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Thread: How to interpret chromatic chord in Grieg's "Hjemve" (op. 57, no. 6)?

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    Default How to interpret chromatic chord in Grieg's "Hjemve" (op. 57, no. 6)?

    The third measure in Grieg's character piece "Hjemve", op. 57, no. 6, (listen here) has a chord with b5 scale degree in the bass. I'm not sure how to label it from a harmonic analysis perspective.

    To my ears, it sounds a bit spicy / chromatic, but not out of place. The b5 in the bass gives the chord almost a bluesy sound.

    Functionally, it seems to be some sort of altered applied chord going to the major IV in measure 4, given the half step voice leading down of the bass and alto voices. But I'm having trouble coming up with a tertian chord label given the tritone in the bass and tenor.

    The best chord label I have so far, which is still pretty unsatisfying, is an 2nd inversion i chord, altered to be half diminished and with an accented incomplete neighbor in the soprano. In other words:

    HjemveBeginning.jpg

    Is there a more satisfying analysis for this chord?

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    I see it as bVb5.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Quote Originally Posted by dyross View Post
    I'm not sure how to label it from a harmonic analysis perspective.

    To my ears, it sounds a bit spicy / chromatic, but not out of place. The b5 in the bass gives the chord almost a bluesy sound.

    Functionally, it seems to be some sort of altered applied chord going to the major IV in measure 4, given the half step voice leading down of the bass and alto voices. But I'm having trouble coming up with a tertian chord label given the tritone in the bass and tenor.

    The best chord label I have so far, which is still pretty unsatisfying, is an 2nd inversion i chord, altered to be half diminished and with an accented incomplete neighbor in the soprano. ...

    Is there a more satisfying analysis for this chord?
    I think you are right. You've used the symbol for half-diminished (I don't have it on my computer); including anything about bV would be redundant.

    It's tricky at first; I tried out a possibiliites. Then I wrote: "In mm. 3-4 a tonic half-diminished seventh chord, 2nd inversion is followed by a subdominant major triad. Both are altered chords, characteristic of the Romantic era and of Grieg.

    e minor: i half-dim. 4/3 – IV maj."

    Same thing as yours. As for the spice, it's European not African American!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    I see it as bVb5.
    Hi Phil - thanks for the response.

    I agree that the bottom three voices (enharmonically) spell a Bb major triad with a diminished fifth. However, the soprano line doesn't really mesh with this and there is no minor 7th.

    That said, I'm curious how you would interpret the label of bVb5. Is this a functional chord? In some ways, it reminds of like a tritone substituted dominant 7th in jazz theory, but AFAIK that isn't really "a thing" in classical music.

    I ask this from the perspective of "how would I emulate this sound in my own compositions".

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    Thanks for the response, Roger.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    I think you are right. You've used the symbol for half-diminished (I don't have it on my computer); including anything about bV would be redundant.

    It's tricky at first; I tried out a possibiliites. Then I wrote: "In mm. 3-4 a tonic half-diminished seventh chord, 2nd inversion is followed by a subdominant major triad. Both are altered chords, characteristic of the Romantic era and of Grieg.

    e minor: i half-dim. 4/3 – IV maj.

    Same thing as yours. "
    Yeah, makes sense.

    One other possibility that was suggested to me somewhere else is that measures 3-4 are a iim7b5(4/3)-V in D major/minor, but with a weird resolution to measure 5. This at least explains the movement from half diminished to a major triad down a fifth.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    As for the spice, it's European not African American!
    Haha, I know! Wasn't implying that Grieg was specifically writing blues music, just that the tritone in the chord itself reminds me a bit of a blues sound.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dyross View Post
    Hi Phil - thanks for the response.

    I agree that the bottom three voices (enharmonically) spell a Bb major triad with a diminished fifth. However, the soprano line doesn't really mesh with this and there is no minor 7th.

    That said, I'm curious how you would interpret the label of bVb5. Is this a functional chord? In some ways, it reminds of like a tritone substituted dominant 7th in jazz theory, but AFAIK that isn't really "a thing" in classical music.

