Analysis of the Allemande from Lute Suite 1, BWV 996 by J.S. Bach was most rewarding. Here is another piece I have played for generations without ever considering it's complexities. For a little eighteen measure piece it's loaded with them. My source for this analysis was the Neue Bach-Ausgabe with minor alterations to make it playable on guitar. If you are interested I have the entire suite available in a performance edition on my Buy page. Here is the breakdown:

We have the typical binary dance form in which two distinct parts are apparent with authentic cadences and repeats.

Part 1 MM. 1-8

We begin in E minor and as is typical but maybe not quite as common, we end in the dominant key of B minor. Generally the move is to the relative major key. Bach does move into G major in the middle of this first section (mm. 3-5) before setting up the main cadence in B minor in bars 6-8. Notice the use of the Picardy third in measure eight.

Part 2 MM. 9-18

This B major triad (V) begins section two and does resolve to tonic (E minor) as would be expected, but in retrospect (working backwards from the cadence in measure thirteen) I am going out on a limb and claiming we will hear this as the V/ii in D major as the analysis shows. There is no doubt we have a move into D major in measures nine through eleven before returning to B minor at the cadence in measure thirteen. There is an interesting twist here in measure thirteen. We expect a B minor triad but as we move through the measure we actually get a B major triad which functions as the dominant of the following E major triad. The tonal center though is still B minor, not B major. My idea was to make it as simple as possible and show the key centers as B minor along with its relative major key of D major in measures nine through thirteen. We get the return to E minor in the second half of measure thirteen but not before touching on its relative major key of G major by way of the classic descending fifth progression in measures thirteen through fifteen, mirroring what he does in measures nine through eleven.

The final cadential ii-V-I again ends with the E major triad (Picardy third) as in the end of part one.

My reduction staff shows what I believe to be the contrapuntal simplification of the piece using mainly a three-part reduction along with my reasoning for what I believe are the harmonic implications. I think it works well if you play through the piece as written and then try the reduction. Let me know what you think.

Interesting features:

1) Notice the use of the F# minor (ii) chord in measures two and sixteen. We all know the ii chord in minor keys is usually a diminished triad but in this case we can see that because of the use of the melodic minor scale (raised sixth and seventh degrees ascending) in the inner voice, the ii chord is now a minor triad. There is an interesting chromatic use in measure sixteen where the sixth degree is first natural (C) and then raised (C#).

2) The chromatic bass line in measure five making use of a secondary leading-tone triad that resolves deceptively before bringing us back to the home key of E minor with its leading-tone triad.

3) The scales used at the final cadences in measures eight and eighteen. In measure eight he ascends a B major scale but then on the way down lowers the sixth degree. It is as if Bach is reminding us that we are indeed in E minor and not E major. He does a similar thing in measure eighteen where he raises the third degree G to G-sharp (Picardy third) but leaves the sixth and seventh degrees (C and D) natural. Again reminding us that the key is E minor and not E major.

Even with this little piece the genius of Bach is apparent and confirms my belief that we were indeed visited by ancient astronauts and Bach was a direct descendant. 

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March 03, 2014 @05:49 am
Tony Hyman
Great stuff once again John from your side.Looking up a few of the sources I have at my disposal regarding this particular suite. The Bouree being the old "Isnt that a Jethro Tull Tune" and my clever little "Not Actually"which coming from an old "pubbie come dance gigster" works pretty well now that Ive "progressed" to the "I only do Recitals Stage". Getting to the chase regarding this piece Ive only got my first teachers Frederick Noad and Julian Bream (not live but cd ) to go with here in the outbacks of South Africa. I believe the interseting thing about this Allemand is that it serves as a good example of what Ive read to be the brightness of the Baroque when rounding off cadences in minor keys such as this one.NoadsBk2 dose not use this term but dose say the following. regarding the Allemand as a dance in general on 133 inter alia. .."As with all the main dances, the structure was in two parts, each repeated , with the first half ending in the "dominant key"(my comas) and the second with a return to the tonic. In the piece Noad leaves the G# up and down in Bar 8.Other scores Ive seen like the one at your disposal kindly presented by by you John , cancel the G# on the descending run rendering it a minor 3rd as opposed to the major scale in thirds . The true intention of Bach and the instrument it was originally remains a topic of debate according to Noad.An autographed source giving the lute sole right remains a mystery. It seems verious arrangers have done their own little thing to these endings to siute their indervidual tastes and tutorial needs applicable to their periods as they understand tonal harmonic rules. Listening to Bream I hear him playing as Noad explains.However the piece is difficult enough ,for me anyway , without getting all tangeled up with what should be # or b and suggest enjoy the part that's on your stand. As Mamma always said "Eat your food and shut -up". Roger Kamien in his "Music an Appreciation " also talks of a fashion emerging from the Renaissance where as you have mentioned The Picardy 3rd .The learned Roger says " Practice in the Baroque Period, major chords where thought more conclusive than minor chords"unquote.I draw the inferance including whole scales and keys as shown by Noad above. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge John.
February 26, 2014 @02:59 pm
Andre LANZ
Thanks for posting your analysis. Have you ever done one on Sor study # 11, Opus 6, or # 17 in the Segovia edition. If so, how much do you charge for it? Andre
February 23, 2014 @10:10 am
jose arrboleda
Nice, thank you.

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