Rondos I, III and V, Opus 3 by Jane Savage:
Motive Development and the Musical Narrative



by Nadine Burke



INTRODUCTION

 

Six Rondos for the Harpsichord or Pianoforte, Opus 3 by the English composer Jane Savage was published ca. 1783 by Longman & Broderip. Three of the six rondos are reprinted in Volume 3 of Women Composers - Music through the Ages, "Composers Born 1700 to 1799."1 Deborah Hayes, who wrote the introductory material for this chapter, indicates that these rondos exhibit typical Classical-period characteristics between the episodes and the rondo theme. One predominant feature is the tonal relationship involving the tonic and the dominant key regions.2

What other characteristics do these rondos reveal? Joel Galand indicates that ‘historical explanation, analytical explication, and cognitive understanding mutually condition one another."3 These aspects are pertinent to understanding how Savage's rondos are structured and how the episodes interrelate with the rondo theme. I call this interrelation a musical narrative which employs structure and musical rhetoric to develop this aural adventure. Specifically the emphasis is on motivic development within the episodes. Motives are the musical rhetoric as they repeat, vary, modify, contrast and return.4 To experience the rondos at this level, I will refer to the views of recent theorists and historians to determine the conventional description of a rondo in respect to structure and musical rhetoric. I will then explore how Savage applies these principles. This process will occur in three stages. The first section gives information relating to the historical explanation and the analytical explication: it focuses on three aspects. 1) A short biography of Savage provides a cultural background. 2) A historical overview of the classical rondo structure and a structural summary of Savage's rondos provides an opportunity to compare the rondos with the conventional description. 3) Terms such as musical narrative, compositional elements and theoretical constructs are expounded to facilitate their use as analytical tools that will focus on motivic development within the episodes. The second stage involves the analytical explication involving a detailed analysis of Rondos I, III and V to ascertain the musical narrative in the episodes through the use of motivic development. The order of the rondos within the text is determined by the similarities and differences of the development of the episodes within the rondo as compared to the conventional rondo definition. The final stage is the conclusion which reveals a two-fold discussion. It summarizes the analyses of the three rondos. In turn, this summary will be used to assess the possibility of an implicated cultural interpretation of the rondos, thus producing a cognitive understanding of the cultural interpretations.

 

Biography

Little is known about Jane Savage. What we do know has been preserved within the biographies written about her father, William Savage (ca. 1720-89). As a prominent London musician, her father played the keyboard, sang professionally, composed instrumental and vocal music, and taught singing, theory and composition. He retired to an estate at Tenterden in Kent during the late 1770s due to ill health. Once his health was restored, he returned to London in 1780 or 1781 and lived in Red Lion Square, Holborn. It is assumed that Jane Savage moved to London with her father since this is the address printed on her cover page for Opus 3.5 Hayes writes that "growing up in a musician's family she would have become familiar with current practice."6 It is known that Savage published music from 1783 to 1790 which does not include larger genres. I speculate that she composed more than was published. Many foreign composers such as George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782), Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) and Frantisek Xaver Dussek (1731-1799) visited and even settled in London and became a part of the English musical scene.7 It is likely that these composers influenced Savage in her compositional style. In respect to her rondos, part of the music scene may have included the performance of rondos as street music, in comic and serious theater and as Leonard G. Ratner describes in "the exquisite cosmopolitan salons of the great capitals." 8

 

Rondo Structure

Rondos are generally perceived as musical forms that have a recurring main section with alternating subsidiary contrasting sections.9 William Renwick discusses the historical development of the rondo and its structure in Appendix: Rondo and Ritornello Forms in Tonal Music. A vivid description by Susan McClary describes these "ineffectual. . . episodic genres" as "adventures . . . [that] occur and then disappear."10 This universal definition disregards the time period when particular rondos were composed. Alternately, Ratner describes the compositional function of the rondo "as a vehicle for some of the most searching explorations into rhetoric and structure. Simple or complex, the base of the rondo remains popular; Whatever may happen in the episodes, the refrain can easily be grasped and enjoyed by any listener, so that the form remains clear. This familiar aspect of the rondo is reflected in 18th-century music theory."11

