Having just read Elaine’s post over at Musical Assumptions about the Trio section of the Minuet from Haydn’s A major Piano Sonata Hob. XVI:12, some things about the music grabbed my attention. Most notably, the seeming and subtle complexity Haydn generates from very simple materials. Here is the first half of the Trio:
The A-section of the Trio begins in A minor and modulates to C major. And while it’s tempting to do a functional analysis—just about everything fits nicely into common-practice harmony—this passage is more contrapuntal in nature.
First a rhythmic reduction, normalizing the syncopations and register:
Of interest in the first seven measures is the bass: It’s a lament bass (or, a chromatic lament bass to be exact), however when it arrives at scale degree 5 in m. 6, it isn’t supporting the dominant. Instead it’s the mediant in first inversion, which provides for a smooth pivot to C major. In m. 7 a patterned ascent begins: A 5–6 sequence between the bass and the middle voice, arriving at the new tonic (C) in m. 12. The modulation is confirmed in mm. 13-14 with a perfect-authentic cadence.
A further reduction of the outer voices reveals that the A-section is essentially 12 measures of successive 10ths, followed by a cadence:
These sorts of things are always a joy to discover, if for no other reason because they reinforce the notion that music is “always the same, but not in the same way” (semper idem sed non eodem modo). But that aphorism suggests something else too: Beneath every apparent complexity there is an elegant simplicity, and that somewhere between the two lies the spirit and essence of the composer.