonata, op. 11, is of great importance within his compositional output, but it is faced with undue neglect in performance and in-depth analytical study. Though he has been criticized for his inability to handle large forms, this sonata exemplifies a thorough sense of design, unity, and intricacy in his writing. There exists a considerable dearth of analysis that focuses specifically on the voice-leading structure of this sonata. Such an approach would shed light on the way Schumann engages with larger structures.

The first three movements of this work set a precedent of organic self-awareness in the use of cyclical elements and references to other pieces of music. This paper uses voice-leading analysis to study the inner workings of the Finale and uncovers a parallelism that unifies the movement with the rest of the sonata. This analysis suggests that a hierarchical musical drama is embedded within the tonal design of the Finale, which allows us to consider the question of tonal function within the movement’s structure. The consequences of a potential omission of mm. 213–254 are considered as they relate to this hierarchical design, such that pianists may make more informed decisions in their interpretation of the work.

The aim of this analysis is to strive for a richer appreciation of the structural design of this sonata and to direct attention in analytical and musical environments to the poetic qualities present even in Schumann’s larger works.

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