In Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 by Liszt from John Thompson's Grade 3 (the key signature is Cm) there is the following scale + 2 following notes:

D E F# G A Bb C D Eb F#

Is there a name for this scale?

EDIT: This is the surrounding of the passage: Liszt/Thompson passage with context

  • Which measure is this? I'm staring at a copy of it right now and I can't seem to find this part.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 2:27
  • 1
    Hungarian Rhapsody by which composer? Opus number?
    – NReilingh
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 3:40
  • The Opus number is S.244.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 17:10

3 Answers 3


With the D as the root you could consider it to be a D Phrygian dominant (also known as Freygish, Mixolydian b9 b13, or Mixolydian b2 b6). Being a klezmer scale this makes sense in a Hungarian oriented piece.
The E doesn't really fit, but that's ok I think. (With E instead of Eb it would be a Mixolydian b6.)

Without knowing the surroundings, the passage looks to me as being a D dominant to a following Gm.

EDIT: In relation to the question edit.

Well written music! So the harmonic context could be described as

    | Cm | Gm/D | D7(b13) D7(b9b13) | Gm |

Acually I'm not sure the whole phrase should be seen as belonging to one scale. I think you may have to look at it as two scales. Also you have to decide if you want to think about it in the context of the tonality or in the context of the current chord or function.

If you look at the phrase as a melody in the context of the (temporary) tonality G minor - which is well stated in the build up and resolution - then the melody is conforming to first

(1) a G ascending melodic minor scale (with the E)

that turns into

(2) a G harmonic minor scale (with the Eb).

I.e tones

    (1) G A Bb C D E F#
    (2) G A Bb C D Eb F#

If you look at the phrase as a phrase in the context of the current chord - the dominant D - then you first have

(3) a D mixolydian b6 scale (with the E)

that turns into

(4) a D mixolydian b2 b6 scale (with the Eb).

I.e tones

    (3) D E F# G A Bb C
    (4) D Eb F# G A Bb C

As you see it's the same tone materials. The mixolydian scales are built on the fifth degree (the dominant) of respecive minor scale.

Or, as luser droog suggests, you could look at it all as a G melodic minor scale using tones of both the ascending and descending variants. It depends on what you want to convey when you use the name of the scale. It's up to you to decide how you want to look at it given the context you want to apply it to.
Or ask a music professor. ;-)
In context of the provided music sample I'd personally stick to my pre-edit answer, but I really don't think it matters. Tell me which ever and I'd have an understanding of what you meant. It's really just normal tones in the G minor tonality, although the augmented second of Eb-F# and the following suspension on Bb gives an exciting feeling.

Now Ulf, stop ranting already!

  • 1
    I also think that luser droog's answer is valid. These are just different ways of looking at the same thing. Commented May 1, 2012 at 6:31
  • A comment about klezmer: In a klezmer context the D Freygish would not have to resolve to Gm, but would instead likely be the tonic of the piece. It is common to emphasize this by ending with a bass statement such as with the notes D - A - D. Commented May 1, 2012 at 6:37
  • I was thinking this might be it, but when luser droog posted his answer, I thought G Melodic Minor more the likely of the two.
    – Luke_0
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 18:46
  • :-) And I'm thinking it doesn't really matter. I just wanted to give an alternative interpretation when posting my answer. Commented May 1, 2012 at 20:55
  • 1
    You can easily patch-in the E as a chromatic passing tone. Commented May 27, 2012 at 21:38

This set of notes comprise G Melodic Minor. The B♭ gives you the minor character in the third scale degree from G. The E and F come in two flavors; E♮ and F♯ define the top end of a G Major scale; E♭ and F♮ give you the top of a G Natural Minor scale. Typically you choose flavors to follow the melody (hence "Melodic"), but alternating between the two creates a sort of tension that can drive a subsequent key-change.

Edit: Under my interpretation, the D is the root of the chord, but not the scale (btw, F♮ is not present which my theory would seem to require).

But I think Ulf has a valid perspective as well, and if you were to extract the scale from the piece as reuse it, you probably would relate it to D to distill the right flavor.


Preface: What's being analyzed here is John Thompson's arrangement of Liszt. For the original Liszt, see below.


John Thompson is using an arpeggiated F#o7 with various passing tones to create a scale-like texture.

This passage, along with the varying analyses given by others here, is a good example of how analysis is informed by the sound of the passage, demonstrating the frequent subjectivity of "music theory" and interpretation.

Full analysis: Arpeggio vs. scale

I find it more fruitful to analyze the cadenza as an arpeggio with passing tones, rather than a scale, giving a better functional explanation of the passage.


As a starting point, the passage as a whole can be distilled to a D7b9 chord. Playing a D7b9 arpeggio in lieu of the written "scale" still retains the fundamental character of the passage.

Why the particular passing tones?

Since the cadence immediately preceding the cadenza is in D major, E is the only possible note to connect the cadenza's initial D with the following F#. A b2 would not make sense in this context.

Not D7b9

However, I don't think the D7b9 chord idea holds up. Once we hit F#, my ear says the better interpretation a shift from D major to F#o7.

Because ... passing tones

The F#-G-A make sense in the context of D major. But looking at the larger progression, F#-G-A-Bb-C, we see the beginnings of a Half-Whole diminished scale. This is the best choice, because G and Bb are part of the target G minor. Using a Whole-half scale here would mean F#-G#-A-B-C, which would be entirely alien to G minor.

But there's a twist!

However, a Half-Whole diminished scale doesn't entirely work. To get from C to Eb, D makes far more sense than Db. Thus a shift to a Whole-Half pattern is necessary for the same reason it was avoided in the previous segment.

What about the Bb at the top of the cadenza?

This leaves the Bb at the top of the cadenza. One might consider the initially proposed D7b9 chord actually to be a D7b9b13; however, I don't hear that in this case. The F#o7 is so strong, that I hear the following A as part of the chord, even though it's heard "in passing" from Bb to G. To my ear, the Bb is an accented, unprepared upper neighbor to the A, also functioning as a transitional note to G minor.

The Original

Liszt's original cadenza is much more easily analyzed. It's a G# harmonic minor scale, played over a D#7 (V7) chord.

Liszt cadenza

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