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Society for Music Theory
Enharmonicism and the Omnibus Progression in Classical-Era Music
Author(s): Paula J. Telesco
Source: Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 242-279
Published by: {oupl} on behalf of the Society for Music Theory
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/746049
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Enharmonicism
and
the
in Classical-Era Music

Omnibus

Progression

Paula J. Telesco
Every so often, the music of Haydn and Mozart contains
strange harmonic progressions that dramaticallyexceed the
usual limits of classicaltonality-progressions such as the one
from Mozart's G major Piano Concerto (K. 453) shown in
Example 1. This paper surveys late eighteenth-centurymanifestations of such progressions, and offers an explanationfor
these seemingly singularchromaticpassages, all of which exemplify a harmonicformula that, with variations, gained currency during that period. These densely chromatic progressions facilitated remote harmonic excursions, anticipating
the more pervasive use of chromaticismand enharmonicism
in nineteenth-centurymusic. The present survey provides a
context for hypothesizing the development of this formula
from early Baroque models to its various eighteenth-century
forms, leads to a deeper understanding of the emotional
impact and rhetorical weight this progression evoked, sheds
light on the issue of eighteenth-centuryenharmonicismin one
of its most potent forms, and links these progressions to the
more idiosyncraticenharmonicismof the nineteenth century.
The underlying source of this progression, shown in Example 2, has been called the "Omnibus,"a term whose origin
is obscure. Victor Yellin, who used the term in a conference
presentation in 1972, traces his awareness of it to Roger
Martinez of the University of San Juan. The most thorough
published account of the omnibus to date appears in Robert

Example1. Mozart,PianoConcertoNo. 17 in G Major,K. 453,
first movement, mm. 196-203 (reduction)

a

F7

A42

bW6
4

E7

B

Example2. Omnibusprogression

c: i

V6

(V7/?II

ii46

= Gr6/ii

Omnibus
Chords:

1

2

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3

Gr6ii)

V7

4

5

Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 243

Example 3. Schubert,Piano Sonata in A Minor, op. 42, first movement, mm. 32-39 (1825)

1,
I L;

lA JJ

*~~~~d

C:

J J7 J
9-

JJ

J

I)

V7/bIII?V6 V7/bIII?V6 Gr6/ii ii6 Gr6/iiV7 viio7N I1
G6
=4 G6i
dominants
3rd-related
O
Omnibus
Chords: 1 2
3 4 5

V7/blII? Vs
A

dominants
3rd-related

1

JJJ JJ-J
- JLJ-IJ
;JT3JJ L-J

nJJ

V7/iii? V6

,JL'

L.J
L

A

Wason's VienneseHarmonic Theoryfrom Albrechtsbergerto
Schenkerand Schoenberg. Both Wason and Yellin examine
the progression's harmonic structure and usage by selected
composers, but neither explores the early history of the omnibus and its related chord progressions.
In its simplest classic form, the omnibus is five chords long
and prolongs a dominant seventh via a chromaticallyfilled-in
voice exchange involving scale degrees 5 and 1; the resulting
progressions are filled with enharmonic double entendres.2
For instance, the third chord in Example 2 ("omnibus chord
2") can be heard as both a dominant seventh of El major
and as an augmented sixth chord leading to a cadential 6 in
D minor, enharmonicallylinking these two keys. Given that
the first two chords of the example establish C minor, a tonicization of the mediant is likely to be expected when the
chord first sounds. But rather than a resolution to III, the
1VictorFell Yellin, "The Omnibus Idea," paper presented at the annual
meeting of the American MusicologicalSociety, Dallas, 1972;Robert Wason,
VienneseHarmonic Theoryfrom Albrechtsbergerto Schenkerand Schoenberg
(Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1985), 15-19. I would like to thank Professor Yellin for providing me with a copy of his paper.
2Yellin, "The Omnibus Idea."

chord resolves instead as a German sixth in D. Yet the expectation of a modulation to ii dissipates almost instantaneously, and one quickly realizes that these were passing
chords embedded within a chromatically filled-in voice exchange. An elegant nineteenth-century instance of enharmonic ambiguity within a classic omnibus appears in Schubert's A minor Piano Sonata, op. 42, shown in Example 3.
Schubert suggests V7/bIII (as well as V7/iii!) several times,
at least by his spelling, before realizing the Bb7 chord as a
Gr6/ii.3
The pervasiveenharmonicismof the omnibus distinguishes
it from more common eighteenth-centuryenharmonicism,in
which the diatonic context is clear both before and after the
enharmonic event. Example 4 provides a simple illustration
from music of Haydn. When the chord in mm. 47-49 is first
encountered, it is clearly a dominant seventh in Ab major.
But its resolution and the new harmonic context starting in
3As shown in this example, Schubert spells chord 2 (m. 36) as a Gr6/ii,
but chord 4 (m. 37) as its enharmonicequivalent, a B6 dominant 4. As this
and the following omnibus examples demonstrate, composers were inconsistent in their spelling of chords 2 and 4. I consistently label them as Gr6/ii.

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244

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example 4. Haydn, Piano Trio in Bb Major, H. XV, No. 20, first.movement

(reduction),

mm. 47-51

(1794 or earlier)
'

-

47

Example 5. J. S. Bach, "Erbarmes Gott!" RecitativoNo. 51 from St. MatthewPassion, mm. 9-12

(

j> r

~

Mar- ter- sau - le gleich

J

6J
ik

"

fi-

IJ}J

und noch viel har - ter sein.