    I ask this from the perspective of "how would I emulate this sound in my own compositions".
    I don't think it's a functional chord, I was guessing it was an altered chord related to the first chord iv chromatically somehow, more than to the tonic chord, with the soprano line. Just a guess.
    Last edited by Phil loves classical; Nov-04-2020 at 19:09.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    If you play the chord of measure 3 (Em7flat5) and then move to the chord of m.4 (A) and then stop, you can hear a progression of ii-V in d minor.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Just from those 4 bars, the piece sounds like it is in A, not E with some modal ambiguity. There are no leading tones in E

    also i half dim does not make a lot of sense in CP music, but it does have a bit of a subdominant/ aug6th flavor, with the Bb-A in the bass

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasks View Post
    If you play the chord of measure 3 (Em7flat5) and then move to the chord of m.4 (A) and then stop, you can hear a progression of ii-V in d minor.
    Except for the F#s. If it deserved a functional explanation it would be an altered ii4/3 leading to V in D major, which is pretty much saying what you did: borrowing the ii4/3 chord from D minor (or adding a little minor mode coloration to chords from D major, whichever way one wants to see it.)

    I don't know nor am I looking up the rest of the piece, but everything between the iv chord and the VI might perhaps best be dismissed as linear motions, depending on what follows. I always like to have at least a whole sentence before trying to analyze a passage and there isn't quite enough here.

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    I listened to the piece and the whole melody sounds very folkish and modal - the A section melody is more E Aeolian with chords that are more color than function, then the B section is in the Lydian mode, which is a feature of Norwegian folk music

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    I too would have liked to seen at least a few more bars (I know, I know .. I was being lazy and not researching the score like Bwv) to get a better feel.

    My point is that late Romantic composers like Wagner and especially Richard Strauss often have a few bars, not in the tonality of the key signature, that imply another key and usually allowing the dominant chord to define the implied key.
    Last edited by Vasks; Nov-05-2020 at 01:01.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Another way of viewing m.3 is to call it a non-functional chromatic passing chord. m. 1 = C, m. 2 = B, m.3 = B-flat, m.4 = A
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasks View Post
    Another way of viewing m.3 is to call it a non-functional chromatic passing chord. m. 1 = C, m. 2 = B, m.3 = B-flat, m.4 = A
    Yes. Another way is to explain it linearly is as parallel 10ths (bass and alto) around a tonic pedal.

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    — Mikhail Bulgakov, The Fatal Eggs

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    I listened to the piece and the whole melody sounds very folkish and modal - the A section melody is more E Aeolian with chords that are more color than function, then the B section is in the Lydian mode, which is a feature of Norwegian folk music
    1. If it sounds like E Aeolian (E natural minor), that does accommodate the melodic F#'s.

    2. Note the drone-like repetitions of E in the bass clef; E is a common tone to all the chords. It is the root of i and the 5th of iv. And it is the 3rd of the fresh-sounding VI (C major) in m. 5.

    3. Re i half/dim7 not making sense in common practice music, this is late romantic music, common practice with modifications: mode mixture, chromatic chords, 7th chords including augmented and diminished interval components -- and composers came up with new inflections and progressions accordingly.

    I am not stating that d: ii4/3 - V in mm. 3-4 is wrong; it is what I thought it was at first. The persistent E as a chord note in the bass clef, the persistence of E as the opening, mid-point, and closing tone in the melodic phrases, and the not unreasonable suggestion of a i half-dim. 4/3 - IV progression in historical context convince me that an analysis of the whole passage in E minor is preferable.

    At the same time I really don't want to argue negatively about this; all the above posts have merit and I appreciate everyone's abilities and interest in this intriguing passage.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Nov-06-2020 at 04:15.

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    Hi all, thanks for the helpful responses. I think the main take-aways are:

    1. The pedal point E in the left-hand is an important feature of the progression.
    2. Measure 3 can be thought of either as non-functional voice-leading with parallel tenths OR applied (altered) ii-V with unusual resolution.
    3. In the latter case, the unusual resolution is normal to the style, as explained by this excellent analysis of another Grieg character piece.

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