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Analysis of the Sarabande from Bach's Lute Suite III BWV 995

I have been asked for an analysis of this movement from the Lute Suite (transcribed from a cello suite) as it has an enigmatic feel to it, a somewhat strange sound that becomes intelligible when analysed using the Modal Method. I cannot see any other analysis of this piece on Youtube, so if anyone does know of any, please let me know in the comments.

The Sarabande is only twenty bars long, the first half being only eight bars in length, but it has enough interesting changes in it to raise it above the standard short movements from the baroque era.

The scales used are: Major, Harmonic minor, Harmonic Major, Neapolitan minor, Melodic, Hungarian minor, Harmonic Major #4. Pretty standard fare, but it is the choice of bass notes throughout that makes this movement more ethereal.

Looking at the score below, the first bar introduces A Harmonic minor which then changes to A Harmonic Major in the second bar. This then returns to A Harmonic minor in bar 4.

Bar 5 then introduces A Neapolitan minor into the piece. Now, it could be argued that it is actually A Phrygian being played from F Major, but the effect of the G# is still in the listener's mind so the Neapolitan minor scale is still the correct choice in my opinion. This is confirmed in bar 6 with the B natural changing to A Harmonic minor once again and then the G natural takes us back to the relative Major of C .

The second half begins with a change back through the circle of fifths to F Major and then to the Harmonic minor on its relative minor D. Bar 13 changes back to F Major before the F# leads us into G Melodic. This sequence is then repeated by the alteration first to G Major and then the root is raised to get to A Melodic. The sense that we are now heading back to A minor is postponed though, not surprisingly with Bach, as the F natural is followed by D# in bar 15, which introduces A Hungarian minor, acting as a V of V.

Now, instead of reversing the sequence and heading back to the key of A minor, an unexpected change to E Harmonic Major occurs in bar 17 followed by a move back through the circle of fifths to A Harmonic Major and then the resolution back to the home key using A Harmonic minor once more. Simple but very effective.

For those who want to hear it being played, here is a link


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