Abandoned Cadences

Updated: Feb 17


The failure to realize an implied authentic cadence by eliminating the cadential dominant in root position or by inverting that harmony before its resolution.

by William Caplin

Essentials about the abandoned cadence

Main Facts

  • The Abandoned cadence is one of three cadential deviations along with the deceptive cadence and the evaded cadence. These cadential deviations are most commonly used to extend cadential function.

  • Though much less dramatic than the "evaded cadence" the abandoned cadence is appropriate to be used in subordinate themes.

  • With the abandoned cadence, the cadential progression loses its sense of direction, and music tends to wander off before rechannelling into another cadential progression.

  • A cadential deviation can be used to confirm a development key.

  • The focus of the abandoned cadence is the dominant chord.

The dominant chord can be undermined by means of:

  1. Being placed originally in a first or second inversion -weak-

  2. Inverting it after being placed in root position -weakened-

  3. Being omitted altogether -omitted-

Dominant chord undermining

Evaded Cadence VS Abandoned Cadence

Evaded Cadence VS Abandoned Cadence

Examples from literature

This is Beethoven Violin Sonata Op. 12 No 3 first movement bars 7 & 8 where you can see how the dominant chord is "diluted" and contributes to the "Abandoned cadence"

In this example it is clear where the conclusive ending should have been. Therefore, we can talk about an "Abandoned Proper".

Below, two segments of the same piece

Beethoven Op. 12 No 3, first movement, bars 6 to 8

Beethoven Op. 12 No 3, first movement, bars 9 to 14

In this example, we can see how the material from the beginning, first played by the piano, comes back now to be played by the violin. The "one more time technique", though strongly related to the concept of "evaded cadences", can also be used after "deceptive cadences" and "abandoned cadences".

In other cases, we can clearly state a cadential progression is abandoned but we find it impossible to define the precise moment of "denied arrival". Instead, the abandoned cadential progression is immediately followed by a new cadential one -which certainly brings cadential closure-. We can also find cases in which the abandoned cadence is followed by tonic prolongation leading finally to a cadential progression. The phrase might even end in HC after a PAC was promised and then abandoned.

What can you find after an abandoned cadence?

In the example below, we can see how the whole ECP is abandoned. An expanded cadential progression can become "abandonic" as a whole by means of gradually but sustainably diluting the tendency towards resolution. First by inverting the IV then by inverting the V leading to using the I as a passing chord towards an HC. [See example 5.14 page 144 William Caplin's Classic Forms, for a full and in-depth musical analysis of this first theme]


When we label abandoned cadence, we normally back up the idea on the dominant being inverted. Nevertheless, sometimes happens that the root position dominant moves to V24 before proceeding to I6 to create an EVASION. In William Caplin's Classical forms e.g. 9.3 p. 269, we can see how the V24 can be understood as an embellishment of a root position dominant. This 7th -Db- is used as a passing note towards Do. [for full and in-depth analysis of the aforementioned theme please check the book]

For more examples, check William Caplin's Classical Forms book. This summary means to orientate my students in the reading of Caplin's book. I recommend the analysis of examples 12.6, 12.17, 13.16, 14.15c and 18.15 in the book. Caplin explains with a great level of in-depth how the abandoned cadences are manifested within the examples in literature.

I strongly recommend the purchasing of the book to follow my lessons on music analysis.

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