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The A

CE Complex: The Origin and Function of Chromatic

Major Third Collections in Nineteenth-Century Music
matthew bribitzer-stull
The A

CE major-third constellation stands as a prototype for nineteenth-century composers

expressive and structural uses of chromatic major-third relations. After tracing the origins of the
collection, this article presents a conglomeration of hierarchic and transformational analytic ap-
proaches to A

CE music by central European composers to demonstrate that recognition of the

complex comprises a valuable added dimension to our structural and phenomenological hearings
of romantic-era music.
Keywords: Chromaticism, Schenkerian Analysis, Neo-Riemannian Analysis, Third Relations,
-Century Music
When asked Who but yourself would dare go directly from C major to E
major? C.P.E. Bach replied, Anyone can and will assuredly do it who
knows that E is the dominant of a, and that a minor is very closely related to
C major.
fascination with tonal relationships based on
major thirds has provided the motivation for in-
quiries from C. P. E. Bachs day to the present.
inspiration for the investigation herein is no different, but
the premisethat a specic complex of sonorities can eluci-
date major-third collections in central European music of
the nineteenth centuryintroduces a new angle to this eld
of study. Succinctly put, this article suggests that the

CE complex constitutes a romantic-era prototype

a benchmark for both structural and expressive trends in
nineteenth-century music.
A topic this rich necessarily in-
vites numerous avenues of approach, but in the present con-
text I restrict myself to three: rst, how the A

CE com-
plex most naturally demonstrates the emergence of
major-third collections expressive and structural functions
from classic-era compositional and tuning practices; second,
how tonal music theory copes with some problems posed by
chromatic major-third collections; and third, how one might
protably approach examples of A

CE music using a con-

glomeration of hierarchical and transformational thinking.
S che nke r [ 1906] Earlier incarnations of this paper were delivered to the Music Theory
Society of New York State (Columbia University, 2002) and to the
Society for Music Theory (Columbus, 2002). At the MTSNYS meet-
ing this was but one of three papers on the A

CE complex; my dis-
cussions with Eric McKee and Charles Youmans, the authors of the
other two papers, , were fundamental to shaping my thoughts on this
topic. Additionally, I wish to thank the many scholars who shared with
me examples of A

CE; Michael Cherlin; David Damschroder; and

the anonymous readers of this journal.
1 Kramer 1985, 552; cited in Irving and Riggins 1988, 106.
2 In recent years, the topic has received much attention. See for instance,
Krebs 1980; Cinnamon 1984; Todd, 1988, 93115; Cinnamon 1992,
130; Todd 1996, 153177; and Kopp 2002.
3 Throughout this paper, upper-case letters signify major keys and triads
while lower-case letters signify minor keys and triads.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 167
A number of studies in the last three decades address
third relations in tonal music. Most either treat generic
properties of these relations or focus on a specic work,
genre (such as Lieder), or composer. By selecting music fea-
turing A

, C, and E, I am able to enjoy the benets of a new

vantage point. First, the music engaged by this approach cuts
across genres and composers, featuring works composed
throughout the long nineteenth century. (Many of these
are listed in the appendix.) Second, major-third relations in
generaland A

CE, specicallytypify chromatic third

relations in ways that other collections do not. And third, the
consideration of works containing the complete cycle of thirds
raises theoretic and analytic issues endemic to music that in-
cludes all three sonorities.
A recent study by David Kopp divides the eight possible
third relations into three categories: diatonic (sharing two
common tones), chromatic (sharing one common tone), and
disjunct (sharing no common tones).
(See Example 1.)
Neo-Riemannian transformation labels explicitly show the
common-tone relationship between sonorities, as each trans-
formation indicates the motion of one pitch class between
two triads.
When A

, C, and E major or minor triads

progress from one to another, they form eight possible root
progressions whose tonal functions and directionality may
bear extra-musical associations. (The move from I to

(PL), for instance, relies not only upon the use of mixture,
but also upon the falling root motion to evoke the dream-
world state so often associated with this progression.
) These
eight root progressions are summarized in Example 2. Here
Roman numerals and Neo-Riemannian operations are wed-
ded in an attempt to place the parsimonious voice-leading
transformations within a functionally tonal context. Four of
these harmonic progressions, labeled with possible harmonic
168 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)
4 The uncanny nature of disjunct (hexatonic polar) progressions is
treated at length in Cohn 2004.
5 For a fully formal exposition of the L and P operations see (among oth-
ers) Hyer 1995. Despite their strengths, Kopps M transformations are
not used in this context since they, in effect, conate two voice-leading
6 Just as individual key centers may have rich, extra-musical associations,
so too may harmonic progressions between members of the A

collection. The sense of progression from one key to another or of tonal
motion between keys was crucial to Joseph Schalks understanding of
musical association. See Wason 1997, 131. Hatten 1994, 44 goes so far
as to imply that associations based on relationships between keys are of
greater analytic value than absolute key characteristics, a position pro-
pounded earlier by Donald Francis Tovey ( 1944, 61).
(a) diatonic (C to e)
(b) chromatic (C to E)
(c) disjunct (c to E)
Adapted from Kopp 2002, 1011, Figs. 1.31.5
example 1. Diatonic, chromatic, and disjunct major-third



PLP (or LPL)
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 168
interpretations, occur with relative frequency in common-
practice music. The remaining four progressions are rela-
tively rare, perhaps due in part to the lack of clear harmonic
function. Does


have a submediant function, due to its
root? A dominant function due to its (respelled) leading
tone? Both? Neither?
Perhaps more than any other development in composi-
tional technique, the increased application of chromatic third
relations distinguished the harmonic practice of the nine-
teenth century from that of the eighteenth. Even a cursory
survey of the literature strongly suggests that nineteenth-
century composers favored progressions featuring major tri-
ads whose roots were a major third apart.
The reasons for
this may include the following phenomena: rst, major triads
were preferred over minor simply due to the larger repertoire
cast in major keys; second, chromatic-third relationships
were preferred over diatonic relationships because they
evoked a distinct sonic color, and they were preferred over
disjunct relationships because they retained a common tone;
and three, cycles of major-third-related triads were preferred
over cycles of minor-third-related triads because each triad
in the former shares one common tone with the others, un-
like the complete minor-third cycle, which includes tritone
root relationships (like c and f

, or e

and a) that are less di-

rectly intelligible.
structural and expressive underpinnings
Chromatic major-third root relations are intrinsic to
nineteenth-century central European music.
A predilec-
tion for these relations (more specically, those including the
complex of A

, C, and E sonorities) is most obvious in the

music of Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Wagner, Brahms,
and Liszt.
Because the A

CE complex was not invented

by these composers, but rather emerged from earlier praxis,
I begin with a consideration of how the tuning and com-
positional practices of the classic era contributed to the
the origin and function of chromatic major third collections in nineteenth-century music 169
8 Somer 1995, 216 notes that the most frequent chromatic third relations
earlier in the nineteenth century involve major triads.
9 See Krebs 1980, 11718; Brown, Dempster, and Headlam 1997; and
Kopp 2002, 21718.
10 See Kopp 2002, 151 and 213, and Hyer 1995, 130.
11 Examples of third relations from the music of Verdi, Debussy, and
Rimsky-Korsakov, among others, are also copious. See, for instance,
Somer 1995, 227 (Ex. 5) and 23133 (Ex. 10); Berliozs Au cimitire,
mm. 915; and the opening of Act II of Rimsky-Korsakovs The Golden
7 Swinden 2005 opens his study of plural harmonic function in chro-
matic music with the


chord from Wagners Tarnhelm music.
Swindens article relies heavily on Harrison 1994 (especially 4372).
Both studies present a cogent scale-degree-based theory of harmonic
function applicable to much nineteenth-century (and later) music.
1. C E 2. C A





