Urtext = Plain Text ? – An Analysis of the Sarabande in Eb Major, Part 2 (Bar 13-24)



This is a translation of the post

Urtext = Klartext? – eine Analyse der Sarabande in Es-Dur, Teil 2 (Takt 13-24)

by Dr. Marshall Tuttle. 

Michael Bach

This is the second part of the analysis of the

Sarabande in E Flat Major

with performance examples

and the interpretations of the cello competition *)


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



Sarabande Es Edition MB 004

Sarabande in Eb, Edition Michael Bach
Sheet music example mm 13-16
Slurs that are understood from the polyphony and therefore not notated by JSB are added in parentheses.


M 13

The beginning of the second half of the movement is linked with the tonally indeterminate open fifth at the beginning of the movement. At the same time, this fifth corresponds in a peculiar way with the preceding trill, because the two pitches represent the basic sounds of the dominnat (Bb2) and the DD (F3). On top of that, surprisingly, the note Ab3 sounds without a bass note on the 3rd beat. (In the lower part of this measure there is only a half note, Bb2. The quarter rest on the 3rd beat is missing because it is unnecessary to notate.) Thus, it is questionable whether the note Ab3 on the third beat, is to be regarded again as a seventh. Due to the fact that the two notes in the upper voice are slurred, the note Ab3 on the 3rd beat is highlighted. It is also connected to the first beat of the following measure.

M 14

The bass now does not present Eb2 and Bb2 as in m. 4, but rather B4 as the third of the chord. The note Ab3, 3rd beat of the previous measure in this measure is the ninth of the SD of the Rel. This harmonic shift mirrors the harmonic action of mm 6-7 (with the notes Db4 and E3). The lower voice is reduced to a dotted eighth note so that the subsequent sixteenth note F3, the seventh of the SD, is highlighted as a chord tone. The slurred three sixteenth notes in the 3rd beat again accentuate F3 as the chord seventh.

M 15

The three chords of m 15 are played forte: First, because of the upwards octave leap; Second is the concentration of single chords, consisting for the first time in this movement of a sequence of chords that is unambiguous; Third, there appear here for the first time both the Rel and the SR, which interfere more and more in the harmonic action in the second half of the movement; And fourth, the first chord, i.e. the Rel, is approached by a series of three bound sixteenth notes and is therefore stressed. The Rel follows its s6-chord and its DD7 chord.

M 16

The resolution of the DD7 chord does not occur immediately in m 16 because this chord (as in m 6) again contains two harmonies: the SD of the Rel, and the SDD of Rel (root notes G2 and D3, respectively) both without their third. The dotted eighth note in the lower voices accentuates the subsequent sixteenth note A3, which belongs to the SDD. But, the next two measures unequivocally express the SD of the Rel.



To express the ambivalence of this chord, it is recommended to sustain all pitches equally (see m 6) and then subsequently to mute the open strings with the appearance of the sounding of the A3 string.


Sound example mm 13-16



How was this passage performed in the cello competition?

Interpretation of mm 13-16 by the 11 participants

The performances of cellists are all relatively the same: the chords were broken, although with the concave bow, three notes in the forte would be feasible. The emphasis on the Rel in m 15 was missing in all interpretations. Some cellists transformed the sixteenth notes to thirty second notes. Also, often the bass B2 in m14 note was shortened. A single cellist shortened the bass note Bb2 of m 13 to a quarter note and simulated a “slur” on the note C4 in mm 15f by simply omitting the C4 in the upper part of m 16 . A tie is not justified, as it would negate the suspended fourth, and consequently the harmonic ambivalence of that chord



Sarabande Es Edition MB 005

Sheet music example mm 17-20

M 17

What follows now is not return to the Rel, rather by means of a half step alteration the expected pitch Eb3 is substituted by the surprising pitch E3 sounding with its tritone Bb2: the SD of the SR is achieved. The SR appears on the second beat, as in m 15, but without the dissonant added sixth and now prepared with its SD. The octave g2-g3, however, remains harmonically vague, since the third is missing. The two notes will rather be considered as passing notes. This octave now initiates a development that is characterized by an entanglement of SR, Rel, and its SD, and DR, harmonies, which are sliding through by means of stepwise motion.

