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Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano. D.

821 Franz Schubert


The only considerable piece written for the brief-life instrument named arpeggione and built around 1823 by Johann Georg Stauffer is this Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano composed by Franz Schubert in 1824. The arpeggione itself was similar to the ancient bass viol (viola da gamba): a bowed instrument with six strings invented by the aforementioned guitar luthier and which had a very short history (its life lasted about a decade). Despite the composition date of this sonata it was not premiered until the 1870s 1, and since then it has be performed mainly by cello, viola and other arrangements such as double bass, flute or guitar. As we have analyzed a viola version we will refer more often to viola although the work had been composed for arpeggione. This piece was composed by Schubert in his last years, when he was already suffering from the disease which would eventually cause his death four years later. We can observe on this piece the two fundamental aspects which define Schubert's style: the inheritance of the sonata form and other patterns of classical organization, and the introduction of a romantic style based on a music much freer to express emotions and drama. The larger structure of the work is a clear cut example of sonata form with the following structure:

m. 1 m. 22 m. 31 m. 40 m. 53 m. 74

EXPOSITION

1st Theme P1 A minor Group P2 Transition 2nd Theme S1 Group S2 C Major

DEVELOPMENT

F Major D minor F Major F minor A minor 1st Theme P1 A minor Group P2 A minor E minor Transition
nd

m. 124 RECAPITULATION m. 136 m. 149 m. 157 m. 170 m. 188 CODA

A minor

2 Theme S1 A Major Group S2 A minor

1 G. HAYES, E. FONTANA.: Arpeggione, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001)

The exposition begins with the appearance of the Primary Theme 2 in the piano without the viola. This theme starts defining the key by a Perfect Authentic Cadence at the very first measures3, and the upper part presents the first motive of this theme, named x, with an escape tone. The characteristics that identify this motive as unique are the long notes used, the intervallic of two steps in ascending and descending direction and its legato articulation. So that, the shape of Motive x is this one:

Immediately after this cadence, three ascending eighth notes connect Motive x with another appearance of the same motive. These three eighth notes are Motive y, which is identified by being ascending (regardless of its intervals), legato and offbeat:

After a Plagal Cadence with the same Motive x, at measure 5 Motive y is treated contrapuntally, being imitated in several voices and even changing its intervallic setting. After that, at measure 7, the development of this motive is abruptly interrupted by an unusual chord: the Dominant of the Neapolitan that resolves to its Tonic, and was preceded by it as well. This tonicization of the Neapolitan is responsible for the unusual length of the phrase: it was supposed to have 8 measures, but it has 9 due to this appearance of the Neapolitan as a momentary Tonic. This phrase ends with a narrowing of the harmonic rhythm (one chord per quarter note), letting see an interesting measure 8: with a homophonic texture only disturbed by a grupetto it displays a Cadential four-six chord, then two neighbour tones which bring about a German sixth, again the Cadential four-six which leads to Dominant seventh chord and finally it resolves to Tonic offbeat after an appoggiatura of all the chord. Following this initial phrase when the Primary Theme occurs for the first time, it begins again in the viola, accompanied by an Alberti bass in the piano, which only reinforces a few fragments of the theme such as Motive y at measure 11. Regarding to the viola's melody, the first subphrase is exactly the same as it was at the previous phrase, and after that some variations are included in it. For example the last note of measure 13, which is out of the chord of tonic, and the last beat of measure 14, where an ornamental variation occurs. Although there is a subtle appearance of the Neapolitan as a passing tone at measure 16, the region of tonicization of this chord is going to happen after the cadence with the unresolved leadingtone. This time this tonicization lasts three whole measures, and a noteworthy variation takes place in the right hand of the piano: the previous off-beat and ascending Motive y is now onbeat and descending, and continues being imitated contrapuntally at the viola and the upper voice of the piano, using both motives: original and varied. At measure 22, at the same time that the second phrase of the Primary Theme ends, it starts a
2 A on the score. 3 Harmonic analysis detailed on the score. See the Appendix for any doubts with regard to the symbols utilized.

