Category Archives: eighteenth-century music theory

“Dual Tonicity in Antonio Soler’s Fandango” by B. Mitchell, paper presented at BrumMAC 2021

The paper “Dual Tonicity in Antonio Soler’s Fandango” by Barry Mitchell was presented at the University of Birmingham Music Analysis conference, July 2021.

The full conference programme can be downloaded here:

The paper is in the form of a PowerPoint presentation which can be downloaded here:

Antonio Soler (1729-1783)

This is the introduction to the paper.

Dual Tonicity in Soler’s Fandango

The piece I am going to discuss is Fandango by Spanish composer Antonio Soler (1729-1783).  It seems that this piece is pretty much impossible to date exactly, so I am going to assign it a date of c. 1760: it could be earlier and it could be later.  The Fandango is a keyboard piece and may have been intended for the piano, but it works well on the harpsichord and is often performed today on the harpsichord.  As a Fandango the piece is in three-four time and it lasts 461 bars, so it is quite a substantial piece, taking about 9-10 minutes to perform. 

The key is D minor, at least apparently: the question of the tonality of this piece is the focus of this paper. The edition used is the 1957 edition by Frederick Martin.  The sources for this edition, which are the only ones, are 4 manuscripts in different locations in Spain.  This has some relevance to the argument as because of the nature of this piece: specifically, there is considerable scope for the correction of what appear to be errors in the manuscripts.  However, I will argue that a greater understanding of what is going on in the piece mitigates the need to make any corrections.  The piece appears, at least on first acquaintance to not give an analyst of the tonal structure much to do: there are what appear to be little more than long swathes of D minor, with a few short excursions into nearly related keys. 

I will be looking at the form of the piece in more detail later on, but to outline the structure: the Fandango consists of a 24 bar introduction followed by 7 ritornellos and 6 episodes.  The ritornellos are based on a bass ostinato, so they have the character of a ground bass.  The structure uses quite normal baroque formal principles.

End of the introduction

The performance of the Fandango referenced in the paper is by Frederick Martin and can be viewed on YouTube.