An In-Depth Harmonic Analysis of Minuet in G (BWV Anh. 114)

Version: 1.0.0 (Oct 14, 2022)

Today, I want to offer an in-depth harmonic analysis of Christian Petzold’s famous first prelude in C, BWV Anh. 114, from Anna Magdalena’s notebook. Originally thought to be composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, later scholarship corrected the attribution and it is now confirmed to be one of the few extant works of Christian Petzold. There are many harmonic analyses available on YouTube but I would like to offer an analysis that is quite different, based on my study of Partimento and Counterpoint.

There will be no Roman Numerals, Chord Symbols, or Harmonic Function Theory (e.g. IV-V7-I, etc) used in this analysis. This analysis will instead focus on partimento, figured bass, counterpoint, and music schema theory.

As mentioned above, most analyses deal with roman numerals and chord symbols but I feel that in the 18th century they did not use these tools and some important information is missing. Dissonances are labeled in red and consonances in blue. Bass degrees are encircled and placed below the bass note. Let’s break down this famous piece and let’s see what we find out about it.

It’s not within the scope of this article to discuss the definition of a minuet but it was a type of courtly dance typically in 3/4 time that saw widespread use in the 17th and 18th century before dramatically falling out of use in the 19th century. This is evidenced by an quote shared in Professor Robert O. Gjerdingen’s Music in the Galant Style: (Amazon Affiliate link)

“The minuet, monsieur, is the queen of dances, and the dance of queens, do you understand? Since there is no longer any royalty, there is no longer any minuet.”

With that brief definition let us proceed with our analysis:

Bars 1-4

The piece is in the key of G with a time signature of 3/4. Bar 1 begins on a common 5/3 chord on the ① scale degree in the bass and the perfect consonance of a 5th in the upper voice. We see a recurring rhythmic pattern of crotchet followed by 4 quavers and in bar 1 we see the next 4 notes ascending from the lower G stepwise towards the D in the next bar.

The counterpoint is quite interesting in the first bar, regarding the 4 quavers. There are two consecutive 9ths ascending and the reason this works is that the first “A” note is a passing note followed by another passing note of the “B” which is an accented (on the strong beat) passing note moving towards “C”. This results in parallel thirds with the bass (G-B to A-C). The bass walks up from the ① to the ② scale degree on the 3rd beat, which is more of a passing note than an implied harmonic change of chord.

Bar 2 is straightforward with every note being a chord tone of a 6/3 chord on the ③ scale degree. This is exactly in line with the rule of the octave.

In bar 3, we see a repetition of the idea in the first bar on the ④ scale degree, and this time the counterpoint is simpler with every passing note on the appropriate weak beats of the bar.

Arriving at bar 4, which is very similar to bar 2, the melody hits the 6th of the standard 6/3 chord on the ③ scale degree three times with three crotchets.

There is no overt labeling of chords even though the melody often implies the typical chords one would find in the rule of the octave.

Bars 5-8

Moving onto bar 5, we see a modification of the opening rhythmic pattern into a descending variation. It starts first with a 3rd (C) over the ② scale degree (A) in the bass and then we see two consecutive accented passing notes D-C and B-A over an “A” bass (② scale degree).

In bar 6, the previous bar is repeated a step down over the ① scale degree.

Bar 7 is a quick stop on the ⑤ scale degree descending down to the ③ and then ① scale degree, with the melody exchanging with the bass (Bass: B to G, Melody: G to B). There is a passing note of a 7th in the melody on the 2nd half of the 2nd beat. This quick stop on the ① scale degree then progresses to a half cadence in the next bar, ending the phrase.

Bar 8 is a half cadence, where the music ends on a ⑤ scale degree. The bass drops an octave before rising through octave displacement up again to the 7th on C and steps downwards.

Bars 9-12

Moving onto bar 9, we return to the same theme used in bar 1 but this time the bass begins on the ③ scale degree. The “A” in the bass on the 3rd beat represents a passing note on the way to the ① scale degree. Much like bar 1, we see the passing note “A” in the upper voice, this time a 7th, moving to accented passing note B, over the “A” bass.

Bar 10 is similar to bar 3, except that the bass rises to B which is the 3rd of the 5/3 chord on the ① scale degree. Some have considered the “B” bass note to be the ③ scale degree in the key of G but it occurs on the weak beat of the bar and is more probably part of the inner harmony of the 5/3 chord on ①.

Bar 11 is a repeat of bar 4 and is completely the same.

Bar 12 is similar to bar 4 but now we have the bass moving in a florid manner. Instead of a change of harmony, it is better to think of the bass moving in terms of 2 consecutive sets of accented passing notes moving to their target notes, in this case the B on the 2nd half of the 2nd beat and the G on the 2nd half of the 3rd beat.

Bars 13-16

Bar 13, we have descended from ③ scale degree in the bass from the previous bar to now the ② scale degree. The bass descends to ⑦ on the weak 3rd beat of the bar to rise to ① in the next bar for a mild cadence. Melodically, we see more accented passing notes embellishing the overall movement in parallel 3rds.