variation of the Theme that we have named Primary Theme 2 (P2)4. This variation can be observed in every one of the layers which form the music: the accompaniment has changed its Alberti bass texture into a texture of on-beat bass plus off-beat chord, and its harmonic rhythm has been narrowed as well. The melody of the viola has been changed motivically: Motive x has derived into Motive x', consisting of a variation of the former rhythm and articulation but keeping its intervals. Two measures later Motive x' is modified as well, by means of replacing two eighth notes by four sixteenth notes. This phrase can be divided into four segments: the two first segments are very similar, because they are two groups of two measures with the same harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment with subtle modifications of Motive x' in the viola. Then there is a subphrase whose aim is defining the key and serve as a prolonged cadence. It can be divided in two: the first Dominant-Tonic progression (m. 26), and the second Subdominant-Tonic progression to finish, after the viola's ascent with a dynamic descent (m. 29). This way the Primary Theme Section ends with five measures of Perfect Authentic Cadence and Plagal Cadence just before the modulation that is going to take place at the following measures. The exposition's transition starts at measure 31. The first two measures define the new tonal area of C Major, which is going to be the main key of the Secondary Theme Group. This is absolutely standard regarding the classical sonata form, which usually has a modulation to the Dominant if the main key is Major, or to the Relative key if it is Minor. In fact, the modulation could had occurred before the transition begins, because as being relative keys, almost all of A minor and C Major chords can be used as common chords; for example Tonic in A minor at measure 31 can be the Sixth grade in C Major. After defining C Major, a succession of chords leading to the Dominant pedal point at measure 36 accompany to an early presentation of Motive z, which is going to be responsible for the melodic material of the following section. Once the pedal point has lasted enough, forming different chords by adding nonchord notes (such as F# and Eb at measure 36, which reminds of a Secondary diminished seventh chord), a decrescendo and ritardando prepares the mood for the Secondary Theme Group which is going to begin at measure 40. At the Secondary Theme, the accompaniment retakes the character of P2, but with a much more enlarged harmonic rhythm following the circle of fifths; and the melody displayed in the viola uses the Motive z (double neighbouring notes) for a measure and then the piano answers it with the same element in its upper part. At measure 44 it starts a fragment of definition of key, in which viola varies Motive z in a kind of descending design, and also in a mixture between motives x and z at measure 45. The following measures lead to a climax at measure 49 and then the melody changes into a more cadential design which ends in a Perfect Authentic Cadence at measure 53. At the same measure it starts the second part of the Secondary Theme (S2) 5. It begins with the same setting of S1 (melody based on Motive z in the viola plus on-beat and off-beat accompaniment in the piano) despite a minimum difference of articulation in the viola with respect to the first part of this theme. When the first four measures of the circle of fifths have ended, a definition of key should follow, but instead of that there is a fragment much longer which prepares the audience to hear the final cadence of the exposition. It seems to come promptly, especially because of the long Cadential four-six chord at measures 60 to 62, which lead to a Dominant seventh chord that causes an Interrupted Cadence in spite of the melodic resolution of the viola part. The following measures are always trying to fulfill the Authentic Cadence but it is interrupted again at measure 67 and it keeps gathering tension until it
4 A2 on the score. 5 B2 on the score.

finishes at measure 71. The exposition is closed with two more V-I which reinforce the definition of key. The development section6 begins at measure 74 in F Major. The Primary Theme is now in the upper voice of the piano in octaves, and the viola is added to the accompaniment, playing Motive y in pizzicato. Then, at measure 79, a chromatic modulation occurs and leads us to D minor. At this moment the viola has melodic material from the transition and the rhythmic pattern of the upper voice in the piano comes from the Primary Theme by diminution. After an appearance of the Neapolitan (m. 81), a Deceptive Cadence V-II (m. 83) and an omnibus texture (m. 84), this phrase ends with a Perfect Authentic Cadence at measure 87. Right there, it starts the same setting as in S1, but with the articulation of S2 in the viola. During four measures there are just I-V-I-V-I, but at measure 91 a circle of fifths occurs again imitating Motive z between viola and the left hand in a bass register. After that, a process of modulation begins (detailed on the score) and leads us to F Major at measure 97, with the same rhythmic diminution which took place at measure 79, and with the first cadence of this key starts again Motive z, at measure 101. After two measures of F Major and two of F minor a process of retransition begins: Motive z is being continued in the bass voice of the piano, and the harmonic development leads us to a Dominant pedal point which starts at measure 110 and goes on until measure 123. A different section can be observed from measure 115 to 123, because the character changes abruptly in order to link more smoothly with the following section. The recapitulation starts at measure 124 directly with the exposition of the theme by the viola. P1 and P2 are both fairly similar to the exposition, the only noteworthy difference is the modulation to E minor located at measure 140. The transition at measure 148 is very similar as well, it has some harmonic modifications because of its new purpose, not to modulate but to stay at the same key. It also has an inversion and retrogradation of the motives from measure 36 between measures 154 to 156. The Secondary Group Theme start at measure 157 in A Major instead of minor, and there are no significant differences with the exposition through all this section. The movement ends with a Coda which starts at measure 188. It is very similar to P2 but by augmentation of every motive. At measure 196 the same process of measure 26 takes place, with the difference of the stop of the harmonic rhythm at measure 200 and the final Perfect Authentic Cadence. If we take again an overview of this movement we can find out that here perfectly coexist samples of Classical and Romantic styles, such as the absolute coherence and standard of the sonata form and the braver harmonic experimentation. It also has great contrasts of character, perfect coherence given by the few motives employed, but a lot of interest because of the many ways of varying them. We could say that this is absolutely the best work written for arpeggione in the brief development of the instrument at Nineteenth Century, and also that if this Sonata hadn't existed, it wouldn't have been such a growing interest in recovering this instrument as there is nowadays.

6 Desarrollo on the score.