Gesture and Performance: the Energetic Shaping of Time and Dialogical Gestural Interaction in the First Movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata in A Major, Op. 101

Date:12 March 2008

A Lecture-Demonstration at the Piano by Robert Hatten

Jack Hylton Room, Lancaster University


Wednesday 12 March 2008


This Piano Sonata presents a number of problems for the performer that can be solved through a proper understanding of musical gesture, defined as significant energetic shaping through time. Issues to be addressed includeachievingthe continuous flow of a 6/8 meter (how the metric flow is thematized), the specific articulation of a motive (how to interpreting Beethoven's embedded slurs), the gestural demands of the pastoral topic or mode, the developing variation of a thematic gesture, the shaping of rhetorical disruptions (and their expressive force), and dialogical gestural interactions. The theory of gesture illustrated here is drawn fromProfessor Hatten's book, Interpreting Musical Gestures, Topics, and Tropes (Indiana University Press, 2004). He concludes with acomplete performance of the first movement.


Robert Hatten has an international reputation for stylistic, semiotic, hermeneutic, and gestural approaches to musical expressive meaning. Publications include Musical Meaning in Beethoven: Markedness, Correlation, and Interpretation (Indiana, 1994, paperback 2004; co-recipient of the 1997 Wallace Berry Publication Award from the Society for Music Theory); Interpreting Musical Gestures, Topics, and Tropes: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert (Indiana, 2004); interpretive articles on Bruckner, Henze, and Penderecki, theoretical articles on analogues of intertextuality, narrativity, tense, and aspect in music. Current research interests include relationships between analysis, interpretation, and performance; music and the poetic text.

He is the general editor of a new book series, "Musical Meaning and Interpretation," with Indiana University Press. He was the former president of Music Theory Midwest, and served as Vice-President and as member of the Executive Board, Program Committee, and Publication Awards Committee of the Society for Music Theory. He is the current President, Semiotic Society of America, and is an editorial board member of Music Theory Online (2 years), Arietta, and the Journal of Musical Meaning. He is a member of Scientific Committee for International Congress on Musical Signification (2004 and 2008), and is the librettist for Brian Boru and Bonhoeffer (Prof. Ann K. Gebuhr, composer) and Lorenzo de' Medici (Prof. P. Q. Phan, composer).

Robert Hatten is Professor of Music at the Jacobs School of Music, and was a former faculty member at the State University of New York at Buffalo, the University of Michigan, and Pennsylvania State University. He was also Mellon Fellow in the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania, 1985-86.

Who can attend:Anyone

Further Information

Organising departments and research centres:Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts
  • Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA)
  • The LICA Building, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK