Sibelius’s Lost Caesura Fill: The First Version of Symphony No. 5 (RMA)

Invited Speaker at Themed Session: ‘Sonata Theory 1900’

RMA Annual Conference 2019, University of Manchester (11 Sept 2019)


Sonata Theory conceives of the caesura-fill as aural transportation between the two parts of an exposition. It is neither transition nor secondary theme, but something that floats between, to ‘fill’ the silence of the medial caesura. In Sibelius’s Second Symphony, the meandering caesura-theme fills a considerable rift between Parts 1 and 2 of the exposition. At the end of the development, however, it is transformed into a breakthrough-chorale. This paper will reconstruct passages of the under-explored first version of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony (1915), to reveal that it shares the Second’s formal plan, and to consider the implications of its revision for the theorisation of fin-de-siècle caesura-fills. In the final 1919 version, the introductory horn calls thematically anticipate the breakthrough that fuses the first movement to the following Scherzo. Yet these bucolic calls appeared as the caesura-fill in the 1915 version, thus imbuing them with a consistent ‘parageneric’ status throughout its genesis.