Benedict Taylor

Navigating Grieg’s ‘Harmonic Dreamworld’: Tetrachordal Harmonies and Added-Note Voice-Leading in Haugtussa

Edvard Grieg’s delight in harmonic sonority, his propensity for chords of the ninth, eleventh, or even thirteenth as entities in their own right, is evident throughout much of his music.  Indeed, according to his own later recollection, as a child the first thing he did on a piano was to pick out the chord of the major ninth.  One of the most sophisticated compositional realisations of such extended harmonies may be found in his song-cycle Haugtussa (The Mountain Maid), Op. 67 (1895).  The current paper explores the use of added-note harmonies in Grieg’s music, specifically tetrachords that extend the diatonic triad, and their interaction both with the 19th-century’s first (diatonic functional) and second (chromatic) practices.  It analyses Grieg’s exploitation of the dual-root equivalence of added-note harmonies in Haugtussa’s opening song, Det syng ('The Enticement'), and his sophisticated, differentiated systems of tetrachordal voice-leading in the central strophes of the cycle’s final song, Ved Gjætle-Bekken ('At Goat Brook').  Grieg’s practice is contextualised against the background of 19th-century harmonic theory concerning extra-triadic, tertian chordal constructions, such as that of his teacher Moritz Hauptmann and Helmholtz.  In particular, I find the hitherto neglected work of Georg Capellen forms a profitable point for development of my own extended late-Romantic harmonic theory, alongside Harrison’s more recent theorising of mixed functional chords and Jack Douthett’s and Richard Cohn’s work on Boretz transformations of ‘Tristan genus’ tetrachords.