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"Unwelcome Guest"





It was Franz Liszt's privilege and burden to assume the leadershipduringthe 1850s of that dynamic, new direction in German music known
as Zukunftsmusik. A privilege, because Liszt
enjoyed artistic freedom at the ducal court in
Weimar to pursue his progressive aims in composition; a burden, because his efforts for the
new music, indeed, for his own music, were by
no means completely understood or accepted.
In his later years Liszt withdrew into a kind of
self-imposed creative isolation, and more and
more his music, especially that of the 1870s and
80s, evinced an unsettling, brooding quality,

19th-Century Music XII/2 (Fall 1988). @ by the Regents of

the University of California.
Shortened versions of this study were presented at the Liszt
Conference of the Nineteenth Romantic Music Festival,
Butler University, in 1986, and at Washington University in

prompting one modern scholar to suggest that

Liszt, pioneer though he may have been, was a
Cassandra-like figure whose musical prophecies were doomed to fall on uncomprehending
Indeed, as recently as 1987, Allen Forte,himself a pioneer in attempting to applyelements of
atonal set theory to probe Liszt's enigmatic late
music, could only conclude: "We are still far
from a comprehensive picture of [Liszt's]position in nineteenth-century music and his relation to the twentieth century."2And in recent
times numerous studies have continued to
weigh his significance and measure the intricate course his influence cut across the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Liszt's
1Bence Szabolcsi, The Twilight of F. Liszt, trans. A. Deak
(Budapest, 1959), p. 40.
2"Liszt's Experimental Idiom and Music of the Early
Twentieth Century," this journal 10 (1987), 228.




contributions commonly cited in the literature

include his attempted reform of church music;
his experiments in programmatic music; his
welding of the sonata principle to multiple formal designs; his systematic use of cyclic thematicism, influenced in part by the earlier experiments of Schubert and Berlioz; his innovative approaches to tonal planning that led
ineluctably to powerful excursions into atonality; his extension of the major-minortonal
system through a variety of nondiatonic scales;
his development of progressions with quartal
and other nonthird-based harmonies; and his
striking applications of diminished-seventh
chords, augmented triads, and other chromatic
According to the generally received wisdom,
Liszt made most of these contributions afterhe
settled in Weimar as Kapellmeister extraordinary in 1848. Behind this view rests a reaction
against the music of the precedingGlanzperiod,
the intense concertizing of the 1830s and 40s
when Liszt secured his position throughout Europe and abroadas the preeminent pianist of the
age, andwhen he producedhis glittering, if shallow, virtuoso music with which to defend that
claim. But from a second vantage point, the
seeds for Liszt's revolutionary music already
had germinated during his early period. Nourishing this experimental tendency were his experiences with the July Revolution of 1830 and
the weavers' revolt in Lyon a few years later, his
brush with the St. Simonian movement in Paris
(and with Freemasonry in Germany), and his
meeting with the Abb6 Lamennais-all experiences which shaped Liszt's emerging beliefs in
the proselytizing mission of the modem artist,
and, in turn, influenced the distinctive forwarddirected thrust of his later music.4
3Seemy "Liszt,Fantasyand Fuguefor Organon 'Adnos, ad
salutarem undam',"this journal4 (1981),250-61, and the
literature cited therein; to this should be added Richard
Taruskin, "Chernomorto Kashchei:HarmonicSorcery;or,
Stravinsky's 'Angle'," Journal of the American Musico-

logical Society 38 (1985),especially 89ff.;andForte,"Liszt's

4Seein particularDieter Torkewitz,HarmonischesDenken

As one special topic in the evolution of

Liszt's experimental style, we shall considerhis
changing perception of the augmented triad,
that orphan of traditional music theory that
found a secure place in the music of Liszt and of
many who followed him. Liszt enriched this
singularsonority by testing it in an ever expanding compass of uses. We shall trace its development from his early period,when it appearsprimarily as an agent of harmonic color; through
the years approachingthe Weimarperiod,when
he begins to assimilate it systematically into
his harmonic language; through the Weimar
period,when he relates it to increasingly deeper
levels of musical structure; and, finally,
throughwhat Fortehas termed the "experimental idiom" of the late period, when he explores
its use as a means of generatingwhole compositions, thereby reaching (andbreaching)the outskirts of atonality. Arguably,Liszt was the first
composer to establish the augmented triad as a
truly independent sonority, to consider its implications for modern dissonance treatment,
and to ponder its meaning for the future course
of tonality. Liszt's accomplishments in these
areaswere considerableand supportin no small
way his position, in Busoni's phrase, as the
"master of freedom.'"

Our view of Liszt's early period in Paris still

remains regrettably incomplete. The music
that survives points to the late 1820s and early
1830s as a crucial time when he began to explore new compositional directions. Among the
stylistic evidence we may cite Liszt's new flexibility in meter and rhythm, his relaxing of the
rules governing dissonance treatment, his applications of enharmonic spellings, his widespreaduse of mediant relationships, andhis immersion of the harmonic fabric into a richly
hued chromatic dye.6In the last mentioned we
may find most likely the source of Liszt's interest in the augmented triad.
This was a revolutionary time for Liszt and
for his Parisian contemporaries, in musical and
nonmusical arenas alike. Between 1829 and 33

im Frfihwerk Franz Liszts (Munich, 1978), based in part on

sketches andunfinished draftsfrom the 1820s and30s; also,

Alexander Main, "Liszt's Lyon: Music and the Social
Conscience," this journal4 (1981),228-43; RalphP. Locke,
"Liszt's Saint-SimonianAdventure,"this journal4 (1981),
209-27; and P. A. Autexier, "The Masonic Thread in

5Feruccio Busoni, The Essence of Music and Other Papers,


rpt. Kassel, 1968),pp. 82ff.

Liszt," Journal of the American Liszt Society 22 (1987),


trans. R. Ley (New York, 1965),p. 138.

6SeeTorkewitz, Harmonisches Denken; and RudolfK6kai,
Franz Liszt in seinen friihen Klavierwerken (Freiburg, 1933;

The "Unwelcome

a. Harmoniespoetiques et religieuses (1833).







f energico
stringendo sempre


Prestocon strepito

I-I- W



b. Reduction.


Example 1
he published no music, but sketched a variety of
experimental works, including a visionary
"Revolutionary" Symphony inspired by political events of the day. At least one of Liszt's
sketches boldly displays an augmented triad as
its first sonority, as if to proclaim a new harmonic order.7But Liszt did not immediately
take up the challenge in his published music
that soon followed. To be sure, we begin to find
an increasing number of augmented triads-some of them in flamboyant guise. Upon closer
inspection, however, these examples often divulge a relatively straightforwardapplication of
the triad, as in the Harmonies poetiques et reli-

gieuses, composed in 1833 after a volume of poetry by Lamartine(ex. la).8Here Liszt prolongsa
prominent augmented sonority by an energetic
7Reproducedin Torkewitz, HarmonischesDenken, p. 30.
8Accordingto Main it was completed by 30 October 1833
(Main, "Liszt's Lyon," 243). Liszt then revised the work in
1835 and completely recast it several years later as the

arpeggiation for one full measure as it undergoes enharmonic respelling; yet, we may account for the sonority as an unproblematicpassing chord, a colorful link between statements of
D6 major and D major (see the reduction in ex.


