So, I’m composing a Theme and Variations based off of the La Folia progression and I started really basic for the Theme so that I would have some more wiggle room for Variations. I’ve even considered possibly ending with a fugue for a knockout punch(I’ve heard of composers doing that in their Theme and Variations pieces, ending with a fugue). It isn't the first time I've done Theme and Variations, it isn't even the second or third time. It is however the first time I've done it based off of a chord progression. This is my theme as it is right now:

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And I've run into a bit of a conundrum. The Theme seems complete enough ending on the dominant as is, but as soon as I start doing rhythmic intensification(which is what my first few variations are going to be, and is very common for Variations 1-3 in a Theme and Variations piece(Variation 4 is usually where I see it break away from simple rhythmic intensification)), it seems as though that extra tonic harmony is necessary for completion. Yes, I'm aware that there are parallel fifths in between my D minor and C major chords, and I was told that depending on the style, this may or may not be an issue. Anyway, I can think of 3 things to do as far as this harmonic conundrum is concerned.

Option 1: End the Theme on D minor

This would mean me adding an extra bar to turn my 8 bar theme into a 9 bar theme. And I wonder if this would make it feel too complete. It's one thing making it feel complete enough, it's a totally different thing prematurely ending it.

Option 2: First and Second endings for Variations

I have repeats going on anyway, so I could have the first ending just end on the dominant like my theme does and the second ending end on the tonic with a bit of a melodic lead into the next variation if I want to make things sound as seamless as possible. Salieri does this if I recall correctly in his own 26 Variations on La Folia that I have been listening to, the first and second endings with a seamless lead into the next variation in the second ending or something along similar lines.

And while I don't know if I will quite reach 26 variations since my piece is for solo piano, I do think it will surpass my previous maximum of 9 variations for string quartet.

Option 3: End Variations on the Dominant anyway

This is my third option. Again, with the repeat, it feels somewhat more complete than if it just was played once and since the next variation would start on D minor(or D major if I decide to do a Majore variation), do I really need to end the Variations on the tonic? No. But for some reason, this feels like the wrong option, it feels too incomplete for me to just end the variations on the dominant, especially if I want to do like canon and fugue variations(which I have thought of doing both or at least a canon variation).

So what should I do to resolve this harmonic conundrum? Extend my theme by a bar to have it end on the tonic? Have a first and second ending for the variations? Or just end the variations on the dominant and deal with it? Perhaps a combination of ending on the dominant and the first and second endings?


Your third option is fine; ending on the dominant gives you a trivial segue into the next variation. You can change the rhythm though and use a half measure dominant and half measure tonic. There is no rule about keeping the same number of measures though. The website "La Folia, a Musical Cathedral" has lots of Folias and a good set of references.

You can correct the parallels by using inversions.


"Version 2" is how folia is typically played, so what you wrote seems like half of theme. Note hemiola in the second part of the theme, a very characteristic element.

This is of course your composition and it's up to you what choices you make, but I would assume the listeners may appreciate respect to the original form.

There were many folias written in variation form, so there is plenty of sources for inspiration.


I'll have to disagree with you about an A7 chord being a satisfactory completion! You HAVE written a 9-bar theme. But you're at liberty to omit the final bar (which would probably be a Dm chord in a stand-alone version of the theme) and dovetail straight into the next variation.

The fifths in the Dm-C progression might be excused. But I suggest you re-examine the octaves between bass and melody in bar 2.

  • I've heard people mention those octaves and I'm like "Why is it a problem? It's bound to happen when the bass is block chords and the basic melody is mostly chord tones with a few passing tones, that there will be octaves between melody and bass. And at least the octaves don't occur on the same beat, the D octave is on beat 1 and the C# octave is on beat 3."
    – Caters
    May 1 at 20:46
  • You can get away with breaking a lot of the rules of counterpoint when using block chords. But try to avoid consecutives between the lowest note and the melody.They do rather stick out! May 2 at 15:16
  • But again, why are you considering them consecutives? The intervals from bass to soprano are: octave, 9th, 10th, 10th, octave. It’s like saying parallel thirds are consecutives, it doesn’t make any sense to me, unless you are inverting at the tenth, which I’m not.
    – Caters
    May 2 at 17:36
  • From the end of bar 2 into bar 3 the intervals are octave, octave. C# to D. May 2 at 21:04
  • Oh, I thought you were talking about bar 1 to bar 2.
    – Caters
    May 2 at 21:06

There are a number of examples where the theme is played as a period, with alternate endings. If that is what you're after, the theme isn't complete, it's a harmonic change to your theme. Once that is set it shouldn't really be a matter of the variations needing extra harmony. The rest is essentially figuration of the chords. A very common thing to do, especially with ground basses like La Folia, is to gradually build up speed and complexity rhythmically.

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