3. C e 4. C a

I iii rare
5. c E 6. c A

rare i VI
vi IV

7. c e 8. c a

rare rare
example 2. Some tonal contexts for root motions by major third.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 169
emergence of A

CE collections. In so doing, I examine

both these collections expressive (or coloristic) origins and
their structural origins as notes, chords, and key areas within
a tonal context.
Expressive origins and functions of the A

CE complex. I
rst consider a suggestive idiosyncrasy of the eighteenth
centurynamely, its relative lack of works cast in the so-
called enharmonic keys (B/C

, F


, and C


). The
key choices of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven are represen-
tative of the time; complete works in keys with ve or more
ats or sharps in the key signature are rare in both Haydn
and Beethoven, and missing altogether in the music of
(See Example 3.) The few exceptions that prove
the rule fall into three categories: works whose overall tonic
key includes ve or more accidentals; interior movements;
and extended sections within a single movement. These are
illustrated in Examples 3(a), (b), and (c) respectively.
Though slightly more common than their parallel major
keys, minor-mode works in c

, f

and b are also rarer in

classic-era music than those in f, c, and g minor, their coun-
terparts on the at side of the circle of fths. Thus, it appears
that it was not the diatonic collections alone that composers
avoided, but rather that the sense of tonic, regardless of mode,
inuenced their key choices.
Ultimately, the rationale for eighteenth-century perform-
ers key preferences can be attributed to two related phenom-
ena: C-centricity and temperament. In the classic era, the
key of C major ranked as the most common; it was the key
of the neophyte and of the amateurthe peoples key. As
Donald Francis Tovey put it: . . . nobody can name a key
without being aware of its distance from C major.
the notation, physical instruments, and psycho-acoustical
frame of eighteenth-century musicians exhibited a clear
preference for C major as the default tonality.
This con-
ception of C remained at least until Kurths day, when the
theorist wrote:
C major is perceived as the middle and foundation for two reasons.
First, in the historical sense the C major region is the homeground and
point of departure of harmonic development in sharp and at keys; the
church modes already revolve around this center [sic]. Further, though
and this is by far more signicant than the historical development
C major signies again and again the origin and central starting point
of musical sensibility for individual development, starting from the be-
ginnings of musical training. This position establishes itself and deter-
mines not only the character of C major itself but all other keys as well.
The effect of E major, for example, depends on the way it distinguishes
itself essentially from C major. The whole absolute character of a key,
reecting back to C major, is thus not given in the nature of music but
rather in the particular course of [music] history and pedagogy.
Though Kurth located the center of the church modes on
C rather than D Dorian, his prose reects a strong tradition
in Western music theoryconating a sense of key with a
sense of location. Words like middle and homeground
indicate tonalitys spatial connotation. Thus, the distance
one ventured from C could be measured metaphorically as
the distance traveled from the commonplace toward the
esoteric, a metaphor of alienation predicated upon keyboard
The increasing intonational difculties as one
moved away from C were, in turn, a function of non-equal
While close approximations of equal temperament in
Western Europe were used for fretted instruments as early as
the sixteenth-century, true equal temperament on keyboard
170 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)
12 C. P. E. Bach, for instance, also rarely ventured beyond key signatures
with four ats or sharps. See MacDonald 1988, 222.
13 Collections of pieces in all twenty-four major and minor keys, like
Bachs Well-Tempered Clavier and Chopins preludes, are not cited here.
Even in these contexts, however, composers seemed to favor certain
enharmonic keys over others (like F

over G

). See MacDonald 1988,

14 Tovey 1944, 61.
15 See Steblin 1981, 10351, especially 1056, 11314, 117, 125, and 128.
16 Kurth 1923, 298, n. 1 (translated in Rothfarb 1991, 126, n. 18).
17 See the comments of Bruckners disciple, Joseph Schalk, in Wason
1997, 13031.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 170
the origin and function of chromatic major third collections in nineteenth-century music 171
Haydn Baryton Trio Hob. V: 5 B
Haydn Minuet Hob. IX: 26 F

Haydn Trio Sonata Hob. XV: 31 e

Jacobs Dream!
Haydn Divertimento Hob. XVI: 2c B
Haydn Symphony Hob. 46 B
5 out of more than 1,500 compositions (including attributed works and folksong arrangements)
0 out of more than 600 compositions
Beethoven Sonata op. 78 F

1 out of more than 200 compositions

(a) complete works
Haydn Sonata Hob. XVI: 46, Adagio D

Haydn String Quartet op. 76 #5, Largo F

Haydn String Quartet op. 76 #6, Fantasia B

Beethoven Sonata op. 26, marcia funebre a

Beethoven Sonata op. 27/2, Allegretto D

Beethoven Sonata op. 57, Andante con moto D

Beethoven Sonata op. 110, Arioso dolente a

Beethoven String Quartet op. 130, Presto b

Beethoven String Quartet op. 130, Andante con moto ma non troppo D

Beethoven String Quartet op. 131, Adagio quasi um poco andante g

Beethoven String Quartet op. 135, Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo D

(b) interior movements (sample listing)

Haydn Symphony H. 45 Farewell, ending F

(Picardy third)
Haydn String Quartet op. 64 #2, ending B > (Picardy third)
Beethoven Fantasia op. 77 g > B
Beethoven Sonata op. 106, Adagio F

Beethoven String Quartet op. 131, Allegro C

(Picardy third)
Both Haydn and Beethoven wrote many minuet/trio pairs in which the trio is in the minuets parallel key and has ve or more accidentals in the
key signature.
(c) extended sections within movements (sample listing)
example 3. Works by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven cast in enharmonic keys.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 171
instruments was not universally accepted until 1917.
Theorists and other musicians up through the nineteenth
century espoused the virtues of equal temperament even
though keyboard instruments of that century were almost
universally tuned according to the principles of well-
temperament, a tuning philosophy that made useable all the
major and minor triads without sacricing the characters of
the keysa set of extra-musical associations that arose, in
part, from the meantone temperaments previously in use.
By the eighteenth century meantone tuning had been aban-
doned, largely due to its intonational problems. It was these
very problems, however, that were responsible for producing
the different qualities of meantone thirds that had, in turn,
contributed to the establishment of the characters of the
Of the three contiguous major thirds within a given oc-
tave, only two (e.g., CE and EG

but not A


were intonationally suitable in meantone systems, thus leav-
ing four major thirds as noticeably out-of-tune.
While all
twelve major thirds were used in eighteenth-century music,
those that were most out-of-tune were not usually part of
the stable tonic sonority. If the CE major third (as part
of the common C major tonic) was to be among the most in
tune of meantone thirds, then the smallest major thirds (i.e.,
most in tune) almost always included FA, CE, and/or
GB. The thirds belonging to major triads opposite these on
the circle of fths tended to be the largest and, consequently,
the most out-of-tune.
(See Example 4.) Hence, the sharp-
side boundary interval of usable major thirds tended to be