This short-lived passage is clearly ancillary

to other progressive features elsewhere in the
composition: its open meter and asymmetrical
rhythmic groupings, and, above all, its peculiar
opening and ending with diminished harmonies. Indeed, Liszt turned here not to the augmented triad but to the diminished-seventh
chord, which saturates the work, as his most
immediate response to Lamartine's "coeurs
bris6s parla douleur."9
Pensee des morts for inclusion in the larger collection,
Harmonies poetiques et religieuses. On the publication of
Pens'e des morts he rejectedthe originalversion.
9In "Die Erstfassung der 'Harmonies poetiques et
religieuses' von Liszt" in Liszt-Studien 2 (Munich, 1981),





- ,-


l, -



Example2: Lyon.

In Vallke d'Obermann, composed between

1835 and 3810 after a novel of Senancour, Liszt
found another opportunity to experiment with
chromatic harmony. In the prefatoryquotation
Liszt extractedfrom the novel we readabout the
"harmonie romantique ... qui conserve a nos
coeursles couleurs de la jeunesse et la fraicheur
de la vie." But Liszt translates those youthful
colors again and again into diminished-seventh
sonorities, as abundant here as they are in the
Harmonies poetiques et religieuses. Only in the
querulous recitativo of the central section do
augmented triads make a brief appearance,
where they once more tinge passageswith more
or less uncomplicated voice leading.
A more daring treatment of the augmented
triad obtains in Lyon, a fiery, marchlike movement originally included, with Vallke d'Obermann, in the Album d'un voyageur, but then
dropped when Liszt later reworked and reasde pesembled the collection as the
lerinage. Composed in 1837 and 38,11Lyon is
Liszt's musical reaction to a workers' uprising
in 1834. It begins with a motto in heroic octaves, thought to represent the slogan, "Live
pp. 220-36, Dieter Torkewitz treats the diminished
seventh as a harmonic topic of structuralsignificance.
'oAftera new chronology suggested by AlexanderMain in
"Lisztand Lamartine:Two EarlyLetters,"in Liszt-Studien
2, pp. 137ff.
"'Forthe case behind this dating,see Main, "Liszt'sLyon."


working or die fighting" ("Vivreen travaillant

ou mourir en combattant"). Liszt responds to
this call by beginning with a skip of a major
third (C-E); then, leapingto the bass register,he
spans the interval of a minor sixth (C-Ab) in a
stepwise ascent, before concluding with a descending diminished seventh (ex. 2a).
This stark, linear outline subsequently bears
on the march proper. Beginning in C major,
Liszt momentarily diverts the music to A6 major before pausing on the dominant; then, recommencing the march, he turns to E major.Of
course, tonal progressionby majorthirds is not
all that novel; numerous precedents may be
found in Beethoven or Schubert, and, before
them, in Mozart and Haydn. But in Lyon Liszt's
highlighting of C, E, andA6 majorwas likely not
only conditioned by the practice of Mediantik,
but also by the augmented triad, C-E-A6, vigorously unfolded in the introductoryoctaves.
Audible evidence to support this notion appears in the coda of Lyon, where Liszt combines
the two parts of the motto to produce a jarring
entrance of vertical augmented triads (ex. 2b).
Liszt's use of the triad in Lyon thus operates on
three levels: in the introduction, he presents the
augmented triad linearly; in the course of the
march, certain mediant progressions reinforce
the triad on a deeper level; and, finally, in the
coda, we hear the sonority itself, its shrill, dissonant charactereffectively broughtto bearon the
subject of the composition.

a. Etudeen douzeexercises.

The "Unwelcome

Allegrocon fuoco

b. Grandesetudes.





Such works as Harmonies po6tiques et religieuses, Vallee d'Obermann, and Lyon suggest
that the stirrings of Liszt's interest in the augmented triad date from the decade of the 1830s.
The point is made succinctly if we comparethe
opening studies of the Etude en douze exercises
(1826) and the Grandes Etudes (1837), the second set comprising the ambitious and-for pianists- treacherousrevision of the first (see ex.
3a and b). In the second measure of the Etude
Liszt devised a sequential pattern with chromatic passing tones; in the GrandeEtude he reinforced the passing tones at the third, yielding
a series of passing augmented triads. Clearly by
1837 Liszt was beginning to apply the sonority
with increasing confidence, primarily as a
means of imbuing his music with a chromatic
A critical turning point in Liszt's perception
of the triadoccurs in his music of the 1840s. The
pivotal work here is the setting of Petrarch's
Sonnet No. 104, "Pace non trovo." Liszt held
this work in high regard;he finished no fewer
than four versions, including the original song
in A6 major (1844-45, S 270/1), a revised arrangement for piano solo in E major (1844-45,
published in 1846 with two other PetrarchSon-

nets, S 158), a second version for piano solo in E

major(between 1846 and 49, for inclusion in the
Italian volume of the Annees de pdlerinage, S
161), and a second, considerably different song
setting which concludes with a signatureof four
sharps (1854, S 270/2).
What is more, the composer himself singled
out his use of the augmented triadin the sonnet
with this intriguing statement, all too tantalizing in its conciseness: "The augmented triad
was then still something remarkable. Wagner
had used these chords in his Venusberg,that is,
around 1845, but they were written for the first
time by me here [in the Petrarch Sonnet] in
1841."12That Liszt should cite the openingscene
of Tannhausermay seem a mishearing:Wagner
achieved the seductive alure of the Venusberg,
of course, by a profusion of shimmering diminished-seventh sonorities, not augmented triads.

'2AugustG6llerich, FranzLiszt (Berlin,1908),p. 21. Liszt's

statement would seem to argue for an earlier date for the
original song, S 270/1, but still later than the conventional
dating of 1838-39, commonly encountered in the earlier
Liszt literature. See further evidence presented by Rena
Mueller in a review of Alan Walker,Franz Liszt, vol. I, in
Journal of the American Musicological Society 37 (1984),




There is, however, one passagein which an augmented triad appears over a dominant pedal
point, and it may be to this that Liszt was referring (mm. 81ff., ex. 4a; the passage appearsearlier as well in the Overture,mm. 124ff.).13
Wagner's augmented triad functions as a
prominent chromatic passing chord(related,incidentally, to the ascending chromatic line in
the cellos); specifically, we may hearit as partof
the prolongation of the dominant, B, the harmonic crux of the passage (ex. 4b). In the first
version of Liszt's Sonnet, on the other hand (ex.
5a), the augmented triad enjoys a new independence: here it functions as an expressive substitute for the secondary dominant, C major, or
V/vi, as the hypothetical revision of ex. 5b reveals. For the second phrase Liszt recasts the
first phrase one step below, on Gb. Extending
our analogy, we may hear the corresponding
augmented triad as standing for Bb,or V/v.
What Liszt wrote, of course, is inestimably
more satisfying than any theoretical recasting.
The alternation between calming consonant
triads and ambivalent augmented triads captures quite beautifully the essence of Petrarch's
sonnet, celebrated throughout the centuries for
its oxymoronic qualities,14its compact, impassioned statement of the poet who finds no peace
but yearns not for strife, who sees without eyes,
and who speaks though mute as he contemplates his beloved Laura.
In his four settings of the sonnet Liszt gradually strengthened the role of the augmented
triad to underscore Petrarch'svivid antitheses.
The closing measures of each setting demonstrate this most strikingly. The final cadence of