M 18

The first chord in m 18 can not be unambisuously interpreted as the SR, and the octave g2-g3 in the previous measure can not be considered as its SD. Rather, the chord of the first beat could also be the SD of the Rel, with the ninth Ab3 in the upper voice, the seventh F3 in the bass and a suspended fourth C3 in the middle voice. This chord is also ambivalent as those of mm 6 and 16. The second beat confirms the SD, which resolves to the Rel.

M 19

The tie of the upper part C4 of the previous measure indicates that the pitch also belongs to the subsequent harmony: The root C4 of the Rel becomes the fifth of the SR. However, it lacks the third Ab3. The continuation via the attached sixteenth note D4 to the fifth G3-D4 on the second beat can be seen either as the DR or as the SD of the Rel due to the absence of the third: major or minor? The “harmonic inertia of hearing” tends towards the SD as in the previous measure the B3 was sounded.

As a result of the quarter note and half note in the lower part of m 19, the upper voice is tied in accordance with an emphasis on the second beat. The dissonant fourth G3-C4 at the end resolves not in two parts, but rather clarifies itself quite simply to the single note C4 in the next measure.



On the top note D4, a trill is often performed, but this is misplaced because with a trill D4-Es4 the third of the Rel or a suspended sixth of the SD would be introduced. This passage “thins”, as more and more thirds and sixths are left out of the harmonies, in order to end on an isolated, fragile C4.

In addition, the top note Eb4 is reserved for m 21.


M 20

The gradual transition to the Rel is completed with the appearance of the third, Eb3, on the 2nd beat. The last sixteenth note, Bb2, however, can not be interpreted as the seventh of the SD of the DD which actually appears, but unexpectedly, because that Bb2 is a diatonic pitch of the Rel and is understood as such in this context. This means there is no modulation, so it lacks the third E3.


Sound example mm 17-20



How would this passage be performed in the cello-competition?

Interpretation of mm 17-20 by the 11 participants

In this passage, the lower voice was almost always reduced in time, especially in the two-part passage of m 17, where a kind of chord breaking was unnecessarily imitated, because the two voices can be easily performed with the concave bow as notated. The same applies to the mm 18f, where almost always the sixteenth note D5 and without exception the eighth note C5 sounded alone. One of the cellists shortened even the sixteenth notes to thirty-second notes, some other cellists also exhibited that tendency. In mm 18f another cellist curiously imitated relatively often the bowing style of three-part passages with the concave bow “tie-play” (eg mm 1-4 ) in which the note C4 in m19 was omitted, playing only the note F3, even though two voices as notated are easily executable. The note Eb4 was always added in m 19, in all cases as trills, except in one case as a long suspended Eb4.




Sarabande Es Edition MB 006
Sheet music example mm 21-24


M 21

All the more surprising, after the consistent absence of thirds previously, and as a result of a further half step move, is the entry of the bass note A2 instead of Ab2, which now appears as the third of the DD. The DD came in this movement, despite powerful intensification in mm 5-7 not yet properly ?in sequence?. However, here it is at once “in place”, without a preparatory SD.

The octave leap in the upper voice (similar to m 15) additionally causes an intensification of the sound.

The third A2 in the bass is very important, because with it the motif of the “empty” fifth at the beginning of the movement is now rendered “concrete” with the addition of the third to the harmony. It is the last time that this motive will appear and at the same time the only time where the DD rules unchallenged, now introducing energetic passages.

The DD is clearly established with a three-part chord. The harmony is perfectly clear and the subsequent notes, especially the seventh Eb4, now no longer requires the root F3. Therefore, in the first beat, the note F3 is shortened in the lower voice to a quarter note. The upper voice can now sound brilliantly.



