Urtext = Plain Text ? – An Analysis of the Sarabande in d minor, Part 2 (Bar 11-20)



This is a translation of the post

Urtext = Klartext? – eine Analyse der Sarabande in d-moll, Teil 2 (Takt 10-20)

by Dr. Marshall Tuttle. 

Michael Bach

This is the second part of the analysis of the

“Sarabande” in D minor


For glossary and facsimile of the manuscript of Anna Magdalena Bach see Analysis Part I:



Sarabande d 11-16 003

Sarabande” in D minor, Edition Michael Bach
Sheet music example mm 11-16
Slurs that are understood from the polyphony and therefore not notated by JSB are added in parentheses.


M 11

Suddenly a single note answers the powerful chords, the missing E3! This note is now the resolution of the suspended fourth F3 of the secondary Dom from the previous measure. Immediately thereafter, the note F3 appears again: Is this a re-suspensded fourth – or already the RM keynote? A large interval leap down to the bass note C2, and then the G2, however, confirm the secondary Dom of the RM. The suspended fourth is then resolved again to E3.

M 12

The octave leap F3 to F2 concludes the first half of the movement with the RM.

M 13

The slurred note Eb3 to the note F3 suggests the seventh of the RM. Might the RM evolve into the secondary Dom of the SRM, which would then be expected on the 2nd beat? The resolution would then be the interval D3-Bb3.

Instead, the notes are Eb3 and A3 are not resolved and the upper part receives a trill with the note Bb3. Is the note Eb3 now the minor sixth of the Neapolitan and Bb3 its third? Does the note A3, as third, still belong to the RM?

Interesting here is the detached eighth note Bb3 (without bass note). This clearly indicates that the note D3 in the following measure can not be perceived as the immediate resolution to the note Eb3 (SRM) – the two pitches are separated from each other.

M 14

Nevertheless, the question remains whether the resolution to SRM is still to be carried out in this measure, that is, whether the note D3 is the third of the SRM. The two sixteenth notes of the upper voice are slurred again, so that the bass note D3 is connected and stressed with the note Bb. This could mean the expected resolution of the tritone Eb3 A3 from the previous measure. By the way, in addition to the resolution to the SRM, deceptive resolution to mSub would also be possible.

But no, nothing like that occurs, for in the 2nd beat suddenly is heard the third F#3, the third of the interval D3-C4 on the first beat. (This is roughly comparable to the “subsequently delivered” third E3 in M 11). However, “in familiar style” the F#3 is obscured with a trill to the note G3, i.e. this suspended fourth foreshadows the coming modulation to the mSub. The following sixteenth note Eb3 could be either the Ninth of the secondary Dom of mSub or already the minor sixth of the mSub, and therefore the Neapolitan.



The repetition of the 2nd half of the measure, develops the harmonic context a little differently. The third F3-A3 of m. 13, after returning to D minor in the final beat, now reappears as belonging to the Minor tonic. The eighth note Eb3 and the trill between A4 and Bb4 is no longer associated with the RM. So the bass note which G2 appears in m. 14 could be construed solely as the root of the mSub in the repetition. In other words, the start of the 2nd half of the movement for the second time has a consistent minor character with less harmonic volatility.

M 15

As in m. 3 the mSub seems to establish itself with the notes Bb2 and G3. But with the rising intervals of the notes A2, F#3 and Eb4, the secondary Dom appearss again as a Dom9 chord. (This demonstrates an enormous difference to the indifferent tone sequence in m. 3).

M 16

Its resolution to mSub seems to follow in the chord G2-D3-Bb3 of the first beat – were it not for the trill with the note C4! A trill does not traditioanlly occur on a note of resolution. Accordingly, the harmonic development will be continued and there is still no conclusion. The secondary Dom of mSub remains with the seventh C4 and the subsequent eighth note A3 present. One possible resolution, albeit very discreetly, could be seen in the note G3 on the third beat.


 Sarabande d 17-20 004

Sheet music example mm 17-20


M 17

The note D3, instead of the expected Note Eb3 (minor sixth of the mSub), is a surprise after the previous Eb’s. In conjunction with the Bb2 (secondary Dom) it forms a tritone, which resolves in the 2nd beat with the notes a2-f3, yet again to the RM.

M 18

The note D3, similar to the note E3 in the preceding measure, appears to be a third, here that of the SRM. Therefore, the listener anticipates another descending fifth from RM to SRM. Now, however, the subsequent note Ab2 is a surprise, which is not derived from the SRM. It forms with the preceding note D3 another tritone, the secondary Dom of Eb major derives from the SRM. Or reinterpreted, Eb major could be the Neapolitan (mSub with minor sixth Eb instead of the fifth “D”). The latter is promptly confirmed with the notes G2 and Eb3 in the second beat.

M 19

The note C#3 clearly indicates again a third, here that of the Dom. Thus the mSub, respectively or the Neapolitan, turns again into the Dom. It is interesting that the note C#3 receives no trills: JSB would like this time to unambiguosly establish the Dom (see m. 4.).

M 20

This measure also reigns in the Dom. A 2-slur accentuates its root, A2.


It is noteworthy that the last 5 measures have no slurs. This means that no pitches are emphasized over a longer period of time, which corresponds to the searching nature of the music up to m. 19. With the appearance of a Dom ther is an “awakening”, indicated by the large interval upwards (C#3 Bb3) and the incipient sixteenth note movement. Both mm. 19f consolidate the Dom before the harmony gets complicated again.



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