IJ

rC

6*
4t

^
6*t
4t

2*

*t

m. 49 cause the chord to be treated as a Gr6 in G minor. At
some point, in principle, it is simultaneously two different
chords with an enharmonically transformed pitch (Db becomes CO), whose chronology is unambiguous. Other instances are reinterpretations of diminished seventh chords,
by far the most common form of enharmonicreinterpretation
in the eighteenth century. Among numerous examples that
could be cited, the recitative "Erbarmes Gott!" from Bach's
St. Matthew Passion excerpted in Example 5 is particularly
telling. Prior to this excerpt the music tonicizes increasingly
sharper or "harder" keys as the text refers to harder and
harder hearts, moving from C major to A minor, E minor,
and the FIt minor shown here. Then in m. 11, at a moment
of extreme passion, b?o7 is reinterpreted as an

the music to an abrupt cadence in G minor.

f#o7,

bringing

r

[
Er - barmteuch,

hal-tet ein!

16
41

6

D
6

7-

-D

10

I

7

tt

Even amidstsuch musicaland textual anguish, the diatonic
context on either side of the enharmonicevent is clear. Chord
2 in Example 2, by contrast, is ambiguous. This inherent
ambiguity places the omnibus in a specialized category of
enharmonicismthat is for the most part peculiar to the nineteenth century; its judicious use in the eighteenth century,
therefore, is all the more compelling. Furthermore, in practice the omnibus was not a single immutableprogression, but
a family of progressions, meaning its presence in a passage
may not be immediately obvious. This paper demonstrates
that several different progressions may be viewed as manifestations of a highly chromatic formulaic pattern cultivated
for its dramatic effect within the convention-laden musical
world of the late eighteenth century. A look at three such
seemingly unorthodox examples provides our starting point.

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Enharmonicism and the Omnibus Progression in Classical-Era Music

245

Example 6. Mozart, Piano ConcertoNo. 18 in Bb Major, K. 456, third movement, mm. 162-71 (1784)
162

km

_ .

^
A

^

Fl.

Ob.

J

,sJB.L~J

_ J J'FJFJF

FL

J

Bsn.

VI. 1

lJ

Jm

~S

~

J. J.

VI. 2

Via.

-',~h~~m" ~ ~
_

_____ __ _

B

vBb

D.B.

i.rjr -

rr
r

/-ill--

r

r

'.

- Jr

G7C

3
Bb:

I

V4/IV

Example 6 shows a portion of the third movement of
Mozart's Bb major Piano Concerto (K. 456).4 The passage
begins in Bb major, the key of the movement, but ends several measures later in the strikinglydistant key of B minorall the more striking because of the\swift enharmonicism
that leads to it. (One might posit that the key is really Cb
4The passage in Example 6 occurs at the end of the second A section in
a concerto-rondo, constituting the transition to the development section.

V7/ii
b: Gr6

minor, the key of the minor Neapolitan, but that is even more
remote.) A traditional functional analysis would yield the
results shown below the score. The G7 chord in m. 165, concluding a chromatic third relationship, appears to be left unresolved, but is in fact enharmonicallyreinterpreted as a Gr6
in B minor. This reinterpretationis particularlynoteworthy
because, unlike the more common enharmonic reinterpretation of a primary dominant into an augmented sixth, the
G7 is an unprepared secondary dominant.

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246

MusicTheorySpectrum

Example 6 [continued]
167 :^:

itt

Fl.

t

Utt

A

&ttfE 6 -

17 7 !.
t L_fT

Ob.

Bsn.

VI. 1

^ J-J_.

VI.2

Via.

-'

.... . ij^r----C.'

Lr r

r

"~d^~'i- rd .
' I' -

~'

r r*.
r Tr
F
r :r r r r r rTT

D.B.
b6

Fi?7b

i6
14

The next excerpt, Example 7, appears in the first movement of the G major Concerto discussed above (Example 1).5
The framingkeys of the excerpt are Bb major and A minoragain distantly related, although not as distant as the Bb
major to B minor relation in K. 456. The standardfunctional

5Thispassage appears at the beginning of the development section. The
musichas been in D major, the dominant,but has just modulatedto Bb major
by way of a deceptive cadence.

analysis shown beneath the score has obvious similarities to
the previous example: (1) the first four chords of both examples are the same; (2) the first three chords have identical
functions in the key of Bb; (3) the pivot chord is a V7/ii in
the firstkey; and (4) the pivot chord is reinterpretedas a Gr6,
albeit a primary Gr6 in Example 6, but a secondary Gr6 in
Example 7. This single point of contrastmeans that the modulation in Example 7 is more distant and tenuous with respect
to the enharmonicpivot chord than is the modulation in Example 6.

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 247
Exaniple 7. Mozart, Piano ConcertoNo. 17 in G Major, K. 453, first movement, mm. 186-92 (1784)
Lt-

186

Fl.

Ob.

r

j

.J

h-

J

?

_

t r
r

?r tr
r

r,

'

-

Bsn.

-

r

Pf.

Li;
VI. 1

VI. 2

-1

|
Via.

-

boi.
^,

B^t k"

o

bf

D.B.
Bb

Bs2
1

I

V2H

V4/IV

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3

-

MusicTheory Spectrum

248

Example 7 [continued]
189
-fA A
Fl.

Ob.

A4

Bsn.