There is yet another reason for the three-part chord: The answer is provided later in m 23 with the irregularly notated chord on the 3rd beat. This “premature” or additional focus effect in 3/4-time due to the three regularly positioned chords approaching respectively on the first beats of mm 21-23, is thus more “out of sequence” and therefore more expressive.


M 22

In the second beat of m 22 the familiar resolution of the suspended fourth to the dominant appears, with its third D4 in the upper voice. As a result of the slur in the first beat, and the lack of slurring in the previous measure, it also receives an accent. Clearly, in this and the following measure, the emphasis is on the chord, as well as on the 2nd beat. In contrast to mm 2 and 4 this results in a sustained forte .

M 23

A corresponding resolution to the tonic with stress on the second beat occurs in m 23.

Now, on account of the deep bass note C2, the heavily accented chord on the 3rd beat poses a harmonic puzzle. It looks like a DD7-chord, but turns out to be a s6-chord with root note C2 and with an added major sixth A2. This interpretation is actually “enforced” by the tie, because a seventh Eb3 of the DD7-chord, as explained above, can not be bound to the suspended fourth of its resolution (see opening measures).

Second, in order to specify the DD7-chord it would be sufficient to notate the tritone alone. The bass note C2 is not resolved. It can not, in the case of a DD7-chord, be resolved to Bb1, which exceeds the lower range of the cello. The note C2 shifts, actually merely on account of its sonority and force (open C-string) to the tonic keynote from F2 to C2.

The note C2 therefore remains valid as the root over the bar line. That is, it “plays” in about the same way as in m 5 where it indicates there is no chord change at the beginning of the measure. The harmonic twists happen, just as in m 5, only here in the course of m 24. (It is recommended that to allow the C string to resonate beyond the end of the measure.)

And third, a return to the DD7-chord is, according to the harmonies of the previous measure (DD7 – Dom – tonic) unlikely, because in the “Suites” of JSB there are no harmonic “repetitions” – unless, an identical motive is directly repeated.

With the s6-chord the harmonic puzzle continues. But what happens to these harmonic and metric interruptions?

M 24

In the lower voice a relatively inconspicuous eighth note Bb2 now appears, exactly as in m 5. It acts like a passing note. A deliberate and unequivocal resolution of the tritone would have a significant quarter note result. A resolution on the first beat is excluded for a moment, so it is unclear here just as it was in m 5 how the harmonies will progress.

Due to the (unstressed) note D3 in the 2nd beat, and the sixth A2 of the s6-chord in the previous measure, the SD of DR may be suspected. For the adoption of a SD of DR, that would normally follow the s6-chord, the third F#3 is lacking, because we hear instead F3, the minor third.

Then in the third beat, deviating from m 5, there is no quarter note Ab4, and the D7-chord is not clear. Rather, what happens here is a diminuting reconciliation, similar to m 8, for the DR, only here the minor character is more explicit.

Sound example mm 21-24



How was this passage performed in the cello competition?

Interpretation of mm 21-24 by the 11 participants

The surprising DD chord at the beginning of m 21 was always broken, and the intensity of this harmonic eruption was never dynamically highlighted. In general, the ties in the first beats of mm 22f were not performed nor the dissonant harmonies of the upper voice, in particular the sixteenth notes with the underlying fifth. Sometimes, however, even the top note of a chord was omitted, following the oft repeated pattern “syncopation – imitation”. In m 21, a single cellist prolonged the lower voice to a half note and so imitated m 13, which (as explained in the analysis above) is absurd. Because this measure is comparable neither with the mm 1 and 3, or even m 13 in its harmonic development. 



Cello-Competition for New Music and award of the Domnick Cello Prize

Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Stuttgart, Germany

January 20-25, 2014


The Participants:

Charles-Antoine Duflot
Raphael Moraly
Armand Fauchère
Magdalena Bojanowicz
Darima Tcyrempilova
David Eggert
Hugo Rannou
Minji Won
Beatrice Holzer-Graf
Hanna Magdaleine Kölbel
Jee Hye Bae



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