[Smt-talk] Final Plagal Cadence and a Summary of Wondeful Features in the Schumann Song

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Sun Dec 15 20:13:03 PST 2013

Dear Colleagues,

The most important feature of Schumann's Der Einsiedler (No. 3 of Drei Gesänge, Op. 83) is its final plagal cadence - not a post-cadential "Amen" but a true plagal cadence marking the end of the genuine double period, whose first 15-measure period ends with a PAC. Notice that the final cadence of the piece (IPC) is not necessarily more conclusive than the interior but is conclusive enough to finish the musical idea in a convincing manner. 

To summarize the great features of this song:

1. A true neighboring 6/4 in m. 4 and m. 19.
2. Aeolian mode between mm. 1-5 and mm 16-19 (considering both melodic contour and harmony).
3. Leaping tonic 6/4 in m. 9 and m. 24 - more likely an anticipation of the true tonic over a dominant bass.
4. Final Plagal Cadence.
5. The Form is a genuine double period - not just a four-phrase period but two real periods which complement each other, but neither make up a binary form (because the material is the same) nor a repeated period (because the final cadences are different).
6. The Final Cadence (IPC) is not necessarily more conclusive than the interior but the overall musical thought is harmonically closed and finished in a convincing manner.

I would be curious to know how many books of theory contain information on at least two of the features listed above, linking them to the common practice period? I know No. 4 is mentioned in passing in some older books including Kostka/Payne/Almen. In this latter book there is an example of a beautiful final plagal cadence by Dvorjak. Everything else seems to fall into obscurity and/or its existence has not been registered at all. 

This is a serious appeal to reconsider the parameters of the so-called common practice period which began sometime before Baroque and is still ongoing in some genres. Isolating the Classical Era and building inflexible rules out of it which seemingly cut the bridges to its surrounding periods is quite a suspicious activity to me - one that may inflict a permanent damage to the thorough understanding of fundamental terms such as cadence, period, harmonic function, and more.

Thank you for your attention.


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list