[Smt-talk] Russian/Belgian +6

Michael Luxner mluxner at mail.millikin.edu
Thu Dec 1 09:11:34 PST 2011

I've taught this chord (A-flat/C/E/F#) for years as a "Russian" sixth, because it figures prominently in the section on augmented sixths in Rimsky-Korsakov's harmony manual (standard English edition, Schirmer 1930).
Rimsky presents this chord as a major-key version of what we would call the German sixth.  I.e., he identifies the standard +6 chords in minor keys as the familiar trio of Italian/French/German (though he does not use the geographic descriptors); but in major keys, replaces the German with the version that has an augmented fifth above the bass (the diatonic 3rd scale step in a major key).
My use of the term "Russian sixth" has always been whimsical, but it's nice to know that there's some scholarly justification!
Michael Luxner
Millikin University 
On Nov 22, 2011, at 6:33 PM, Salley, Keith wrote:

I believe you'll find references to this harmony as a 'Russian
augmented sixth' in Bettsylyn Dunn Goldwire's (DMA)  nearly
impossible-to-find dissertation.  If I'm not mistaken, Rimsky-
Korsakov used it before Scriabin did (but don't tell you-know-who).
Here's the citation:
Goldwire, Bettsylynn Dunn. 1984. Harmonic Evolution in the Piano
Poems of Alexander Scriabin. D.M.A. thesis, The University of Texas
at Austin.


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