Haydn and Compound Themes

Haydn and Compound themes

Understanding the engineering behind the creation of a compound main theme is fundamental if we want to understand the way Classical Music is written.

Haydn paid the role of rounding up the sonata form. He explored all the different syntactic possibilities and morphological combinations. I have directed you, earlier in this series of articles, to summaries on how sentences, periods and even hybrid themes are built up. Now it is time to understand how all these thematic shapes can be put together to build up more complex structures.

The compound themes are made up two simple themes. The first compound phrase being in most of the cases a hybrid with the exception of the 16-bar-period which uses the sentence as compound antecedent. These structures are commonly used in Haydn sonatas. Haydn showed no particular attached to any particular thematic format, at least in the first half of his creative production. This can be attributed to the fact that he was an explorative composer, interested in finding out about the power of different musical structures.

The compound theme structure offers us, composers, the possibility of creating themes that are more propelling in comparison to simple thematic structures. the length of these themes also provides with enough space for more complex harmonic experimentation. The latter, together with the fact that we can also vary these structures to please our needs, can be a triggering point for structuring new musical ideas and clustering material into new and revolutionary musical forms.

Tradition is always the best starting point for creativity. There is no faster way into innovation that the exploration and deep understanding of the past. The same as Schoenberg, the most important harmony theorist did: he became the biggest expert in traditional harmony prior to becoming the most important pioneering of atonal and dodecaphonic music.