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Scarlatti and Bach Tutorials: Patterns in Analysis

These past few weeks I found myself zoning in on structural patterns in two Baroque keyboard works: Scarlatti Sonata K. 146 in G Major and J.S. Bach’s Little Prelude in A minor, BWV 942.

The Scarlatti Sonata is distinct for its symmetry. It opens with a spirited upswing to a descending G Major Arpeggio in legato 32nd notes with a hand crossover. It is followed by a responsive detached set of sixteenth notes that lead back to another descending hand crossover arpeggio in the Dominant. (D Major) This thematic pairing is replicated times over in the body of the work.

The contrasting detached note interlude of 16th notes in D Major subsequently expands and introduces the D harmonic minor for two measures that lends a pathos to the extended outpouring. (One must respond to it)

The second notable structural component plays out as lower neighbor half-step pairings of 32nd notes that limpidly pass up through principle notes A, D, and E spilling into a Dominant 7th Chord measure. (A C# E) Scarlatti embellishes the Dominant key in this foray.

The next spree of paired 32nd notes occurs as a longer group of lower neighbor half-steps that lead to a formidable cadence of D Major Arpeggios. At this halfway juncture we are characteristically in the Dominant Key (D Major) that is baked into the Baroque Binary form.

The ensuing “B” section bears structural resemblance to the opening “A” section with replicated components. The difference of course is in the assortment of keys traversed which is a hallmark of a more harmonically developed “B” section. Naturally, the composer ultimately winds his way back to the Tonic key of G Major at the work’s conclusion with an unraveling of descending arpeggios.

The key to playing this Sonata with artistry is to respond to its whimsical nature and to its harmonic shifts by avoiding robotic repetitions of the characteristic rhythms. (Dynamic variations are helpful that include echo phrase responses)

J.S Bach BWV 942

In the embedded tutorial re: BWV 942, I emphasize the circular meter of 9/8 as reflective of feeling three beats per measure and I address the Subject and its content (with half-step insertions) which weave forward and in reverse throughout the short work. (The retrograde measures may be imperfect, though the listener does experience opposing directions in attenuations of neighbor note movements between voices and springboards into them) Bach has an ingenious way of “playing” on these motion oppositions as the piece winds its way to final cadence. (I chose to interpret the stream of three note eighth groupings as playing out in legato whereas other musicians have opted to parcel out phrases with detachments in staccato–and at a more brisk tempo)

I observe contrary motion interplays of the Subject and its variant, as well as parallel motion relationships of these two voices in other measures. In the contrary motion measures, there’s an atonal component that seems prominent. Even with passing dissonances, the listener is unsure where the phrase is going tonally. It’s quite a compelling short work that ends with what sounds like a tidbit from the Chromatic Fantasy as you will note in the last portion of my tutorial.

In conclusion analyzing structure as well as harmonic elements aids the learning process.

A play through:

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