In bar 14, the bass has ascended to the ① scale degree after the mild cadence and will rise again to ③ which will kick off the eventual ③④⑤① cadence of bars 15-16. We see more accented passing notes coloring the melodic line. The final 7th to 6th accented passing note sequence leads to a marks a change from a movement of parallel 3rds into parallel 6ths.

In bar 15, the bass movements from ④ to a compound cadence, which is two stages of ⑤ in the bass. In partimento it is common to give a 6th to a ④ scale degree when ascending to ⑤. The interval of a 6th on the first ⑤ would give the impression of a 6/4 chord in the 1st stage of the compound cadence before moving to a 5/3 chord on the 3rd beat of the bar in the 2nd stage of the compound cadence. There is an accented passing note on the 3rd beat giving a 4-3 sequence of intervals with the bass.

In the final bar 16, the piece ends on the perfect consonance of an 8th on the scale degree ① in the bass.

Bars 17-20

Now we begin the 2nd half of the piece, and it begins with a modulating prinner (la sol fa mi/④③②①) that terminates on the ⑤ scale degree in the key of D major, which 19th-century theorists would call the dominant key.

In Bar 17, it’s possible to view the piece in G on the ① scale degree, but we could also consider it the 1st stage of a modulating prinner as the ④ scale degree in D major. It would have been an even clearer indication of a modulation if there had been the interval of a 6th in the bar over the “G” bass but we just have a 3rds and an 8th on the strong beats.

Bar 18 is the 2nd stage of the modulating prinner with a ③ scale degree in the key of D major. The melody clearly outlines a 6/3 chord, in line with the rule of the octave.

In Bar 19, it is the 3rd stage of the modulating prinner on scale degree ② of D major. The G bass note on the 2nd weak beat of the bar represents a passing exchange with the upper voice (Bass: E to G, Melody: G to E) but there is no change in the harmony of the chord in the bar. It is still the ② scale degree of the key of D major.

Bar 20 sees the bass move to the ⑤ scale degree in D major. Prinners sometimes leap to the ⑤ scale degree before returning to the ① scale degree. The prinner terminates here into a half cadence and the C# on the first beat of the bar is a strong indication that the key has changed to the key of D from G. In many analyses, it is often bar 20 where the key change is noted.

Bars 21-24

Bar 21, is a continuation of the half cadence in D. We have still not seen the confirming cadence in the key of D necessary to confirm an actual key change. As the melody ascends from the 8th up to the 6th, there is another C# to show that we are out of G but we still need to bass to experience a proper cadence.

In bar 22, the bass moves from ⑥ to ① which isn’t a real cadence but it drops down to ⑦ before giving us a mild cadence back up to ① in the next bar, moving in parallel 3rds.

In bar 23, it begins on ① and moves in parallel 3rds to ③ and then ⑤, giving us a proper ⑤ to ① cadence in D at last in bar 24. The leading tone of D major, C#, rises to D in the next bar 24.

After the respite of the cadence in bar 24, the introduction of the prominent C natural on the 3rd beat of the bar is a signal that we may be returning back to G major.

Bars 25-28

In bar 25 we return back to key of G major on the ③ and we see a melodic motif repeated twice over the course of two bars, with the high D falling to G with a neighbor note. The predominant harmony of the bar is the 6/3 chord on ③, which is in line with the rule of the octave in G major, not a 5/3 chord on ⑥ in the key of D.

The motif repeats in bar 26, with the bass ascending up to ④ with a prominent C natural in the bass, leaving no doubt that we are out of D major. The predominant harmony in this bar is a 5/3 chord on the ④. We could look at this as an elongated first stage also of a prinner.

The prinner analysis could fit as the bass descends in bar 27 with the typical next ③②① stages in the bass in parallel thirds with the upper voice.

Bar 28 shows that we jump to the ⑤ scale degree on a half cadence that continues into the next bar.

Bars 29-32

What happens next is an exact repeat of bars 21 and 22 but in the key of G, reusing musical material to add to the cohesion of the return to the original key. There is a mild cadence at the end of bar 30 to the beginning of bar 31 with a ⑦ to ① in the bass followed by a drop to ③ and a simple cadence ⑤① to end the piece in bar 32.

There are many interesting aspects to this piece. Perhaps the most interesting to me is the repeated use of accented passing notes and the light 2-voice texture which nonetheless sounds full because of the movement of the melodic line.

Perhaps the aspect of this analysis that would be different to most others might be viewing the beginning of the 2nd section as already starting in D as part of a modulating prinner whereas most other analyses typically view the first instance of C# as the point of modulation.

Nikhil Hogan

I'm a graduate of Berklee College of Music (summa cum laude) and am the host of the Nikhil Hogan Show, a music interview podcast. I started Songbird Music Academy to promote Partimento, Italian Solfeggio, Counterpoint, Music Schema Theory, and Figured Bass.

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