Visual and Performing Arts

'Harmonic daring' and symphonic design in the Sixth Symphony: An essay in historical musical analysis

Document Type

Book Chapter


The large-scale progression spelled out in the opening movement of the Sixth Symphony is not particularly simple; in contrast to Kurth's example, it is based on dissonant sonorities and it focuses on secondary harmonic functions. The coda brings the structural process of the movement to a conclusion by transforming the movement's opening theme from a source of dissonance, and thus musical impetus, into a source of musical stability. The task of making sense of Bruckner historically, stylistically and critically has long challenged critics. Bruckner certainly did not attempt to justify his characteristically progressive harmony dramatically; rather, as in the Sixth Symphony, he sought to bring 'harmonic daring" into the service of the formal and rhetorical demands of symphonic convention. Bruckner's harmonic style, with its range of modulation, its complex sonorities, and its rich chromaticism, mitigates against the establishment and maintenance of two tonal poles.

Publication Title

Perspectives on Anton Bruckner

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Anton Bruckner, composers