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Compound Themes

Brief on Compound themes analysis

Date : 30/12/2017


Author Information

Uploaded by : Juan
Uploaded on : 30/12/2017
Subject : Piano

Compound ThemesSize16 measures (standard)

TypesThere are two types of Compound Themes

Compound PeriodThe compound antecedent can be built up of:



Compound Basic Idea

+ Continuation

The compound antecedent:

generally ends in HC

It can t end in "consequent" as it would bring the b.i. back to early in the theme.

Presentation + ContinuationThe reinstatement of the b.i. at the beginning of the presentation is perceived as a repeat , the return of the proper b.i. happens in the consequent.

The consequent can modify the second phrase as continuation=>cadential

2. Compound Basic Idea + ContinuationThe compound basic idea acquires the same hierarchy as the basic idea in an 8m period.

3. Antecedent + ContinuationHarmonically: HC+HC+PAC

Antecedent-Continuation could feature a convenient cadential distribution like:

HC -> IAC -> HC ->PAC (rarely encountered in the repertoire)

The compound antecedent doesn`t end in IAC (as it needs an HC by definition).

Instead, we tend to find

HC->HC->HC->PAC (quite commonly encountered in the repertoire)

This requires an HC=>PAC reinterpretation to realign the cadential strengths.

Reinterpreted HC: Though rare in the 8m simple period, it is quite common in the 16m compound period.


The compound consequent can repeat the antecedent or end in cadential. In any case, it ends in PAC. The compound consequent can also end in continuation=>cadential


2. Compound SentenceCompound presentation + Continuation

The concept of compound basic idea makes perfect sense within this framing.

The propelling/expressive qualities of this theme type make it perfectly suitable for opening large genres like the symphony and the concerto.

Compound presentationAn open-ended initiating unit is immediately repeated in the context of tonic prolongational harmonies. Cadences are not allowed

The c.b.i. is most often repeated in the dominant (statement- response). It is very rarely literally repeated and almost never sequentially repeated.

Antecedent-consequent or statement-response: Without cadence, there is no antecedent-consequent, therefore we label this phrase as an open-ended, statement-response, compound presentation, even in the presence of dominant harmony in the statement-response.

ContinuationIt fuses with the cadential function to end the theme in any of the three possible cadences.

Its fragmentation tends to go for 2m units, at least, to start with.

Compressed continuation

It is common to see compressed continuations 4m long. It is common to see ECP supporting continuation=>cadential phrases. In these cases, the composer generally repeats the continuation or adds a postcadential section as to restore the proportions of the compound theme (16m)

Standing on the dominantIf the sentence ends in a "HC", the composer will enhance the effect by adding a standing on the dominant. This postcadential material reinforces the dynamic energy associated with the instability of ending in the dominant.

Consequent Function (reinterpreted as continuation)It is fundamental for the compound consequent to feature the return of the basic idea. It sometimes happens that the basic idea seems to have returned earlier but this is normally compensated with the fact that the b.i. returns in the tonic when in the consequent., while the b.i. Must have been repeated in a random harmony beforehand.

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