, the at-side third, A


The three major
thirds that lay outside these boundaries (BD

, F

, and

F) belonged to the tonic triads of the underused major

While there were more tonally-distant keys than A

E (speaking in terms of C-centricity), these two keys often
marked the outer limits of acceptable intonation on unequally-
tempered instrumentsa boundary that has persisted into
modern-day notation, as E and A

still mark the edge of the

enharmonic keys (D


, G


, and C

/B). Like the

dragon-infested waters that signaled the edge of terra incog-
nito on the maps of early explorers, one can almost imagine
the eighteenth-century circle of fths breaking at this point.
Venturing into this musical beyond during the age of ratio-
nalism and enlightenment was rarely done, and then only
172 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)
18 Jorgensen 1991, 47 and 45.
19 In 1721 well-temperament began to surpass meantone temperament in
usage. See Jorgensen 1991, 714, as well as xxi, 48, and 715 for other
comments on the relationship between well-temperament, meantone
tuning, and the characters of the keys.
20 Jorgensen 1991, 2. Though these intonational problems were a function
of keyboard instruments, music for other instrumental forces written
during this time period reected the strong inuence of keyboard
thinking, probably because so many musicians used the keyboard dur-
ing the act of composing.
21 Jorgensen 1991, 47 and 774.
22 This is but one of countless meantone schemata. Tuning during these
centuries belonged more to the realm of art than to science. Since many
subtle variations of both meantone and well-tempered tunings prolifer-
ated, intonation and the concomitant characters of the keys comprised
more of a continuum than a hard-and-fast rule.
23 Notable exceptions did occur. For two, see Jorgensen 1991, Fig. 152,
pg. 47; and Fig. 391, pg. 138.
24 Both tuning and compositional practice in the latter part of the eigh-
teenth century reinforced the sense of the major key (and its tonic
triads 1

major third) as normative; minor keys were marked in the

semiotic sense, shadowy reections of their major-mode counterparts. (See
Hatton 1994, 3438, and Wheelock 1993, who uses the term en-othered.)
Since this markedness bore a reexive relationship to the minor modes
greater degrees of chromaticism and tonal adventurousness, it is less
easy to generalize about the intonational acceptability of minor keys
simply because intonational purity was compromised by the nature of
the minor mode itself, which had to admit to augmented seconds,
augmented sixths, and altered scale degrees (





, and

intonational miscreants that were much less common in the well-
ordered world of the relative major mode. The result was that minor-
mode works in the eighteenth century were restricted to even fewer
keys than their major-mode counterparts: b, f

, c

, g


, d


, and b

were all extremely rare in the classic era.

03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 172
with good reason. Hence, the edges of the known tonal

and Ecould function as marked keys, destina-

tion points that were far removed from the harmless tonal
clarity of C. As such, these keys were often invested with
rich associations and served as tonal settings for composers
most profound musical utterancesa habit that persisted
even during the theoretical hegemony of equal temperament.
This leads us to a consideration of these keys as associa-
tive entities, markers of extra-musical signicance. While
associative tonality, as it is referred to today, was most
famously explored by Wagner in his Ring cycle, key symbol-
ism, stemming from the aforementioned characters of the
keys, had a rich history long before the Wagnerian music
Wagners key associations were most often piece
specic, but the associations comprising the characters of the
keys infused all manner of works from the second half of the
common practice era. C, lacking the artice of black keys,
was often used to represent light, truth, purity, and the com-
mon folk. D was the key of choice for triumphant and mili-
tary music; E

, for the heroic; F for the pastoral, and so

In addition to meantone intonationlargely a key-
board phenomenoninstrumental associations (e.g., trum-
pets with D major, horns with E

major, English horn with

F major), tessitura, written notation, absolute pitch level, and
prior compositional practice all added to the summary char-
acter of each key, even in compositions without a keyboard
Because E and A

were the most distant keys from C in

common usage, their associations were among the most
powerful. While these associations have never been xed as
to exact meaning, nor applicable to every work, there exists
evidence of general expressive trends: A

is linked to slum-
ber, darkness, and death while E major is associated with
transcendence, spirituality, and the sublime.
Thus, we
the origin and function of chromatic major third collections in nineteenth-century music 173
25 For discussions of associative tonality see Bailey 1977, 4861, and
1985, 11346; McCreless 1982, 8895, and 1983, 6062; and Stein
1985, 4344, and 14187.
26 Schalk understood each key to have essential differences from the oth-
ers; that is, he believed that music should not be treated as simply a
transposable pattern (a misconception he laid at the feet of those who
espoused equal temperament). See Wason 1997, 13233.
27 Detailed descriptions of these key associations appear in tables com-
piled by numerous eighteenth-century theorists. Since some of these
tables also end upon reaching the keys with four accidentals (e.g., those
of Vogler and Knecht in Steblin 1981, 133), it is tempting to hypothe-
size on the chicken-and-egg relationship between composition and
theory on this issue.
28 E may have developed these associations since it is the dominant of vi
in C major. The motion from I to vi as a spiritual symbol is discussed in
McKee 2001. One might also conjecture that the upward arpeggiation

V vs. the downward arpeggiation of I

VIIV accounts for

example 4. Major thirds in meantone temperaments. From
Jorgenson 1991, 180, Fig. 51-1: Well-Tempered Tuning
Vallottis Theoretically-Correct Method.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 173
might conceive of the eighteenth-centurys E and A

positive and negative tonal-dramatic poles about a central C.
The developing usage of E as the erotic key in the nine-
teenth century enriched this opposition between E and A

by setting up an Eros-Thanatos antithesis.

The Act II nale of Mozarts Cos fan tutte illustrates the
eighteenth-century prototype of A

and E serving as expres-

sive boundaries about a central C. This nale, like most of
Mozarts, is a conglomeration of independent tonal struc-
tures, although C major is understood as the large-scale ref-
erential tonic. The opening C-major number is followed by a
chorus in E

. The ensuing A

quartet features the main

characters dwelling upon the virtues of wine for drowning
sorrows in slumber or, in Guglielmos case, death, should the
wine be poisoned. By means of a chromatic 56 shift in mm.
199200 there is a quick segue into the next scene, an active
E-major ensemble piece in which Despina, disguised as a
notary, reads the marriage contract. (See Example 5(a).) This
moment is the action the four main characters have both
feared and hoped for all along, a dramatic counterpoint to
the preceding, reective A

reverie. Using a fascinating tonal

gambit, Mozart then proceeds to make his way back to C
major (at which point the truth is revealed and there is much
rejoicing) via numbers cast in closely-related keys on both
the at and sharp sides of the circle of fths. A summary of
this tonal motion appears in Example 5(b). Before the nal
tonal-dramatic resolution can occur, Mozart illustrates, step-
by-step, how far the tangled plot has come from the simple
clarity of C major.
Throughout the later common-practice period, A

and E
persisted as expressive tonal locales; increasingly, composers
invoked their expressivity without reference to specic extra-
musical associations.
The same held true of the juxtaposi-
tion of A

, C, and E sonoritiessonorities whose harmonies

had a profound impact on tonal structure.
Structural origins and functions of the A

CE complex. When
eighteenth-century composers featured two (or all three) of
the members of the A

CE complex in their works, these

sonorities were usually related indirectly. In the excerpt from
Cos just examined, for instance, A

and E as key areas are re-

lated only indirectly to the overarching tonic C via fth cy-
cles and to one another through the central C (as shown in
Example 5(b)). However, the tenuous foreground link be-
tween the A

and E triads provided by the 56 shift (mm.

