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The Gavotte en Rondeau by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) is undeniably a little masterpiece, and as guitarists we are lucky enough to have a version (possibly arranged for lute) that we can call our own. This version is from Volume forty-two of the Bach Gesellschaft with the note “not for violine”. It is more commonly known now as a dance movement from the Fourth Lute Suite, BWV 1006a. Of course it is even more widely known as a movement from Partita No. 3 for Unaccompanied Violin, BWV 1006.

The Gavotte en Rondeau is formally a theme (mm. 1-8) with a series of “couplets” occurring between each restatement of this theme. This is essentially the structure of any rondo form; a theme that keeps returning with new material interspersed between the recurrences of the theme.

With this piece we have a theme and four couplets which display the main key and all possible closely related keys, or in other words keys that differ from the main key signature by one sharp or flat. Since this piece is in E major the six closely related keys would be:

E major (I)/C# minor (vi)

A major (IV)/F# minor (ii)

B major (V)/G# minor (iii)

Notice how these keys correspond to the diatonic triads within the key of E major, with the exception of (vii) since we cannot have a key based on a diminished triad.

All six keys are represented which I found interesting.

Let’s look into this in more detail.

MM. 1-8. The theme itself in E major.

MM. 8-16. First couplet in C# minor (vi).

MM. 16-24. Restatement of theme in E major (I)

MM. 24-40. Second couplet begins in E major (I) and moves into B major (V) with the cadence in measure forty.

MM. 40-48. Restatement of theme in E major (I).

MM. 48-64. Third couplet begins in A major (IV) and moves into its relative minor (F# minor, ii) with the cadence in measure sixty-four.

MM. 64-72. Restatement of theme in E major (I).

MM. 72-92. Fourth couplet begins in E major (I), moves into C# minor (vi), B Major (V) and finally into the last of the closely related keys (G# minor, iii) with the cadence in measure ninety-two.

MM. 92-100. Final restatement of main theme in E major (I).

A few other points of interest:

MM. 26-32. I have indicated with brackets the descending parallel tenths that are the underlying structure of this passage, first in the tonic (E) and then in the dominant (B), rather than label possible harmonies.

MM. 60-62. I indicated the descending parallel 7-6 suspensions that generate this passage. This is a favorite contrapuntal device of many Baroque composers and is still in common use today, at least in tonal composition. The C in parentheses at the opening of measure sixty (middle voice) is not in the original score but is considered implied and would then, with the A above, begin the series of descending sixths.

MM. 74-76. Here I indicate the ascending parallel sixths of this passage.

MM. 86-88. Descending thirds, which could actually begin in measure eighty-five with the B and D#, form the underlying structure of this passage.

Please refer to the pdf above which contains the complete harmonic analysis using traditional Roman numeral analysis as well as lead-sheet style chord designations, which to me seems a more practical system for most guitarists.



August 10, 2012 @01:46 am
Tony Hyman
John once again thank you for your committed efforts in sharing your time and efforts with us.Just skimming over the score other doors suddenly open up from my perspective as a composer.What interests me is how on earth could JS Bach (1685-1750) and John Dowland (1563-1626) have influenced each other .Bach spending most of his life committed to The Lutheran Church in relative unfame in his day .Dowland spending time in the Courts of Denmark in the Late Renaissance.The chances of them being exposed to each other seems highly remote unless Bach had access to Dowlands Scores through earlier musical training.I state this regardless of stating the obvious ,considering that communication via musical media was not as exposed as it is today,raises the question to what extent could Bach have been influenced by Dowland when one compares bar 4 Gavotte 10ths on 3rd and 4th beats in Bach .The almost idendical pattern finds itself in Dowland bar 70 in his Fantasia No 7 Emaj.I can understand the fashonable F# over E campanella which Weiss also uses in his works eg Passagaile D maj F# over G,both composers possibly influencing the other,but what tickels me is how did Dowland have an influence on Bach,no referance to plagerism implied to Bach on my part,but interesting as far as influences rub off due to custom and exposure almost like lanquages influencing each other .Wonders nerver cease .

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