The chaconne was a catalyst in the development of cadential structure.
"The term ground identifies a composition written on a ground bass; that is, a melodic phrase of a few bars (usually four) which is repeated over and over to form the bass line of a composition whose upper parts are altered with the successive repetitions.  The ground bass (basso ostinato, "obstinate bass") was an important structural device in seventeenth-century composition, since it enabled the composer to achieve coherence in works of some length which were not dancelike or fugal in character.  The forms of Passacaglia and Chaconne employ the ground bass in combination with variation techniques, and sometimes transfer the bass melody to an upper part.    [The] descending chromatic type [is] often found in ground basses ."  (p. 159, Masterpieces of Music Before 1750, Carl Parrish and John F. Ohl, editors, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1951, emphasis added)
The example given (pp. 160-161), a Ground for Harpsichord by Henry Purcell, uses the melodic and harmonic aspects of the chaconne, but not the rhythm.  The rhythmic aspect, often present in grounds, variation forms and sarabands, played little part in developing cadential structure.  The melodic aspect and especially the harmonic aspect played, in my opinion, a central role in the development of cadential structure during the seventeenth century, and continued to perform central functions in symphonic composition into the early twentieth century.

The Chaconne: Toward Cadential Structure
Next - In the Music of Bach
The Chaconne
Toward Cadential

Lester Allyson Knibbs, Ph.D.


The Chaconne ---

Cadential Structure

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