Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Bach


I've read that Bach's BWV anh 114 has an IAC (imperfect authentic cadence) in measure four. I could not understand this although I studied cadences. Could you please explain?

Hello John, and thanks for being patient.

We're talking about the little Minuet in G from the Anna Magdelena Book that for generations of piano students was the first piece of Bach they learnt, thanks to Walter Carroll's "First Lessons in Bach".  (It turns out it was actually written by Christian Petzold.)  This one:

I say in my profile "I hadn't appreciated how differently music theory is taught [in America[ - not just terminology but a very different approach, especially when it comes to harmonic analysis". Although I knew authentic cadence (American) = perfect cadence (British), I hadn't the faintest idea what an imperfect authentic cadence was supposed to be so I looked up "cadence" on a couple of American websites including Wikipedia.  All I can say is, if this is what's being taught in American universities, it bears no resemblance to how composers of what's now apparently called the "common practice era" analysed harmony throughout Europe, nor how harmonic analysis is taught in Europe today.

It's easy enough to analyse the first eight bars of this little Minuet - the harmony's implied rather than stated as the left hand plays single notes rather than triads.  I VIIb / Ib / IV / Ib / II Vb / I Ib / V Ib Ia / V.  There's your first cadence at the end of the phrase - as you'd expect, it's imperfect and the dominant 7th in the LH quaver passage immediately leads us back to Ib.

There are four cadences; using British terminology they are: perfect (= V/V7 I), plagal (= IV I), interrupted (= V/V7 VI) and imperfect (= I/II/IV/VI V).  In order to qualify as a cadence it has to occur at the end of the phrase and *both chords must be in root position* - the only exception to the second rule is in the imperfect cadence, when the first chord only can be a 1st inversion.  The harmony in bars 3-4 is IV Ib, as we've seen (the F# in the RH is an unaccented passing note so not part of the harmony) therefore *it isn't a cadence*.

I've read through the Wikipedia article again and I've never read such a load of hogwash - it's difficult to know where to start.  Chords are always constructed from the bottom up, so whether it's SATB or LH single notes + RH triads, it's the bass line that determines the position of the chord - the voicing of the other three parts is irrelevant.  As the Roman numeral system refers to chords constructed from the scale (ie diatonic notes), all numerals are in upper case so that, for example, a plagal cadence is IV I in both major and minor keys.  If our home key is minor we know IV will be a minor chord.  If the 3rd of the chord is sharpened, as it will be if it's part of an ascending melodic minor scale, then you'd indicate it as IV+; ditto for a descending melodic minor scale (V-).

Anyway, to answer your question, there's no cadence there.  

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


57 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 42 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 45 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 20 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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