It was suggested to me to look into Sor’s Study No. 16, Op. 31 (Segovia edition No. 8) by my friend and colleague Tony Hyman in South Africa. What piqued his interest is the most interesting and striking harmony that occurs in measure ten, second half of beat two. How do we analyze this harmony? What exactly are the chord tones? Very interesting questions that can often times have multiple answers. Let’s look into this excellent little composition.

The form is rounded binary as is common with many of Sor’s studies. This is a two part piece in which the opening material is restated in part before the close of the second section.

So there is no confusion, I am counting both endings as measure eight.

Part One (mm. 1-8) In D minor (i) closing with a cadence on the dominant A minor (v). Notice that the dominant key area of a minor key is also minor, not major as the dominant harmony would be.

Part Two (mm. 9-24) Begins in the relative major (F major) and returns to D minor with a cadence on the dominant (A) in measure sixteen. The return of the first four bars of the opening material begins in measure seventeen and the piece then concludes with another four bars of material in the home key of D minor.

I use my two stave analysis which shows a reduction analysis of the music in the lower staff along with the usual harmonic analysis and chord labeling. The reduction staff was the most revealing for me. This clearly shows the underlying structure as well as Sor’s genius.

MM. 1-8

When the running bass line is reduced to quarter-notes, ascending and descending tonic triad arpeggios are revealed, first up to the dominant (A) in mm. 1-2 and then down to the dominant in mm. 3-4.

In mm. 5-6 again an ascending arpeggio moves to the dominant key area (A minor) before returning through the descending triad arpeggio in mm. 6-7 setting up the classic cadential ii-V-I in A minor in mm. 7-8. Sor does seem to favor ii-V-i over iv-V-i for his cadences.

Also make note of the voice-leading in the upper voices, mainly ascending and descending thirds and sixths.

MM. 9-24

The first four bars are based on a sequential idea again making use of an arpeggio in the bass and descending and ascending thirds in the upper voices (reduction staff), which brings us to our most interesting harmony in measure ten.

I would hear this chord (the second half of beat two of measure ten) as a D7 or F# diminished if you prefer moving to G minor making it a V/ii as indicated in F major. I hear the Bb as an accented passing-tone. In the big picture you can see that the bass line in measure ten into eleven is a descending scale (C-Bb-A- G) while the upper voices are ascending in thirds E/G-F#/A-G/Bb at the same time. The two clash at the second half of beat two generating a beautiful dissonance. It is interesting to note that this happens quite often in contrapuntal music. As a matter of fact almost every possible altered and exotic harmony can be found in the music of J.S. Bach if we stop the music in time and look at the vertical alignment of the voices. The line though is what rules.

Following this sequence in mm. 13-14 is a beautiful little passage of descending 7-6 suspensions leading to the half cadence on the dominant in measure 16 prepared by the neat little chromatic move in the bass (G-G#-A) in the preceding measure generating a secondary dominant (V/V).

Finally in mm. 17-24 we have the return of the opening material and the close in D minor. I really like the bass line in mm. 21-22 (reduction) before the closing cadential progression. Speaking of interesting harmony, take a look at what he does with "God Save the Queen" in Study 10, Op. 6., you won’t believe it!

One final note; When comparing an original early Sor edition with Segovia's I noticed two discrepancies:

1) Measure six shows a B-natural where Segovia has a B-flat.

2) Measures two and eighteen have a dotted rhythm in the bass that is missing in the Segovia.

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February 06, 2014 @11:49 pm
Tony Hyman
Hi John ,thanks for the "mention in dispatches" . I thought I would jump on the band wagon here,with you but from the perspective as to why Segovia chose to push Sor the way he did in a general sense.This extract from a discussion on guitar in general which the Maestro made in his early days from his biography helped me to understand a little better " the elemental kind of music Julian Arcas played.Don Julian was a spontaneous artist , not a cultivated one.The scope of the guitar has to be widend, music of greater significance should be played on it, such as Fernando Sor, Mauro Giuliani or Francisco Tarrega , wrote for it." Comming now to this piece John, I cant help getting the feeling that Sor die not allow himself to be "locked into" a particular style which might have been fashionable for his day.Oxford Music Dictionary say inter alia that the term "baroque" was also used in the Romantic Period by some those composers as a way of saying the Baroque playrs and composes were dated and crude (my interpretation) . Not so with Sor looking at this piece in particular .Besides the other referances made to Bach already mentioned here. In my humble opinion and realatively limited knowledge of the Classical Mileu in general ,I find Sor giving us a Readers Digest version of the Periods Baroque to Romantic in a nutshell as it were. Just a peek at Bar 8 we see the use of the Melodic Minor A .The G# giving a slight major feel ascending and the G nat descending. This to me shows that Sor dose a smooth transition from the Baroque general tendancy to end a major Chord or Key even ,when landing on the Doninant prior to the recapitulation to the tonic in a minor key .eg Bach BWV 996 Allamande. According to authoities this was merely fashionable in the Baroque Period ,no particular theoretical reasons known. The way I see it looking at bar 10 besides other influences which might be read into Sor's roots ,he shows respect for the genius of the Baroque Composers .The same suspended effect used in 10 is can also be found in Bar 12 Prelude dm Santiago de Murcia (Spain early 1700's). It has been a total joy just analysing this piece with you John,from a theoretical point that is,the practical part is not a walk in the park the way I see it.One would kill a lot of birds with a single stone ,with this little beauty once the fingerings have been suzzed.

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