Can anyone tell me what chord is in bar 115 of the attached image, and how it relates to the key of F minor (just edited, accidentally said F# minor at first) (which is also the subsequent chord)?

It sounds like a diminished chord and the main notes appear to be Db G Bb E.

enter image description here

You can hear it at 5:53 in the YouTube link.

2 Answers 2


Are you sure you mean F♯ minor, or did you just mean F minor?

Although the key signature has one sharp, the music at this point is clearly setting up a big dominant of F. Above the pedal point C, the E G B♭ D♭ that you mention is an E fully diminished seventh chord, which is a viio7 chord in the key of F minor.

Some would choose to include the bass C in the chord, and call this a V7♭9 chord. But in my experience with Haydn, he rarely uses true ninth chords. Instead, he's alternating between this viio7 and i, always above the C pedal, to prolong dominant and build tension before it finally resolves to a root-position tonic.

  • Sorry Richard, yes I did mean F minor as I had annotated. Will edit this mistake. Thanks a lot, that sounds spot on!
    – John MC
    Nov 22, 2019 at 6:57

As well as the pitches Db G Bb E which you mention, there is also the C in the bass (I see you also notated that as "pedal point"). I agree with Richard that the key is temporarily f minor, and I'd argue that the chord is indeed V7♭9. Arguments in favour of this analysis: the chord precedes i, it has all the pitches of V, and it doesn't have any which mitigate against the impression that it is chord V. What's more, the C is in the bass, strengthening the impression that C is the chord's root. Analysing a chord as some classified chord over a separate pitch as pedal is what you have to resort to if the pedal note doesn't fit harmonically in with the chord; however, here, it does, so it sounds like part of the chord rather than a discordant pedal, so the above classification accords with what the chord sounds like.

Moreover, I'd say that this classification is not just credible but the only credible one: Richard's alternative, viio7, has dominant function; add to this the actual dominant in the bass, and the result is the aforementioned V7♭9.

As for Richard's argument that Haydn rarely uses true ninth chords, rare they might be, but why not classify a chord as such when the evidence for this classification is so strong?

  • All fair points. I didn't get into the specifics in my answer, but my logic was this: extended tertian chords like 9ths and 11ths really only appear as bona fide chords in the mid-19th century or so. Before then, these extensions really tend to be non-chord tones. (There are exceptions, but that's generally the case.) Since a ♭9 reading here would suggest a true chord tone, I didn't go that route in my analysis.
    – Richard
    Nov 24, 2019 at 22:35
  • 1
    @Richard: I get your argument, but by that logic, aren't sevenths at the time of Haydn mostly still treated as "non-chord tones," i.e., generally approached and left by step, almost always occurring as suspensions, passing tones, etc.? Why call a seventh chord a "chord" but not a ninth chord? To Haydn, brought up in the figured bass tradition, a b9/7 was likely as much of a "chord" as a 6/4 (which occurs in the next bar) -- both were unstable sonorities with rules for appropriate resolution.
    – Athanasius
    Nov 25, 2019 at 21:31

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