199200), produces the sound of a direct chromatic third re-
lationship, a forerunner of the increasingly important role
such relationships would play in romantic-era compositions.
The earliest strategies nineteenth-century composers
used for incorporating direct chromatic third relationships
into their music usually followed earlier diatonic models,
providing coloristic alterations of them more than substan-
tive changes to their structural functions.
Thus, common
surface- and middleground arpeggiation paradigms such as
(or iii)V and Ivi (IV
)IV (ii
) evolved into IIII

and I


) respectively.
Likewise, diatonic oscilla-
tion patterns expanding tonic with iii and/or vi came to in-
174 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)
these positive and negative associations. Finally, one must not overlook
sharp vs. at symbolism. Schalk noted that sharps press upwards, to-
wards light, while ats strive toward the depths, into darkness. See
Wason 1997, 130. Apparently, Riemann concurred: see Wason and
Marvin 1992, 93, as well as the synopsis in Hatten 1994, 43.
29 Wagner uses E as the erotic key in Tannhuser. See also Gilliam 1991,
68 for a discussion of Strauss, E major, and the erotic.
30 Steptoe 1988, 23242 suggests that at keys in Cos represent falseness;
keys near C, neutrality; and sharp keys, sincerity. The whole opera is
thus organized around a central, neutral C major. Burnham 1994, 98, n.
35, citing E-major music in this opera, states: In its exotic twilight
realm at the far edge of the tonal world of Mozartian opera, E major
may well stand for the phoenix that is this opera.
31 For more on the degree of specicity of emotion in expressive music,
see Kivy 1980, 4649.
32 See Somer 1995, 21927.
33 In Schenkers theory, ascending arpeggiations from tonic are also possi-
ble on the rst order middleground, while descending arpeggiations
operate on more surface levels. See Schenker 1979, Figs. 7b, 14/1ab,
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 174
clude III


Such examples support the claim
often made to undergraduates that modal mixture is essen-
tially a coloristic device that inserts chromatic alterations
into one or more voices of the tonal structure without requir-
ing a shift in understanding of fundamental harmonic or
contrapuntal principles.
the origin and function of chromatic major third collections in nineteenth-century music 175
operation described in Proctor 1978, 181200, and describes these
tonal itineraries in terms of their bass motion. Bass lines that articulate
a series of the same interval (e.g., major thirds) may be directional (e.g.,
moving from C to A

via E), circular (e.g., starting and ending on C

with A

and E by equal division of the octave), or axial (e.g., starting

and ending on C with A

and E providing upper and lower mediants).

15/2b, 98/3a, 100/5, 108, 112, and 113/2 for examples. See also Beach
1997, and Kopp 2002, 10912.
34 Krebs 1980, discusses oscillatory third progressions and circles of thirds
involving tonic harmonies (94121) and describes the same techniques
prolonging non-tonic harmonies (8494). Kielian-Gilbert 1990, 50
52, uses terminology drawn from the denition of the transposition

( )
( )


(a) modulation by chromatic 56 shift, mm. 199203
Sharp Keys
mm. 1 66 149 208 280 291 310 372 483 539 576


(IV) G C
Flat Keys
(b) overall tonal plan
example 5. Act II nale of Mozarts Cos fan tutte.
Measures are numbered from the
beginning of the nale.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 175
Beethovens In questo tomba oscura illustrates how this
chromatic alteration functions. Example 6(a) shows that the

tonic is prolonged by a chain of descending major-third

root progressions.
Here we notice that the songs opening

Stufe is followed in m. 14 by a chromatic 56 shift to E,

which in turn leads to a cadence on a C major triad in bar
19. This III

Stufe is also labeled by its local function (V of

vi) on the graph for two reasons. First, this chord makes ref-
erence to the diatonic vi Stufe that is replaced with the chro-


, enharmonically respelled as E major. Second,

hearing this C chord arising in some sense from an unarticu-
lated f-minor Stufe is an example of the exact tonal relation-
ship described by C. P. E. Bach at the opening of this article;
it illustrates a common, indirect, and diatonic context for re-
lating two of the three keys in the A

CE complex. Rather
than arising out of a direct chromatic relationship to A

its III

for instance), Cs relationship to A

can be heard in-

directly, as the dominant of A

s most closely-related key.

Thus, both chromatic Stufen can be restored to a diatonic
prototype without radically altering the middleground. This
is shown in Example 6(b).
The ease with which the chromatic replaces the diatonic
in such examples is perhaps predicated on the appearance of
only two members of the A

CE collection. That is, one

direct major-third relation is usually easy to accommodate
within a tonal context that is still clearly controlled by a
background tonic-dominant hegemony.
The appearance of
176 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)
all three members of the collection does not necessitate the
erosion of familiar structural functions, but if the three are
directly related on the same level of tonal structure anything
from the surface-level triad to the background Bassbrechung
itself may be disrupted. The CEG

augmented triad, for

instance, often arises because one of the three tones effects a
(a) graphic analysis
(b) diatonic prototype
example 6. Beethoven, In questa tomba oscura. 35 Proctor 1978, 17879 analyzes the opening of this Lied as a bass arpeg-
giation of the augmented triad. The deep middleground here would
look quite different if the D

and E

quarter notes in m. 21 were taken

to be bona de harmonies, certainly a viable reading. Note that
Schenkerian graphs throughout the present paper are middleground-
oriented and thus lack foreground detail. Accidentals apply only to
their immediate context and do not carry throughout.
36 Krebs 1980 argues that in Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, thirds
(often chromatic) above and below tonic either lead directly to V (as in

V or I


V) or embellish V (VIII

V or V


Numerous examples are cited in pages 2459 and 7384.

3 6
8 7


19 22




VI V/vi


[ ]


03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 176
chromatic passing or neighboring motion. Even when all
three are chord tones within an augmented dominant triad,
the CEG

sonority may remain unquestionably dominant

in function. But, when the augmented triad is not anchored
by a diatonic Stufe its symmetry can threaten tonality alto-
gether (as in Liszts Nuages gris). Likewise, an E-major

) structural third divider between I and V on the mid-

dleground of a C major work (in the rst movement of
Beethovens Waldstein Sonata, for instance) would hardly
compromise the sense of tonal unity. An extension of this
technique might feature a nested chromatic mediant rela-
tionship (III

of III

) to invoke the third member of the

complex (as in Wagners Siegfried Idyll ).
When such chro-
matic third chains achieve independence from tonic and
dominant, however, they may replace tonic prolongation
with other structural functions as in the symmetrical division
of the octave evinced by the Schlaffenakkorde of Wagners
Since the use of multiple major-third relationships re-
quires great care to avoid disrupting the sense of tonality, it is
unsurprising that nineteenth-century composers tended to
rely on just a few strategies. In short, they anchored these
third relations on tonic or dominant Stufen, thus prejudicing
the tonal contexts in which an A

CE collection could
Naturally, A

, C, and E major were among the most

common tonics for the incorporation of the complex. In
these keys, chromatic thirds could be strung from (or to) the
tonic. This happens in Chopins Polonaise, op. 53, in which
the tonic A

is prolonged rst by its upper third, C (III

), an
arpeggiation both in m. 49 and again in m. 58 (functioning
locally as V/vi), and later by its lower third, F

(spelled as E),
beginning in m. 81. (See Example 7.) This music comprises
a concatenation of two separate oscillating progressions on
different levels of structureA


and A


major, a local expansion of A

, exists at a more foreground

level than E, the tonic of the works entire middle section.
Despite this, C is emphasized both as the most obvious tonal
departure from the tonic A

within the rst section and

by virtue of its recurrence at the end of the retransition
back into A

(mm. 14551) and in the nal cadence (mm.

