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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mozart, Neapolitan Style

The chord analysis of the first 12 bars of the second movement of Mozart's Piano Concert in A Major, K. 488 is as follows (with primarily two or three chords to each measure):

m. 1: i, i
m. 2: iv43, V65
m. 3: i, i6, ii diminished 6
m. 4: i64
m. 5: VI6, ii7
m. 6: III, i
m. 7: IV, V, IV65
m. 8: i, VI
m. 9: N6
m. 10: N6
m. 11: i64
m. 12: i

At first glance, it appears that this segment of the piano concerto should be divided into three segments. This, however, is difficult to do. There are several questions that arise when deciding how it should be divided. First of all, where are the cadences and what kind of cadences are they? The first cadence seemingly occurs between the end of measure 3 and the beginning of measure 4. The type of this cadence, however, is hard to determine. What kind of cadence occurs from a ii diminished 6 to a i 64? Perhaps this is just a predominant function that leads us to the cadential 64. It is difficult to know what to call this, however, and therefore this could be interpreted as not the true end of a phrase. The next phrase would seemingly begin at measure 5 and continue to the end of measure 8. This is a logical grouping, because the melody in measure 5 is a transposition of measure 1. There also arise questions here when the rhythm of measure 5 differs from the rhythm of measure 1. The cadence type at the end of this phrase is also troubling, seeing as it is from a IV65 to a i--this is perhaps another predominant-tonic function that cannot be labeled and therefore could be analyzed differently. The third section begins at measure 9, with a repeated transposition of the motives in measures 1 and 5. This goes on with variation to the end of measure 12, the conclusion of the excerpt. The cadence here is more clear-cut: measures 9 and 10 contain Neapolitan 6ths which correctly resolve to a cadential 64, and therefore the cadence is clear. It is certainly difficult to determine those sections, but I would call them A, A prime, and A double prime. Perhaps when looking at the movement as a larger entity, one could simply call this the A section without needing to divide it into subsets.

It is difficult to know whether one should call all of these phrases parallel or contrasting. Because they all begin with the same motivic material, one would be inclined to call them parallel. However, the rest of each phrase is completely different from the others, therefore leading one to believe that they are contrasting. The second phrase key area and cadence are difficult to determine because there are so many accidentals. How is one to determine which notes are non-chordal and which notes belong to the chord? There are a couple of ambiguous roman numerals. In measure 6, the first chord is difficult to determine because of the B#. However, I looked at this as a C natural and analyzed it as a III chord. Perhaps there are other ways to analyze this. The i chord at the beginning of measure 8 is also ambiguous because there are a couple of B's. I looked at those B's as non-chord tones and analyzed it as a i chord.

These complex harmonies require a certain attention to performance--which notes should the performer emphasize? In my opinion, one of the most important embellishing notes occurs in measure 6, with the B# that leads up to the C. This is part of the surprising III chord and should be emphasized by the performer. There are also various neighboring and passing chromatic tones in measure 7 (A#, E#) that are unique and should be emphasized, creating a feeling a flow for the listener. From measures 8-10 the G natural should certainly be brought out, seeing as it is the note that creates the unique Neapolitan 6th. In sum, the harmonic nuances of this piece create a beautiful atmosphere that is capable of making even heartless killer Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" weep.


Tiffypoo said...


He's gonna shoot me with an airgun!!!
I'm so scared right now!

Scott said...

m. 4: i64 - V (Half cadence)
m. 5: VI6 - viiø7/III
m. 7: IV65 - V65
m. 11: i64 - V7

m. 8 could be an imperfect authentic cadence: V65 - i, or deceptive because of the VI, depending on where you hear (and perform) the arrival.

Second phrase flirts with A major. The B# is an accented lower neighbor to the C#, but it doesn't resolve until the chord changes. That tricky Mozart! The B at measure 8 is also an embellishing tone, an accented passing tone. The question is whether the A# is also passing, or is a Picardy third.

Think of more nuance to your performance ideas, how much to bring out each note, especially compared to other notes that are being emphasized.