189-90. The dates of the four versions cited here are from
SharonWinklhofer'srevision of HumphreySearle's"Liszt"
article in The New Grove Early Romantic

Masters 1

BInterpretingthe G11erich quotation, SergeGut misleads
by concludingthat the Venusbergexampleis "tresmauvais,
car il ne s'y trouve aucun accord augment6 mais, en
revanche,de nombreusesseptiemes diminu6es."SergeGut,

the original song simply alternates between Al

majorand C major, again suggesting C majoras
the source for the celebrated augmented triad
(ex. 5c). In the second and third settings, both in
E major, Liszt took the decisive next step by incorporating the augmented triad into the cadence (ex. 5d).1' And in the fourth setting,
finished duringthe Weimarperiod,he went further: this version, tonally ambivalent, has no
firm final cadence. Instead, the song concludes
with a melodic gesture directed toward the unharmonized pitch G#, impressed in our ear by
what has precededas the third scale degreeof E
major, and as the upper voice of the immediately following augmented triad (ex. 5e).
More advanced than "Pace non trovo" in its
use of the augmented triad is the well-known
Fundrailles (October 1849), which appearedin
the Harmonies poetiques et religieuses of 1853.
This work was remembered as an homage to
Chopin, who died in October 1849. As we now
know, however, the work owed its inspiration
to events of the failed Hungarianrevolution of
1848-49. It is in three broadsections, which we
shall label A, B, and C. A ponderous introduzione prefaces these sections to set the somber
mood; in addition, Liszt concludes the work
with abridgedrestatements of A, B, and C. The
introduzione (mm. 1-23), serving as dominant
preparationto section A in F minor, rises from
the depths of the piano in lugubrious chromatic
chords over the dissonant ninth C-Db. Detectable in this music are the outlines of an augmented triad: the upper voice of the chords
spans the interval E to Al; this, combined with
the bass note C, places in relief the augmented
triad C-E-Al, which we shall designate x (ex.
6a). Toward the end of the introduzione Liszt
generates a second augmented triad, Db-A-F,
henceforth y, beneath the dissonant ninth (ex.
6b). As we shall see, these two triads figure in
each section that follows. No less important,
they are only a half step removed from the tonic
F minor, a feature that Liszt turns to full advantage (ex. 6c).

Franz Liszt: Les elements du langage musical (Paris, 1975),

p. 300.
14A feature that had inspired several sixteenth-century
madrigal settings and poetic imitations. See James Haar,
"Pacenon trovo: A Study in Literaryand Musical Parody,"
Musica Disciplina 20 (1966), 95-149.


consideringthis cadence, Diether de la Motte describes
the voice leading as a "sensationell neuartigeDissonanzbehandlung."Harmonielehre(Kassel,1978),p. 242.

The "Unwelcome

a. Wagner,Tannhiiuser,
act I, sc. 1, "Venusberg"




0 2








. ._,



- :




S, e,------- ,,,-------.-,-,,,-,-...pD





-b. Reduction.

In the A section (mm. 24-55), x unfolds in a
bass melody; it also appearsin the accompaniment above, where it serves as an auxiliary
chord to the F-minor 6 harmony, yielding a
highly charged, dissonant quality (ex. 6d). By
transposing the passage up a fourth, Liszt repeats the music in Bb minor (mm. 28ff.), where
the second augmented triad, y, is heard. The
contrasting B section in Ab major,markedlagrimoso (mm. 56-108), features x in a suspension
figure (ex. 6e). The stirring C section (mm. 10955), a marchlike passage over a steadily intensifying triplet ostinato, uses the pitches of y to determine its tonal plan: three planes of music in
D6, A, and F major.Of the remainderof the com-

position the return of B, in E major,is especially

noteworthy: because it lies an enharmonic majorthirdfrom A6, the originalkey of the section,
Liszt is able to reuse x through an enharmonic
respelling (ex. 6f). Finally, in the concluding
bars Liszt writes chords that alternate between
F major and y; here again, the augmented triad
assumes a cadential role (ex. 6g).
In at least two ways Fune'railles recalls
Liszt's Petrarch Sonnet: both feature the augmented triadin the accompaniment of the main
thematic material, and again in the final cadence. But in Fundrailles Liszt treated the sonority in more systematic fashion, so that it
now began to play a role as a unifying element of



a. PetrarchSonnet, no. 104, "Pacenon trovo" (S270/I).







che non m'a




ser -










ri - tien,



glie ii




b. Hypothetical revision.

m'hain prig


che non




c. "Pacenon trovo" (S270/I).









Example 5

d. PetrarchSonnet, no. 104 (S 161).


e. "Pacenon trovo" (S270/II).















sempreuna corda







Example 5 (continued)

the structure. Fundraillesis significant, too, for

its association of the augmented triad with the
topic of death and mourning-just one example
in an extended series of works including the Via
crucis, La lugubre gondola, Am Grabe Richard
Wagners,and Nuages gris.
During the 1840s Liszt thus came to terms

with the sonority not only as a tonally unifying

device but also as a topical symbol. We have already seen how this second, extramusical application evolved from Lyon, where the dissonance suggests the struggle of the rebellious
workers, to "Pace non trovo," where it emphasizes the double-edgedmetaphors of the sonnet.

A group of songs from the 1840s, subsequently

revised for publication, reveals further Liszt's
development of these extramusical thematic
An especially striking example is the Heine
setting Vergiftetsind meine Lieder(S289; 1842,
published 1844).This remarkablesong tracesin
arresting musical imagery the course of poisoned love. Its opening phrase (ex. 7a) may be
readily analyzed in C# minor. In the latter part
of the setting, the tempo shifts to Allegro molto,
and here Liszt introduces the augmented sonority, formed from an agitated tremolo in the treble and a rising chromatic line in the bass (ex.














sempre marcato







sot o




una corda

Pii lento



(cresc.) -




Example 6: Fun railles (1849).


7b). The augmented triad, which moves inconclusively to D minor, is a chromatic transformation of the vi6 chord of m. 2, a writhing musical counterpartto the text "Ich trag'im Herzen
viel Schlangen."
But most grippingof all is the bitter climax of
the song, "und dich, Geliebte mein!" At least
one critic, Louis K6hler,commented on this extraordinarypassage, focusing his attention, understandably enough, on its dissonant suspension chord,16which, he maintained, might well
cause musicians to faint. But K6hlerdid not notice how Liszt outlined the augmented triad in
the vocal line (A-F?-C#), and injected it into
the piano postlude, including the final cadence
Three other songs may be mentioned more
briefly. In Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam (S
389; ca. 1845, published 1860) Liszt joins augmented triads to the image of the windswept,
desolate northern pine, in contrast to lyrical
music for the idealized vision of a southern
palm. Mourning for lost love again serves as a
topical allusion in this famous poem, the midpoint of Heine's Lyrisches Intermezzo. In
Freudvoll und leidvoll, from Goethe's Egmont
(S 280; 1844, revised 1860), Liszt introduces
augmented triads for the phrase "zum Tode betriibt." And finally, in Die Viatergruft(S 281;
1844, published 1860), he invokes augmented
triads for the eerie music of spirits who greet an
old warrior, preparedfor death, as he enters a
chapel to take his place alongside the coffins of
his ancestors.
To summarize: by the end of the 1840s Liszt
had made several advances in developing the
augmented triad. The sonority now appearsin a
wider range of applications, including melodic
outlines, enharmonic progressionsand modulations, and cadential passages. Simply put, the
triad begins to affect in more profound ways
Liszt's compositional logic. And no less important, it conveys topical themes of death, mourning, or grief. It is perhapsno surprisethat Liszt's
increasing interest in the augmented triad
parallels the development of his approach to
programmatic music during the 1840s.