When anchored by the dominant, two less obvious tonic
contextsa minor and f minorpredominate. In each key,
one of the three members of the complex can function as III
(the relative major) and another as V

(the functional domi-

nant). The third member is often used to connect the two.
The scherzo movement of Schuberts Sonata in a minor, op.
42, provides an illustration. (See Example 8.) Here, the ex-
pected modulation to the mediant during the rst reprise of
the origin and function of chromatic major third collections in nineteenth-century music 177
that leads eventually to V) and Schuberts E

String Trio, i, mm.

43452 (whose recapitulation features a



IV predominant
40 Direct chains of thirds appear in the literature as well. See Schuberts
Lied, Flle der Liebe and the analysis in Krebs 1980, 110 (Fig. II.37,
v. 2, 49). Example 7 presents only the opening of the A


gression. Interested readers may wish to consult Krebs for a graph of
mm. 80 to the end. See Krebs 1980, Fig. II.9 (v. 2, 34), which links
both chromatic Stufen to V.
41 The other minor key capable of containing these tonal relationship, c

does not provide many examples of the A

CE complex, perhaps be-

cause of its own relative scarcity in common-practice music. Note that
the six keys mentioned (A

, c, E, a, f, and c

) together comprise
Weitzmanns Region I, a grouping noted in Cohn 2000, 93, and further
explored throughout his article.
37 See Anson-Cartwright 1996, 60, Ex. 3.
38 This excerpt was rst described as a chain of chromatic thirds by Ernst
Kurt. See Kurth 1923, 22627 (translated in Rothfarb 1991, 13334).
More recently, Brian Hyer demonstrated the manner in which neo-
Riemannian L and P transformations control both the harmonic and
melodic structure of the Magic Sleep music. See Hyer 1995, 11116.
39 Another strategy was to include the three sonorities in a chain of pre-
dominants that ultimately lead to the dominant. See Krebs 1980, 60
(Fig. I.46, v.2, 26) who illustrates this technique in Beethovens piano
concerto in E

major (Emperor), iii, mm. 13889 as a VIIV


chain embellishing the motion from VI to V. See also, Beethovens
piano concerto in c minor, iii, mm. 138220 (a VI


II succession
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 177
the scherzo eventually leads to the structural dominant in m.
80. These two key areas, C and E, are connected by a toni-
cization of A

in measure 43. Although this A

is preceded
by its own dominant and is followed by harmonies that pre-
pare the arrival of the e-minor dominant (made major in bar
80 to set up the return of the opening material in a minor),
these intervening sonorities do not prevent us from hearing a
key succession of CA

e /E. That is, A

connects C and E
by a descending major-third arpeggiation. Interestingly,
surface-level references to the combination of A

, C, and E
are also audible in the opening a-minor measures. Here E
functions as a local dominant (passim) and A

appears dur-
ing the modulation to C major (m. 17).
analytical illustrations of the a

ce complex
As chromatic-third usage evolved, nineteenth-century
theory naturally developed alongside composition. Whether
reactive or innovative, much of this work focused on A

CE collections. Hugo Riemann, for instance, eventually

came to believe that chromatic third relations were percepti-
ble as direct harmonic progressions,
and, at one point, re-
dened tonality specically to model the A

CE collec-
And Carl Friedrich Weitzmann both distinguished
himself from his contemporaries and inuenced Franz Liszt
by his thorough treatment of the A

CE augmented triad.
178 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)
42 Similar A

CE collections in a- and f-minor music occur in Brahmss

Intermezzo op. 118, no. 4 (see Example 10); the prolongation of V
in mm. 2662 of the rst movement of C. P. E Bachs Piano Sonata in f
minor, H. 173; and the dreamlike A

that intercedes between a back-

related dominant, E, and motion to the mediant, C, in mm. 81152 of
Schuberts Allegro for piano, four hands, op. 144 (Lebensstrme).
Schmalfeldt 2002 describes some intriguing formal implications of the
parenthetical A

in the Schubert Allegro.

43 Riemann [1893], 165, stated that the third of a triad (Klang) can take
on an independent signicance just as the fth of the tonic triad does.
He even adapted a separate function symbol for chromatic mediants in
the last edition of the Handbuch der Harmonielehre (1920) published
during his lifetime. See Kopp 2002, 94. Other A

CE examples occur
throughout Riemanns writings on third relations and tonality. See, for
instance, Riemann 1882, 189, 1890, 38, and 190203, 76.
44 See Riemann 1922, 1304.
45 The continuing force of C-centricity led Weitzmann to choose the col-
lection as his augmented triad prototype, deriving it from the default



1 49 53 57
58 63 64 65


ii V I

example 7. Analysis of the opening of Chopins Polonaise,
op. 53.




43 58 66 67


i III V i
example 8. Analysis of the scherzo from Schuberts sonata, op.
42, iii.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 178
Riemann and Weitzmann were accompanied by a host of
others who used A

, C, and E as a prototypical collection to

direct or explain the harmonic advances of the nineteenth
century and the changing nature of tonality.
Kurth, one might go so far as to say that the symmetry of the

CE collection paved the way for the eventual dissolu-

tion of functional tonality itself.
This may be why chromatic-third relations continue to
affect our modern-day conception of tonality.
While rela-
tions by perfect fths t our existing theoretic and analytic
approaches with few problems, chromatic thirds are another
story. Some scholars have proposed that these chromatic
relationships constitute another form of tonality, a sort of
seconda prattica, distinct from the diatonic practice of the
Others argue that chromatic-third re-
lations, rather than replacing a still-viable tonal tradition,
simply added another dimension to it.
While there are ob-
vious examples in which functional monotonality has been
stretched to the breaking point by the predominance of
chromatic-third relations (Liszts Die Trauer-Gondel I, for
one), determining which avor of tonality governs a given
work is perhaps less important than recognizing and articu-
lating the ramications created by the addition of chromatic
thirds to a largely fth-governed tradition.
As an example, consider the rst movement of Beetho-
vens Appassionata sonata. Schenkers graph of the develop-
ment section in Der freie Satz indicates that, on the deep
middleground, 3

of the Urlinie falls to 2

as an A

(III) Stufe
moves to a C Stufe (V) in f minor.
Example 9 presents a
slightly more extended middleground analysis, beginning at
the end of the exposition and continuing through to the end
of the development. The Schenkerian prolongation of an A

Stufe supporting 3

is accompanied by the bubbles marking

the appearance of A

, C, and E sonorities, and also by neo-

Riemannian transformational symbols that illustrate how the

Stufe is prolonged by a series of P and L motions. Note

that ve of the six triads in Cohns northern hexatonic col-
lection are traversed.
In chromatic-third chains of major
triads, the third of one triad becomes the root of the next
(ascending thirds) or vice versa (descending thirds). The
smoothest voice leading, however, is maintained when the
intervening minor triads are articulated. In such examples,
like the Appassionata development, two common tones are
retained by adjacent triads as the harmonic progression
circles the northern hexatonic pole in a series of LP (or PL)
the origin and function of chromatic major third collections in nineteenth-century music 179
51 Schenkers analysis begins with the a

-minor sonority in m. 65. See

Schenker 1979, Fig. 114.8.
52 See Cohn 1996, 17, Fig. 1. In Cohns gure the A

CE collection is
given preferential placement at the north, the direction most commonly
indicated on maps. It can be inferred from his remarks that Cohn made
this choice consciously, due to the conventional primacy of C. Op. cit.,
38, n. 34.
key of C major. See Weitzmann 1853 and the commentary in Todd
1996, 15859.
46 These include Dehn 1840, 157; Kurth 1913, 12428; Lobe 1861, 80;
Rimsky-Korsakov 1895, 98, 102103; Schwartz 1982, 70, n. 5, and
3867; Weber 1846, 503; and Ziehn 1887, 8 and 119.
47 Taruskin 1985, 13536, reproduces Rimsky-Korsakovs false progres-
sions by thirds from his harmony text, two of which feature major and
minor triads built on A

