Today, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Detroit Auto Show we will look at Etude 11 from the well known Twenty-Five Melodious and Progressive Studies, Op. 60 of Matteo Carcassi. We all know and love these little etudes unless of course you developed some sort of phobia about them during your early days of study. I still enjoy this one very much and wanted to take a closer look.
Even though this study is only twenty-eight measures in length it is clear that there is a condensed rounded binary form here without the clearly defined sections:
Section A, in the home key of D minor (saddest of all keys)
Section B, where we move into the relative major key of F before returning to D minor.
Return of opening material with a very short closing coda-like section.
Harmonically the piece is very simple with two important exceptions:
1) The use of the German Augmented Sixth chord (Gr+6) in measure fifteen.
2) The Neapolitan Sixth chord (N6) in measures twenty-four and twenty-five.
Both of these harmonies are used in the most commonly found context of dominant preparation. In other words they usually occur just before the dominant or dominant seventh chord. In this case they both prepare the A7 (V) chord.
We have discussed both of these harmonies quite a bit in the past but as a reminder:
An enharmonically spelled dominant seventh chord (the usual minor seventh interval above the bass is spelled as an augmented sixth) in which the bass resolves down by half-step instead of down a perfect fifth is almost always a type of Augmented Sixth chord.
Think of the Neapolitan Sixth chord (major triad built on the lowered second degree of the scale, usually in first inversion) as a type of altered subdominant (iv) chord. In other words Carcassi could have just as easily used a G minor triad in place of the Eb/G in measures twenty-four and twenty-five by simply replacing the note E-flat with the note D. The E-flat is sometimes called an upper leading-tone as it has a strong pull back to the tonic D from above rather than from below as does the traditional leading-tone (C-sharp). This subdominant relationship is the main reason we usually find this harmony in first inversion (third of chord in the bass) which of course is the fourth degree of the scale (subdominant).
Page two attempts to show the proportional relationships of the sections in a reduced two-part texture.
Note how the middle section (mm. 9-20) is in a 3:2 ratio with the opening and closing sections (golden section). This provides additional interest in that it is slightly longer (12 bars) and negates a perfectly symmetrical form in which all sections are eight bars in length.
Please download the PDF below and enjoy this clever little study from this fine composer.