Pf.
$1'

$o~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~a
3

0

30

J

3

VI. 1
3LID

t

VI. 2

MM7
.

Via.

D.B.

[

vi

_3 3

"?

o

G7

6
b4

E7

ii6

V7

V7/ii
a: Gr6/ii

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a

Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 249

Example 8. Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453, first movement, mm. 196-203 (1784)
r 196
A

Fl.

r

;I t ,,

,

Ob.

-Kr

L'i
Bsn.

-

Pf.

lt

m^

VI. I

be_

i

VI. 2

Via.

yi

'SEf

(i

q

o

oo

Lab

-0

4

b

D.B.
.

a: i

V4/iv

V7/ii
g#: Gr6/ii
=ab: Gr6/ii

ii6
114

V7

f: Gr6/ii

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250

Music Theory Spectrum

Example 8 [continued]
200

-

PAa,
Fl.

l

r
1P
Fr

l

Ob.
0

Bsn.

Pf.

-:

..

_

VI. 1

VI. 2

Via.

D.B.

I

,,--A
;

'
0
o
6
g4

J.

c~?7

C*07

C7

B

e: Gr6

V

(instead of Eb )
i6
114

vii07

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 251
Finally, Example 8 (pp. 249-250) shows the full score for
the progression of Example 1. This passage occurs immediately after the Example 7 passage, sequencing and extending
the pattern. It begins in A minor and ends in the closely related key of E minor, yet the path from A to E is circuitous,
requiringatleast threeenharmonicreinterpretations.The analysis in the Example demonstrates that the first four chords
are functionally the same as the first four of Example 6.
These three excerpts obviously reveal a recurrent enharmonic pattern, yet they also share a feature that fundamentally sets them apartfrom music exhibiting the more common
type of eighteenth-century enharmonicism shown in Examples 4 and 5. In these latter three excerpts ambiguity arises
not just from the pivot chord but from the reinterpretation
of secondary dominants and secondary Gr6 chords, approached by unresolved secondary dominants, which then
obscure the entire diatonic context.

long association with intense emotional expression, a short
history of the passacaglia and the lament aria are in order
here.
The passacaglia arose around 1600, and was originally a
ripresaor ritornelloused to accompanySpanishguitar songs,
a function it maintaineduntil about 1640.6It was popularized
through rasgueado, or strummed style of guitar playing (as
opposed to the more refined punteado, or plucked style of
playing, cultivated on the lute and vihuela), which became
enormouslypopularin Spain and Italy duringthe seventeenth
century. This style of playing was harmonically rather than
contrapuntally conceived-the player strums chords rather
than plucking out contrapuntallines.7 Harmonically,the earliest guitar passacagliaswere based on a I-IV-V-I ostinato,
but later versions, beginning around 1620, began to incorporate mode mixture and additional chords into the basic
framework. For example, the following progressions might
occur:8

THE PASSACAGLIA AND THE LAMENT ARIA

How could such a strange form of enharmonicismarise in
the tonal universe of eighteenth-century music? An answer
lies in the voice-leading context. Each of the examples we
have just seen features a chromaticallydescending bassline,
clearly reminiscent of a passacaglia bass. The passacaglia
bass and its characteristicprogressions were major sources
of expressive chromaticism in seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury music, and provided a wellspring of inspiration and
ideas for composers as diverse as Purcell, Bach, Haydn,
Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. This harmonizedbassline
has a long and venerable history, and appears to have arisen
from two distinct yet related genres: not only from the instrumentalpassacaglia, but also from the lament aria, which,
like the passacaglia, often features a ground bass. Given the
highly expressive character of this formulaic bassline and its

1) i-iv-V-i
5) i-iv-VI-V-i

2) I-iv-V-I 3) i-IV-V-i
4) I-IV-iv-V-I
6) I-IV-V-I-( )VII-IV-V-I 7) i-v-VI-iv-V-i

6RichardHudson, Passacaglioand Ciaconna:from GuitarMusicto Italian
KeyboardVariationsin the SeventeenthCentury(Ann Arbor: UMI Research
Press, 1981). Hudson writes, "The first music for both Ciaconna and Passacaglio appearsin 1606 in Montesardo'sNuova inventioned'intavolaturaper
sonare li ballettisopra la chitarraspagniuola, published in Florence" (17).
7ThomasChristensenpoints out that rasgueadoplayingwas consideredby
some to be vulgarand coarse. He quotes Sebastiande Covarrubias,lamenting
in 1611 that "now the guitar is no more than a cowbell, so easy to play,
especially in the strummed style, that there is no stable boy who is not a
musicianon the guitar." Thomas Christensen,"The SpanishBaroque Guitar
and Seventeenth-CenturyTriadic Theory," Journal of Music Theory 36/1
(1992): 3, note 5.
8RichardHudson, The Folia, the Sarabande,the Passacagliaand the Chaconne, Musicological Sources and Documents 35/3 (American Institute of
Musicology, 1982), xvi-xvii, 18-26.

