Rondos I, III and V, Opus 3 by Jane Savage:
Motive Development and the Musical Narrative

by Nadine Burke



Savage focuses on the rondo thematic material in a different way in Rondo I. Savage limits the use of the opening motive to the rondo theme. Instead, she transforms other smaller identifiable musical ideas from the rondo theme that are more like gestures to develop her musical narrative. A gesture in this instance involves only two pitches with possibly a stepwise rhythmic movement. A dialogue develops between these elements and the new elements introduced in each section. The result is a re-interpretation of a musical idea using various mixtures of these gestures in each of the distinct episodic periods (See Chart IV: Rondo I, Opus 3 by Jane Savage).


This graceful and charming piece written in G major and a 2/4 time signature initiates the rondo theme with a melodic motive in the first measure beginning with an annacrusis. Particularly important is the melodic motive that emphasizes the pitch e - a dotted eighth note combined with a sixteenth note (followed by a melodic extension) - which leads to the melodic focal point in the rondo theme at measure 6.

Figure 12: measures 6-7 37

The basic gesture from this motive is repeated at cadential points throughout the rondo: in the first episode (B) at measure 16; in the second episode (C) at measure 32; and in the third episode (D) at measure 56.

Figure 13: measures 15-16


Figure 14: measures 31-32


Figure 15: measures 55-56

All the cadences function as perfect authentic cadences in the dominant and as half cadences in the tonic at the same time, enabling an immediate return to the rondo theme. More importantly, this gesture, as part of the cadential motive at the end of the episodes, unites the musical narrative through reiteration.


Other motives are developed in this musical narrative besides the "cadence motive." Particular gestures are in the harmonic line at measure 7 - a falling sixteenth note pattern, accompanied by a third interval going down and an octave fall in the harmonic line. These gestures are grouped together to create motives at the perfect authentic cadence of the rondo theme: (see figure 12). In a dominant key, these same two harmonic gestures lead to the dotted eighth note in the perfect authentic cadence in the dominant of the first episode (B) at measures 15-16 (see figure 13). The third intervals and octave falls are used in various transformations to build a harmonic foundation for the third episode (C). Similar to measure 7, falling sixteenth notes and an octave rise prepare for the cadential conclusion in measure 31 (see figure 14). These same gestures are also used throughout the coda in combination with new motives, emphasizing the cadential nature of the coda in measures 64-70.

Figure 16: measures 64-72

In conclusion, Savage examines the different gestures from the cadential motive in minute detail and develops them in the first (B) and second (C) episodes. This process is integral to the character of this rondo in the telling of the musical narrative.


Savage returns to an elaborate examination of the dotted eighth note motive in the third episode (D), orchestrating an interesting discourse around this melodic cadential motive. This episode begins with two repeated pitches in sixteenth notes followed by the dotted eighth note gesture at measures 40 to 41. The repeated pitches are actually a transformation of the dotted quarter note motive, especially when they return in the key in the pitch of e in measure 42. Other cadential preparation gestures join in at measures 41 to 42, the same ones found at the end of third episode (C) in measure 32 (see figure 14). The order of the pitches in the repeated pitch gesture is varied in the second beat of the next measure in measure 43.

Figure 17: measures 40-43

This leads to a new repeated motive that is supported by a broken chord pattern in the harmony line built on the third interval gesture in measures 44 to 46. The altered two-pitch gesture returns, alternating with the sixteenth note patterns in measures 47 to 49.

Figure 18: measures 47-49

The two-pitch gesture disappears, leaving the sixteenth note patterns to sequence in measures 50 to 52. Two gestures from the opening rondo theme motive at measure 1 combine in measures 53 to 55. Finally the third episode (D) concludes with a cadential conclusion in measures 55 to 56, which is very similar to the rondo theme.

Figure 19: measures 1-2


Figure 20: measures 53-55

Savage has created a variation of the rondo theme in the third episode (D). Besides changing the key, she manipulates different aspects of the rondo theme cadence to develop a different rendition. As a result she changes the direction of the musical narrative.


Schenkerian analysis reveals that Savage explores the cadence of the rondo theme. Middleground analysis of the rondo theme reveals a high-level motive in measures 1 to 4 that varies in measures 5 to 8 in G Major: 5-4-3-2-1. Neighbour notes (e-f-g) decorate the repeated descending pattern in measure 6.

Figure 21: measures 4-8

Savage explores the cadence of the rondo theme in the first episode, first in the tonic key and then transformed in the dominant key of D major.

Figure 22: measures 8-16

Savage returns to the home key of G major in a reiteration of the rondo theme as a linear progression in the second episode at measures 25 to 29.

Figure 23: measures 24-30

The linear progression for the rondo theme concludes the third episode in a reduced version in the dominant key of D major at measures 53 to 56.

Figure 24: measures 39-56

The neighbour notes originally heard in the consequent phrase of the rondo theme introduces the linear progression used in the coda; the extension reinforces the return to the tonic key of G major.

Figure 25: measures 64-72


In conclusion, motivic analysis on the compositional and the structural levels reveals layers of musical activity. On the surface level the melodic motive, based on the pitch "e", unites the episodes with repetition at the cadences and developed in the third episode. Meanwhile in the background, the linear progression derived from the original rondo-theme cadence repeats in varied forms in each of the episodes.

Next Section: A Passion for the Rondo Theme in Rondo V



Copyright 2001 by Nadine J-M. Burke