[Smt-talk] II6/4

Vasili Byros vasili.byros at aya.yale.edu
Mon Sep 2 16:18:53 PDT 2013

Dear Olli,

In response to your query about Mozart's variation...

The passage you cite in bars 5–7 is a cadential lick that Mozart and others use frequently. In this context, the tonic in bar 6 is not "apparent" but an integral part of the schema's cascading thirds in the bass (1–6–4).

When forming an authentic cadence, the formula's bass goes (1–)6–7–1–6–4–5–1. For a half cadence, (1–)6–7–1–6–4–#4–5. For an example of each, see the K466 concerto, first movement, bars 41–44 and 121–124, respectively (in D minor and F major).

The pattern is a species of what Italian musicians called a cadenza lunga (long cadence) in the eighteenth century (see e.g. Giorgio Sanguinetti's Art of Partimento, p. 109). This cadence, like other cadenze lunghe (of which there are many), is really a concatenation of two bass patterns: (do–)la–ti–do and do–la–fa–sol–do. See the first example in the attached PDF.

The middle tonic here is a cadential fulcrum, of sorts. In Schenkerian terms, your "apparent tonic" also occurs at the midpoint of a 5-line. In other words, the two patterns that make up the cadenza lunga also correspond to two third-progressions (G–E, E–C) that bisect the larger line in the top voice. (This 5-line is of course a central feature of the "Maman" theme.)

You may be onto something, however, regarding a suppressed ii chord in bar 5: not a ii6/4, but a ii9/3. This cadenza lunga often begins not with 6 in the bass but with 2, resulting in a partimento formula called the "down a third up a step" (and vice versa), 2–7–1–6–4–5–1 (usually preceded by 1 or #1). This formula is frequently harmonized with alternating 9/3 and 6/5 chords: see the second and third examples in the attached PDF as well as Sanguinetti, p. 150, Example 9.45d.

Examples of this pattern are ubiquitous in the literature.

Hope this helps...

All best wishes,


Vasili Byros
Assistant Professor, Music Theory and Cognition
Northwestern University
Bienen School of Music
711 Elgin Road
Evanston, IL 60208

On Sep 1, 2013, at 11:37 AM, Olli Väisälä wrote:

> 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 simultaneity.)
> 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 (^6^7^1^6^4).
> 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
> _______________________________________________
> Smt-talk mailing list
> Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
> http://lists.societymusictheory.org/listinfo.cgi/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20130902/1ff5917b/attachment-0008.htm>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: cadenza_lunga.pdf
Type: application/pdf
Size: 16192 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20130902/1ff5917b/attachment-0004.pdf>
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20130902/1ff5917b/attachment-0009.htm>

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list