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252

MusicTheory Spectrum

Gradually, the passacaglia developed into a triple-meter
minor-mode variation form. Sets of variations appear for
keyboard beginning in 1627 with Frescobaldi's Partite sopra
passacagli (from his Secondo libro di toccate), and for guitar
in 1640. In general, Frescobaldi wedded the purely chordal/
harmonic approach of the rasgueado style of playing to the
contrapuntalpunteado style. The result of this marriage is a
melodic, stepwise descending bassline (along with its variations and elaborations) that replaces the former I 4 5 i
(I-IV-V-I). The insertion of scale degrees 7 and 6 between
i and 4 produces basslines that graduallybecame characteristic of passacaglias, including the following:9
4
4 S 2) I S64 S 3) 1 6
)i
4)i76S
Once a passacaglia formula becomes established as the
central idea of a piece (through the opening phrase, prominent placement, or repetition), other formulas may be used
as variants. According to Hudson, "although the ostinato
involves an equal phrase length, it is also concerned with a
selected group of formulas. Therefore, the fundamentaltechnique of the Passacaglio and Ciaccona is an ostinato of selected formulas."'0 One of the most common passacaglia
basslines, i 7 6 5, is frequently harmonized i-VII-VI-V, or
i-v6-iv6-V, or some combination of the two. " A typical discant for these progressions is the descending line 3 2 i 7,
which fits either of the above harmonizations. Chromatic
bassline descents begin to appear in the first quarter of the
seventeenth century: Frescobaldi's Partite sopra passacagli
(1627) contains a chromaticdescent in the sixteenth variation,

9Of course, not all pieces based on descending tetrachordswere called
passacaglias.
"'Hudson, Passacaglio and Ciaconna, 271.
"Many examples of early passacagliasand ciaconnas appear in Hudson's
The Folia and Passacaglio and Ciaconna.

and Sweelinck's Fantasia Chromatica (before 1621), opens
with a chromatic descent from D down to A, a motive that
permeates the piece.l2 Such chromatic basses support not
only i-V6-v6-IV6-iv6-V

progressions (as found in Purcell's

"Dido's Lament" of 1689), but may also support secondary
dominants and cadential 6s (also employed in "Dido's Lament"), as well as major seventh chords (VI7), minor seventh
chords (iv7), augmented mediants, and chords in parallel
sixths. 3 This early usage of such dissonant chords is probably
typical of the kinds of harmonies one would find in improvised passacaglias of that time, although little printed evidence survives. The passacagliabassline, especially the chromatic version, virtually begs for improvisatory treatment,
whether by keyboard, lute, or singer above a bass.
Passacagliasand ciacconas began to appearin Italian vocal
music around 1630, particularlyin the lament aria. Several
such pieces are II Fasolo's "Lamento di Madama Lucia," II
carro di Madama Lucia (Rome, 1628), Frescobaldi's "Aria
di passacaglia:Cosi mi disprezzate," Primo libro di arie musicali (Florence, 1630), and Felice Sances's "Usurpator ti-

'2Frescobaldi'sPartitesopra passacagli is included in Hudson, The Folia,
32. Sweelinck's FantasiaChromaticais included in K Marie Stolba, The Developmentof WesternMusic, vol. 1 (Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown, 1991),
257.
'3Thefollowing all appear in Hudson's The Folia: (1) Frescobaldi, Partite
sopra Passacagli (1627), p. 32, Var. 16: chromatic descent and a secondary
dominant; p. 33, Var. 19: secondary dominant and minor seventh. (2)
Alessandro Piccinini, Passacagli (1639), p. 41, Var. 2: major seventh; p. 44,
Var. 21: secondary dominants; p. 44, Vars. 22-23: augmented mediant. (3)
Anonymous, Passagalli p[er] A la mi re (c. 1640), pp. 53-54: numerous
cadential 6s. (4) Anonymous, Passagalli (c. 1640), p. 56, Var. 1: secondary
dominant and cadential 6. (5) Anonymous, Passagalli (c. 1640), p. 57, Var.
9: parallel-sixthchords. (6) Lully, Passacaillefrom Armide (1686), pp. 102-3,
Vars. 24-25: chromatic descent and cadential 6. Secondary dominants also
appear with ascending chromatic basslines: Andrea Falconiero, Passacalle
(1650), p. 69, Var. 23.

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Enharmonicism and the Omnibus Progression in Classical-Era Music

ranno," Cantade e arie a cove sola; Libro secondo, parte
prima (Venice, 1633).14
Why is it that this minor-mode tetrachord bassline (especially the chromatic version) was (and still is) considered
to be so emotionally expressive that it became de rigueur for
laments and other emotionally charged music? One answer
may lie in arguments proposed by Leonard Meyer. Speaking
first of the effects of chromaticism, Meyer says:
The affective aesthetic power of chromaticism not only arises because chromatic alterations delay or block the expected motion to
the normaldiatonictones but also because uniformityof progression,
if persistent, tends ... to create ambiguityand hence affective tension. Moreover, ambiguity leads, particularlyin the realm of harmonic progression, to a general tonal instability.'5
Speaking of the minor mode specifically, Meyer explains further:
First, the minor mode is always potentially chromatic. ... Second,
the tendencies of tones as they approachsubstantivetones is stronger
in minor than in major .... From a harmonic point of view, the
minor mode is both more ambiguous and less stable than the major
mode . . . because the repertory of possible vertical combinations
is much greater in minor than in major and, consequently, the probability of any particularprogression of harmonies is smaller.16
The minormode is not only associatedwith intense feeling in general
but with the delineation of sadness, suffering, and anguish in particular. This association ... is also connected with chromaticismin
general. . . . States of calm contentment and gentle joy are taken
to be the normal human emotional states and are hence associated
with the more normative musical progressions, i.e., the diatonic
'4Ellen Rosand states that "II Fasolo" is almost certainly a pseudonym
for Francesco Manelli. See Ellen Rosand, "Lamento," in The New Grove
Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 6th ed.
S5LeonardMeyer, Emotion and Meaning in Music (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1956), 218.
16Ibid.,225.

