Harmony in Practice-Fernando Sor, Etude 12 Op.6

Etude twelve by Fernando Sor is the final study in this set. It corresponds to Estudio fourteen in the Segovia collection. With this study we have a harmonic plan similar to Etude eleven in which Sor contrasts the major with the parallel minor. In this case A major and A minor are the two key areas. The A minor section beginning in measure twenty-one characteristically moves into the relative major key (C) before returning to A minor followed by the restatement of the earlier A major section.

All harmonic points of interest have been discussed previously. It might be worth mentioning the second occurrence of the Neapolitan sixth chord in measure thirty-four. To review, this structure is a major triad built on the lowered second scale degree of major or minor scales and is usually found in first inversion. In this case we have a Bb major triad with a D in the bass. The D bass implies a subdominant (iv) function to this harmony as it almost always precedes the dominant (V) as it does in this case. The note Bb (lowered second degree in A minor) is often described as an “upper leading-tone”. In effect the harmony encircles the tonic from above (Bb) and, with the move to the dominant (E7), from below (G#) which creates the effect of upper and lower leading-tones.

The voice-leading as it relates to the Neapolitan sixth chord in the context of an altered iv-V-I progression can be seen very clearly in this example. Beginning in measure thirty-four, the Bb in the upper voice first returns to A in measure thirty-five supported by the very interesting vii/V before moving to G# in measure thirty-six and finally back to tonic (A) in measure thirty-seven. The bass line is basically four-five-one with a passing diminished seventh between the iv and V. So, combining the four-five-one bass line with the encircling Bb-G#-A will demonstrate the essence of this harmony. In its simplest two-part form in A minor:

Bb/D (N6) - G#/E (V) - A/A (i)

It might be interesting to do a statistical analysis of the various harmonies used in these twelve etudes. The breakdown will probably be about 50% I, ii, and V chords as Sor seems to prefer to use the ii chord rather than the IV at cadences, 30% IV, vi and vii chords (iii rarely used) and 20% altered harmonies which would include secondary dominants, secondary leading-tone chords, augmented sixth and Neapolitan sixth chords as well as borrowed chords. This would be typical of most music of this period.

It has been my hope that this series of analyses will make the understanding of certain key elements of harmony and voice-leading a bit easier to comprehend by showing their application in the context of real music by a respected composer. I would love to hear from you in the form of comments as to whether or not I have been successful in this. Also any suggestions for future projects or ways to improve the presentation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading and enjoy the music!

Sor Etude 12 Analysis.pdf

Sor Etude 12 Performance.pdf

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