16Neue Zeitschrift fiir Musik 52 (1860),229.

None of Liszt's contemporariesexploited the

triad with quite the same degree of sophistication. To be sure, examples are readily available
in the works of Berlioz, Chopin, and others. Berlioz applied the sonority with enchanting effect
in the Queen Mab Scherzo from Romeo et Juliette, and Chopin occasionally used the augmented triadin cadential contexts (e.g.,Largoof
the Sonata, op. 58, mm. 119-20; conclusions of
the Scherzos, ops. 31 and 54). But none of these
examples suggests as extensive an evolution of
the augmented triadas that we aretracingin the
music of Liszt.
Only Schumann, perhaps, stands out for his
imaginative use of the sonority. Schumann actually begins some compositions with the triad,
as in the Humoresque, op. 20 (1838) and the
part-song Der Bleicherin Nachtlied, op. 91, no.
5 (1849);or with an intimation of an augmented
triad, as in Dichterliebe and the second movement of the Davidsbiindlertinze (ex. 8a-c).
And occasionally the augmented triad appears
in a deceptive cadence, perhapsmost strikingly
in the opening song from Frauenliebe und
-leben, op. 42 (ex. 8d). But beyond this, Schumann did not venture far.In contrast, Liszt's advancement of the augmented triadwas truly pioneering. Looking back at his efforts for the
sonority, Liszt recalled: "That later broughtme
many reproaches,and I was judgedpoorly for it.
But I didn't trouble myself about the issue."'7
Before the nineteenth century, the augmented fifth was typically viewed as a passing
dissonance that enjoyed only a limited number
of applications.'8 Not until the eighteenth century did theorists begin to attach harmonic
significance to chords with augmented fifths,
and they did so at first with reluctance, if not
p. 21.
"8Abriefhistorical overview,including a valuablesummary
of Liszt's use of the augmentedtriad,is offeredin Gut, Franz
Liszt, pp. 290-94. In seeking to establish Liszt as the
liberatorof the augmentedtriad,a view to which this author
subscribes,Gut perhapstakes unnecessarypains to dismiss
its earlierhistory. Examplescited from Monteverdi,Schuitz,
Purcell, Lalande, Bach, Rameau, Haydn, and Mozart are
viewed as rareand isolated. But examples of the triadin the
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are not all that
uncommon; more to the point is that composers before
Liszt used the triadin a severely limited numberof ways.

The "Unwelcome




Heftig deklamiert

Ver - gif - tet


mei - ne

Lie - der





- ders











zen viel









a tempo










Example 7: Vergiftetsind meine Lieder.


a temp



a. Schumann,Humoresque,op.20.




b. Schumann,Der Bleicherin Nachtlied, op. 91, no. 5.

Nicht schnell

Blei - che, blei-che

wei - sses Lein,

in _

des stil - len

Mon - des Hut!

c. Schumann,Davidsbiindlertiinze, op. 6, no. 2.


d. Schumann,Frauenliebeund -leben, op. 42, no. 1.



hel-ler nur

em - por.


Example 8

considerable misgiving. While Jean-Philippe

Rameau had recognized as a license the "accord
de la quinte-superfliie" constructed upon the
mediant degree of the minor scale (1722),19Johann David Heinichen had viewed the augmented fifth as a false interval that caused an
"ausserordentlicheHiirtigkeit"(1728);the "Ac-

cord der quintae superfluae,"Heinichen recommended, should only be used in the free style of
composition, and then only on rare occasions

for "harten Expressionibus."20 Taking an ex-

"9Traithde 1'harmonie(Paris, 1722; facs. New York, 1965),

p. 273.

20Der General-Bass in der Komposition (Dresden, 1728; rpt.

treme position, JohannPhilippKimberger,whose

work in many ways represented the culmination of the figured-bass tradition, had argued

Hildesheim, 1969),p. 100.




that, because of its dissonant qualities, the augmented triad was a "totally useless" construct

motivatesomeoneto undertakeit. Sucha sequence

couldbe represented
onlyin thisbittermanner:26


Others were comparatively generous to the

sonority. Georg Andreas Sorge actually admitted the trias superflua as a consonant triad classified among the "scharfen musikalischen Gewiirze" (1747);susceptible to inversion, it could
be used effectively to express topics of death,
doubt, and suffering.22And in the nineteenth
century Daniel Gottlob TUrk treated the augmented triad in a chapter devoted to dissonant
triads and their inversions, with detailed rules
about doublings in four-partharmony (1824).23
Nevertheless, rather than grant the augmented triad status as an autonomous harmony, other nineteenth-century theorists continued to explain it as a passing sonority. Thus,
Gottfried Weberarguedthat the raisedfifth was
a "herber Durchgang" (1830). There was no
need to recognize the triad as a Grundharmonie; such recognition, he warned, would open a
Pandora'sbox, releasing a rash of new dangerous harmonies upon the world.24
By 1847 Adolf BernhardMarxwas still viewing the "iibermiissigerDreiklang" as a "Durchgangs-Akkord,"or passing chord;in fact, it was
the only such chord honored with its own
name. But, he conceded, in modem practice the
augmented triad often appearedin other contexts: it was freely treated in inversion and inserted into "neue Akkordgiinge."25Then, in
1850, Marxagain consideredthe potential of the
triad; this time, however, he engaged in a kind
of harmonic brinksmanship:
Ifwe returnto the majortriadandraisethe fifth,the
shrillsoundof the augmentedtriadconfrontsus. A
sequenceof such triadshas never(atleast up to the
present)beendared--andwe wouldnot presumeto

2'Die Kunst des reinen Satzes (Berlin, 1776; facs.

Hildesheim, 1968),partI, p. 39.
22Vorgemachder musikalischen Composition (Lobenstein,
1745-47), I, 19, 20; II, 75, 118-20.
2Anweisung zum Generalbassspielen (Vienna, 1824), pp.
24Versuch einer geordneten Theorie der Tonsetzkunst
(Mainz, 1830),p. 111.
25DieLehre von der musikalischen Komposition (Leipzig,
1847),p. 271.




