[Smt-talk] Subdominant

Nicholas Baragwanath nick at baragwanath.com
Tue May 15 06:21:56 PDT 2012

Dear Giorgio, Ildar, and others interested in the subdominant,

just to add to the mix, I thought it might be worthwhile to point
out that nineteenth-century Neapolitan textbooks describe the
bass progression I-IV-V-I  as "La prima lezione di contrappunto".
They provide pages of examples showing how students would realise
this bass at the keyboard in an astonishing variety of ways. It
was also called the "cadenza de' tuoni naturali" because it was
understood to contain the three fundamentals of the scale.
Tartini called it the "cadenza mista" or mixed cadence, because
it seemed to him to mix plagal and perfect.

Unless nineteenth-century maestros invented this "first lesson of
counterpoint", which seems unlikely, it must have belonged to
earlier practices. It suggests that the pre-dominant function of
IV was instilled in Italian musicians from an early age.

Nick Baragwanath
University of Nottingham
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