253

melodies of the major mode and the regular progression of major
harmony. Anguish, misery, and other extreme states of affectivity
are deviants and become associated with the more forceful departures of chromaticismand its modal representatives, i.e., the minor
mode. 17
Thus the association between the minor mode and emotional states
depicting sadness and suffering is a product of the deviant, unstable
characterof the mode and of the associationof sadness and suffering
with the slower tempi that tend to accompany the chromaticism
prevalent in the minor mode.18
Thus the descending tetrachord ground bass, which had
already appeared in contemporaneous passacaglias, must
have seemed an obvious choice for early Baroque composers
writing lament-type arias. The ostinato bass in general was
perfectly suited for monody: the repetition of an ostinato
would not draw attention away from the text, but could provide some formal organization while allowing for a certain
amount of declamatory freedom in the vocal line. The lament
aria itself can be traced back to the beginning of the seventeenth century, with Monteverdi's "Lamento d'Arianna,"
from his 1608 opera Arianna, occupying the premiere position.19 But the lament's association with the tetrachord bass
does not become explicit until around 1640, and then particularly in opera.20 Each of Francesco Cavalli's twenty-seven
'7Ibid., 227.
18Ibid.,228.
"9Accordingto Rosand ("Lamento"), this was the most influentiallament
of the early seventeenth century, "confirmedby the publicationof monodic
Ariadne laments by Severo Bonini (1613), Possenti (1623), and F. A. Costa
(1626) and most conclusivelyby Monteverdi'sown reworkingof this piece as
a madrigal (1614), the publication of the monodic version (1623) and his
adaptation of the madrigal to a sacred text (1640)."
20Nevertheless,earlier examples do exist. Monteverdi's "Lament of the
Nymph," with its descending tetrachordbass, was published in 1638 (in the
eighth book of madrigals),although Rosand speculates that it was composed
c. 1632. See "The Descending Tetrachord:An Emblem of Lament," The
Musical Quarterly65/3 (1979): 352, fn. 16. Sances's "Usurpatortiranno" of

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254

Music Theory Spectrum

extant operas contains one or more such laments, bringing
his total to over fifty.21 According to Ellen Rosand,
All these lamenti exploit the tetrachord as a source of harmonic,
melodic and rhythmicdissonance created by suspensions, syncopation and overlapping phrases between the voice and the bass.22
They are generally distinguished by their slow tempo, heavily
stressed triple meter, and string accompaniment,as well as by their
In addition ... most of Cavalli's
heightened affective style....
laments are marked by a clear relationshipto the descending minor
tetrachord as ostinato. Frequently an unaccompaniedstatement of
the pattern in the bass at the outset signals the association. This
framingdevice distinguishesthe piece from its surroundingnarrative
context; the tetrachord pattern sounds the mood, a declaration of
"lament" that sets the piece apart, as if in quotes.23
Another noteworthy feature of some of these tetrachordal
laments, not present in the instrumental passacaglias I have
seen, is the use of the augmented-sixth chord, or at least the
interval of an augmented sixth built on 6. For example, a
lament aria from Cavalli's L'Egisto (1643), "Piangete occhi,"
contains an F in the bass against Dot in the vocal line in two
different statements of the descending bass, and in each instance the pitches expand outward to an octave E. Since
Cavalli notated only the vocal line and an unfigured bass, it
is hard to know how he might have intended the inner parts

1633 is another lament set to a descending tetrachordbass. Also noteworthy
is Monteverdi'sharmonictreatmentof the "Nymph"bassline. Linda Ciacchi
points out that Monteverdi uses the root position harmonization (i-VIIVI-V) to suggest the older harmonic system, and first inversion triads (iv6-iv6-V) to suggest the newer harmonic system. See Linda Ciacchi, "The
Rhythm of the Nymph: Long Range Motion and Coherence in Monteverdi's
'Lament,' " paper delivered at the fifth annual meeting of Music Theory
Southeast, 16 March 1996.
21Rosand,"The Descending Tetrachord,"353.
22Rosand,"Lamento," 413.
23Rosand,"The Descending Tetrachord," 353-54.

to be filled in.24 But the augmented sixth clearly heightens
the expression of grief or lament. Another example is in the
renowned conclusionof Carissimi'soratorio, Jephte(c. 1650).
A solo section for Jephte, which has a chromaticallydescending bassline, includes figuressuggestinga French/Italiansixth
complex. Again the text is one of sorrow and grief.
Lament arias continued to occur in operas, oratorios, and
cantatas of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The term "lament" also appears appended to music
of a programmaticnature. One striking example is Bach's
"Adagissimo. Ist ein allgemeines Lamento der Freunde"
from his 1704 Capricciosopra la lontananza del suo fratello
dilettissimo[Capriccioon the Departureof his Most Beloved
Brother]. Bach's inclusion of the Italian word "lamento" in
an otherwise German inscription is an obvious reference to
the Italian lament aria genre. In this Capriccio, the term
"lament" probably refers not only to the programmaticnature of the piece, but also to the descending tetrachord(and
its variants) on which it is constructed. Yet another notable
feature is Bach's use (twice) of an augmented sixth chord in
harmonizingthis bassline. By this time the augmented sixth
chord appears to have become a member in good standing
of the standard repertoire of chords used to harmonize the
descending bass, especially to underscore some aspect of lament, regardless of whether any text was present.
Indeed, the passacaglia/lament,with its associated secondary dominants, augmentedsixths, and major-, minor-, diminished-, and half-diminishedsevenths, had become one of the
only sources of extreme chromaticismin Baroque music. Further evidence of the continuing sway the passacaglia/lament
held over the imagination of seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and
even nineteenth-centurymusiciansappearsin Jer6me-Joseph
24RaymondLeppard, in his piano-vocal arrangement,realizes the chord
firstas a Frenchsixth, then as an Italiansixth. See FrancescoCavelli, L'Egisto
(London: Faber Music, 1977), 93, mm. 71, 79.

