In the second volume of his Kritische Briefe (1759-1763), Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg treats, among other theoretical issues, the so-called "Lehre von der Cadenz". Although Marpurg's approach is rather conventional, at least one specific topic can be scrutinized as an interesting novelty. More precisely, in his letter N° 66 from 1763, Marpurg mentions "eine besondere Art von ganzer Cadenz", which he considers to be typical for "[d]er galante Styl". This cadential schema features a dominant 6/4-chord with the first scale degree in the top voice. Contrary to conventional expectations, the resulting 'dissonant' fourth (considered against the bass), does not resolve by a descending diatonic semitone, but instead moves up a whole tone before coming to a final resolution into the tonic chord. The distinctive voice leading pattern in the melody thus consists of 1-2-1.
In this paper, I want to stress the significance of this apparently completely overlooked cadence type, both from a music theoretical and a formal analytical point of view. First, I introduce 'Marpurg's galant cadence' by examining its model and the peculiar theoretical description Marpurg utilizes. In one of his other theoretical writings, the second volume of his Handbuch (1757), Marpurg states that the (dissonant) fourth in a cadential 6/4-chord can resolve upwards. I compare this innovative perspective with the views of some 17th- and 18th-century theorists: Bernhard (ca. 1650), Heinichen (1728) and Scheibe (after 1728). After that, I try to reconstruct the originating history of the cadential schema at hand in the repertoire, pointing at two different realizations. Musical examples from Hasse and Graun illustrate these early versions of Marpurg's galant cadence. Then, I describe its stylistic changes in the second half of the 18th century. With a case study of Mozart's string quartets, the formal implications of this cadential schema are discussed as well. Finally, I take a glance at the reception of Marpurg's galant cadence in the 19th century, when the association with galant, tender feelings seems to be more important than its former structural potential.