Phrases

For a historical period which characterized itself with even phrases and balanced form, Mozart is surprisingly irregular with the smaller levels phrase structure in this piece, though tightly organized in the largest scope. It is certainly no coincidence that the meter, the sub-phrases and the phrases are mostly grouped in terms of three. At the smallest level, the music operates in three-measure sub-phrases, doubled to create six-measure phrases. While the first two phrases are both regular (and nearly identical in the piano), the third Transitional phrase is an uneven five-measure phrase. The harmonic movement of each of these phrases creates phrase structure that seems to do away with the notion of antecedent and consequent phrases:

Phrase mm. no. bars harmony key sub-phases
Phrase one mm. 1-6 6 (I---V) G 3-3
Phrase two mm. 7-12 6 (I---V) G 3-3
Phrase three mm. 13-17 5 (I---V/V) G 3-2

Without a cadence to each of these phrases or of the period as a whole, the music is propelled forward by in a series of antecedent-like phrases. The Second Theme also begins with a five-measure phrase, is answered by an extended six-measure phrase, and concludes with a six-measure Codetta. The harmony of these phrases (now in the dominant), too, operate in such a way that the antecedent/consequent relationship is not a normal one:

Phrase mm. no. bars harmony key sub-phases
Phrase four mm. 18-22 5 (I---I) D 3-2
Phrase five mm. 23-28 6 (I---viio/V) D 4-2
Phrase six mm. 29-34 6 (V---I) D 3-3

While the first two phrases complement each other as if to be antecedent and consequent, they are propelled forward by the absence of cadence, until the second period of this Exposition finally has a resting place with its first Perfect Authentic Cadence (PAC) of the piece, over a pedal-D. The contemporary composer would say that the Exposition has a palindromic shape to it, separated into two even halves: 6-6-5; 5-6-6. Though a seemingly modern technique, it is difficult to imagine Mozart as oblivious to this organization.

The unstable nature of the Development in terms of key is reflected in the uneven phrases that follow. The sub-phrases change into groups of two at the start of the section which are doubled to make the first four-measure phrase. The second phrase of this section begins similarly but extends the second sub-phrase to create what at first sounds like a five-measure phrase in the new key-center of E minor; in only one measure (m. 44), this key-center is thwarted by a sudden median-related modulation to C major, effectively making this second phrase one measure longer. The third phrase of the section is played over six measures with two-measure sub-phrases, moving toward the dominant of the home key. The last phrase of the Development surprises the listener with the sudden shift into G minor, totaling seven bars of three sub-phrases of two, two, and three. Even the end of this period is without clear cadence, instead, crawling up from the dominant to a return of the opening material in the next phrases. The phrase structure of the Development can be represented thus:

The unstable nature of the Development in terms of key is reflected in the uneven phrases that follow. The sub-phrases change into groups of two at the start of the section which are doubled to make the first four-measure phrase. The second phrase of this section begins similarly but extends the second sub-phrase to create what at first sounds like a five-measure phrase in the new key-center of E minor; in only one measure (m. 44), this key-center is thwarted by a sudden median-related modulation to C major, effectively making this second phrase one measure longer. The third phrase of the section is played over six measures with two-measure sub-phrases, moving toward the dominant of the home key. The last phrase of the Development surprises the listener with the sudden shift into G minor, totaling seven bars of three sub-phrases of two, two, and three. Even the end of this period is without clear cadence, instead, crawling up from the dominant to a return of the opening material in the next phrases. The phrase structure of the Development can be represented thus:

Phrase mm. no. bars harmony key sub-phases
Phrase one mm. 35-38 4 (I---V) D 2-2
Phrase two mm. 39-44 6 (below) D-Em-C 2-3-1
Sub-phrase one (2) (I---V/ii) D  
Sub-phrase two (3) (i---i) Em  
Sub-phrase three (1) (iii---V) C  
Phrase three mm. 45-50 6 (I-vi-V/V) C 2-2-2
Phrase four mm. 51-57 7 (i-V) g 2-2-3

The overall structure of these four phrases, while irregular in bar-length, can be seen as being based on even subdivisions (2), and an overall even scheme of phrases (4) and keys (4).

This evenness is in sharp contrast to the three-based sub-phrases of the Recapitulation, which, of course, is nearly identical in phrase length to that of the Exposition. The crucial phrase omitted is what can be ambiguously defined either the Introduction, or the antecedent phrase which prepared the second phrase of the Exposition. The main reason for this omission surely is that to repeat the Exposition material verbatim would be to leave out the violin at the start of the Recapitulation, and this Mozart smartly chooses not to do, for it would lessen the return of the home key. The only other large difference is that of harmony, which sets the second period of the Recapitulation rooted in the tonic. It can be laid out here:

Phrase mm. no. bars harmony sub-phases
Phrase one mm. 58-63 6 (I---V) 3-3
Phrase two mm. 64-68 5 (I---V) 3-2
Phrase three mm. 69-73 5 ((I---I) 3-2
Phrase four mm. 74-79 6 (I---viio/V) 4-2
Phrase five mm. 80-85 6 (V---I) 3-3

The large-scale unevenness of the phrases in the Recapitulation (6-5-5-6-6) makes the last phrase of the period, the Codetta, feel more like a final closing statement, further fortifying the return to the tonic. At the largest view of the phrase structures, the Exposition can be seen as having an evenly divided six-phrase form, while the second binary system, that of the Development-Recapitulation, is grouped into four and five for a total of nine. Though perhaps, purely abstract, the contemporary composer would say that what holds both the binary forms together, is that both are still divisible by three. This plays into the large-scale form, in that, while the Sonata-Allegro form is really a ternary form in the largest sense (ABA), it is also a binary form in terms of repeats (A-A; BA-BA). This duality of being both based on three and based on two is at play in the phrase structure at the largest and minute level.

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