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Trio Sonata in D, Op. 3, No. 2: movement IV by Arcangelo Corelli Analysis


An Italian violinist and composer, Corelli published his collection of 12 trio sonatas including NAM 15 (this piece I'm analysing) in 1689. He was very much influenced by the development of instrumental music in the late baroque period of 1600-1750. Below is a complete analysis of Trio Sonata in D, Op. 3, No. 2: movement IV. Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you.

  • The piece is is in binary form. This is where there are two sections of just AB.
  • The same mood is kept throughout the piece: lively and energetic.
  • It is in the style of a gigue. This is reflected by the fast tempo and compound time signature of 6/8. Baroque composers often used the style of a gigue to conclude a multi-movement composition such as a trio sonata.
  • The Violone, Organ is the basso continuo which the Violone is an early version of the double bass.
  • The string writing is idiomatic (traditional). This means that each part is conceived in terms of the instrument of which it was written.
  • Corelli doesn't use either extremes for the Violin's range.
  • The piece starts in D major  and has a lively rhythm. 
  • The piece begins like a fugue due to the subject in the first two bars. There is a fugue answer in bars 3-4 because its a replica of the subject a perfect 4th lower.
  • The opening to the piece is the subject theme and has the use of quavers and semiquavers. The Violin parts contain rhythmic variety.
  • The piece has a subject with a subject answer. There is not a second answer.
  • Bar 2 features the start of the 'real answer'. It is an exact copy of the subject theme transposed down a perfect 4th.
  • The subject theme reappears at bar 6 in the basso continuo. The number in the Violone and Organ score is a figured bass where the harpsichordist would improvise the chords from the figured bass in the right hand.
  • There is the use of imitative entries at bar 11 where the subject theme is introduced to each part a bar later. This is know as stretto entries where the subject theme come in one at a time and overlaps.
  • Most of the material for this piece comes from the opening two bars.
  • There is the use of sustaining notes at bar 16-19 which is the tonic pedal of A major.
  • Section A finishes with a perfect cadence on a tonic A major pedal.
  • The repeats of sections are decorated with ornaments.
  • Section B starts at bar 20.
  • Section B starts in a new key: A major.
  • Bar 22 modulates back to D major.
  • The right hand organ of bars 24-26 improvises chords to fill in texture (creating a polarised texture). There is a big gap between the high pitch and low pitch instruments which is a musical feature of lots of baroque music.
  • The two violins at bar 24 often cross over each other. 
  • Syncopation occurs at bar 26 in the Violin 1 part because of the tie on F sharp. The key in bar 26 changes to B minor: the relative minor of D major.
  • The syncopation in bar 27 provides a hemiola (makes the music sound like it is in another time signature being 3/4).
  • The key changes again to E minor at bar 29.
  • There is a polarised texture at bar 30-31.
  • The key modulates back to A major at bar 32.
  • The polarised texture appears again at bar 33. From the fact the '(f)' is in brackets make clear the composer didn't write it. Instead, it's been add on.
  • Bar 34 has the key touching onto G major.
  • The key moves back to D major at bar 36.
  • The piece finishes on a perfect cadence on the tonic of D.

Summary

  • Texture - Polarised and polyphonic/contrapuntal (two or more independent melodic lines). At the start, the texture is monophonic. Texture is widely spaces. It could also be seen to be a three-part imitative counterpoint.
  • Structure - Binary form (AB) with repeats of each section. The repeats add decorated ornaments to them.
  • Harmony - The piece uses a diatonic (stays within the notes of the scale) harmony with cadences to clarify the binary structure. There are moments of dissonance through carefully prepared suspensions (bar 10) and double suspensions (bar 29-30) which are one or more unstressed notes before the start of a bar.
  • Dynamics - Terraced.
  • Melody - Simple motifs are made through a rising sequence with passing notes, inversions (bar 5) and an anacrusis (starting in bar 32).
  • Rhythm - The Violin parts have rhythmic variations. Bar 26 has a cross rhythm (syncopation) due to the tie of F sharp. There is a hemiola making the bar sound in 3/4.

Tonality

Section A

  • Bar 1 - D major
  • Bar 9 - A major

Section B

  • Bar 20 - A major
  • Bar 22 - B minor
  • Bar 29 - E minor
  • Bar 32 - A major
  • Bar 34 - G major
  • Bar 36-End - D major
Be sure to check out other pieces I have analysed on Ask Will Online.

About Will Green

A student in England studying Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Will created Ask Will Online back in 2010 to help students revise and bloggers make money. You can follow AskWillOnline via @AskWillOnline.

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