In fact, just this kind of sequential treatment

of the triad was daredby Liszt in his Pensee des
morts (1853) and, of course, in the celebrated
opening of the Faust Symphony (1857), to
which we shall return.But in 1850 Marxwas at
best a reluctant prophet,hinting at a daringnew
use of the sonority only to recoil from his own
suggestion. The lid of the box was raisedenough
for him to peer at its disquieting contents; then,
it was decisively lowered.
In the work of Carl FriedrichWeitzmann, almost certainly influenced by Liszt's harmonic
advances of the 1840s and early 1850s, we find
the first serious, in-depth theoretical study of
the sonority. Though little known today, during
his lifetime (1808-80) Weitzmann distinguished himself as an effective spokesman for
the music of Liszt and Wagner, earning praise
and criticism from the adherentsand detractors
of the Zukunftsmusiker.27In 1853-54 he produced a trilogy of treatises devoted to the augmented triad, the seventh chord,and the diminished-seventh chord; the last was, in fact,
dedicated to Liszt.28On account of their special
properties, the diminished-seventh chord and
augmented triad merited Weitzmann's special
consideration. But though composers had thoroughly exploited the diminished-seventh
chord, the augmented triad had not yet won
general acceptance. It was an "unwelcome
guest" ("unheimlicher Gast"), a fledgling harmony whose meaning and utility were not fully
understood. To remedy this state of affairswas
the declared purpose of Der iibermiissige
Dreiklang. Througha thoroughinvestigation of
the triad, its origins, and its relationship to the
26AllgemeineMusiklehre:Ein Hulfsbuch,4th edn. (Leipzig,
1850),p. 322.
27Aformal study of Weitzmann's life and work remains
unwritten. Some biographicaldetails are providedin the
Allgemeine deutsche Biographie41 (Leipzig,1896),p. 635;
and Paul Bekker, "Zum GedAchtnisK. Fr. Weitzmann,"
Allgemeine musikalische Musikzeitung35 (1908),577.
28DeriibermizssigeDreiklang(Berlin,1853);Geschichte des
Septimen-Akkordes (Berlin, 1854); and Der verminderte

diminished-seventh chord, Weitzmann sought

to strengthen the place of the augmented triad
in the family of dissonances and to secure its position in the chromatically and enharmonically
chargedmusic of his day.
In the early portion of his treatise Weitzmann
explicates those special properties of the augmented triad familiar enough to a twentiethcentury reader: an augmented triad may be
achieved by half-step motion from a major or
minor triad; it is, like the diminished-seventh
chord, a symmetrical sonority (specifically, two
majorthirds bounded by a minor sixth or its enharmonic equivalent); it may be spelled in root
position or in inverted forms without altering
its actual sound, lending it a notational ambiguity (Mehrdeutigkeit)that composers should exploit;29and finally, it is an especially versatile
sonority representedby only four differentfundamental forms which serve all twenty-four
major and minor keys.
In contrast to earlier theorists, who placed
the augmented triad on the third degree of the
minor scale, Weitzmann takes pains to establish a counterpart on the minor sixth degree of
the major scale; here we reach a distinctive feature of his theoretical approach.To accomplish
this, first he inverts a C-majortriad to produce
an F-minor triad (ex. 9a). The augmented triad,
Ab-C-E, a by-product of this operation, is
shared by both keys, though in each case the
triad relies on a Nebenton, that is, a pitch outside the particular scale. Thus, in C major, A6,
the minor sixth degree, is the supplementary
tone; and in F minor, E?,the raisedleading tone,
serves as the supplementary tone. Harmonically, the augmented triad resides on the third
degree of F minor, and on the lowered sixth degree of C major.30
Having established the concept of supplementary tones, Weitzmann now illustrates how
a single augmented triad may be related to a variety of keys, specifically, to twelve keys divided into two groupsof six. First, the triadmay
progress to the basic harmonies of its three

major, by lowering the appropriatesupplementary tone one half step (i.e., C6 in E6major,Ebin
G major, and G? in B major).Second, the same
augmented triad may be related to the relative
minor keys of the three tonalities-C minor, E
minor, and G# minor-by raising the appropriate supplementary tone one half step (i.e., B in
C minor, DOin E minor, and Fx in GOminor, or
the raised leading tones of those keys). Finally,
Weitzmann derives the second group of six related tonalities by reversing the major and minor modalities of the first group.In these examples one pitch acts as a common tone, while the
other two either descend or ascend by half step.
These six tonalities, E6 minor, G minor, B minor, C major, E major, and Ab major, are more
distantly related to the augmented triad.
Part of Weitzmann's treatise concerns such
practical matters as the doublings of the triadin
four-part harmony (and the obvious proscription against omitting any of its tones), and the
propernotation of the triad (that is, accordingto
the harmony that follows it). Weitzmann's enthusiasm for the harmony is perhapsmost evident when he takes up the possible resolutions
of the triad and sets forth no fewer than thirtytwo, each precisely analyzed.31The majorityinvolve common tones which permit smooth progressions of the voices according to these four
rules: (1) each pitch of the triad can descend by
step while the other pitches remain stationary;
(2) each pitch of the triad can ascend by step
while the other pitches remain stationary; (3)
each pitch of the triad can remain stationary
while the other two pitches ascend by step; and
(4) each pitch of the triad can remain stationary
while the other two pitches descend by step.
These thirty-two progressions entail resolutions to major or minor triads. But Weitzmann
also investigates Trugfortschreitungen,or deceptive progressions.Thus, an augmented triad
may "resolve" to a diminished-seventh chord;
or vice versa, a diminished-seventh chord may
progressto an augmented triad. In these deceptive progressions Weitzmann uncovered a spe-

pitches. For example, the augmented triad EbG-B may be linked to Eb major, G major, and B

cial relationship that links the four augmented

triads with their counterparts, the three diminished-seventh chords. Each augmented triad

29DerfibermiissigeDreiklang, pp. 13-15.

30Ibid.,pp. 16-17.

31Ibid.,pp. 24-29.


The "Unwelcome





M3 m3












010 c

Example 9: Weitzmann, Der iibermiissigeDreiklang (Berlin,1853).

may progress by one common tone to each
diminished-seventh chord; conversely, each diminished-seventh chord may be tied by one
common tone to each augmented triad (ex.

Four final examples afforda brief glimpse at

how Weitzmann proposed to exploit the newly
uncovered resources of the augmented triad. In
one example a simple chain of fifths is harmonized by augmented triads (ex. 9c). A chain of
fifths supports a second example, but here
Weitzmann harmonizes the sequence with
mixtures of seventh chords and augmented triads (ex. 9d), yielding a passage almost entirely
generated by ascending and descending chromatic lines. In the severe chromaticism of this
example Weitzmann reveals his most daring
musical language, which approaches Liszt's

later experiments and looks forward to Hugo

Wolf's chromatically mannered style.
Thus, the "abandoned"triad found a secure
place in Weitzmann's harmonic system, and its
special qualities were revealed in detail for the
first time. Weitzmann's ideas, in turn, won recognition from Liszt, who greatly respected the
theorist. It was Liszt who promotedthe publication of Weitzmann's progressivelyspiritedprize
essay "ErklarendeErliuterungund musikalisch
theoretische Begrnindungder durch die neuesten Kunstsch6pfungen bewirkten Umgestaltung und WeiterbildungderHarmonik";33it
was Liszt who paid tribute to the theorist by declaring "Die Weitzmanne sind selten";34
finally, it was Liszt who took up Weitzmann's

33NZfM52 (1860),passim.
32Ibid.,pp. 29-30, 22-23.

