Sor’s well known Study in D major, Op. 35 No. 17 (Estudio 6 in the Segovia edition) is the subject of my continuing series on analyses of popular works for guitar. Virtually everyone who has studied the instrument has performed this little study. It’s still one of my favorites and my intention is to give some reasons as to why it holds up so well musically. Please open the pdf below containing the detailed analysis and follow along.
The form is a short rounded binary which is defined as a two part form in which the opening material returns at the end of the second section which in effect rounds the piece off. In our example:
(1) mm. 1-16
(1) mm. 17-24 (contrasting key)
(2) mm. 25-32 (return of opening material with ending added)
Let’s take a closer look at each section.
As with most of this piece Sor uses a three-part texture as shown in the reduction staff. The voice-leading is easily seen in the reduction as well as Sor’s adherence to contrapuntal principles. For example, notice his handling of the tritones in the outer voices in measures three (G#-D) and six (A-D#). The first resolves inward to a third and the second, outward to a sixth; exactly as prescribed. The harmonies containing the tritones are two examples of altered chords; the first being a secondary dominant (V/V) and the second, a secondary leading-tone (viiᵒ/ii).
The first eight measures conclude with a cadence on the tonic.
The next eight measures (9-16) move harmonically into the dominant (A) as is typical of most binary forms in a major key. The most interesting feature here is the common-tone diminished seventh chord found in measure nine. As you can see in the reduction staff it is produced through the use of two chromatic lower neighbor notes (E-D#-E and C#-B#-C#) in the outer voices. The A is the common- tone, hence the name. The section concludes with a cadence on the dominant in measure sixteen.
For contrast Sor moves harmonically into the parallel minor key of D minor in this section. The opening four bars are based on a sequential interval pattern or what Schenker refers to as a ‘linear intervallic pattern’ of a tenth to a sixth, shown as 10-6-10-6 in the analysis. This gives rise to the sequential chord progression shown and is why I decided to think of this passage as containing one chord per measure rather than the two per measure as in the rest of the piece.
Measures twenty-one through twenty-four are firmly in D minor. The cadence on the dominant in measure twenty-four is prepared with my favorite French Augmented Sixth chord in measure twenty-three. For a detailed explanation of this harmony please see Augmented Sixth Chords Demystified.
The final eight bars restates the opening material with the additional ending material that Segovia evidently did not care for as he altered the original harmony in his edition. The secondary dominant (B7) chord in measure thirty was changed to a simple diatonic B minor triad by Segovia. I prefer the original.
For a short study this piece has quite a bit to offer musically. Several examples of altered chords in the way of secondary dominants and secondary leading-tone harmonies are present as well as a French Augmented Sixth chord. These harmonies along with the contrasting key of D minor in the middle bridge section offer enough musical variety it seems to hold our interest. I know I still enjoy playing this piece despite decades of reiteration. Hopefully this contributes in some way to your understanding of this music. Thanks for reading and stayed tuned!