 

Principally rondos are described as one of the movements of a sonata or a symphony as written by composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. These same composers also composed independent rondos just like Savage.12 The information on the historical development and the various characteristics of a rondo as detailed by various theorists and historians reveals similarities and differences between the conventional rondo and Savage's rondos.13 The structure of Savage's rondos in respect to similarities and differences are detailed in Chart I - Rondos I, III and V, Opus 3 by Jane Savage: Similarities and Differences. Green, Heinrich Schenker and others viewed the format of rondos as combined ternary forms with a repeated rondo theme alternating with episodes (A-B-A + A-C-A = A-B-A-C-A).14 Savage uses a different form for these three rondos in that they are seven-part rondos: A-B-A-C-A-D-A-coda. Savage clearly marks the rondo themes and the episodes with clearly marked section that close with "strongly marked cadences."15 Yet according to Caplan, "only a few works in the classical repertory follow this procedure."16 In turn, Joel Galand delineates specific characteristics for a late eighteenth-century rondo theme:

We might at least say that a typical rondo theme is a Liedtypus, more formally closed than its counterparts in other movement types, and having a relatively popular, dance-like character.17

The dance-like character of Savage's rondos conforms to this ideal: Rondo I is marked grazioso (dainty) in duple time; the character for Rondo III is andantino (lighthearted) in common time; Rondo V is identified as amorose (loving and affectionate), which is also in common time. Savage does develop the singable eight-measure rondo themes into phrase groups creating antecedent-consequent relationships.18 In particular, the themes for Rondo I, III and V consistently repeat a portion of the antecedent motive in the consequent phrase which resolves on a perfect authentic cadence.19

 

Although theorists such as Green have specific ideas as to the function of the episodes and the coda within the rondo, Savage does not always compose in this manner: see Chart I. For instance, they indicate that the typical classical character of the first and third episodes is emphasized through key change, transposition of rondo melody, new material or rhythm and texture through use of "scales, arpeggios, or figuration."20 Savage changes the function of two different episodes in two different rondos by restricting two episodes to the tonic key and by using different motives: the first episode in Rondo III introduces new material; the third episode in Rondo V develops material from the rondo theme and the second episode. Green indicates that the second episode (C) is the most contrasting episode in the rondo because of its increased length and change of key.21 Savage reverses the order of the episodes in Rondo I and II so that the contrasting episode is developed in the third episode. And finally with the coda, progressions and possibly new thematic material emphasize and elaborate the final tonic harmony. Savage reuses material based on motives from rondo theme and second episode to develop the coda for Rondo V. The result of this manipulation directly relates to how Savage develops the musical narrative in each of her rondos.

 

Episodes and Motivic Development

How does this manipulation affect the different sections of the rondos? Does this change how the eighteenth century rondo is defined? Contrary to these aforementioned theorists, Galand and Susan McClary do not perceive the eighteenth century rondo as an abstract form, as "absolute music."22 McClary indicates that the perception and interpretation of the rondo is framed within a historical and cultural context. Renwick discusses this aspect in the Appendix. McClary addresses the historical approach that composers use when composing "absolute music" genres such as ritornellos and rondos. She indicates that composers developed skills in the art of composing "absolute music" after learning the "significance" of the metaphors, the musical codes as expressed in the melodic shapes, rhythms, and instruments used in the composition of "self-contained" ritornelli of da capo arias." This process implies that composers were aware of musical codes and consciously inserted them into their compositions. In turn, the listener responded to the musical metaphors intertwined within these particular genres. With tongue-in-cheek, McClary also describes "episodic genres, in which adventures occur and then disappear" as ineffectual. 23 This interpretation may be based on the definitions promoted by theorists, but is this actually what occurs? What actually happens in the musical narrative? Does the musical narrative, the adventure, the musical rhetoric with the topical associations disappear at the end of the episodes in Savage's rondos?