34Lina Ramann, Lisztiana: Erinnerungen an Franz Liszt in

Briefen und Dokumenten aus den

challenge to composers to determine in their

music the future destiny of the sonority.35
Reviewing a decade of Liszt's activities in
Weimar as conductor and composer, Richard
Pohl characterized the years 1852 to 1862 as a
period of spiraling artistic revitalization, of accelerating, progressivechange unmatched since
the time of Beethoven, and, before him, of
Gluck. Pohl predicted a bright future for German music. There was good enough reason for
his optimism: Liszt had begun to perform the
works of Wagner, Berlioz, and other "forwardminded" composers and to bringout his new series of symphonic poems. And in several glowing articles Franz Brendel, editor of the Neue
Zeitschrift fiir Musik, announced that Weimar
was fast becoming a musical mecca, as it had
been in literature under Goethe.36 Brendel
might well have addedhis voice to Pohl's rallying cry, "Wir miissen vorwairts,weil wir nicht
riickwirts gehen k6nnen."'37
For Liszt, this process of artistic quickening
was hastened in no small way throughhis ongoing experiments with the augmented triad. In
1853, when Weitzmann's treatise appeared,
Liszt brought out his Pensee des morts (S 173/
4), a thorough recasting of the considerably earlier Harmonies poetiques et religieuses discussed above. Among the many revisions in the
later version is one stunning addition, a clamorous cadenza featuring augmented triads, first in
a whole-tone progression and then in stark
parallel motion over a rushing chromatic scale
(ex. 10). Liszt thus accomplished in one bold
stroke what A. B. Marx had not dared to attempt. And this giddying cadenza is not for
mere virtuoso display, but derives its meaning
from what follows: the mournful strains of a
psalm intonation with its text, "De profundis
clamavi," superimposed.
In much the same way, the revision of Vall"e
d'Obermann for the Annees de plerinage, pubJahren1873-86/87, ed. ArthurSeidl and FriedrichSchnapp
(Mainz, 1983),p. 277.
35DerfibermiissigeDreiklang, p. 32.
36"EinAusflug nach Weimar," NZfM 36 (1852), 37-40,
120-21; 37 (1852),225-27, 237-40, 251-54.
37Richard Pohl, "Liszt's Faust-Symphonie (1862)," in
Gesammelte Schriften fiber Musik und Musiker (Leipzig,

lished in 1855, shows Liszt's intensifying

awareness of the augmented triad. The basic
motive of this work describes a series of thirds
descending from the third scale degree:in E minor, a seventh chord (G-E-C-A) and in E major, the key of the conclusion, two majorthirds
(G#-E-C?), or an augmented triad (ex. 11a).38
Now in the revised version Liszt addedthe augmented triad to the final cadence, where it
strengthens the motivic cohesiveness of the
work (ex. 11b).39
During Liszt's tenure in Weimar, the augmented triad thus became a highly visible part
of his harmonic palette: its frequency of use, in
fact, now began to rival appearancesof the diminished-seventh chord. This decisive turn
was owing in no small way to Liszt's new concentration on programmaticmusic; as he fully
realized, the triad was one effective agent of
transmitting those extramusical, poetic ideas
that informed his orchestral music of the
Weimarperiod. One representativeexample occurs in the first symphonic poem, the so-called
Bergsymphonie (1850), also known by the title
of Victor Hugo's poem which inspired it, "Ce
qu'on entend sur la montagne."
From the collection Feuilles d'automne,
comprising forty poems of distinctly melancholic tone, "Ce qu'on entend" poetizes the opposing forces of nature and humanity as conflicting sounds heard atop a mountain summit.
The human element, which drew from Hugo
harshly dissonant language,received from Liszt
a discordant musical counterpart,in which the
augmented triad figures prominently. Hugo's
"exploding chords" ("accords 6clatants") and
the "clangor of armor" ("le choc d'armures")
found their musical realization in the two passages shown in ex. 12a and b.
Undoubtedly the major masterwork of the
Weimar years-and a focal point for this essay-was the Faust Symphony, in which the
38TheE-majorversion of the motive, incidentally, describes
part of a whole-tone scale (G#-F#-E-D-C?), which as
Liszt discovered, is compatible with the augmented triad.
He exploited this association more extensively in Der
traurigeManch, discussed below.
39ConcerningLiszt's heightened use of the augmentedtriad
in the revision of Vallee d'Obermann see Forte, "Liszt's
Experimental Idiom," 212-13, which offers a hybrid
analytical approach drawing on Schenkerian reduction
methods and atonal-set analysis.









4w OF

F aw aI


4p OF


poco cresc. -



dt. I.




rinfz, assai


[A... . .

... . . .


. . .M.. .

. 1. . ....

. ..




A .

[ II I I I



Example 10: Pensee des morts (S 173/4).

augmented triad functions on numerous structural levels. The long gestation of the symphony began in the mid 1840s, when Liszt apparently sketched the famous opening theme,
the center of our discussion. The work was not
performed in its final version until 1857.40 In

the celebrated atonal opening of the symphony,

Liszt marshalled all twelve pitches of the chromatic scale. This extraordinarypassage is often
cited as a proto-twelve-tone row,41and Fortehas
recently offered an atonal-set analysis that attempts to reveal an organizationbased on chromatic tetrachords.42But historically more to
the mark, and surely of more relevance to Liszt,
is an interpretation that demonstrates the deri4?Fora review of the convoluted chronologyof the work, see
Laszl6 Somfai, "Die Gestaltwandlungen der 'FaustSymphonie' von Liszt," in Franz Liszt: Beitridge von
ungarischen Autoren, ed. Klara Hamburger (Budapest,
1978),pp. 292-96.
41See,for example, Laszl6 Somfai, "Die Metamorphoseder
'Faust-Symphonie' von Liszt," Studia musicologica 5
(1961), 286; F. Ritzel, "Materialdenken bei Liszt: eine
Untersuchung des 'Zwalftonthemas' der Faust-Symphonie," Die Musikforschung 20 (1967), 289-94; K. W.
Niem6ller, "Zurnicht-tonalen Thema-Strukturvon Liszts
Faust-Symphonie,"Die Musikforschung22 (1969),69-72;
andN. Nagler, "Die verspitete Zukunftsmusik,"in MusikKonzepte 12: Franz Liszt, ed. H. -K. Metzger and R. Riehn
(Munich, 1980),pp. 24ff.

vation of the theme from augmented triads.Already in the nineteenth century Pohl, for one,
was impressed that "here for the first time in
the entire musical literature a complete theme
is actually constructed from the augmented
triad, a surprisingly new musical discovery, in
the fullest sense of the word, which may be ignored as little in future harmony treatises as it
may be by the composers who follow."43
The first twenty-two measures of the symphony, in fact, represent a self-contained passage almost entirely derived thematically and
harmonically from the augmented triads of the
opening theme. Severedfrom the main body of
the movement by a long pause, this passage depicts Faust's self-imposed isolation; in Goethe's
poem we see him first in his study, as a man disenchanted with life and groping to extend the
limits of his knowledge.44In Liszt's score muted

43Pohl II, 284. For other readings of the opening as a

sequence of augmented triads see de la Motte,

Harmonielehre, p. 238; and Robert Morgan, "Dissonant
Prolongation:Theoretical and Compositional Precedents,"
Journalof Music Theory20 (1976), 60-62.
44ConstantinFloros,who has attempteda semantic analysis
of the symphony, suggests that the theme relates "auf die
GelehrsamkeitFausts,auf seine Neigung zur Reflexionund
zur Spekulation,auf seinen Drangnach Erkenntnis,auf die








8va -----






Example 11: Vallee d'Obermann.

