STEPHEN JABLONSKY jablonsky at optimum.net
Mon Jan 21 19:48:53 PST 2013

In the last movement of Mahler's Third Symphony, in the measure before rehearsal 30, there is an augmented 6th chord that contains all the notes of the whole-tone scale. It is an embellished Fr+6––an E9 chord with flat 5 and sharp 5, and, like all good French augmented 6th chords, it is in the second inversion and resolves to a cadential 6/4. Since it is embellished by a 9th and two kinds of 5ths it really shouldn't be called French. I know the question of national appellation is both meaningless and silly so I add to that silliness by wondering if it should be called an Alsatian 6th.

I know there are serious theorists out there who can shed some light on the history of this chord and I am eager to learn more. This is a great sonority at the end of a great progression that leads to a dominant that leads to one of the greatest tonics in the history of Western classical music. The Amen cadence that follows is pure genius and always blows my mind, coming as it does after that incredible breath pause. 

Dr. Stephen Jablonsky, Ph.D.
Music Department Chair
The City College of New York
Shepard Hall Room 72
New York NY 10031
(212) 650-7663
music at ccny.cuny.edu

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