Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Chromatic Transformations in Nineteenth-Century Music

Academic journal article Canadian University Music Review

Chromatic Transformations in Nineteenth-Century Music

Article excerpt

David Kopp. 2002. Chromatic Transformations in Nineteenth-Century Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, xiii, 275 pp. ISBN 0-521-80463-9 (hardcover).

David Kopp's study of chromatic mediant relations is clearly laid out and well presented. After two introductory chapters, he summarizes how other theorists have treated the topic of chromatic third-relations (chap. 3-6); he outlines his own analytic methodology (chap. 7); and he provides relevant analyses (chap. 8-9). Kopp provides an extensive bibliography for approaches to theories of nineteenthcentury harmonic practice. He indicates that in recent theoretic models, "the line of inquiry in tonal transformation theory seems to be shifting its focus ... from theory of harmony per se toward [transformational] models based on voice-leading," while his model presents "a transformational system based on common-tone tonality" (p., 165). Kopp's emphasis will be on harmonic function and root relations.1

In chapter 1, Kopp presents his principal argument: chromatic mediant relationships fall outside the purview of traditional tonal-theoretic approaches, and he wants to bring them in as a way to approach the repertoire of the nineteenth century. His view is that since dominant relations (essential to the tonal system) embody common-tone connections, then chromatic third-relations should be treated the same way. He suggests that tonic/chromatic-mediant relationships share properties of distinctiveness with tonic/dominant relationships in regard to common tones, root motion, stepwise voice leading and use of a "characteristic interval" (p. 7).

In chapter 2, Kopp provides examples of functional chromatic mediants in three compositions by Schubert. First is the song "Der Musensohn" (D764, 1822), in which Kopp provides a convincing first analysis of clear and simple chromatic mediant relation in an early Romantic song. The one weakness this reader finds here is Kopp's overlooking of an important aspect of his own "characteristic interval" theory, in this instance the tonic/leading-tone half-step inherent in the direct move from G-major tonic to upper sharp mediant B-major. The gesture is clearly articulated in the right-hand piano part, but Kopp excludes it from discussion in favour of emphasis on root-relations. The second example is the song "Die Sterne" (D939, 1828). For this song, Kopp does invoke the leading-tone relationship buried in the move between tonic and upper sharp mediant. For the final example (the Piano Sonata in B-flat major, D960/1, 1 828), Kopp provides excellent discussion and illustration of his ideas, especially in regard to the comparative use of lower flat mediant in the recapitulation.

Chapter 3 discusses treatises on functional harmony, including the works of Rameau, Reicha, Weber, Marx and Hauptmann. Kopp reviews these theorists' works and their considerations of diatonic and chromatic third-relations. His treatment of the treatises is generally fair, clear and informative. Chapter 4 provides an extensive look at Riemann' s writings. Ideas of root-interval motion and harmonic function proposed in these works are essential to Kopp's transformation theory, and he provides a clear and convincing chronological reading of many Riemannian concepts. We note here that Kopp's table 4.4 (p. 73) is missing the sharp in the final entry - it reads c^sup +^-°g when it should read c^sup +^-°g#. Overall, this chapter provides a good reconciliation of the ideas of root-interval progression and harmonic function, particularly in Kopp's interpretive summary of these ideas as expressed by Riemann (p. 99).

In chapter 5, Kopp gives an overview of twentieth -century theoretical concepts, focusing on the writings of Schenker and Schoenberg. The particularly strong emphasis given to Schenker is understandable given that theorist's well-known application of III#as a background-level third-divider between I and V.2 Indeed, Kopp finds that in Der freie Satz, Schenker overtly points to structural use of both diatonic and chromatic mediants either as third-dividers or as neighbours to tonic and dominant harmonies. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.