, C, and E; McCreless 1983, 7071, summa-

rizes Kurths belief that symmetrical, chromatic sequences were crucial
forces in the destruction of tonality.
48 The prodigious body of scholarly literature on this topic aside, current
music theory text books for undergraduates continue to present exam-
ples of A

CE in back-of-the-book topics like augmented triads

and enharmonic modulation. See, for instance, Laitz 2003, 64546;
Ottman 2000, 229; Roig-Francol 2003, 83031; and Kostka and Payne
1984, 383.
49 After Proctor 1978, this philosophy gained ground. Proponents include
many authors in Kinderman and Krebs 1998.
50 These scholars support the applicability of Schenkers theory for
nineteenth-century music, arguing that his analytic method is fully
chromatic, lacking only the ability to model direct tritone relationships.
See Brown 1986 and Brown, Dempster, and Headlam 1997.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 179
While the Schenkerian graph in Example 9 shows the
parsimonious voice leading of Beethovens development sec-
tion, the neo-Riemannian analysis, undergirded by an un-
derstanding of A

, C, and E triads as a group structure,

highlights the skipped member of the northern hexatonic
collection: C major. Its absence is audible because it disrupts
the previous voice-leading transformation stream. One ex-
planation for this omission is that C Major (as V) is required
shortly at the retransition.
But it may also suggest why the
bass C remains active at the opening of the recapitulation,
creating the sound of a tonic
underneath the return of the
opening material.
Just as a neo-Riemannian analytic vantage point may in-
form a Schenkerian reading, as in the Appassionata analysis
above, the converse is also true. The indeterminacy of direc-
tionality implied by polar progressionsmotion across a
hexatonic pole (PLP or LPL)can be claried by the
prolongational context.
While the distinction may seem
academic, the two different labelsLPL and PLPsuggest
two different hearings that imply a differentiation between
clockwise and counterclockwise motion about a hexatonic
pole, orin linear rather than cyclic spaceascending and
descending harmonic root motion. When considered as up
vs. down, the directionality of such harmonic progressions
can play an integral role in a works dramatic effect.
180 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)
53 C refuses to relinquish its role in the development as dividing domi-
nant. Rather, an unstable neighboring
elaborates the V Stufe when the
primary material appears, only giving way to a root-position tonic later
in the recapitulation. Thus, the inclusion of neo-Riemannian third-
centric analysis with the Schenkerian graph provides one explanation
for Beethovens disruption of the paradigmatic sonata form retransi-
tional tonal structure.
54 A motivic rationale for the idiosyncratic recapitulation that cites the
transferal of the D

C neighbor to the bass is also viable. See Smith

1995, 26870, for an unconventional reading of this movements tonal
structure that highlights these falling bass half-steps and suggests that
the apparent tonic recapitulation grows out of a dominant prolonga-
tion at the opening.
55 Cohns reading presupposes a lack of directionality. In examples from
the literature, he cites direct motion between the hexatonic poles
motion that lacks common tonesrather than an incremental shift
from one pole to the other is responsible for this progressions uncanny
effect. See Cohn 2004 and Cohn 1996, 2122.





87 93 97


example 9. Graphic analysis of Beethovens Sonata, op. 57 (Appassionata) with neo-Riemannian analysis.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 180
This is the case in the middle section of Brahmss
Intermezzo in f minor, op. 118, no. 4, in which a descending
chain of major thirds prolongs the dominant. (See Example
10.) At rst glance, it may seem immaterial whether the mo-
tion from A

major to e minor in mm. 52 to 75 is marked

PLP or LPL. But directionality is an important aspect of
this work, whose tonal and dramatic structure is predicated
upon contrast between the middle section and the sections
that frame it. The energy of the opening section drives con-
stantly toward the dominant. On the foreground and mid-
dleground levels, weak (or implied) tonics resolve to clear,
emphasized dominantscomprising, in effect, a half ca-
dence writ large. In the middle section, the illusion of mo-
tion within the dominant rather than motion to the domi-
nant is of primary importance. The relaxed texture and
feeling of descent created by the chain of thirds (PLP, or
counter-clockwise about the northern hexatonic pole) and
the upper-voice arpeggiation of C major contrast sharply
with the opening sections ascent to the dominant. The open-
ing of the middle section (mm. 5267) rmly establishes the

Stufe, opening up another potential reading in which this

III is part of a middleground IIIIV arpeggiation (relegat-
ing the V that closes the opening section to a back-relating
dominant). This reading, however, contradicts the strength
of the many motions to V in rst section and the sense of
downward motion throughout the middle section. Thus, not
only does the sense of counter-clockwise directionality in the

eC succession suggest one middleground reading over

another, it also informs our choice of a PLP transformational
model over an LPL model. This reading is also supported by
foreground details (the cadence in a

in m. 67 and the prepa-

ration of E in mm. 6874) that point toward a tonal motion
from A

to a

to E, and then to the cadence in e (m. 75) that

ultimately leads back to C.
The preceding analysis juxtaposes Schenkerian graphs
and neo-Riemannian transformational symbols. At times the
two analytic approaches complement one another, as in
Example 10, in which the Schenkerian prolongation of C
(V) matches up with a counter-clockwise spin about the
northern hexatonic pole. But, more often, this analytic juxta-
position generates unavoidable conceptual frictions. These
are patent in an excerpt from Wagners Der Fliegende
The progression in Example 11(a) occurs at the end of
the Dutchmans Act I recitative and aria.
The scale degrees
above the score and the Roman numerals below it represent a
Schenkerian hearing of a localized auxiliary cadence in which
the A

-major chord harmonizes an upper-voice passing

This reading presumes that A

plays a more fore-

ground melodic role than c and E. At odds with this reading
are the neo-Riemannian symbols below the score. These
imply that the structural dominant seventh chord on G is of
the origin and function of chromatic major third collections in nineteenth-century music 181
56 For another discussion of the benets and contradictions generated by
juxtaposing Schenkerian and neo-Riemannian thought, see Bribitzer-
Stull 2006.
57 Measure numbers from Wagners operas refer to the widely available
Schirmer piano-vocal scores and are cited in the format: page/system/
58 For an overview of the Schenkerian auxiliary cadence, see Burstein



i V
example 10. Analysis of mm. 5283 of Brahmss Intermezzo,
op. 118, no. 4.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 181
182 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)







V i
(a) Ghost-ship cadence, Hd/42/3/1
Section Recit. A B C Coda
Measures 29/1/1 32/1/1 35/5/5 38/1/1 41/3/5
Key c a

c CEc
Synopsis Dutchman Deathless Beseeches Longs for Crew welcomes
makes land wandering an angel the Day of death
(b) formal overview
example 11. Dutchmans Act I recitative and aria.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 182
the origin and function of chromatic major third collections in nineteenth-century music 183
62 Schachter 1987, 30408, discusses the distinction (not made in
Schenkers Free Composition) between structural keys and more fore-
ground keys, all of which form part of the listeners moment-by-
moment experience.
63 As Cohn suggests, neo-Riemannian analysis can be used in conjunction
with Schenkerian analysis to understand both group structure (the

