Chapter 2 Rencesvals (1946)

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Table 2.2 Rencesvals I, exposition: row levels








First Row Area



PA0 1-3


pno rh


PA0 4-e

Pe 7-e


pno lh


Pe 0-5

Pe6 RM0







Second Row Area


P5 0-3

pno rh



PA4 0-5 RA4 e-6


pno lh


RA9 e-6


There is another bit of evidence that suggests that Dallapiccola intended to construct a structural gradient between row levels zero and four. It has already been shown that M moves from level zero to level four between mm.1-11. It must be more than coincidence that, if one includes the incomplete statements, six out of nine presentations of PA in the second row area (mm.13-16) are also at level four. However, without the tonal allusion that brings PA4 into the ambit of RM4, this would have been no more than a ‘plan on paper’ owing to the very different natures of the two rows.

Example 2.7 is one reading of the linear structure of the exposition and, after the barline, the beginning of the development. Take note of the voice leading structure of the module M in m.1, F#-A, B-G#, Bb-G. It will be expanded to the level of the entire movement and also appear in other short and mid-range contexts. (Recall that beams and slurs are associational, not prolongational.)

Ex. 2.7 Rencesvals I: exposition, linear structure

The motion G-F# is the foundation of mm.1-16. In m.1, Chords 1 and 2 of M0 are heard as upbeats to chord 3. However, the G in m.3-4 is given a higher ranking than the Bb in m.1 because the unveiled pure G minor triad in m.4 emphasizes the G.

The G triad is reiterated in m.8 with octaves between the piano and soprano. Then in m.10, the G returns in the bass of Chord 3. F# is clearly the most important bass note of m.11-12 as a result of its duration, vocal-piano doubling and tonal allusiveness. In Wilson’s model, these pitches are initiating and goal tones.

The high A in mm.11-12 is important because it is the last tone in the highest voice. The most important tones in first row area reading up from the bass are G-D; the cadence at the end of the transition is represented by the vertical F#-C#-A. (The reader is cautioned that this does not mean that the first row area prolongs a G minor triad. The graph is purely linear; the harmonies cannot be assimilated to a tonal context.)

Dotted lines in the detailed graph on top show that the F#-A of the last chord recalls the F#-A of the first chord. Up until m.11, the F# is subsidiary to the G. At that point, the listener becomes aware that the F# brackets the exposition. The reversal of chord order in RM0 in mm.10-11, which cadences on chord 1 creates an association between M0 in m.1 and RM0 in mm.10-11 in which chord 1 (with its F#), as the first chord of M0 and the last chord of RM0, becomes the most important chord, participating as it does in a departure and return. Heard this way, the first row area and transition project the first element (F#-A) of the modular frame of M0, (F#-A), (B-G#), (Bb-G), which will become the longest- range associative structure of the first movement.

The high A is the overriding upper tone of the second row area beginning m.13, an interpretation consistent with hearing that area as an extension of the cadential harmony at the end of the transition in m.12. It makes sense if one identifies the G# as the most important upper voice in the development section beginning in m.17, as it begins and ends the section in the upper voice of the piano part. (See discussion on pp. 43-44.) The A is heard moving down an octave into an inner voice in mm. 14-16 and connecting to the G# a minor ninth below in m.17. The A-G-F# of mm.13-16 are therefore subservient to the A-G# motion, m.12-m.17. The voice ending on the A in mm. 14-15 supports this interpretation. (See Ex. 2.6, p.35) The Bb-F# in m.14 are interpreted as associated to the F#-A# of mm.11-12, thus supporting the idea that the ‘second row area’ shares F# as its most important tone.

In the development, the piano accompaniment explores other row levels with a much higher rate of turnover just as a classical development intensifies the opposition of the second key area by moving through more remote keys at a faster rate of harmonic change. Whereas in the exposition, the ‘tonic’ row level (either M0, P0 or RM0) is present for the first 10½ measures and the contrasting row level, 4, dominates the next 5½ measures, the first phrase of the development, Me, M3, RM7, cycles through interval 4, in a manner analogous to a sonata form development that cycles through major third related keys.

The text of the exposition narrates the actions of the French whereas the development is exclusively devoted to the invasion and armament of the pagans. Thus, the French are associated with row level stability, the pagans with instability.

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