Chapter 2 Rencesvals (1946)

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Ex. 2.1 Rencesvals I: global linear structure

In order to understand how the sonata form and linear organization work together, it will be useful to investigate the rather idiosyncratic twelve-tone structure from which they are built. It is important to keep in mind that Rencesvals was written during the 1940s, a period of Dallapiccola’s development in which tonality infiltrated by dodecaphony gave way to dodecaphony infiltrated by tonal elements. According to Hans Nathan, Dallapiccola composed the three characteristic chords of m.1 first and only later realized that he could derive a row from them.2 Here one observes Dallapiccola deriving a line from a harmonic progression, a procedure that is characteristic of 19th century tonal composition, and then manipulating both line and harmony according to twelve-tone principles. The chord progression is treated as a series with three elements. Because the series of three four-note chords nearly always appears as a unit, it will be designated the ‘M’ row in contradistinction to the ‘P’ row which is derived from it. Transposed to various pitch levels, the three-chord series becomes a harmonic module, hence the designation, ‘M’. Example 2.2 shows the three-chord progression of M0 in m.1. The three chords are labeled with the large Arabic numerals in bold italic. The smaller Arabic numerals next to the chord tones indicate the order position of the pitches relative to the row P0.

Ex. 2.2 M0
Example 2.3 below shows the row P0 derived from M0 in the register first presented by the vocal part in mm.6-11. The op numbers are shown above the pcs.

Ex. 2.3 P0
The first tetrachord of P0 corresponds to the soprano and alto voices of chords 1 and 2. The second tetrachord corresponds to chord 3, and the third tetrachord corresponds to the tenor and bass voices of chords 1 and 2.3 There is no necessity for future presentations of M to maintain that op configuration. That is the source of the difference between M and P; although P is initially derived from M, they go on to lead separate existences. In referring to row forms of M other than the prime form, the ‘M’ is retained to remind the reader of their special nature. For example, the retrograde of M is designated RM.

A little study reveals that the retrograde of M is its transposed inversion. Therefore, M produces only two row forms, M and RM. ‘IM’ will be heard as RM and RIM will be heard as M. In contrast, P produces all four distinct row forms. Yet, in the first movement, Dallapiccola deploys only the prime and retrograde of P, suggesting that he was thinking purely in terms of primes and their retrogrades for both P and M. The exclusive use of prime and retrograde forms is instrumental in the construction of this movement’s tonal analogue because, as was pointed out in the introduction, it is much easier to hear a prime and its retrograde with the same subscript, say P0 and R0, as projecting the same row level than it is to hear a prime and its inversion as doing so.

In addition to the transformationally-related P and M, there is a third, independent, secondary row, PA, which is completed by replicating a chromatic cell three times, beginning a minor third lower each time. Its forms are designated RA, IA and RIA.

(See the following page.)

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