Guido Deiro's Polca Variata
An Historical and Musical Analysis, Part 2
by Henry Doktorski
Copyright 2002

Part Two: Musical Analysis

Page one of Polca Variata
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First Theme.
    The polka begins at m. 5. The right-hand melody and left-hand accompaniment both contrast greatly with the Introduction in the following ways: 1. the dynamic level has dropped to piano, 2. the right-hand texture has thinned to a single-line melody which gracefully spins along with various figures consisting of eighth notes, 16th notes and 16th-note triplets, and 3. the left hand is composed of alternating bass and chord buttons, which lighten the texture and provide the solid polka beat.

    Interest is provided by the occasional chromatic passing tone in the melody (C# at mm. 4, 6, 8, 12, and 14) as well as by the unexpected accented quarter-note chromatic passing tone G# at measure 17. This measure is especially significant because both hands play in rhythmic unison and the implied G# diminished 7 chord, which resolves to an implied Am chord in measure 18, is the most unusual chord (in relation to the tonic) heard yet in the piece (7 of ii). The left hand at measure 19 reverts back to the syncopated rhythmic figure which characterized the first two measures of the Introduction and thus provides a unifying element to the ending of the First Theme.

Page two of Polca Variata
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Second Theme.
    The Second Theme (marked Con eleganza in the score) is half as long as the First Theme and appears in the closely-related key of C (subdominant). The right-hand melody is comprised of seven measures of rapidly moving 16th-note arpeggios and scale passages which finally end at measure 26 with a full stop.

    The Bridge is interesting and unusual. The dynamic level increases from piano to forte. The supertonic key, Am (the relative minor of C, the key of the Second Theme) is firmly established in the first four measures, and during the next four measures, the tonic key (G) is reestablished. During these eight measures (mm. 30-37), the right hand plays a melody derived from the same 16th-note motifs which appeared in the First Theme (with the exception of the minor second grace notes at measures 32 and 36 which are new). The left hand also plays rhythmic figures which resemble patterns already heard before.

    But something entirely new happens in mm. 38-39: the two hands act in opposition and produce an antiphonal effect. The right hand states a new chromatic figure (Ab G F# G -- which implies the dominant of Cm) and the left hand matter-of-factly replies (F# G). This call and response is repeated in mm. 40-41. The most important function, however, of these four measures (mm. 38-41) is this: the harmonic movement of the piece has stopped. The harmony remains on G and time seems to stand still in a dramatic pause. This is a musical technique which is used to create suspense. Suddenly at m. 42, both hands act in unison and begin a descending chromatic scale which ends on a G major chord (the dominant of C) which leads us right back again to the Second Theme.

    In addition, the Bridge is also unusual in that it does not contain an even 16 measures; it contains only 15 odd measures; the last measure apparently had been eliminated in order to propel the listener on to the repeat of the Second Theme. Perhaps Deiro decided that the motion of the piece should accelerate here to provide a jump-start effect.

Page three of Polca Variata
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    The Trio (in F - the subdominant of the subdominant) is the longest section of the piece (32 mm.) and is also repeated. The note values of the right hand are longer (quarter, eighth and half notes) and therefore the melody here moves at a slower and more relaxed pace than in the previous sections. The dynamic level is marked piano, another calming effect. Four of the eight phrases crescendo and diminuendo as the melody rises and falls, and the penultimate phrase (mm. 69-72) crescendos to the final phrase (mm. 73-76) marked forte.

    Of special interest in the Trio are the 16th-note repeated chords in the left hand at mm. 56 and 60 which must be played with alternating fingers; a technique which I imagine must have been considered quite revolutionary at the time. It is also interesting to note that Deiro ended Polca Variata in a key (F) rather distant from the original key (G). Most trios are written in the subdominant key. Deiro wrote his trio in the subdominant of the subdominant. The tonal centers of the major sections of his piece followed the circle of fifths (the same pattern in the accordion's left-hand manual): G - C - F and he just left it there.

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