CE complex as Cohns northern hexatonic pole), as well as tonal

and linear aspects of various works. See Cohn 1996, 33, in which he
suggests the use of hexatonic thinking in conjunction with standard dia-
tonic (sic) models such as Auskomponierung. See also Lewin 1986, 362
ff. for examples illustrating the possibilities multiple perceptions have
for multiple analytic approaches to the same passage, neither of which
is better or more valuable than the others.
less interest than the succession of triads: E, A

, and c.
this second reading, the linear, root-motion cycle of ascend-
ing major thirds takes precedence over the hierarchical,
Schenkerian reading. Since neo-Riemannian transforma-
tions are capable of incorporating the G dominant into the
harmonic event stream, why omit it from the analysis? An
investigation of the preceding music provides the answer. As
Example 11(b) shows, the Dutchmans aria proper divides
into three sections, cast in c, a

(with shifts to A

and c respectively. The coda to the Dutchmans aria picks up
the C major Picardy Third at the end of the third section
and moves toward E for the ghostly crews conrmation of
the Dutchmans longing for death. E then passes through

to c, bringing an otherworldly quality to the numbers

In effect, then, we have two conicting readings of this
cadence. One favors a tonally-hierarchical view that models
prolongation, while the other models a transformational
While Schenkerian analysis effectively rep-
resents tonal-prolongational structure, this structure is just
one facet of musical construction and of musical experience.
Associativity, referentiality, and salience are also important:
even when A

, C, and E are not adjacent on the same tonal

level they are often marked by tonal, formal, rhetorical, refer-
ential, or associative processes, as in the Dutchman example,
above. Stufen, signicant cadential tonal centers, unexpected
or parenthetical tonal shifts, irregular formal units, and
extra-musical connections can all draw the listener to a phe-
nomenological awareness of A

, C, and E connections.
Placing neo-Riemannian analytic symbols below a
Schenkerian analysis shows where A

, C, and E sonorities
occur and suggests an abstract voice-leading connection be-
tween them.
But the implications go far beyond merely la-
beling an event stream. They point to a group structurea
connection between A

, C, and Ethat is non-hierarchical

in nature, though the members of the group may exist within
a tonal hierarchy. While some analysts maintain these as dis-
crete forms of tonality, this study suggests the possibility
for the interpenetration of these two spacesthat the sec-
ond practice of nineteenth-century tonality can exist within
a diatonic background structure.
Brahms Piano Quartet in c minor, op. 60. My nal analysis
draws upon the E-major slow movement of Brahmss Piano
Quartet to suggest that the relevance of the A

CE com-
plex in tonal contexts may range from the structural fore-
ground to intra-movement connections, even within the
same work. The G

EC major-third chain of the opening

cello solos rst notes comprises the initial statement.
While these notes are naturally divided by the harmonic
progression from I to iv, their linear appearance together
59 The presence of a functional dominant does not necessarily abrogate
a neo-Riemannian group structure. See Santa 2003, whose hybrid
nonatonic/hexatonic group involves the dominants of the three tonics
in question, in effect turning the model advocated in Krebs 1980 upside
60 There are also references to A

CE in the recitative before the aria

proper. See the foreground vii
of c (29/4/2), vii
of e (30/1/2), and
resolution to A

(30/2/1) in the recitative.

61 Samarotto 2003 sets forth an introductory model of interaction be-
tween tonal coherence (Schenkerian analysis) and transformational
event streams (neo-Riemannian analysis).
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 183
184 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)
64 Peter Smith argues that the G

EC augmented triad achieves a mo-

tivic and expressive importance that transcends its role in the structural
hierarchy. See Smith 1994, 25860, and 2005, 1718.
65 Interested readers may wish to compare this graph with that in Smith
2005, 102.
66 Proctor 1978, 181200.
67 This passage bears a striking resemblance to a similar retransitional
third chain with deceptive motion in Liszts Orpheus, mm. 11430.
68 See MacDonald 1990, 225 and Smith 2005, 24 and 227.
69 For discussions of tonal relationships between the movements in multi-
movement works see Neumeyer 1982 and 1997. See also Krebs 1981,
1415, who notes that non-monotonal works often feature tonic keys
related by third. See the keys of the movements in Beethoven, Piano
Concerto no. 3; Brahms, Symphony no. 1 (cEA

c!); Grieg, Violin

Sonata, op. 45; Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto no. 2; Schubert,
Wanderer Fantasy (major mode variant: CE(c


C); and Liszt,

Annes de Plerinage, Premire anne: Suisse (multi-work variant)
for other pieces that exhibit this tonal relationship. Note that many of
these works feature A

CE collections on surface and middleground

levels as well.
70 Smith 2005, passim (see, for instance 218) refers to the E-major
Andante movement of Brahmss op. 60 as solace and a dream.
here constitutes a striking motivic gesture that recurs
throughout the piece, on both surface and deeper levels.
Later in the work, for instance, the retransition into the
return of the opening material expands the G

EC major-
third collection. (See Example 12.
) Two aspects of this
passage are noteworthy. First, the descending augmented
triad motive is itself stated three times on the musical sur-
face, beginning on E, then C, and nally G

. The third iter-

ation marks the return to the opening material played, this
time, by the piano. Second, there is a discrepancy between
the upper and lower voices. The structural upper line traces
the chain of descending major thirds, ECG

, with the
composing-out of the rst third, EC, transposed exactly to
compose out CG

. Thus, the upper line seems to model

Proctors transposition operation and suggests that Brahms
has entered a fully-chromatic, equal-tempered tonal space.
But the melodic pattern is not mirrored by the harmony. The

marked in the neo-Riemannian analysis beneath the score

is illusory, an implication that is never realized. For while the

of c in m. 72 resolves as expected, the V

of g

in m. 77
does not. The deceptive bass motion to E coincides with the
return of the opening material in a bait-and-switch tactic
that reveals the passage to be a prolongation of the E Stufe
by its lower third, C.
While G

does not play a vital struc-

tural role in this prolongation, however, the neo-Riemannian
analysis below the score points to its referential role in evok-
ing the motivic descending third chain, a reference that
enriches our hearing.
The previous use of falling thirds throughout the
Andante, in part, lends this movement its tender, contempla-
tive aspect. Arguably, so does its tonic key of E major. As we
noted earlier, E major was often reserved for composers
most expressive music, a tonal marker for the spiritual and
sublime. Given Brahmss allusions to remembrances of his
feelings for Clara Schumann in this quartet, the expressive
connotation is appropriate.
But the tonal relationship be-
tween the E major Andante and the c minor of the other
movements is odd. This unusual key relationship might be
considered an isolated idiosyncrasy were it not for the num-
ber of other works in which it occurs. Despite the rarity of
this third progression within a single Ursatz (i to


), the
motion from tonic minor to the raised major mediant ap-
pears with surprising frequency between the movements of
multi-movement works cast in c minor, and, as such, de-
serves consideration as a further ramication of the A

