Grigorii Lyzhov

Yuri Kholopov’s Concept of Evolution of Tonal Harmony

A prominent theorist, professor of the Moscow Conservatory Yuri Kholopov (1932-2003) has been a Renaissance-type scholar aimed at the broadest comprehension of music, from the ancient ‘μουσική’ and Western plainchant to works of his contemporary composers.  In his treatment of harmony, Kholopov maintained a fine balance of aesthetic and philosophical depth with precision of formal-technical analysis of a musical work and equality of historic-stylistic and systemic approaches.
His main objective was the seamless integration of the 20th-century music into the general paradigm of evolution of harmony, established for the Classic-Romantic period. Kholopov started by elaborating on the elements of the new harmony in late-Romantic music. These ‘new techniques of Romantic harmony’ include three groups. The first group covers the category of chord, the second—scale, and the third—tonal structure as a whole.

The first group presents new normative textures that exceed the classical notions of chord and chord progression, such as ‘elaboration of a chord’, ‘sonant coloristic’, ‘functional inversion’, ‘mono-structural rows’, ‘technique of the intervallic non-variable’ and ‘the functions of triton substitutions’” The second group is related to expansions of the scales beyond the derivation from major and minor. Thus the role of these new scales becomes more and more important for the pitch system of the whole, which is manifested as the new modal technique (expressed in introduction of natural and artificial modes).

The third group, which covers ten terms, is united by the degrees of ‘conditions of tonality’ (a table of ten conditions that describe specific, non-classical, relationships of the center of tonal system with its periphery).
This system, offered by Yuri Kholopov, has become the core method of current Russian pedagogy and research of tonal harmony of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.