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 255
de Momigny's Cours complet d'harmonie(Paris, 1803-5). To
highlight the effect of the bass descending tetrachord in the
opening of Mozart's D minor String Quartet (K. 421), Momigny adds beneath the full score a piano-vocal arrangement
of the passage, complete with text from a lament of Dido.25

Example 9. Diatonic and chromaticpassacagliabass-line progressions
a. diatonic

.a.
TRANSFORMATION

OF THE

PASSACAGLIA

PROGRESSION

INTO

,.

THE

or:
i

OMNIBUS

At this point, a closer examination of some typical early
harmonizations of diatonic and chromatic descending basslines will be undertakento postulate the development of these
harmonizations into more chromatic ones, and ultimately,
into the classical-eraomnibus. Example 9 gives diatonic and
chromatic versions of the descending bass in minor. Each of
these progressions contains a prototype of a basic tonal operation: a voice exchange within a dominant prolongation,
with iv6 or IV6 occurring as passing chords. (In the diatonic
form the exchange is chromatic:an upper voice ascends from
to raised 1, while the bass descends from unraised f to 8.)
The upper voice of the exchange in a minor key cannot
ascend diatonicallyby step because of the augmented second
that would result. Since this is not a problem in major, the
voice exchange produces a wedge between the bass and some
upper voice as shown in Example 10a. Examples 10b-d move
this voice-exchange one step closer to the omnibus with the
addition of seventh chords replacing the triads on the dominant. Note also that Examples 10b-d provide three different
versions of the major-modeexchange between V6 and V7:the
interveningchords are respectively IV6 (b), vi (c), and ii6 (d).
In the latter instance, two voices hold common tones a minor
third apart while the other two voices exchange.
25Ian Bent, "Analysis," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 6th ed.

0

,,'
c:

-o.
5

iv6

:

i

.

V

iv6

b. chromatic
s A

)

'

.0

ho

A
A

o

.

--.

A

7
c:

i

V6

v6

v~6
IV6
IV6

iv6
iv6

VA
V

One way to obtain a wedge between the bass and the upper
voice in the minor version is to replace one chord and alter
another: substituting a V4/IV for the v6 (cf. Ex. 9b) and an
augmented sixth for the iv6 results in the progression shown
in Example 11. This in fact became an extremely common
harmonizationfor these passacaglia basslines in the classical
era; it includes a chromaticwedge between the chromatically
ascending upper voice (usually the soprano), and the chromatically descending bass voice, and the prototypical voice
exchange (similar to those shown in Example 9a, and especially Example 9b) in another voice. Examples of these progressions, from mid-centuryon (some with the wedge in the
outer voices, some without) may be seen in various compositions by Purcell, J. S. Bach, C. P. E. Bach, Haydn, Mozart

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256

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example 10. Model voice exchangepatternsin major

Example 11. Passacaglia progression

a.

Chord#1

j
/8

3 -

a

C: I

V

2

3

4

5

V4/iv

IV6

Gr6

i

8

lre

w
o

IV6

V

a

I

c:

i

V6

V

b.

=
?-

1+3}'

i

9: am
C: I

-

8

aal
V7

IV6

VS

I

c.

a2

l

0

0

.10
o

o"

I~

-

0

a
0

C: I

V6

vi

V7

I

C: I

V6

ii6

V7

I

d.

and Beethoven.26 Two representative Mozart examples are
shown in Example 12.
For further confirmation that these harmonizationswere
common currency by the early classical era, one can look
to no less an authority than C. P. E. Bach. Bach discusses
augmented-sixthchords in the second part of his Essay on the
True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, in the chapter
entitled "Thoroughbass."One of his three examples of the
It6istrat
the
following: V/iv-iv6-6. And he illustratesthe usage
of the Fr6 in two passacaglia bassline progressions: iv6-Fr626E.g., C. P. E. Bach's "Prussian"Sonata No. 4 in C Minor, W. 48/4
(1740-42), first movement, mm. 4-7 and 57-58; "Prussian"Sonata No. 5 in
C Major, W. 48/5 (1740-42), thirdmovement, mm. 14-17; Sonata in C Major,
W. 62/10 (1749), second movement, mm. 1-4; Haydn's Symphony No. 7 in
C Major ("Le Midi," 1761), first movement, mm. 80-84; String Quartet in
D Major, op. 76, no. 5 (c. 1797), firstmovement, mm. 26-27; Mozart'sString
Quartet in D Minor, K. 421 (1783), first movement, mm 1-8; Don Giovanni
(1787), Overture, mm. 5-11; and the excerpts from Mozart piano sonatas
shown in Example 12.
Manyother imaginativeand innovativeharmonizationsof this basslinecan
easily be found. A few notable examples are: (1) "Dido's Lament," from
Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1698), mm. 14-17: i-V-vii"/iv-IV6-iv6-V, and
mm. 19-22: i-V6-v6-vi07-vii0-iv6-V; (2) the "Crucifixus,"from Bach's B
and
Minor Mass, BWV 232 (1733), mm. 1-4: i-VI6-vii?7-v6-vi7-iv6-i-V,
mm. 13-16: i-vii?/V-V6-iv-vii3 -IV6-iv6-Fr6-i6-V; and (3) the opening
iv4
_ 4
9 I-V/V-V6of Beethoven's "Waldstein"sonata, op. 53 (1809), mrn. 1-9:
- Il-V IV6-iv6-V7).
lVV2 -IV6-iv6-V7 (or, alternatively, IV7-V6
v
IV
IV

