Handel. Preludes, Air, and Lesson...

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I was complete off the mark with this. The only excuse I can make is that I analyzed the ending before playing the piece.

V4/2 i6/3is a kind of motif in this music. When it gets to the chord in question (circled red) I does sound like a V4/2 with the expectation of resolving to I6/3 in Bb major. But it deceptively resolves to G minor with a D7 inserted before the G minor. It's a tricky way of getting to the subdominant (a deceptive progression in the relative major) before the final ending in D minor.

If we used RNA...

| F: I | Bb: V4/2 | V7/vi vi D: V4/2 i6/3 i5/3 | i6/4 V7 | i |

My original post...

In the bar with the upper voices circled in red, the total collection of tones is F A C Eb. But functionally the chord doesn't move like a dominant chord. It's not V4/3 of a Bb chord.

I analyzed it as a iv6 to G minor with the chord 5th omitted. In which case the upper voices hold A and C from the previous bar through to the next bar. The F natural moves up a half step...

III | iv6/iv | V7/iv iv V4/2 i6 i5/3 | i6/4 V7 | i

Basically the inner voices move contrapuntally in half steps: E Eb D and F F# G.

The functional harmony is clear. I think this is just a wonky question of terminology: should I call those circled voices pedal tones?

Pedal seems a bad, misleading choice. Normally the pedal tone is the defining harmonic tone! When we have a dominant pedal, the harmony is clearly dominant and whatever tones the other voices move through are decorative to the dominant.

If a pedal is a held harmonic tone, then this Handel example doesn't quite fit that description. The tones F and A are held, but I'm saying they are non-chord tones. Being held the tones are also like the first stages of a suspension, but they don't resolve as a suspension.

I recognize how the music is functioning. It's essentially contrapuntal movement. The tendency tones move as expected. I'm only wondering about a label. If there is a historical term or perhaps a German term, I would especially like to know.

I also don't want to take the cop-out attitude of just saying it's just counterpoint, no harmony involved. This is homophonic music.

  • How is F-A-C-Eb iv6 of G minor? It's clearly got an added F, which means it's some sort of exotic ivAdd11Add6 at the very least.
    – Dekkadeci
    May 24, 2019 at 16:25
  • 2
    @Dekkadeci Michael is saying that the F and A are pedal tones, and thus this chord is really just E♭ C with the G missing; hence the iv6 in G.
    – Richard
    May 24, 2019 at 16:46
  • @Dekkadeci, I'm saying the F and A in the circled part are non-chord tones. They are held while the other voices move to the true harmonic tones. The resemblance to F7 is a coincidence. May 24, 2019 at 17:49
  • @Dekkadeci, I revised my post. I really messed up trying to analyze before playing. May 28, 2019 at 14:58

2 Answers 2


I might be in the minority here, but I think this is just a part of early tonal practice: writing a chord that our ears expect to resolve a particular way, but earlier composers resolved it "incorrectly" while still resolving all of the tendency tones.

I see this in Corelli relatively frequently. Imagine a V65 chord that resolves to scale-degree 1 in the bass, but this chord of resolution is actually its own 65 chord. In doing so, the leading tone resolves correctly to 1 and the chordal seventh of the V65 resolves correctly down to 3. (I'm blanking on a specific example right now, but I'll come back to this later today and try to find one.)

It's a similar situation here: the E♭ is the main tendency tone, and it resolves "as expected" down to D. The A doesn't yet resolve, but notice that it does move up to B♭ (like it's "supposed to") by the following chord.

In other words, I think this is more an outgrowth of contrapuntal procedure than of Roman numerals resolving as expected. Keep in mind, too, that Roman numerals were not something in Handel's toolbox, even if he would have understood their basis and theoretic underpinnings.

  • I revised my post. I really messed up this one! But your answer still explains it: tendency tones move as expect, but the chords are unexpected. I think it's a kind of deceptive progression. May 26, 2019 at 15:36

This is basically a modulation from the relative major F back to D minor.

The progression after the "F7" chord is

V-of-iv, iv, V7, i, V7, i in D minor, i.e.

D7 Gm A7 D A7 D

I wouldn't describe the chord in the second bar as "F7" and go looking for a non-standard way for a dominant 7th chord to resolve. It's just an F major chord with a passing note in the bass - which happens to be Eb.

These block chords are just a shorthand meaning "improvise something similar to the previous written-out bar". The performer can make as much, or as little, of the Eb as he/she feels inclined.

Note that the progression F D7 Gm is just the modern "gear shift modulation" to get to a key a tone or a semitone higher - i.e. don't get all cute and clever about modulating, just play V7 I in the new key and your are done! 18th century recitatives are full of such unprepared jumps to new keys.

Of course if turns out that G minor isn't the final destination of the F D7 Gm progression - but music (like film and theatre) is an art form that necessarily progresses in time, so we don't know that G minor isn't the end point of F D7 Gm until we hear what comes after it.

Arguably, the Eb passing note is a deliberate destabilizing influence, so that the F D7 Gm progression leaves some doubt as to where it is ultimately heading.


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