Aug 31, 2014

The "Hemiola" (1st Suite: Sarabande)


1st Suite  in G major  BWV 1007



Bar 11, 2nd beat: Most editions show the trill above the 8th note (b), but in the manuscripts of Kellner and Anna Magdalena, it is above the 16th note (a).

Here, we see a Hemiola (3 beats of half note in the 2 bars), so I think it is better the trill on the 16th note than on the 8th note.


  1. I welcome anyone who tries to rethink the Bach suites thoroughly, as appears to be your goal. I've not read a lot of your stuff, but started off with the first suite, sarabande. I believe your conclusion about bar 10-11 to be false. I think your error is caused by a lack of knowledge of turn of the 17th/18th century german music theory. Here is my analysis of bar 10-12:

    Bar 10: 1st 8th is g major, the 2nd 8th is g 3/6. second beat is a 2/4#/6-chord on a, this chord remains the tonal space until the 2nd beat of bar 11, where the chord resolves correctly in a 3/6 chord on g. The trill on the b thus serves as an embellished suspension. The a and f# on the 4th and 5th 8th beat of the bar respectively, are what was known as the Accentus descendens/remittens (Walther), non-chord notes, or if you will, passing notes placed on the strong part of the beat instead of the weak part of the beat. On the 6th 8th beat of the bar the harmony is a 5/6-chord on a, leading the bass upward as it must in bar 12 on the beat: B with a 6/4 suspension on the first 8th. This resolves on the second beat of this bar to e minor. No hemiola, and the trill is an embellished c-to-b suspension on the second beat of bar 11.

    The existance of the hemiola the way we know it is disputed as a theoretical term in the early 18th century and before. There exists a proportio hemiolia in the 16th century, but that had to do with the speed/tempo a work was supposed to be performed at. Some argue that unless set as a Noema (a usually short homophonic part within a polyphonic whole, that forms rather a contrast, but doesn't have to do with the rythm itself, much more with rules of counterpoint), there exists no hemiola, and definitely no specific name for two 3/4th bars turned into one large 3/2 bar, which is what a hemiola does. I cannot give you my personal opinion on this as I have not personally looked for evidence of the contrary (but do find hemiolas in 17th and 18th century music frequently..), but fact is that there are a miriad of (mostly forgotten) musictheoretical terms from the time, but Hemiola is not one I have encountered.

    I'm sorry to have to suggest to you that you should first familiarise yourself with music theory as bachs contemporaries and fellow countrymen understood it, before you make assertions that mud the troubled waters the bach suites are even more. And read what Ruth Tatlow wrote on the bach suites and her well researched take on the magical bar numbers. Very enlighting, in my opinion!

    1. I replied to this comment bellow.