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.

.

Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 257

Example 12. Classicalexamplesof passacagliaprogression
a. Mozart, Piano Sonata in D Major, K. 284, third movement, VariationVII, mm. 2-4 (1775)

t , b
T
wfT IrCrrfrtrrlrl
'1
ir-

r-

2

a
6W1:,

2/

r

L

q/

L.

i

V4/iv

IV6

It6

i6

V

b. Mozart, Piano Sonata in C Minor, K. 457, third movement, mm. 205-10 (1784)
205

pP

I
...,;'-'..

*

,

J
C

:i

J~
r0
r

~

,

fw
v6

~~~~
~ z!
x-

J

f f.

P

1

P

'...

z!
ar/i

0

r

i6-V, and i-V4/iv-IV6-Fr6-V.27 Later, in the chapter on
"Improvisation," Bach explains to keyboardists, "particularly [those] of limited ability," how to extemporize: "With
due caution he fashions his bass out of the ascending and
descending scale of the prescribed key, with a variety of figured bass signatures."28For his first minor diatonic descending scale progression, Bach shows two harmonizations:
i-v6-iv6-V; and i-V2/iv-iv6-viio6/iv. For the chromatic descending scale progression, Bach's first two harmonizations
27CarlPhilipp Emanuel Bach, Essay on the TrueArt of Playing Keyboard
Instruments,trans. and ed. William J. Mitchell (New York: Norton, 1949),
216, 238.
28Ibid., 431. Emphasis added.

P

.
Gr6

V4/iv

f

P
*6
4

are I-V65 -V4/iv-IV6-+
6-V; and I-V4/V-V6-v6-V4/IV2
2
2
IV6-+6-V.29

Although he makes no mention of the fact,

some of his scale harmonizationsin this chapter are those of
the earlier regle de l'octave, which dates from 1716.30
It is not hard to imagine, especially given Bach's own
remarksabove, that the sorts of chromaticismthat first arose
29Ibid.,433. I am showing the chords for the descending tetrachordonly.
Bach harmonizes the entire scale.
30Ibid.,431, fn. 3. For more on the regle de l'octave, see especially Joel
Lester, CompositionalTheory in the EighteenthCentury(Cambridge, Mass.:
HarvardUniversityPress, 1992), 72-74; and Thomas Christensen,"The Regle
de l'Octave in Thorough-BassTheory and Practice," Acta Musicologica64/2
(1991): 91-117.

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258

MusicTheory Spectrum

in the passacaglia bass and lament aria, combined with the
well-known regle de l'octave, inspired keyboard improvisers
to explore heightened juxtapositions of distant harmonies
over chromaticallydescending and ascending basses, culminating ultimately in the omnibus family of progressions. To
wit: if the passacaglia progression as shown in Example 13a
is modified such that the chromatic wedge becomes part of
the voice exchange, instead of being independent of it, the
classic omnibus will result, as shown in Example 13b. A comparison of the passacaglia to the omnibus reveals the following similarities:
1. Both progressionsinstance a dominantprolongation manifested through a voice exchange;
2. In both progressions, the chords built on the lowered
seventh and sixth scale degrees are dominant-seventhsonorities. In the passacaglia progression, two different
dominant-seventh chords are used (V4/iv, Gr6), while in
the omnibus, the same dominant-seventh chord is used
each time, in different inversions (V7/III, or Gr6/ii);
3. In each progression, the chord built on the raised sixth
scale degree is essentially the same chord, IV6 or ii6these are the diatonic passing chords used between V5 and
V7. The passacaglia progression tonicizes IV or iv, while
the omnibus contains a tonicization of ii nested within the
dominant prolongation; and
4. Each progression has a Gr6-i6 pairing.
Even in the absence of an eighteenth-century discussion
of this issue, the evidence strongly suggests that this chromatic harmonization of the passacaglia bassline is the prototype of the omnibus. Moreover, compositions such as
C. P. E. Bach's Rondo in A Minor (W. 56/5) and Mozart's
Don Giovanni contain both the passacagliaand the omnibus
progression, suggesting that composers did indeed recognize
a linkage. Don Giovanni comes tantalizinglyclose to making
this connection explicit, as is discussed below.

Example 13. Comparisonof passacagliaand omnibusprogressions
a. passacaglia

IV6

V4/iv

Gr6

Chords)
(DifferentChords)
sonority(Different
Dominant
7thsonority
7th
Dominant

b. omnibus
Chord# 1

c: i

V6

2

3

4

(Gr6/ii

ii

Gr6/ii)

5

Dominant7th
7thsonority
sonority(Same
(SameChord)
Chord)
Dominant

One variation of the omnibus, which I call the small omnibus, includes a voice exchange between V7 and V4, as
shown in Example 14a. With only one whole step between
8 and 4, only one chord can intervene. If the two voices not
involved in the exchange hold common tones, the intervening
chord will be a non-functionalvii6 chord. As with the classic
omnibus, the dominant preceding the 6 chord is enharmonically that 6 chord's own Gr6;given just the first two chords,
a likely interpretation is shown in Example 14b. When the
subsequent chord is V4, however, it becomes clear that the
