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

by Nadine Burke



This particular rondo is a slow and lyrical work written in C major with a common time signature. Savage creates musical momentum by varying the pitch and articulations in each of the repetitions.33 This is not unusual. Variational techniques in the rondo theme were used by Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Douglass M.Green labels this type of rondo as a variation rondo.34 Fontaine indicates that variational rondos "reveal the versatility and value of the simple rondo design."35 Because of this focus on the rondo theme, Savage generally adheres to the standard format of a rondo: compare Chart II - Rondos and Their Conventional Form with Chart III - Rondo III, Opus 3 by Jane Savage). Even so, melodic and harmonic patterns from the rondo theme act as threads to tie these episodes and the coda together.


The developmental threads begin with motives first introduced in the rondo theme. The motive in the antecedent phrase in mm. 1 to 4 is varied in the consequent phrase in mm. 5 to 8. In particular, a broken chord pattern is used as the cadential preparation in the harmonic voice in mm. 3 and 7.

Figure 1: mm. 5-8 36

This broken chord pattern returns in the harmonic voice to launch the first episode (B) in mm. 9 to 10, supporting a new melodic motive (a dotted quarter note falling to an eighth note, followed by a grace note and two quarter notes on the same pitch).

Figure 2: mm. 9-10

This broken chord pattern also initiates the antecedent and consequent phrases in the second episode (C) in mm. 25 and 29 in combination with another new gesture - falling eighth notes with a skip. There is also a change in articulation between the repeating phrases that begin at mm. 25 and 29.

Figure 3: mm. 25-27

The broken chord pattern is also repeated in m. 27 accompanying another pattern borrowed from the rondo theme involving eighth notes, a grace note and a half note. This melodic pattern was originally used in the rondo cadences in mm. 4 and 8 to end the antecedent and consequent phrases. It returns at the end of the cadenza to conclude the third episode (D) in m. 56.

Figure 4: mm. 55-56


Another melodic gesture that is heard in the cadenza in mm. 55 to 56 is a broken chord pattern, originally introduced in the antecedent and consequent phrases in mm. 1 and 5. It returns in the cadence in the third episode at mm. 55 to 56 (figure 4) and in the coda, elongated as part of the cadence ending the antecedent and consequent phrases in mm. 68 and 71.

Figure 5: mm. 65-68

As seen through these various examples, Savage uses broken chord patterns as a way to connect the musical narrative, sometimes using them as part of the melody, and other times as a reinforcement in the harmony line.


The focus of the development of the music narrative begins with the development of the first episode because it prepares for the changes in later episodes. The new melodic motive with a dotted quarter note, an eighth note and a grace note leading to two quarter notes that was originally supported by a broken chord pattern originally from the rondo theme is now accompanied by a new chordal pattern in m. 11. It is followed by a triplet gesture combined with quarter notes in m. 12; these two melodic gestures are sequenced in mm. 13 to 14. The chordal pattern continues throughout the sequence. This sequence leads to the half cadence in m. 16, using chords in mm. 14-15 (ii - i6/4 - bIIx6) that hint at c minor with A-flat notes, which prepares for the harmonic change to c minor in the second episode (C) and the G-sharp suspended note in the third episode in m. 46.

Figure 6: mm. 11-16


The narrative evolves with the introduction of specific melodic and harmonic patterns that are developed in the first and second episodes (B and C) and return in the second and third episodes (C and D) . The broken chord pattern, originally repeated four times in the first episode (B) from mm. 11 to 14 in the harmony line, is reiterated once in the consequent phrase in the second episode (C) in m. 30, also in the harmony line.

Figure 7: mm. 28-30

This broken chord pattern returns in the third episode (D) to provide support for the development of new material in mm. 46 to 54. The combination of the melodic motive with the broken chord pattern originally heard in mm. 12 and 14 in the first episode (in figure 6), returns in the third episode, alternating with new material in mm. 41 to 44; new material extends the phrase in mm. 45 to 46. Another melodic gesture (a mixture of eight notes, sixteenth notes and a dotted quarter note), this time from the second episode in m. 28 (as found in figure 7), returns to alternate with the rondo theme gestures in the cadenza at the end of the third episode (D) in m. 56. The development of these different parts creates evolving motives that become part of the ongoing musical narrative.

Figure 8: mm. 41-56


Savage continues the music narrative by artistically composing the third episode (D) and the coda to function as typical rondo sections and development sections at the same time. They appear to have a different characteristic from the rondo theme because of the key changes; at the same time they incorporate specific previously developed motives and gestures. The melodic and harmonic motives in combination with the harmonic structure reinforces this characteristic. For instance, after returning to the original key in the rondo theme in A2 from mm. 33 to 40, Savage subtly changes key using melodic and harmonic motives from the first episode (B) alternating with new motives as discussed earlier. Harmonically, secondary dominants move from C major to g minor in mm. 41 to 45 (see figure 8). Returning to C major, she creates tension by suspending a G-sharp over a F chord in m. 46. Although the G-sharp is not in the chord, we have been prepared for the sound because of the minor chord changes in the first episode (B) in mm. 12 to 14 (see figure 6). From m. 47 to m. 54, she varies a musical idea in an imitative sequential manner that enables her to move from g minor to f minor (see figure 8). The melodic line is new; the harmonic line is built on broken chords based on motives from the first episode. As such, the musical narrative digresses into different ideas through different keys. The concluding half cadence uses a melodic motive from the rondo theme and a new harmonic motive as it resolves into a half cadence in m. 55 (see figure 8). This cadence leads to a cadenza. The cadenza, built on G7 with motives from the rondo theme (A) and the second episode (C), reinforces the return to the home key of C major in m. 56 (see figure 8). The return to the home key is reiterated in the coda. Two sequences are built within the coda at mm. 68 and 71; they incorporate an augmented version of the rondo thematic gesture within the new motives that are only found in the coda.

Figure 9: mm. 69-72

This examination of the third episode (D) and the coda reveals that Savage uses delightful and varied motives to digress from the original musical narrative. The cadenza and the coda emphasize the return to the home key with the coda ending on a perfect authentic cadence. Even though the rondo theme appears to be the focal point, the musical excitement is in the development of the musical narrative as revealed in the episodes and the coda.


A summary of the analysis of the compositional elements reveals that Savage uses motives to link the generally contrasting sections together. Conversely, Schenkerian analysis reveals the use of linear progressions as structural constructs that act as motives. The original motive is introduced in the antecedent phrase in mm. 1 to 4. It is elaborated in the consequent phrases at mm. 5 to 8.

Figure 10: mm. 5 - 8

The second and third episodes are elaborations of the rondo theme. Savage elaborates the consequent phrase of the rondo theme (mm. 5 to 8 ) in the second episode (C) in mm. 25 to 32 which is in the key of c minor. The third episode is technically in the key of C major from mm. 41 to 46. Hidden within this portion of the episode is the antecedent phrase of the rondo-theme, transposed to D major, inverted and chromaticized.

Figure 11: mm. 41 - 46

Although the G sharp appears as a suspension in the harmonic progression of a I6/4-IV, this chromatic note is particularly important as a leading note to A in the chromatic progression.


Understanding how the compositional elements and the structural constructs interrelate is fundamental to understanding how this narrative evolves around the rondo theme. The first episode anticipates the key changes in the second and third episode. The second episode develops the second half of the rondo theme. The third episode elaborates on the first half of the rondo theme. The coda brings the narrative to a close.


Next Section: Expansion and Repetition in Rondo I


Copyright 2001 by Nadine J-M. Burke