copyright © 2002 by Larry J Solomon
This short piece is an early work for piano by Brahms, and it is tonally abnormal. The title, apparently assigned by the composer, was "Sarabande in A Minor", but, even though it carries the signature for A minor, only the first part of the second half is analyzed here in A minor. This is due to the fact that the Sarabande starts clearly with the major key and has no hint of minor until measure 5. Although A is the tonal center, curiously the music ends with an A major chord as a half cadence in D major!
See: Formal Symbols and Nonharmonic tones
See: Chord Symbols
Formally, the Sarabande is very conventional, a Simple Symmetric Binary where each part is repeated, total: 16 + 16 = 32. The sections are eight measures apiece, each of which is composed of two 4-measure phrases. There is an agogic pause on the second beats of most measures, typical of a Sarabande. Nothing unusual here.
Harmonically, there are some interesting features. In the first part, Brahms uses viio7 instead of V and doesn't sound a V until the cadence in measure 8. The harmonies alternate between I and viio7. Measure 4 contains a VII borrowed from the minor, or measures 4-8 could be analyzed in A minor, with the use of a borrowed IV. Measures 9-13 are in A minor. This section uses a bVII, a Neapolitan-sixth (N6) and a secondary dominant, but is otherwise diatonic.
Four motives are used with various transformations: inversion, retrograde, and retrograde-inveresion, as well as interval expansion (<) and contraction (>). Motive 4 is used only in the second part.
Various nonharmonic notes are used, which are circled and labeled (except passing tones which are only circled). Although this a piano piece, it is written in four or five parts as if for voices, and indeed, it could be sung.
Music Analysis Program Sheet analysis by L Solomon, 2005
Full title of composition: Sarabande (A slow dance
in simple triple with agogic accent on second beat and cadencing on third beat;
binary form with regular four-bar phrases)
Composer's full name and dates: Johannes Brahms – 1833-1897
Date composed: c.1855
Historical Period: Romantic
Composer's nationality: German
|1. dynamics||notated, graduated, independent of texture|
|2. tempi||slow; L =68|
|3. meter||simple triple, constant, not pronounced|
|4. rhythm||syncopation on second beat (Sarabande rhythm), pattern repeated, values from to and triplet|
|5. texture||homophonic, constant, multi-voiced, voices paired in parallel thirds|
|6. medium/idioms||piano, not idiomatic|
|7. timbre||piano only, no timbre exploration, vocal model emulation|
|8. thematic structure||mostly diatonic, mixed parallel major/minor modes, smooth voice leading; one-measure phrases accrued in binary units as two-,and four-measure units|
|9. thematic development||use of variation and some repetition; inversion, retrogrades, and RI used, with interval expansion and contraction.|
|10. melodic/rhythmic cadences||formulated in four-bar cadences|
|11. harmony||tertian trichords and sevenths; secondary dominants and borrowed chords, one Neapolitan-sixth (m11)|
|12. harmonic cadences||Cadences on weak third beats. Half-cadence in m8 and at end in m16 (unusual). Unusual cadences in m4 (bVII I) on weak beat, m8 V on weak beat, m13 (VI i) at the end of 5-measure extended sentence|
|13. harmonic motion||secondary chords and unusual progressions from bVII to I|
|14. tonality||A major/minor|
|15. pitch range||D2-G5, 3.5 octave medium range|
|16. Form||Simple symmetric binary with repeats: I to V (m1-8) and i to V (m9-16)|
|17. Text and Music||no text|