Allegroagitato assai



Example 12: Bergsymphonie("Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne").

strings attack fortissimo the first pitch, A6, itself a strangely detached effect, before the four
triads are outlined at a piano level. Next the
winds, marked dolente, perform a suspension
figure harmonized by the last two augmented
griiblerische Seite seiner Personlichkeit," and concludes
that the augmented triad is an emblem for Faust. "Die
Faust-Symphonie von Franz Liszt: Eine semantische
Analyse," in Musik-Konzepte 12: Franz Liszt, p. 64.

triads of the sequence. This dolorous figure is

repeated in the lower register of the bassoons
and clarinets; and finally the two triads are
combined in a descending, intercalated arpeggiation leading to a low E and a pause in m. 11, the
exact midpoint of the passage.
As the reduction of ex. 13 shows, in these
eleven bars Liszt unfolds a descending chromatic scale in the bass from Ab to E and then
prolongs the E through a register transferto the







\lJI -





. .




Example 13: Faust Symphony,I, reduction.

octave below. In the second half of the passage
he repeats the process, beginning on E, and descending chromatically to C. This time the arpeggiation is directed to conclude on A6, a critical revision that completes a larger scale
arpeggiationof the augmented triad Ab-E-CAb. The passage is, in short, symmetrical and
circular, commencing and ending on Ab, and
defining no particularkey. It is a fitting musical
expression of Faust'sfrustrationthat ultimately
"wir nichts wissen k6nnen."
Robert Morgan has offered a similar analytical reduction of the opening of the symphony,45
and his readingof the first pitch provides a convenient comparison with Forte's atonal-set
analysis, which seeks to link the opening to the
"experimental mode" of Liszt's late music.
Morgantreats the entire passageas a "dissonant
prolongation"of the augmented triadAb-C-E,
and therefore posits a parenthetical augmented
triad above the initial Ab in the bass. Forte, on
the other hand, hears the A6 as the first member
of the tetrachordformed by the first fourpitches
(Ab-G-B?-Eb), and then proceeds to read the
following measures as a series of seven interlocking forms of that tetrachord (set 4-19 in
Forte's system). Of course, each tetrachordcontains as a subset an augmented triad(3-12); that
is to say, set 3-12 is included within set 4-19.
Whether or not, however, such tetrachordscarried significant meaning for Liszt during the
the early sketches for the
theme date back to the 1840s-is at the least
questionable. On the other hand, it is plausible,
and will be arguedbelow, that the freely atonal
formations of Liszt's radicallate music grewout
of chromatic embellishments to the augmented
triad,a view not at all incompatible with Forte's
approach.And the critical work that prepared
the way for those widely rangingexperiments-45Morgan,"Dissonant Prolongation,"61.

for what Forte has termed "a process of accretion to the augmented triad"46-was unquestionably the Faust Symphony.
In Goethe's monologue Faust scorns philosophy and religion and turns instead to magic to
satisfy his quest for knowledge. In a similar way
Liszt shuns the trappingsof traditionaltonality
and advances instead the special qualities of the
augmented triad, which is now boldly explored
outside a tonal context. The entire passage is
dimly lit by dark scorings and muffled strings,
the musical equivalent of the reflected moonlight that envelops Faust in his study. Allying
the augmented triadwith magic or some kind of
altered state thus acquiresa topical significance
in the Faust Symphony, as it had before in the
admonition scene from act III of Lohengrin
(1848),where Wagneremployed the harmonyat
the passage, "Soist derZauber,dermich dirverbunden,"47or, after Liszt, in works such as Dukas's L'apprentidu sorcier (1897), the finale of
Schoenberg'sSecond String Quartet ("Entriickung," 1908), or Busoni's Doktor Faust (1924).
But none of these examples is as extensively
based on the sonority as is the opening of Liszt's
Pohl characterized this passage as "vielsagend (wie vieldeutig)"; he might just as well
have applied Weitzmann's concept of Mehrdeutigkeit to describe the tonal implications of
Liszt's treatment of the augmented triad. On
the surface, Liszt's opening is atonal; nevertheless, it suggests, however elusively, certain fundamental tonal relationships of the entire symphony.48In particular, the three pitches of the
underlying arpeggiation,A6, C, and E, represent
the three principal tonalities of the composi46Forte,"Liszt'sExperimentalIdiom,"227.
by Liszt for piano solo (S446, 1854).
48Seealso Floros, "Die Faust-Symphonie,"pp. 60ff.; and
Morgan,"Dissonant Prolongation,"62.

tion. The first movement is in C minor, but has

as an important subsidiary idea a grandiose
theme in E major. The slow movement is in Ab
major;it recalls, however, the suspension figure
of mm. 4 and 5 of the first movement in C minor
and also in E major. In addition, the final passage of the middle movement oscillates between A6 and E. The diabolical third movement, a grotesque parody of the first, revives C
and E as tonal centers. The concluding chorus
mysticus, which exults in the "Ewigweibliche," begins, appropriately enough, in Ab
major, Gretchen's key, before turning to the
magnificent conclusion in C major.
This overview does little justice to the manifold ways in which Liszt relates the augmented
triad to the structure of his symphony, but one
conclusion, at least, emerges from the analysis:
the sonority now works on many intricate levels of Liszt's music, a common denominator in
a highly sophisticated network of associations-motivic, thematic, harmonic, tonal, and

In Liszt's music of the post-Weimar period

are laid bare the ultimate consequences of his
treatment of the augmented triad. The increasingly abstract nature of this austere music, its
systematic reduction of compositional means,
and its eventual dissolution of tonal principles
baffled many of Liszt's contemporariesand, indeed, remain perplexing to this day. In the closing decades of his life Liszt became convinced
that the traditional Western tonal order was
more or less superannuated,and that composers
should seek a new means of tonal organization.49 In place of diatonic scales he proposed
whole-tone, gypsy, octatonic, and other chromatically altered scales-well in advance, it
should be noted, of Busoni's extrapolation of
"artificial"scales.s0And in place of a harmonic
hierarchy based upon major and minor triads,
Liszt developed other alternatives, among them
constellations of chromatic harmonies revolving around an augmented triad.
All of this brought Liszt to the realm of atonality. As we have seen, the beginning of the
Faust Symphony initiated this process, though
49SeeRamann,Lisztiana, pp. 276- 77.
50InSketch of a New Esthetic of Music, trans.T. Baker(New
York, 1911; rpt. 1962), pp. 90ff.

