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I'm trying to analyze the ending chord progressions to Liszt's Liebestraum No. 3. The piece is in Ab-major.

The chord in the second half of measure 73 is a D diminished triad. This would appear to be a secondary leading tone leading to the V chord in Ab major. However, measure 74 starts with a B-flat minor seventh chord. The V(7) chord results in measure 75.

Could the chord in measure 73 be an unresolved secondary leading tone?

If a secondary chord doesn't resolve the way we'd expect, is it still okay to analyze it as vii/x, or should a different explanation for the chord be sought? I'd appreciate reading any thoughts on this. Thanks!

  • 1
    Somewhat related (in a jazz context): this answer
    – Matt L.
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 8:13
  • 1
    @Matt L: I haven't seen your comment. your answer is also correct. I knew this piece from listening but I had never seen the sheet music before. We could learn a lot of theory by this music. Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 16:03

3 Answers 3


For more context, I'd like to start at bar 69, 3 bars before your extract starts.

Liszt, Liebesträume 3, b.69-74

To over-simplify: much of the chord sequence is a sequence of dominants, each resolving onto a chord which is its tonic, but altered so that it is itself a dominant: F, B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭. Then in b.74 where you might expect a chord of G♭, we get the expected pitches B♭D♭, but the chord is a different one: from here on, we get ii V I in A♭ major.

It's a bit trickier than that, though. Although most of these chords could be said to function like dominants, it would be more accurate to describe them as vii7 or vii7♭: a dominant 9th but with its root not played.

And some notes have been respelt to make them easier to recognise (e.g. E♭♭ respelt as D♮), but this might make the chords they're in harder to recognise. I'll use the harmonically more correct spellings in my analysis.

bar pitches     key:chord
69  F A C       B♭:V
    A C E♭G♭    B♭:vii7 functioning as V9♭
70  D F A♭C(♭)  E♭:vii7(♭) functioning as V9(♭)
71  G B♭D♭F♭    A♭:vii7 functioning as V9♭
72  C E♭G♭B♭(♭) D♭:vii7(♭) functioning as V9(♭)
73  F A♭C♭E♭♭   G♭:vii7 functioning as V9♭
74  B♭D♭F(♭)A♭  A♭:ii7(♭)
75  E♭G B♭D♭    A♭:V7
76  A♭C E♭       A♭:I

I'm thinking this is actually analogous to the jazz-idiom chord progression I-i°-ii7-V7! It's part of the i°7 chord, so I consider it to have a similar function in this answer.

We recently had a question here discussing this exact progression (and comparign it to the ♯i°7), so I'll link it (full disclosure: I wrote one of the answers), but the gist of it is that the diminished chord leads to the ii chord as a more chromatic chord to produce tension while resolving downwards. Note that it's not really a secondary dominant of anything, but it still works to add tension to the I chord and resolve it smoothly to a predominant.

I think it translates well into a more classical context (or rather, it translated well into jazz)!


It is like user 45266 says. There's nothing to add except this fantastic youtube video with analysis (in German):

He says he is playing and analyzing Liszt in terms of the harmony of Jazz.

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