Two things are immediately striking about this inter-
movement tonal relationship. The rst is the tonal contrast
the key of E represents a luminous and ethereal refuge
from the surrounding c minor.
But this tonal contrast
seems to be predicated on the associativity of E, rather than
absolute tonal distance, as E is not the most tonally distant
major key from c minor; it lies ve steps away on the circle of
fths, while A major lies six steps awaydirectly opposite c
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 184
the origin and function of chromatic major third collections in nineteenth-century music 185
72 Smith holds that E is not only an expressive reprieve from the sur-
rounding tragedy of c minor, but also bears motivic cross-references
with the rst movement. The Andantes E major can be heard as an out-
growth of the pizzicato Es from the Allegro (Smith 2005, 101).
Likewise, the foreignness of the C

in the augmented triad highlights

the tonal distance between E and the quartets overarching c tonic
(Smith 2005, 17).
71 While intra-movement relationships of hexatonic poles are exceedingly
rare in common-practice music, a few examples do exist. See, for in-
stance, Mendelssohns g-minor Piano Concerto, whose middle move-
ment is in E major.
Second, no other pair of keys with this unique rela-
tionship seems to occur with any frequency. (How many
multi-movement works in d minor, for instance, have slow
movements in F

major?) Narrowing the pairs that exhibit

this tonal relationship to the accepted classic-era keys with
four or fewer accidentals requires enharmonic reinterpreta-
tion in all cases but twoa possible reason for composers
avoidance of these pairs. And the one pairing apart from c
minor and E major that doesnt require enharmonic reinter-
pretation, f-minor works with A-major middle movements,
apparently occurs with substantially less frequency than the c
minorE major relationship. Thus, in works like Brahmss
op. 60 Quartet, we can hear tenuous connections back to the
previous century, faint echoes of the enormous impact tun-
ing systems, key associations, and the conventions of func-
tional tonality had upon earlier music.
* * *
Short of cataloging and counting all the tonal works from
the late eighteenth century forward, it is impossible to con-
tend that A

CE collections are more common or more

important than other major-third cycles. But the evidence
for these keys expressive signicance and prevalence in
romantic-era compositions suggest that they typify the
chromatic-third relations that lie at the heart of nineteenth-
century compositional practice. The composers who most

( )

Augmented triad
motive on: E




example 12. The A

CE complex in Brahms Quartet, op. 60, Andante: Graphic analysis of the retransition to the opening material,
mm. 7078.
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 185
favored the use of the A

CE complex span the nal days

of the classic era to the progressive New German school
and its antipode, the conservative, Johannes Brahms.
Moreover, the examples cited above include chamber music
and orchestral music, concerto and symphony, Lieder and
opera, and musics both dramatic and absolute. From surface-
level melodies to multi-movement connections, the A

complex appears in almost every conceivable context, tran-
scending the boundaries of genre, form, and tonal hierarchy.
More importantly, an awareness of its origins, tonal func-
tions, and expressivity enriches our analytic practice. Recog-
nition of these sonorities group structure uncovers intersec-
tions and contradictions between tonal/hierarchical and
phenomenological/referential hearings of music, impacting
our understanding of musical form and musical meaning.
That we can appreciate these intersections and contradic-
tions in an artistic style period that embraced duality and
ambiguity seems only tting. And, despite the nineteenth-
centurys owering of stylistic diversity fueled by individual
expression, the A

CE complex allows us to trace a scarlet

thread of sorts through the structural and expressive compo-
sitional practices of the romantic era.
appendix: some a

ce complex pieces
Bach, C.P.E., Piano Sonata in f, H. 173, i, mm. 2662
Beethoven, Piano Concerto no. 3 in c, op. 37, iii, mm.
182265 ff.
Beethoven, Piano Sonata in f, op. 57 (Appassionata), i,
Beethoven, In questa tomba oscura, WOO 133
Beethoven, Piano Concerto no. 5 in E

, op. 73 (Emperor),
i, mm. 13889 ff.
Beethoven, Fidelio
Beethoven, String Quartet in e, op. 59, no. 2, i, mm. 20921
Beethoven, String Quartet in E

, op. 127, ii
Brahms, Piano Quartet in c, op. 60, mm. 7078
Brahms, Symphony no. 1 in c, op. 68
Brahms, Concerto for Violin and Cello in a, op. 102, i, mm.
23857 ff.
Brahms, Intermezzo, op. 118, no. 4
Brahms, Clarinet Sonata, op. 120, no. 1, ii, mm. 4149
Chausson, Piano Trio, op. 3, ii, 13948
Chopin, Rondo, op. 1, mm. 54100
Chopin, Nouvelle Etude in A

, mm. 125
Chopin, Polonaise in A

, op. 53
Chopin, Mazurka in A

, op. 59, no. 2, esp. mm. 8588

Chopin, Waltz in A

, op. 64, no. 3

Chopin, Piano Concerto no. 2 in f, op. 21, i, mm. 20015
Debussy, Soupir from Trois pomes de Mallarm
Debussy, Le jet deau from Cinq pomes de Baudelaire
Elgar, Cello Concerto, op. 85, iv, mm. 197255
Franck, Symphony in d minor, i, development
Haydn, Sonata H. XVI: 52 in E

, i, development
Haydn, Quartet, op. 76, no. 3 in C (Emperor), i
Liszt, Annes des Plerinage, Premire anne: Suisse
Liszt, Orpheus, C. 682, mm. 72130
Liszt, Blume und Duft, C. 698
Liszt, Eine Faust-Symphonie, C. 697b
Liszt, Die Trauer-Gondel I, C. 1279
Mahler, Symphony no. 2 in c (Resurrection), i, exposition
Moussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition, Limoges, mm. 1618
Mozart, Cos fan tutte, Act II, Finale
Mozart, Symphony No 39 in E

, K. 543, iv, mm. 10825

Prokoev, Piano Sonata no. 7, op. 83, ii
Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto no. 2 in c, op. 18, opening of
ii and iii
Rimsky-Korsakov, The Golden Cockerel, Act II, opening
Schubert, Piano Trio in E

, D. 929, i, recapitulation
Schubert, Piano Sonata in a, D. 845 (op. 42), i, mm. 180
Schubert, Allegro in a for Four Hands, D. 947 (op. 144,
Lebensstrme), exposition
Schubert, Wanderer Fantasy, op. 15
Schubert, Octet D. 803 (op. 166), vi, mm. 17278
Schubert, Symphony no. 4 in c, D. 417 (Tragic), ii, mm.
186 music theory spectrum 28 (2006)
03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 186
Schubert, Symphony no. 6 in C, D. 589 (Little), iv, mm.
Schubert, Symphony no. 9 in C, D. 944 (Great), i
Schubert, Antigone und Oedip, D. 542
Schubert, Der zurnenden Diana, D. 707
Schubert, Flle der Liebe, D. 854
Strauss, Richard, Horn Concerto no. 1 in E

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Strauss, Richard, Also Sprach Zarathustra, op. 30
Stravinsky, Piano Sonata
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03.Bribitzer_pp167-190 7/24/06 1:35 PM Page 190
matthew bribitzer-stull is Assistant Professor of Music
Theory at the University of Minnesota School of Music. He
is also contributing co-editor of New Millennium Wagner
Studies: Essays in Music and Culture.
arnie cox is Associate Professor at the Oberlin College
Conservatory of Music.
marion a. guck, the Louise Cuyler Collegiate Professor of
Music at the University of Michigan, is Visiting Professor of
Music at Columbia University for 200607.
david huron is Professor of Music at the Ohio State
henry klumpenhouwer is the Associate Chair of the
Music Department at the University of Alberta.
judy lochhead is Professor and Chair of the Department
of Music at Stony Brook University.
yonatan malin is Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan
robert morris is Professor of Composition at the Eastman
School of Music, University of Rochester.
ann ommen is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in musicology at
the Ohio State University.
chitravina n. ravikiran is an internationally known mas-
ter musician, composer, and pedagogue of South Indian
david smyth is Professor of Music Theory at Louisiana
State University. He is currently working on a book about
Stravinskys sketches.
alastair williams is Reader in Music at Keele University,
UK. He authored Constructing Musicology and also wrote the
chapter on modernism since 1975 for the Cambridge History
of Twentieth-Century Music.
10.Contributors_pp321-322 7/24/06 1:52 PM Page 321