Although at the same time enharmonically sounding
like the half-diminished chord F-A♭
, it can also be interpreted as the suspended altered subdominant
being the suspension
in the key
of A minor).
According to J. Chailley (1963, p. 40
), "it is rooted in a simple dominant chord of A minor
[C major], which includes two appoggiaturas resolved in the normal way" Thus in this view it is not a chord but an anticipation of the dominant chord in measure three.
Functional analyses include interpreting the chord's root as on:
- the fourth scale degree (IV) of A minor (D, according to Arend "a modified minor seventh chord" F-B-D♯-G♯ → F-C♭-E♭-A♭ → F-B-D-A = D-F-A, according to Lorenz an augmented sixth chord F-A-D♯) (Arend, Riemann, D'Indy, Lorenz, Deliège, Gut), based after Riemann on the transcendent principle that there are only three functions, tonic, subdominant, and dominant (I, IV, and V);
- the second degree (II) of A minor (B) (Piston, Walter 1941, Goldman 1965) (Schoenberg, Arnold, 1954), as a French sixth (F-A-B-D♯), based on the transcendent principle of closeness on the circle of fifths with IV being farther than II, with G♯ seen as an accented passing tone, or
- as a secondary dominant (V/V=B, five of five, A=I, V=E), and thus also with a root on B (Ergo 1921, Kurth 1920, Distler 1940), favoring the fifth motion B to E and seeing the chord as a seventh chord with lowered fifth (B-D♯(D♮)-F♯-A).
- F or B in A: Considering the G♯ as an appoggiatura, the chord can be interpreted as a type of augmented sixth, specifically the French sixth (F A B D# = F B D# (G#-)A).
(1903, p. 117)
, who analyses the chord as on IV after Riemann's transcendent principle (as phrased by Serge Gut: "the most classic succession in the world: Tonic, Subdominant, Dominant" (1981, p. 150))
Deliège, independently, sees the G♯
as an appoggiatura
Nonfunctional analyses are based on structure (rather than function), and are characterized as vertical characterizations or linear analyses. Vertical characterizations include interpreting the chord's root as on the
- seventh degree (VII) (Ward 1970, Sadai 1980), of F♯ minor (E♯) (Kistler 1879, Jadassohn 1899)
Linear analyses include that of Noske (1981: 116-17) and Schenker
was the first to analyse the motif entirely through melodic concerns.
William Mitchell, from a Schenkerian perspective, does not see the G♯
as an appoggiatura
because the melodic line (oboe: G♯
-B) ascends to B, making the A a passing note. This ascent by minor third is mirrored by the descending line (cello
, English horn
: D), a descent by minor third, making the D♯
, like A♯
, an appoggiatura
. This makes the chord a diminished seventh
Serge Gut (1981, p. 150), argues that, "if one focuses essentially on melodic motion, one sees how its dynamic force creates a sense of an appoggiatura
each time, that is, at the beginning of each measure, creating a mood both feverish and tense ... thus in the soprano motif, the G♯
and the A♯
are heard as appoggiaturas, as the F and D♯
in the initial motif." The chord is thus a minor chord with added sixth (D-F-A-B) on the fourth degree (IV), though it is engendered by melodic waves.
Allen Forte, who (1988, p. 328) identifies the chord as an atonal set, 4-27 (half-diminished seventh chord) but then "elect[s] to place that consideration in a secondary, even tertiary position compared to the most dynamic aspect of the opening music, which is clearly the large-scale ascending motion that develops in the upper voice, in its entirety a linear projection of the Tristan Chord transposed to level three, g♯
Schoenberg (1911, p. 284) describes it as a "wandering chord [vagierender Akkord]... it can come from anywhere
Nattiez asserts that the context of the Tristan chord is A minor, and that analyses which say the key is E or E♭
are "wrong". He privileges analyses of the chord as on the second degree (II).
Czech professor K. Mayrberger
(1878), who "places the chord on the second degree, and interprets the G♯
as an appoggiatura
. But above all, Mayrberger considers the attraction between the E and the real bass F to be paramount, and calls the Tristan chord a Zwitterakkord
(a bisexual or androgynous chord), whose F is controlled by the key of A minor, and D♯
by the key of E minor."