In 'Von den Stricken meiner Sünden' from the St. Johannes passion. Ignoring the strange B.C. realisation (why all the accidentals and intervals not matching the figuration?), I'm very confused about how exactly this modulation from D minor to G minor happens.

Our first two bars seem to go | III i | iv bII viio7, then into this chain of diminished chords, where the second beat of the third bar could be, I think, interpreted a secondary dominant to G minor, being an F# diminished, but I can't really follow the whole progression here.

I'm interested in an analysis of the progression and how it leads to the key change and the thought process that lead to it, because I'm struggling to analyse the rest of the piece, too, with many interesting key changes.

bach aria

Of course, the harmony actually returns to F major right after this section, so the modulation is very temporary.

  • Which accidentals and intervals don't match the figuration? Everything looks fine to me.
    – phoog
    Feb 11, 2023 at 5:54
  • I'm confused about the sparsness in bar 3: (\6 nat) to 7 without a bass note and without changes, and the (4 2) having an Eb for some reason, when I would expect G 4 2 to give us G A C E. I'm sure there's conventions I'm not aware of.
    – Not Legato
    Feb 11, 2023 at 6:09
  • Hm, good point. I'll have a closer look.
    – phoog
    Feb 11, 2023 at 6:13

2 Answers 2



Bach wrote "horizontally" more so than "vertically". So when analyzing Bach, it's necessary to look at larger gestures, rather than attempting to label every apparent chord.

i6  |  iv  N6(=bII6)  viio42  |  V7/V/iv  V42/V/iv  |  v65/iv  iv  |


As a starting point, here is my own voice/piano reduction of the score:

Reduced score

As a next step, here is the same score with "ornamental" pitches (i.e., non-chord tones: passing tones, suspensions, etc.) marked in red.

Ornamental pitch markup

And then with ornamental pitches removed, the chords simplified (doubled pitches removed), reduced to two staves, with Roman numeral analysis added.

Simplified score with analysis

  • Brilliant. The B.C. is a bit tricky- other than that there's a C# in the voice, why does the 3rd beat of bar 2 have a C#? I read that as just "4 2". I'll have to study figured bass more.
    – Not Legato
    Feb 11, 2023 at 4:45
  • @NotLegato I'm unclear on whether you're asking about the continuo markings in the score in your post, or the analysis in mine.
    – Aaron
    Feb 11, 2023 at 4:47
  • In my post. I thought it was a '4 2' without a raised C, but there is that vertical line I couldn't understand. I also referenced another version of the score, and it clearly marked 'nat 4 2+', so I guess there's no issue with it.
    – Not Legato
    Feb 11, 2023 at 4:50
  • 1
    @NotLegato The vertical line next to the "2" is an alternative notation for raising the pitch. It's discussed on this site in What does a prime mean in figured bass?.
    – Aaron
    Feb 11, 2023 at 5:41
  • 1
    @NotLegato sharps are generally indicated in figured bass by adding a slash to the figure (except for the third of course). But in any event if there's a discrepancy in the accidentals between continuo figures and notes written in another part, the notes written in the other part are usually more likely to be correct. Figured bass is by nature an abbreviated system, so the absence of information is unlikely to be authoritative.
    – phoog
    Feb 11, 2023 at 6:04

Bach doesn't modulate to gm.

Eb is the Neapolitan 6th (the 1st inversion of the flattened ii degree.(Eb G Bb -> G Bb Eb) in dm.

F# (D7) is the leadtone of the secondary dominant to the iv degree.

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