Capricho Arabe by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) is another very well known piece in the repertory for solo guitar. I have done a harmonic analysis which is included below and will mention some of the important details of the harmony and form.

The piece begins with an introduction (mm. 1–12) that consists harmonically of a prolongation of the dominant (V) of D minor.

The “A” section (mm. 13-24) begins with a little vamp or ostinato (mm. 13-14) which lays out the bass line that we hear throughout the piece, sometimes in major and other times in minor, which acts as a unifying device. The harmony is a simple alternation between tonic (i) and dominant (V).

Following is the main theme: a four measure phrase (mm. 15-18) superimposed over the aforementioned bass line in the home key of D minor; again supported by the simple alternation of tonic and dominant harmony. The second varied statement of the theme moves us for the first time into the area of the subdominant (iv) with the appearance of the commonly used secondary dominant (V/iv in measure 20) before returning to the dominant and the vamp again in measure 23, but this time with an interesting twist. We now have four distinct harmonies based on the progression i-VI-bII-V in D minor. The use of the bII chord in minor has its roots in its use as what is called the “Neapolitan Sixth” (N6) chord. The harmony consists of a major triad built on the lowered second degree of the minor scale and usually appears in first inversion (six) in order to avoid the very tritone that Tárrega seems to enjoy as he uses this harmony (Eb major) in root position followed by the dominant (A major) in root position.

The “B” section (mm. 25-36) is in the relative major key of F major and is introduced harmonically by modifying the vamp in measure 26 to include a ii-V of F major (Gm-C7). The theme and bass line are also modified a bit in this major key but the harmony is basically the same, consisting of the simple alternation of tonic and dominant. Tárrega does make use of the secondary dominant (V/V) in this section by implication which I found interesting. As I was deciding on the harmonic analysis in measure 29 I first thought the harmony on the third beat implied Gm7 or maybe Dm to Gm7. When playing through it my ear told me the harmony should be G7 or V/V even though there is no B natural present anywhere in the measure! Play it through with the indicated harmony and decide for yourself. I think it must be the strong seventh sound associated with hearing the F in the upper voice on the beat that implies this dominant sonority even without the third being stated. The same thing occurs in the D major section in measure 39 where I hear an E7 chord (V/V) implied. Of course this is a transposed restatement of the F major section so it only makes sense.

The second statement of the modified theme is interrupted in measure 32 (third beat) with the occurrence of the Em7b5 or ii chord in D minor moving to the V (A major) in arpeggios cueing what we think is a return to tonic or D minor. The surprise is that Tárrega does return to tonic but in the parallel major key (D major) through the transposed restatement of the F major section.

The “C” section (mm. 37-52) as stated is basically a transposed restatement of the “B” or F major section with a bit more repetition that culminates with the restatement of the vamp in D major (measure 53) and then in D minor (measure 54) to finally return us to the restatement of the “A” section or the original D minor material we started with.

I should note the use of the full diminished seventh chord (D#dim7) in measure 42. It is used as it most commonly is as a secondary leading-tone diminished seventh; resolving up by half-step to the root of the following chord. There is a slight modification with the chord of resolution. We expect to hear some sort of E chord (D#dim7 to E or Em) but instead we get an A major in second inversion (E bass). Remember that this second inversion triad is unstable in traditional harmony and needs to resolve the sixth and fourth above the bass (C# and A) to a more stable fifth and third (B and G# in this case) giving us the E we expect by beat three with the addition of a seventh forming the E7 or V/V as shown.  It is also interesting that Tárrega used a B# instead of a C natural in the chord spelling. This can be explained in terms of the voice-leading where the strong chromatic resolution of the sixths (D# and B# to E and C# respectively) occurs in the outer voices.

In summary, harmonically the piece is quite simple and rather conservative for its time. The strong melodic content and use of the ostinato bass seems to be what makes the music so appealing. I hope you find these analyses somewhat insightful and useful in aiding your understanding of traditional harmonic concepts. Any suggestions for future projects?



March 09, 2012 @10:54 am
Tony Hyman
I was thinking Paul why dont we look into a contempory or modern piece like Waltons Bagetalles for example one of the 5 for instance in order to understand his influences eg Stravinski and Hindermith .In other words the crossover from tonal to the atonal early 1900 on.Where one tries to understand the workings and pratical applicationof 12 tone Scales (Shoeneberg) or even Villa-Lobos who was also influenced by Stravinski who blended Russian Folk with USA Zazz
March 03, 2012 @10:07 pm
Tony Hyman
Here is a little extract from Kostka and Payne's Tonal Harmony 2nd Edition ,regarding the Dimished7 in Bar 41 in my score John ."Most diminished seventh chords function as leading -tone sevenths of tonic or of some other chord within the tonality.While the enharmonic potential of the diminished seventh chord is occasionally exploited in enharmonic modulation,the resolution of the chord generally clarifies its function.However,there is a diminished seventh chord usage that dose not conform to the usual pattern.In this case,the diminished seventh progresses to a major triad or dominant seventh chord,(Here comes the crux of he matter for me)the root of which is the same as one of the notes of the dim7th chord."To me bar 42 conforms to these requirements perfectly .I hope I have added some constructive contribution to your interpretation.
February 28, 2012 @07:49 am
Two comments, you might include the term half diminished 7th, a more traditional classical name for the minor 7 (b5), which is more of a jazz designation. And for the fully diminished 7th chord in the C section resolving to the second inversion dominant chord, this is also a typical classical use of a secondary diminished 7th harmony and is used to introduce a cadenza-like flourish. This is reminiscent of concertos where the soloist has a cadenza, or extended virtuosic solo excursion.
February 24, 2012 @01:40 am
David Naidu
Thank you, John, for the excellent harmonic analysis! I've played this piece countless times over the past few decades (and still do), but have only been aware of the more obvious harmonic areas (D minor, D major, F major, etc...). I'm grateful for your generosity with your knowledge.

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