Earlier I indicated that Savage's rondo themes and episodes were clearly marked with clear cadences and double bar lines. Galand reveals how these characteristics can be varied when he contrasts his definition with Schenker's concepts:

The rondo, in short, was not so much a form as a loosely defined genre that could be adapted to any number of formal procedures: sectionalized ternary forms, variation, ritornello forms, and expanded-binary forms. Genre characteristics cut across formal boundaries, and formal procedures cut across generic categories.24

He even indicates that "rondo episodes may be developmental."25 Galand feels that Schenker treated the rondo as "a particular form rather than a looser genre encompassing several formal possibilities."26 In spite of this failing, Galand does indicate that Schenker's techniques reveal "an underlying formal organization independent from, and as crucial as, the regular returns of the refrain dictated by the genre."27

 

What is this underlying formal organization in Savage's rondos? How does she approach this form from within? What rhetoric does she use? As discussed in Chart I, one of the identifying characteristics of classical rondos is the contrast of the episodes as compared to the rondo theme. Does this occur in Savage's rondos? Or do the episodes assume "a development-like organization" through the use of motives?28 In other words, do these episodes relate to any part or all of the work through the use of motives? Does the extended length of particular episodes conform or deviate from standardized formats because of the development of the musical narrative through the use of motives? Are there topical associations that arise through the manipulation of keys, phrases, motives or other elements? And finally, does the function of these motives within the episodes change how rondos are perceived?

As part of this discussion, it is necessary to define a motive. Motives are usually identified on a composition level. On this level they are perceived as short melodic, harmonic or rhythmic fragments within a theme, a phrase or a phrase segment; they maintain their identity as a constructional element through various transformations. Green explains further.

In order to act as a constructional element and thus constitute a motive, a melodic fragment must appear at least twice, though reappearances need not be in the original form. A motive can be as short as two notes, . . .[and] rarely longer than six or seven notes. The motive is characterized by its melodic contour, with its harmonic implication, and by its rhythm. Some melodies, . . are built out of one motive only. More often the melody contains two or even three motives.29

As such, these motives are the smallest identifiable musical idea.

In their article "Schenker's High-Level Motives," Allen Cadwallader and William Pastille describe the Schenker's evolving understanding of a motive. They indicate that Schenker eventually disavowed the notion that the examination of motives, in the sense of tone successions that unfold at the surface level, yield any significant insights into the nature of the compositional process.30

Cadwallader and Pastille extend Schenker's definition by describing the two levels where motives can be found: one as a compositional element; one as a theoretical construct. The compositional elements involve "issues such as Art, the compositional process, and the imagination of the composer." The theoretical constructs "are the general linear patterns that characterize middleground levels throughout the tonal literature, the ‘basic motives' of the tonal system."31 The general linear patterns include "linear progressions, arpeggiations, octave transfer, and the like."32 The way Cadawallader and Pastille articulate the differences between the two types of motives provides a way of examining the development of motives on two different levels.

I will use these two definitions of a motive as aids in combination with a compositional motive analysis and a harmonic analysis to determine how the various episodes function within Rondo I, III and V, and in particular how Savage develops a musical narrative in each rondo. The term for melodic analysis on the surface level may be confusing since Green refers to them as constructional elements and Cadwallader and Pastille refer to them as compositional elements. It is Green's definition that articulates the identity of these elements, but I will use the later term to avoid confusion. I will also analyze the theoretical constructs based on Schenkerian analysis to determine if there are any patterns that support the musical narrative on the surface. In addition, I sometimes refer to the theoretical constructs as theoretical motives. The results of this analysis will then be used to ascertain how this musical narrative changes the perceptions of the rondo genre.

 

Next Section: Episodes in "Rondo III": Unique but Not Distinct


 

Copyright © 2001 by Nadine J-M. Burke