The Gavotte en Rondeau by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) is undeniably a little masterpiece, and as guitarists we are lucky enough to have a version (possibly arranged for lute) that we can call our own. This version is from Volume forty-two of the Bach Gesellschaft with the note “not for violine”. It is more commonly known now as a dance movement from the Fourth Lute Suite, BWV 1006a. Of course it is even more widely known as a movement from Partita No. 3 for Unaccompanied Violin, BWV 1006.
The Gavotte en Rondeau is formally a theme (mm. 1-8) with a series of “couplets” occurring between each restatement of this theme. This is essentially the structure of any rondo form; a theme that keeps returning with new material interspersed between the recurrences of the theme.
With this piece we have a theme and four couplets which display the main key and all possible closely related keys, or in other words keys that differ from the main key signature by one sharp or flat. Since this piece is in E major the six closely related keys would be:
E major (I)/C# minor (vi)
A major (IV)/F# minor (ii)
B major (V)/G# minor (iii)
Notice how these keys correspond to the diatonic triads within the key of E major, with the exception of (vii) since we cannot have a key based on a diminished triad.
All six keys are represented which I found interesting.
Let’s look into this in more detail.
MM. 1-8. The theme itself in E major.
MM. 8-16. First couplet in C# minor (vi).
MM. 16-24. Restatement of theme in E major (I)
MM. 24-40. Second couplet begins in E major (I) and moves into B major (V) with the cadence in measure forty.
MM. 40-48. Restatement of theme in E major (I).
MM. 48-64. Third couplet begins in A major (IV) and moves into its relative minor (F# minor, ii) with the cadence in measure sixty-four.
MM. 64-72. Restatement of theme in E major (I).
MM. 72-92. Fourth couplet begins in E major (I), moves into C# minor (vi), B Major (V) and finally into the last of the closely related keys (G# minor, iii) with the cadence in measure ninety-two.
MM. 92-100. Final restatement of main theme in E major (I).
A few other points of interest:
MM. 26-32. I have indicated with brackets the descending parallel tenths that are the underlying structure of this passage, first in the tonic (E) and then in the dominant (B), rather than label possible harmonies.
MM. 60-62. I indicated the descending parallel 7-6 suspensions that generate this passage. This is a favorite contrapuntal device of many Baroque composers and is still in common use today, at least in tonal composition. The C in parentheses at the opening of measure sixty (middle voice) is not in the original score but is considered implied and would then, with the A above, begin the series of descending sixths.
MM. 74-76. Here I indicate the ascending parallel sixths of this passage.
MM. 86-88. Descending thirds, which could actually begin in measure eighty-five with the B and D#, form the underlying structure of this passage.
Please refer to the pdf below which contains the complete harmonic analysis using traditional Roman numeral analysis as well as lead-sheet style chord designations, which to me seems a more practical system for most guitarists.
Purchase and download the complete analysis for $2.00 using the link below: