[Smt-talk] II6/4

Eytan Agmon agmonz at 012.net.il
Tue Sep 3 10:58:54 PDT 2013

Thanks, Olli. Two short comments.

"The C#-major Fugue (WTC I) illustrates this lucidly. As already shown by
Schenker, the high points of the subject compose a ^3–^2–^1 mini- Urlinie,
in which the ^2 is further elaborated by ^2–^1–^7 (m. 2). Now in certain
permutations of the triple invertible counterpoint, the ^2 is supported by a
II6/4, while the upper-voice pattern remains the same; see mm. 19–21 (in E#
minor), mm. 25–27 (G# major) and 42–44 (home key C# major). (In the first
two cases, there is actually no II6/5, but the passing I6/4 leads directly
to the "VII6/4".) Here it seems clear that the ^1 in the passing "I6/4" is
not a note that "should have" arrived a quarter earlier, but a passing note
between ^2 and ^7."

In the C# major Fugue (Book I), m. 43, reading II6/4 is quite plausible. The
unusual chord can indeed be explained as a result of invertible
counterpoint, though Bach is of course careful not to stress the fourth
above the bass. (One may argue, nonetheless, that the chord here and
elsewhere is IV, not II, in some inversion. For example, in m. 6 the E-sharp
in the top voice and the G-sharp in the bass are not of equal status as
suspensions. In particular, the E-sharp is a chordal seventh, the chord thus
being IV7.)
The C major Fugue (Book II), m. 40, strikes me as rather different. Here it
is very difficult not to hear a C-major harmony on the downbeat, despite the
suspended B that resolves to A in the inner voice. Indeed, I don't believe
we ever hear an A minor chord (or equivalent) in a similar situation in the
fugue. See for example mm. 6 and 52.
"Consider mm. 5–7 in Var. I. I do not know how you (Eytan and others) would
tend to read this passage, but there are certainly several factors that
support perceiving a prolongation of II in these measures (II –"I"–II6).
These factors include hypermeter, the slight tonicization of II, and unified
design (although the new right-hand pattern already begins in m. 4). If we
read a prolongation of II here, the higher ^3–^2(^1^7)–^1 line is also
there. Now if we agree that a prolongation of II may underlie this passage
(Var. 1), this might make it a bit more plausible to apply a related model
to the corresponding passage of subsequent variations despite the failure of
the II (II6/4) to materialize as such."

But then, you might as well hear II prolonged already in the theme!
I think there is something genuinely naïve about this piece. I prefer a
simpler reading.

Eytan Agmon
Bar-Ilan University 

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list