I'm having a hard time figuring out how the chord progression from Schubert's Winterreise (D911), No. 11 "Frühlingstraum", measures 15–26 works (from the section marked "Schnell" to the section marked "Langsam".

"Frühlingstraum" mm. 13–20

"Frühlingstraum" mm. 21–29

The passage ends in A minor, suggesting the tonality of A minor overall. This can also be heard in recordings of the piece, where the ending on Am sounds very definitive and conclusive.

But I have a hard time figuring out the functions of the many chords. There are a lot of inverted French augmented 6th chords, but how they relate to the bigger picture, and lead towards the A minor, is hard for me to tell. So the general movement towards the section resolving on the A minor before the next part starts at "Langsam" is very hard for me to analyse.

  • 3
    To encourage anyone answering, what have you done so far? – Tim Mar 18 at 16:39
  • I think there is a good question here, but I still think a little work needs to be done. Laurids, can you give a little more info on why you think it is A minor and what harmony in what measures are tripping you up? If it is every measure in the section you pointed out, it may be better for everyone to break down smaller sections for purposes of this question. – Dom Mar 18 at 21:45
  • Thank you so much, I've tried to clarify it again :) – Laurids Mar 18 at 22:25
  • After playing through it, I've come to the conclusion that Schubert is being a real leading-tone c*#k-blocker. If we call the bar after Schnell bar 1, the 2nd chord wants to be a B7 and is denied by the sus4 on E. Then the next bar, the Italian 6th wants SO much to pass through a B7, as it would in every theory textbook ever written-- and we are again denied. Then he's like "Pssht. . . I KNOW what a leading tone is. Here's a sudden d minor for you!" Then in bar 8 and on, he's like "What's a G#?" Oh, there it is in bar 11. . . over nothing but the tonic. Pranks and more pranks! – Bennyboy1973 Mar 19 at 8:17
  • As for the overall tonality being a-minor. . . It feels to me that the entire passage is giant ii-v-V7-I in D, with the repeated As in the bass being a pedal tone. When he does hit those C#s in bar 3 and again in the Langsam, you really feel that leading tone as a major event both times-- made even majorer(!) by the conspicuous absence of other leading tones in so many bars. – Bennyboy1973 Mar 19 at 8:35

There's a lot going on in this excerpt. Here's a general answer, with some pointers to get more information if needed.

“Top level” analysis

In broad terms, the passage is in A minor and breaks down in this way:

Mm. 15–16: E minor = v
Mm. 17–20: D minor = iv
  [Mm. 19–20: G minor = iv/iv]
Mm. 21–26: A minor = i

"iv/iv" is an applied chord, meaning "the iv chord relative to the iv chord". This is especially common in the case of applied dominant chords. See Confused on marking figured bass for modulating sequence for more.

Mm. 15–16: E minor (v)

  • Measure 15 starts on a first inversion E minor triad.
  • The second half of m. 15 is a ii chord in E minor (i.e., F#o), with an E pedal tone.
  • Measure 16 returns to the first inversion E minor triad.
  • The second chord in m. 16 is a common-tone Fr6, which then returns to the E minor triad.

Common-tone augmented sixth chords are a technique to expand a particular harmony -- in this case, E minor. They function in the same manner as common-tone diminished chords. For more, see A chord progression from Leavitt: how to analyze it correctly.

Mm. 17–20: D minor

  • The E minor triad in m. 17 is a pivot chord. It’s still the v chord, but also serves as the ii chord in D minor, kicking off a ii-V progression leading to that key in the next measure. Note that the ii in this case is borrowed from D major, though modal mixture, as it would otherwise need a Bb rather than B natural.
  • Measure 18 is D minor, with a common-tone Fr6 connecting the two instances of that chord.
  • Measures 19 and 20 are iv/iv, which is to say, G minor. Measure 19 contains an Adim chord with a G pedal tone, mirroring measure 15. Measure 20 contains a common-tone Fr6.
  • The D minor chord at the end of measure 20 rounds out the entire passage as primarily expanding D minor.

Mm. 21–26: A minor

  • A minor arrives in m. 21 as a plagal cadence from m. 20, but is then confirmed with a solid V-i cadence moving into m. 22.

From measure 22, this entire segment occurs over an A pedal tone. The chords are analyzed according to the pitches above the pedal.

  • Measure 22 confirms A minor via a common-tone Fr6.
  • Measure 23 is a Neapolitan Six chord (over the A pedal)
  • Measure 24 is again A minor, expanded by a common-tone Fr6
  • Measures 25 and 26 are a V-i cadence in A minor.

For more on the Neapolitan chord, see What is a Neapolitan 6th?

  • 2
    Note to the community: the bold terms should include references to canonical questions defining the topic. I've included a few links, but would welcome help with others. In particular, do we have canonical (or very good) questions (answers) for PIVOT CHORD, MODAL MIXTURE, PEDAL TONE, and PLAGAL CADENCE? – Aaron Mar 19 at 15:26
  • This may be a good opportunity for a community wiki, depending on how far you want to go with this. – Richard Mar 19 at 19:53
  • Thank you so much! This is helps a lot. I am very grateful! :) – Laurids Mar 19 at 22:36
  • I think the above analysis is quite good especially the top levelanalysis. I would only encourage some alternatives on certain details. The Aug. Sixth chords such as the middle of measure 16 can be seen as a dual leading tone chord resolving to an ambiguous G major/E minor chord. The F# leads into G; the C leads into B. This reflects the C to B in the vocal line and the G -F# in the bassline of measure 15. It's a remarkable echo of the preceeding lines and the ambiguity is a facet of this section. – Ootagu Mar 22 at 18:40
  • @Ootagu That's a nice way to think of augmented sixths chords -- as double leading tones. It makes for a clear explanation of how they operate and why they're spelled the way they are. – Aaron Mar 22 at 18:49

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