[Smt-talk] II6/4

Eytan Agmon agmonz at 012.net.il
Mon Sep 2 06:03:08 PDT 2013

Dear Olli and List,

With regard to the Bach C-major Fugue (I haven't looked at the other Bach
examples), the usual progression would be of course IV6-I6/4(passing)-II6/5
(in terms of G major). It seems to me that in this case the "II6/4" is a
rather "accidental" result of an inner voice that descends from C to G (the
G "should have" arrived a quarter earlier).
With regard to the Mozart Variations, I can see Olli's point. Nevertheless,
I would be very reluctant to hear the IV6/5 and II6/5 as connected. The
progression sounds idiomatic, I believe, because it is composed of two very
idiomatic components: IV6/5-V6/5-I, and I-VI-II6/5.
It seems to me that in the Mozart there is an idea concerning the
subdominant function. We first hear it as a neighboring IV chord (plagal),
then as part of a subordinate functional progression IV6/5-(II in the
theme?)-V6/5-I, and finally, in the cadential progression II6/5-V-I.

Eytan Agmon
Bar-Ilan University

-----Original Message-----
From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org
[mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] On Behalf Of Olli
Sent: Sunday, September 01, 2013 7:37 PM
To: smt-talk smt
Subject: [Smt-talk] II6/4

Dear List,

Relating to the elusive and inexhaustible subject of consonant/ dissonant
6/4s, I would like to draw attention to a family of consonant II6/4s that
may not have received much attention in the literature.

It is well known that in three-voice counterpoint 6/4s sometimes function as
"temporary consonances" in a series of 6/5–6/4 suspensions. A simple example
is given by Bach's Fugue in C major from WTC II, mm. 40–41. In terms of
basses and FB numbers, the progression is:

E 6/5 6/4, D 6/5 6/4, C 6/5 6/4#

Since the progression heads locally towards G-major, it can be
retrospectively perceived as a prolongation of II, which spans from the
first 6/4 to the last 6/5; hence II6/4–6/5. The functional bass
(C) is that of the 6/5. The second 6/4 is a passing chord and the last 6/4#
(VII6/4) stands for V4/2.

This progression and its variants and elaborations are not uncommon in Bach.
Some additional examples:

– Fugue in C# Major from WTC I, mm. 25–26. Here the first suspension is
7/5–6/4, and the II6/5 is replaced by a direct motion towards the VII6/4.
– Sinfonia (Three-Voice Invention) in C Minor, mm. 23–25. Here we have three
7/5 suspensions: Ab 7/5 6/4, G 7/5 6/4, F 7/5 6.
– Fugue in G Major from WTC II, mm. 35–37.
– (A somewhat related usage without any chain of suspensions is when a 6/5
suspension is about to resolve to II6/4, but the bass simply falls a third
at the moment of resolution to enable a II6/3. For example of this, see the
Neapolitan in Fugue in Ab Major from WTC, fourth bar from end.)

Apart from surface occurrences of this voice leading model, I have
occasionally also found it useful to apply it to Schenkerian interpretation,
even when there is no explicit II6/4 present. (Even in some of the above
examples bass figuration prevents a literal 6/4

A case I am pondering right now occurs in Mozart's "Ah, vous dirai- je,
Maman" (= "Twinkle, twinkle, little star") Variations. In variations II,
III, and IV, there the following progressions occurs in mm. 5–7:

In terms of FB: A 6/5 B 6/5, C 9 A, F 6/5

In terms of "chordal analysis": IV6/5 V6/5, I9(-8) VI, II6/5.

Now in each of these variations the span from the "IV6/5" to the
II6/5 is bound together by unified design, which especially in variations
III and IV clearly contrasts with mm. 1–4. Since the "IV6/5" and II6/5 are
also hypermetrically stronger than the intervening "I", I strongly tend to
perceive the span framed by the "IV6/5" (m. 5) and II6/5 (m. 7) as
pre-dominant prolongation and the "I" (m. 6) as an apparent tonic. The best
way I can see for interpreting the "IV6/5" is as a suspension to II6/4,
which then fails to materialize as the bass moves. As in the Bach examples,
a chain of supsensions connects the "IV6/5" to the II6/5, but instead of a
stepwise bass line (^6^5^4) we have a detour through the apparent tonic

I would be happy to get any comments on (1) this and related uses of
II6/4 in general and (2) further relevant Mozart examples in particular. The
above progression starting from "IV6/5" sounds readily idiomatic, but, since
I am by no means a Mozart expert, no comparable examples pop into my mind
right now.

Olli Väisälä
Sibelius Academy
University of the Arts, Helsinki
ovaisala at siba.fi

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