Thursday, December 15, 2016

Giuliani Op. 61, Grand Overture--a great big single-movement sonata form with everything where it's expected to be

Since others have discussed Giuliani's Op. 15 well enough elsewhere we'll go for the later sonata forms.

Thus, Op. 61.

This is a single-movement sonata form and it opens with an A minor introduction that leads laconically to a lively exposition theme in A major. Don't let the initially chromatic and regressive harmonies fool you.  Yes, there's a chord that could be interpreted as a secondary leading tone triad on E sharp (an enharmonic respelling of a B diminished chord) that leads to F sharp minor in first inversion because that's what's there.  That harmonic/melodic sequence is sequenced into another diminished triad with an enharmonically respelled secondary leading tone, and this chord leads to E major in first inversion.  We get another sequence of this that arrives at D major but we'll hear soon enough that this is the subdominant of our key.  We're still in Part 1 of Theme 1 and if you have doubts that we're in A major the strong cadential movement that gets us into Part 2 (labeled in blue) makes it clear this is a sonata form that is starting in A major.  Thanks to the long A minor introduction Giuliani can open his exposition with such a frisky and harmonically unstable theme that doesn't settle into articulating its actual tonic chord for eight measures because there have been more than a dozen measures of A minor to prepare the way.  (after the break, as usual)

If anything Theme 1 needs the stolidly A major Part 2 to reinforce the tonic because Part 1 was constantly evading an arrival at the tonic along the way to setting up a half cadence.  It might be useful to keep this sonata as a case study of how there can be a practical contrast between the textbook prescription that you start on the tonic in your first theme and the reality that you could open with a theme that is a bit elusive and quirky before it affirms your home key and that you can offset this early thematic instability with a strong introduction that lets a listener know what key we're going to be in. 

The twitchy block chords with chromatically embellished harmonies in Part 1 of Theme 1 are embellishments of a simple linear movement in the melody, from the sixth scale degree through to the fourth scale degree.

F# E D C# forms the arrival points for the secondary leading tone chords and we'll see that this descending tetrachord pattern becomes the basis for Part 2 of Theme 1 in its wind up to a two measure half cadence that sets up a repetition of Part 2.  Given how unstable Part 1 was it's not surprising Giuliani sought to stabilize the key as firmly as possible by repeating Part 2 in its entirety and the instability of Part 1 still gives us secondary leading tone chords that outline the motif that is the thematic core of even part 2.

A small detail of interest is that while Theme 1 in Parts 1 and 2 feature descending tetrachord patterns with diatonic descent through fourths, the introduction and the modulating transition feature rising tetrachords with chromatic embellishment through thirds. An advantage in taking this approach in a modulating transition, of course, is that you can get on the chromaticism bus where ever you like and get off where ever you like.  Depending on what key you want to get to the chromaticism can be adjusted accordingly.  Giuliani's going to go for the dominant key and get there fairly quickly.

Now in Theme 1 the falling tetrachords had a goal of hammering away at the tonic or embellishing it in Part 2.  With the modulating transition having gotten us into E major we're in what I'll call Group 2 because in contrast to Theme 1 and the transition, Group 2 has two multi-part themes that stay in one key.

Group 2, Theme 1 (aka Theme 2) is more florid passage work in scales and uses sequential development of this scale-work to basically outline an E major triad be moving on to present this kind of decorated triadic pattern on the dominant of the new key.  That's Part 1 of Theme 2.
Part 2 is in the flourish of triplets of sixteenth notes that blaze through much of the rest of the exposition on page 3.  The melody is hidden within the uppermost notes in the first half of this section, and in the second half the melodic interest shifts to the itchy chromatic runs on the bass strings.

Perhaps the simplest way to explain what's going on here is with recourse to a later 19th century and early 20th century musical style.  The kinds of cadential closing theme Giuliani is working with here is melodically not that different from the kind of affirming and assertive repeating cadence patterns we see in the initial strains of a ragtime such as "Maple Leaf Rag" or "The Entertainer".  The frenetic triplets and ornate passage work can make it easy for someone to imagine that what we're seeing and hearing here ISN'T ragtime but I would submit that the conceptual and textural boundaries between early 19th century guitar sonata themes and late 19th/early 20th century ragtimes for piano are very, very permeable.

There's a closing theme for Group 2 that can be thought of as Group 2, Theme 2 or as Theme 3 or as a closing theme.  It's fairly short but it's distinct enough from everything that came before it's marked out with red and it doesn't end until Giuliani gets us to C major and the start of the development. If we bracket off the introduction we see Giuliani gives us a Theme 1 and a Theme 2 that are characterized by what may be described as abb phrase structures. 

One of many crucial elements in sonata forms is establishing a basis for thematic differentiation and here Giuliani has markedly contrasting openings for his Group 1 and Group 2 material in the descending tetrachord and the chromatically embellished rising lines with starting points that outline the notes of the tonic and dominant triads.  Part 2 of Theme 2 can bring back the snaking chromatic melodic work in Part 2 because the triadic articulation is so strong in Part 1 of Theme 1 in the second group.  The contrast between the a and b materials in Theme 1 and Theme 2 allow intra-thematic points of contrast, which are able to be further emphasized by Theme 1 and Theme 2 sharing an abb phrasing pattern. 

Now obviously that's a very pedantic point about similarity and contrast between, within and across themes but it's worth noting because where any number of guitar sonatas have failed to become memorable or successful sonatas lays in the failure to do this sort of thing.  You have to find ways to present your themes so that they are clearly marked out and memorable.  Giuliani was generally pretty good about this.  Some other guitarist composers like Diabelli and Molino were not quite so successful.  Now, let's get to the development.

The development opens with what can be thought of as a new development theme but that "could" be proposed as being derived from Part 2 of Theme 1 from Group 1.  The reason for this is that the rhythmic profile of this development theme resembles the rhythmic pattern of the aforementioned group, even though melodically everything gets flattened out into a single tone for measures at a time. It can be too easy in analysis of sonatas to forget that we're looking at melodies that can be subjected to significant intervallic change and embellishment without making fundamental alterations to the core rhythmic/melodic profile.  That said I don't plan to belabor all the developmental processes in this particular sonata form.  A good deal of the material is drawn from Theme 1 and the transition. 

The recapitulation begins in the middle of page 5. The themes come back in the order in which they appear and in the tonic key of A major.  There's not a ton that needs to be said about the recapitulation in this case because we've already discussed the themes at some length.  That all the themes come back is worth mentioning because when we get to Giuliani's Op. 150 we'll discover a sonata in which he has his first theme in his first structural group that never comes back in the recapitulation.  Guitarist composers of the early 19th century did this quite a bit, actually and the habit of recapitulating only what may be thought of as Group 2 material merits some explanation in other contexts but for the time being we've discussed this Giuliani piece thoroughly enough. 

Compared to the sonata forms from Molitor and Matiegka we examined earlier this week Giuliani's sonata is far more "textbook".  Everything that showed up in the exposition comes back more or less as we would expect it to in the recapitulation.  Giuliani's sonata forms don't always do this conventional recapitulation process, though.  Op. 150 will demonstrate that Giuliani could compose a giant sonata form with an incomplete recapitulation that only brought back Group II materials, too.  As Charles Rossen put it in his book Sonata Forms, it could be considered acceptable for anything in the non-tonic key of the exposition to come back in the recapitulation with no Theme 1 material, and still "count".  We've been exploring details as to what thematic and developmental processes tend to prevail in these kinds of truncated/incomplete recapitulations in solo guitar sonatas this week and we'll turn to Op. 150 next.

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