[Smt-talk] Neighboring 6/4 chords

Deborah Burton burtond at bu.edu
Mon Oct 3 15:12:24 PDT 2011

Dear SMT-talk,

I've missed a few posts, but there is a  V 6/4 passing between I and I6 in 
Beethoven Op. 2/3 Trio.

Deborah Burton
Boston University
School of Music
College of Fine Arts
burtond at bu.edu

On 10/3/11 4:22 PM, Devin Chaloux wrote:
> Dear colleagues,
> Are we limiting this search just to "neighboring" 6/4 chords based around the 
> tonic? If you're interested in a "neighboring" 6/4 chord not extending the 
> tonic, there is a fine example in MacDowell's Piano Sonata #1 with a 
> vi-halfdim 6/5 --> V6/4 --> vi-halfdim 6/5. If you'd like to see yourself, 
> use this IMSLP score: 
> http://erato.uvt.nl/files/imglnks/usimg/7/7e/IMSLP122243-PMLP06384-MacDowell_-_Piano_Sonata_No1_Op45_rsl.pdf. 
> Page 10, last three measures of the third system. And if you're interested, 
> there is a Youtube video of this movement with score: 
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY57mp3wPmQ. The moment discussed happens at 
> 6:19. (This is one of the rare few recordings of this sonata, which in my 
> opinion deserves to be performed more.)
> There are few strange things about this example specifically. First, the use 
> of the half-diminished submediant seventh chord, which has three common tones 
> with a tonic chord. In my opinion, however, this passage prolongs a 
> predominant, an intensified one at that, heading into a half cadence, which 
> essentially ends P. From my experience, the half-diminished submediant 
> seventh chord is rarely discussed. All the times I've seen it, it's been used 
> in a minor piece with a raised scale-degree 6, usually either leading 
> directly into a dominant chord or a more intensified predominant, such as the 
> augmented-sixth chords. I've seen at least one presentation on this chord and 
> its peculiarities but if anyone is interested in finding out more, the piano 
> sonatas by MacDowell use this chord more than I've ever seen it in the rest 
> of literature (the end of the development of Brahms op. 79/2 also comes to 
> mind.) If anyone wants to enlighten me on more literature about this chord, 
> I'd gladly love to hear it because I think it is particularly fascinating.
> Second, this 6/4 is a passing chord in the expositional statement of this 
> passage. Is this merely a mistake by MacDowell? Or with his varied harmonic 
> structure of the recapitulation motivating this change to a "neighboring" 6/4 
> chord?
> I wouldn't be surprised if MacDowell had a few more examples of this in his 
> music. He uses some incredibly strange voicings, especially for piano music, 
> which has quite a dramatic effect. (See the fourth movement of the score I 
> posted here just to get an example). I wouldn't be surprised if we saw this 
> in more music of the mid- to late-Romantic era especially in "nationalist" 
> composers, who, although they may have  been trained in Europe (particularly 
> Germany), may have sought to find their own voice. I think this is clear in 
> Grieg's use of the soprano line 1-7-5 (Do-Ti-Sol) very often in his music, 
> especially his Piano Concerto.
> Nevertheless, the concept of "neighboring" 6/4 is strange. I usually hate the 
> reasoning of "it just doesn't happen" when teaching, because usually shortly 
> thereafter I find an exception. Hopefully there can be some reliable reason 
> so I don't have to resort to "it just doesn't happen" in the future. This 
> sounds like it would be a fascinating issue for a paper sometime.
> Cheers!
> *Devin Chaloux*
> University of Cincinnati - College-Conservatory of Music
> M.M. in Music Theory '12
> University of Connecticut
> B.M. in Music Theory '10
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