that beginning did not preempt the fundamental tonal orderof the symphony. And, of course,
the scale of the symphony did not permit extensive experimentation outside the limits of tonality. To accomplish this, Liszt found it convenient to work with music of smaller dimensions, in particular, relatively short works for
Aux Cypres de la Villa d'Este, from the third
volume of the Annies pdlerinage (1869), is one
of several threnodies from the late period;its extramusical associations alone mark it as a potential source of prominent augmented triads.
One particular augmented triad, F#-Bb-D, is
especially active throughout the introductory
measures, where it is linked as an antecedent or
consequent to several major and minor triads.
Each progression in the summary of ex. 14
moves by stepwise motion with one or two
common tones, recalling similar progressions
discussed in Weitzmann's treatise. Liszt avoids
defining G minor, the key suggested by the signature of two flats; instead, he implies that key
by its dominant (in both its major and minor
forms). But the solemn preface concludes not
with the dominant but with the opening augmented sonority, which effectively claims harmonic priority for the passage.
Associating the augmented triad with nondiatonic scales was another means by which
Liszt approachedatonal composition. As early
as 1850, in the Fantasy and Fugue for Organon
the pseudochorale "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" from Meyerbeer's Le prophete, Liszt had
produced a large-scale work based on a tritonal
axis, with whole-tone passages and supporting
augmented triads (and diminished-seventh
sonorities)."5Even more remarkablein this direction was Der traurigeM6nch (S348), a recitation for voice and piano written in 1860, but not
published until 1872. Nearly the entire setting
derives from whole-tone formations, an important by-productof which are augmented sonorities, and looks forward to a somewhat similar
experiment, Debussy's Voiles, based entirely on
whole-tone and pentatonic formations. The
poem, "Der traurige Monch," a ballade by Lenau, concerns a haunted tower inhabited by a
spirit in the guise of a melancholic monk. With
51Seemy "Liszt,Fantasyand Fuguefor Organon 'Adnos, ad

The "Unwelcome








Example 14
Aux Cypr s de la Villa d'Este, reduction.
such a subject, augmented triads were almost
de rigueurfor Liszt, who introduces this apparition with alternating minor and augmented triads (ex. 15). Liszt referredto the work as "bodenlos wiist" and its mysterious harmonies as
Aux Cypres de la Villa d'Este and Der
traurigeMinch begin to exhibit that simplification of means that became increasingly common in Liszt's late music, in stark contrast to
the effusiveness of his earlier music. In a series
of piano pieces from the 1880s, nearly all of
them conceived as dirges,Liszt carriedthe process to its natural conclusion, methodically
strippingaway ornamental detail and leaving in
place unaccompanied melodic lines and disturbingly sparse textures-in short, music of
the barest means. In these works, including the
piano works Nuages gris, La lugubre gondola I
and II, R. W. Venezia, Unstern, Am Grabe Richard Wagners, and Trauer-Vorspiel,and the
sacred work Via crucis, the backgroundstructure is pushed toward the foreground;and the
structural role of the augmented triad, which
now operates on the most fundamental level, is

As a final example we shall consider briefly

Lalugubre gondola I, written only six weeks before Wagner'sdeath early in 1883. This funereal
barcarolle unfolds as a slowly descending sequence of augmented triads. The opening melody itself suggests a chromatic embellishment
52Ina letter of 10 October 1860, cited in Franz Liszts
musikalische Werke(Leipzig,1922),vii/3, p. xii.
53Severalare analyzed with atonal sets by Forte, including
two stations from the Via crucis, Trauer-Vorspiel,Unstern,
and Nuages gris (Forte, "Liszt's Experimental Idiom,"
217-18). ForFortethe augmentedtriadandtetrachord4-19
encountered earlier in the Faust Symphony figure
prominently in these works. In more traditionalterms, set
4-19 may be describedas an augmentedtriadwith an added
chromaticauxiliarynote (e.g.,C-C#-E-G#). Among other
studies see BernardC. Lemoine, "Tonal Organizationin
Selected Late Piano Worksof FranzLiszt," in Liszt-Studien
2, pp. 123-24; JimSamson,Music in Transition:A Study of
Tonal Expansion and Atonality, 1900-1920 (London,
1977), p. 18; and Lawrence Kramer, "The Mirror of
Tonality: Transitional Features of Nineteenth-Century
Harmony,"this journal4 (1981),205.

of the augmented triad C-Fb-Ab; the accompanying ostinato figure presents a more direct
statement of the same triad, respelled enharmonically and inverted as E?-C-Ab, and supported by the auxiliary tone Db (ex. 16a). Despite the signature of four flats, suggesting the
key of F minor, a conventional tonal analysis is
vitiated by the lack of firm tonal cadences.
Rather,the cohesion of the piece depends on its
sequential underpinnings, as shown in the reduction of ex. 16b. The opening material returns transposeddown a step in m. 39, and again
down one more step in m. 77, where a blurring
tremolando replaces the methodic ostinato in
eighth notes. In the final portion of the piece
Liszt effects two more transpositions of the augmented triad, completing the sequence. And, as
a closing master stroke, Liszt omits the C of the
last triad, reducing the final augmented triadto
the nebulous interval E-Ab.
Liszt's development and emancipation of the
augmented triad stands as one among many of
his innovative accomplishments that influenced generations of later composers.But recognition of his role in this development did not go
unchallenged. Schoenberg, for example, attempted to make a case for Wagner'suse of the
sonority, citing the famous motive from the
"Ride of the Valkyries" in the third act of Die
Walkiire as an Ausgangspunkt for further experimentation.54(Surelya more momentous example from Wagner would be act I, sc. 3, of
Siegfried,in which Mime attempts to teach the
young hero the meaning of fear in a scene suffused with augmented triads.)
Schoenberg to the contrary, the case for
Liszt's influence, it would seem, is clear: his
music represents the crucial nineteenth-century link in the evolution of the augmented
triad. Works such as Wolf's songs Die verlassene Miagdlein or Bei einer Trauung from the
Mdrike Lieder, in which sequences of augmented triads underscore bitterly ironic texts;
Schoenberg's own op. 11, no. 1, in which augmented triads are discernible in the welter of
atonal sound; the second movement
Mahler's Fourth Symphony, in which an augmented triad introduces the eerie, altered sound
S4ArnoldSchoenberg, Harmonielehre (Vienna, 1911; 7th
edn., 1966),p. 468.

Nun schaut den Geist der Reiter auch Und kreuzet sich nach altem Brauch. Der M6nch hat sich vor ihn gestellt,
Die rechte Handunisono ad libitum

aberetwas markiert

The "Unwelcome

so klagend still, so schaurig, Als weine stumm aus ihm die Welt, So traurig, o wie traurig!

Example 15: Der traurige Minch.

a. Lalugubre gondola I.




una corda

b. Reduction.









Example 16
of a scordatura solo violin; the second movement of Bart6k'sSuite, op. 14, constructed upon
an interlocking series of augmented triads; or
later in the twentieth century, Vom TodeMariii

I from Hindemith's Das Marienleben, which

uses augmented triads to symbolize the death of

Mary-all of these examples are indebted, directly or indirectly, to Liszt's pioneering treatment of the sonority.
The examples could be extended to include
Debussy, Ravel, Scriabin, Busoni, Berg, and
many other composers of the first rank who fol-

lowed Liszt.55It is only fitting, then, with the

passing of the Liszt centenary, that we acknowledge him for developing to the fullest the special properties of the augmented triad-in
short, for joining Weitzmann in
regaling the "umheimlicher Gast."
55Someadditional examples are tangentially discussed in
Simon Harris, "Chord-FormsBased on the Whole-Tone
Scale in Early Twentieth-Century Music," Music Review
41 (1980), 36-51; see also, James Baker, The Music of
Alexander Scriabin (New Haven, 1987),passim.