I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started work on Fernando Sor’s study seventeen from Op. 29, Estudio twenty in the Segovia collection. This piece is loaded with interesting harmonic and contrapuntal content. A clear harmonic plan exists here which tends to define the structure of the piece.
The first “A” section is sixty-four measures in length defined by the harmonic movement from the tonic C major (I) to the dominant G major (V), via the V/V (D), with the cadence in G major in measure sixty-four.
The “A” section can be subdivided into two parts consisting of the first subsection which moves harmonically from C major to D major (V/V) in measure thirty-two, followed by a transition over the D pedal point, followed by a second subsection in G major (V) beginning in measure forty-one and ending with the cadence in measure sixty-four. Sor uses these pedal points as a way of transitioning from section to section throughout the piece.
The “B” section is twenty-four measures long, beginning in measure sixty-five and ending in measure eighty-nine, and is defined harmonically by the move from G major (V) to C major (I).
The final “C” section is a coda that is twenty-six measures in length, beginning in measure eighty-nine through to the end in measure 114, defined by the drawn out cadential I-IV-V progression with the addition of the beautiful harmonic progression first heard in measures fifty-two through fifty-six in the dominant (G major) now transposed to the tonic (C major) beginning in measure 100.
I will discuss a few points of interest as there are too many to discuss without writing a dissertation.
First of all notice the way Sor states the melody as a single line and then adds a second contrapuntal line which clearly defines the harmony, in a rather complex way as you can see, using three secondary dominants in mm. 11-12. When written well, two parts is enough to define the harmony unambiguously. Please see Harmonic Implications in Counterpoint for a detailed discussion of this topic.
After an extended tonic pedal point, Sor introduces one of his beautiful sequential patterns in mm. 25-29 based on an interval pattern of descending tenths which I show with the brackets. Harmonically this generates chords with roots which descend by fifth completing a cycle with the resolution of the B7 to Em in measure thirty as shown by the chord indications: iv-VII-III-VI-ii-V-i (in E minor). This Em then becomes the ii chord in D major progressing as it usually does to the V (A7) and finally to the tonic D. So we end up with a fifth progression which actually starts with the Am in measure twenty-four and finishes in measure thirty-two with the cadence on D major. The ii/V/V indication is my way of showing the initial goal of E minor as the supertonic (ii) of D major (V/V), which is where things finally end up in measure thirty-two.
Now we get the D pedal point (V/V) taking us to the dominant (G major) in measure forty-one. Note the use of the tetrachord (four note scale) first introduced in measure one (C-D-E-F) that is used extensively through this section in the inner voices. This little motive as well as the three tone neighbor-note figure introduced in measure two (G-F#-G) and the descending three tone scale introduced at the end of measure two into measure three (G-F-E) come up over and over again in ascending and descending form throughout the piece. It’s as if Sor slices and dices his main theme and develops it in various ways, as Beethoven would, as a way of unifying the piece.
Following the decisive perfect authentic cadence on the dominant in measure sixty-four is the development section, my “B” section. This is characterized by the use of imitative counterpoint in a stretto style which involves closely grouped imitative lines, again based on the motives discussed earlier, used with a recurring rhythmic pattern of two sixteenths and an eighth note. Note the fugue-like entry of the transposed subject at the pickup to measure sixty-nine. We also get a second sequential pattern in this section in mm. 75-79 but this time based on descending sixths as indicated by the brackets.
Again after an extended dominant pedal point we return to tonic in measure eighty-nine to wrap things up with a fairly long coda.
Please refer to my previous articles on Sor’s Op. 6 studies for more detailed explanations of the Italian augmented sixth chords found in this piece.
Remember, when looking at harmony always consider the voice-leading. It is very important to realize that composers of classical music always think in terms of horizontal lines of music that connect smoothly. These lines determine the harmony. Of course there is still harmonic planning involved; on a small and large scale as we have seen in this piece. As we noticed in previous analyses, harmonies that are considered “altered” usually involve chromatic voice-leading in one or more of the voices. For example: if we look at the full diminished seventh chord that occurs in measure thirty-nine we can see that it is generated by simply inserting a chromatic passing tone (Bb) between the B (inner voice) in measure thirty-nine and the A in measure forty. Also look at the G augmented chord occurring in measure forty-five. Again the insertion of a chromatic passing tone (D#) between the D in measure forty-five (inner voice) and the E in measure forty-six creates this harmony. Notice the chromatic descending soprano line beginning in measure thirty-two on the high D and ending on the F# in measure thirty-six that at least partially generates the series of secondary dominants shown. The ascending chromatic soprano line beginning in measure fifty on the G and ending on the C in measure fifty-five is the main contributing factor in the generation of the chord progression shown here. These are but a few of the examples.
In summary, when doing harmonic analysis always ask yourself what is going on with the voice-leading, whatever the progression or succession happens to be. You will gain significant insight into the development of harmony from its origins in the combination of two or more independent voices. Please see the pdf file below containing the score and complete harmonic analysis.