Urtext = Plain Text ? – An Analysis of the Sarabande in d minor, Part 3 (Bar 20-28)



This is a translation of the post

Urtext = Klartext? – eine Analyse der Sarabande in d-moll, Teil 3 (Takt 20-28)

by Dr. Marshall Tuttle. 

Michael Bach

This is the third 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 21-24 005

Sheet music example mm. 21-24


M 21

Now the minor tonic is expected, but with the two notes Bb2-D3 the cadence is interrupted with a DC. (Although only the interval of a third is heard, there is no alternative to the DC, as the mSub is virtually impossible after the Dom.)

Again the note E3 surprises, instead of the diatonic pitch ES3 of the DC. The 2-Slur accentuates the resulting tritone Bb2-E3, which should resolve to A2-F3, the RM (see. m. 17).

Instead, a half note can be found in the second beat in the bass. The upper part F3 forms a sevemth with G2, a seventh whose harmonic function is indeterminate again because the third is missing. Due to the emphasis on the sixteenth note E3 (2-slur), together with the repetition of the bass note G2, the secondary Dom of the RM is suggested.


A similar process as in m. 11 takes place here with the change of E3 and F3. That is, the notes G2 and E3 announce the secondary Dom of RM, F3 is the suspended fourth. The main difference, however, is that here the secondary Dom of RM is indicated by its third E3 or at best introduced, while the reverse process takes place in the first half of the movement: The third E3 is withheld there and finally supplied.

M 22

The harmony does not change on the first beat. Again the seventh G2 F3 is highlighted by the 2-slur, but continues to the octave-G2 G3, and does not go back to the sixth G2-E3.

The resolution to RM is now expected, but the second beat surprises in the two lower voices, instead of the notes F2 and A2 we hear the notes C#2 and Bb2. Thus, the RM, is thwarted again, as in the previous measure. You will hear the iDom chord. The two sixteenth notes are alone and emphasize the following chord on account of the 2-slur.

M 23

On the first beat we hear the only four note chord in the movement. Although it consists of the supply of tones of minor tonic, which is expected as a resolution of the iDom-chord, it seems dissonant. The reason is that neither the third, C#2 nor the seventh, G3 in the previous measure resolves to the expected D2 or F3 respectively. On the other hand the two notes f2 and a2 of the lower voices are precisely those were expected to arise in the second beat of the preceding measure. Thus the collection of tones of the minor tonic is mixed with that of the RM and later in addition to that with that of the Dom.

The drama is heightened by the shorter note values in the bass, by the lack of a slur on the first beat, (emphasis on the third C#4 of the Dom, with the resolution to D4), by the 2-slur on the second sixteenth note of the second beat, the dissonant harmony of G2-F3 and the trill on the third beat.

The last trill G3-F3 is the most extraordinary of the whole “Sarabande” in D minor. Does it consists of the third F3 the minor tonic and the seventh, G3 of the Dom?

Or could resolution to RM still occur, what would lead to interpretation of the pitches G3 and F3 as fifth of the secondary Dom and root of the RM? This interpretation is suggested by the fact that the note C#4 is missing in the last beat. The 2-slur accentuates the open fifth A2-E3, which finally, along with the passing note D3 is decisive for theminor tonic.

M 24

The octave leap D3-D2 could now complete the end of the movement in the minor tonic. But no, with the quick onset of the rising melodic minor scale, after only a sixteenth note on the bass D2, we move into a coda. A long slur emphasizes the next beat.


 Sarabande d 25-28 006

Sheet music sample mm. 25-28


M 25

Now the harmony is suddenly very cryptic. The third F3-A3 belongs to the minor tonic. But, on account of the following note B3 which enters a sixteenth note early in comparison with the rhythmic structure of mm. 21F, the minor tonic is contradicted because it forms a tritone with the lower voice F3. This tritone would resolve to the secondary Dom of RM. The following note on Bb3 (not B3, as is often assumed!) finally allows the RM to be more likely. (By the way, on the crowded first beat we can find the name “Bach”).

Now the lower voice remaining on F3 and the upper note Bb3 simply resolving to A3 would arrive at the RM. But the upper voice ascends to the note C4, and in the lower voice surprisingly rises to the note F#3, again making a tritone. This would normally resolve to the Sub. Again, the RM has been bypassed.

The slurs in this measure twice accentuate the note B3: In the first beat the unexpected tritone is stressed, and in the third beat the resolution to the Sub (in major) is suggested.

M 26

The full chord G2-D3-B3 actually promises the Sub. Already the next note C#4 however, again only a sixteenth note later, denies the Sub. This note C#4 announces instead the Dom and insists, because it does not return to C4 (in contrast to the melodic-harmonic events in the preceding measure). This C#4 prepares the transition to the tritone G#3-D4 which embodies the DD7-chord, which appears just once in this movement.

According to the Slur Code, the entry of the chord of the Sub is emphasized by the slur in preceding measure. The first beat is slurred as a result of the quarter note value of the lower voices, which in turn causes the DD to be unstressed. The drama is not on the arrival of the DD7-chord but in the abrupt reinterpretations of harmonies before its appearance. Furthermore, as just described, the tritone is prepared in this measure, whereas the tritone in the preceding measure appears unexpectedly, and thus receives a stronger impetus.

It is particularly noted that neither the third F#3 in the preceding measure nor even the third G#3 here resolves directly to G3 or A3 respectively. The rising middle voice F3 – F#3- (G3) – G#3 – (A3), (the fictitious pitches are bracketed) leads to the conclusion that the note G#3 is more to be understood as leading tone to the Dom than as the third of the DD.
Unlike the preceding measure, where the descending half step C4-B3 evokes the resolution and complementary half step F#3-G4 which doesn’t really happen (the lower voice pauses) in this measure the ascending whole step D4-E4 prevents the resolution of the half step G#3 to A# in the lower voice.

(Correct resolution of DD would require G#3-D4 to be followed by A3-C#4.) Thus, the DD remains unresolved or to put it bluntly: without a resolution, albeit fictional, there is also no DD.

The slurred E4-F4 in the upper part already indicates the resolution to the minor tonic.

M 27

The return to the minor tonic is indirect and fleeting through the Dom. A 2-slur in the first beat accentuates the first sixteenth note D4.
M 28

The double octave leap D4-D2 is the clear answer to the moving harmonic changes, by embracing that great pitch space which was the scene of these harmonic intricacies.




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