Bellman, Jonathan, 1957-

Committee Member

Reddick, Carissa

Committee Member

Hesse, Marian


Music History and Literature


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





208 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Chorale as a genre originated in sixteenth-century Lutheran worship music, but chorales and chorale style did not really enter the vocabulary of secular concert music as a musical topic until the eighteenth century, as a semiotic code for ideas and feelings associated with chorales. Although the frequency of use as well as the range of contexts and implied meanings of chorale topic increased from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries, the scholarship of topical analysis concerning chorales has been vague and incomplete. Chorales by definition are congregational, identifying and expressing the sentiments of a group, and their most common associations are of purity, archaism, and of course spirituality. When chorales are used topically, the range of their expressive perspectives broadens considerably, and varies widely depending on the context. Chorale topic can express a religious or nationalistic “We,” a monumental and impersonal “It,” or an intimate and personal “I.” Within the category of “I” expressions, chorale topic can express the irony and despair of the “I” separated from the “We,” or on the other hand, the comfort, guidance, or transcendence of the separated “I” seeking and finding its community or communion. Haydn was one of the first composers to regularly use chorale as a topic in slow movements of his symphonies and string quartets. Nineteenth-century composers – Beethoven, Schubert, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, and Brahms among others – provide examples of chorale topic of every expressive type and in many genres, including art song, oratorio, piano sonata, duo sonata, string quartet, symphony, opera, and piano nocturne. Because of their resonance with actual religious practice, chorales and chorale topic remain perennially current, inherently accessible, and easily blended with other styles and topics. Understanding the range of meanings that chorale topic can carry is thus essential to a solid stylistic understanding and hermeneutic competence with music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Degree type


Degree Name




Local Identifiers


Rights Statement

Copyright is held by author.