Sor’s Etude eight corresponds to Estudio one in the Segovia collection. This is a fascinating little study in three voices in the homophonic style of a Bach chorale. We are introduced to several new concepts in this piece which include development of a motive through sequential repetition and inversion, imitative counterpoint as well as invertible counterpoint in which parts are composed in such a way that the upper voice can become a lower voice or vice versa.
The ascending three note figure which is first heard in measure one beginning on beat two in the bass (E-F-G) is the building block of the entire study. The inversion of this figure as first heard in measure two, beat three in the bass (F-E-D) is also prominent. Notice the sequential use of the descending figure beginning on beat three, measure four in the bass and how the upper voices pick it up in imitation in thirds beginning in measure five, beat three. Also notice how this generates harmonically a complete circle of fifths progression (Am-Dm-G7-C-F-Bdim-E7-Am) starting on beat two, measure five through the end of measure seven.
Following the cadence on the dominant in measure ten, the descending figure is extended to a fifth (G-F-E-D-C) starting on beat two, measure ten in the bass and is again imitated in the upper voice three beats later in measure eleven forming parallel tenths with the bass. Sor then moves us into D minor (ii) through the beautiful Italian augmented sixth chord resolving to A7 (V/ii) in measures twelve and thirteen where he introduces the descending five note figure again, this time a step higher (A-G-F-E-D) in the upper voice of measure thirteen, beat two. The middle voice now picks up this line in imitation three beats later on beat two, measure fourteen and completes the line by merging with the bass in measure fifteen to conclude on the D in measure sixteen. I nearly missed this entirely when examining this piece and honestly never noticed it in the thirty plus years I have played it! That is the genius of this music; there is always something new to be found and heard.
After returning to C major in measure nineteen the figure appears again in the bass and is imitated at the octave in the upper voice through measure twenty-four with one exception (last note of measure twenty-four).
One of the most clever passages begins in measure twenty-six where the ascending three note figure is used sequentially, moving down by step in the upper voice with some interesting alterations to create harmonically another circle of fifths progression (nearly) through measure thirty-one. I say “nearly” because Sor avoids using the tritone which would occur if the pattern of root movement by descending fifth continued in measure twenty-eight, where the F would move to B on the third beat. This skip of a tritone in the bass would have been prohibited at the time.
In measure thirty-two the upper voice that we heard in measures twenty-six through thirty-one becomes the lower voice and is restated exactly as before but an octave lower. Segovia does point this out in his edition by placing emphasis markings under the restatement of this line in the bass. This is known as invertible counterpoint at the octave. Notice how the inner voice is the same in both cases and descends chromatically from C to E. Sor adds a new upper voice in measure thirty-two creating what are called “nine-eight suspensions”. This involves the suspending of the upper voice over the change of harmony creating a dissonant ninth above the bass (9) that resolves to a consonant octave (8). The numbers under this passage show the intervals formed between the outer voices where in this case the root of the chord on beat one is implied on beat two.
Below I have included an analytical as well as a performance edition of this etude. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.