i6 serves as a passing chord, possessing no functional significance or structural weight. Nevertheless, there remains a

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 259
Example 15. Haydn, SymphonyNo. 98 in Bb, Major, fourth
movement (reduction),mm. 270-75 (1792)

Example 14. Small omnibus
b.

a.

aL
B..:r ,

MV

L
,

270

o..
V.

J,.*y^0
BS:V7

vii6

V4

his

.

Bb: V7
=a: Gr6

,

Ii

-

Bb: V7
=Gr6

m

J-.r '' r
r

-r
ytT -"lr-

(vii6)
i

16

vG
Gr6

vii

momentary sensation of an enharmonic exchange. Haydn
used this progression in the excerpt shown in Example 15.31
In that instance the small omnibus functions independently,
although it can also be subsumed as chords 2-4 in a classic
omnibus as demonstratedin Example 16. It can also be fused
to a classic omnibus as shown in Example 17, creating subsequent voice exchanges between V6 and V7, and between
V7 and V4 (i.e., between S and 9, and S and 4, respectively).
The resulting progression, now seven chords long, contains
two nested Gr6-i6-Gr6 pairings, making the diatonic underpinning even more tenuous.
Despite their inherent aural ambiguities, both the classic
and the small omnibus may be taken to be, in principle,
unambiguous. The framing dominants make it clear that the
intervening chords participate in a prolongation of V, even
though they may temporarilysuggest deeper structuralfunctions. But if one of the framing dominants is removed, or
becomes part of a separate voice exchange, the progression
loses its tonal anchor. This happens when several omnibus
progressionsa minor third apartare strungtogether, as shown
in Examples 18 and 19. The connection is made by treating
the last V7 of one progression (chord 5) as chord 2 of the

Example 16. Small omnibusas segment of classic omnibus

I-.,

o.

l.

Gr6/ii

ii6

Gr6/ii

V7

2

3

4

5

IFo

g: Vs
Omnibus
Chords: 1

Example 17. Small omnibusfused to classic omnibus
Chord: 1

i

V6

2

3

(Gr6/ii

ii6

31Thepassage appears in the recapitulationof the second theme area of
this sonata-form movement.

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4

5

6

Gr6/ii) V7 (vii6)
= Gr6 i6
vii

7

V2
Gr6

i6

260

MusicTheory Spectrum

omnibus progression a minor third lower, where it functions
as a Gr6/iiinstead of as a framingV7. Without a V6 marking
the beginning of each omnibus segment, any sense of a starting or ending point within a dominant prolongation is negated. Wasoncalls this progressionan "extended omnibus."32
We might also refer to it as an "overlapped omnibus," or an
"omnibuscycle." A complete cycle, which traversesan entire
chromatic octave, requires four overlapped statements. And
since the notes held as common tones throughout one complete cycle comprise a diminished seventh chord, there are
only three possible cycles. Example 18 shows these three
cycles; Example 19 presents the first of these (Ex. 18a) in
musical notation, including a functional analysis.
By considering any of the dominant seventh sonorities in
a complete cycle as either a V7 or a Gr6, a progression can
potentially move to one of eight different tonics, each of
which can be either major or minor.33It is precisely these
tonally ambiguous cyclic progressions that are found in the
MozartPiano Concerto excerpts discussed above, all of which
contain extended and/or varied omnibus progressions. In the
Bb Concerto excerpt (shown in Examples 6 and 20), Mozart
overlaps two omnibus progressions, taking chord 5 of the first
as chord 2 of the second to produce a rapid modulation from
Bb major to B minor. In the excerpt from the G major Concerto (Examples 7 and 21), Mozart uses the omnibus to take
the music from B major to A minor, but with one slight
deviation from the omnibus cycle: chord 4, which would have
been be a G4, has been omitted.

32Wason, Viennese Harmonic Theory, 18.

33Forthe cycle given in Example 18a, the potential keys are A, B, C, D,
Eb, F, F,, or G#, all major and minor.

VOGLER'S CHROMATIC-SCALE HARMONIZATION

The thirdMozartconcerto excerpt discussedabove (shown
in Example 8) exemplifies another of the omnibus variants:
a conflation of the omnibus with the harmonization of the
chromatic scale as proposed by Georg Vogler (which probably predates the omnibus, as discussed below). It was common for eighteenth-century theorists to present harmonizations of major and minor scales (the regola dell'ottava, or
regle de l'octave), but Vogler additionally recognized the
chromatic scale as a separate entity (apparently the first to
do so, at least in print) and provided a harmonization of
it in both his Kuhrpfdlzische Tonschule of 1778 and his
Handbuch of 1802.34Since this progression is essentially a
composing-out of a diminished seventh chord, it is limited,
as is the omnibus, to three transpositions. The earlier Kuhrpfdlzische Tonschule shows all three, while the Handbuch
illustratesonly the c0o7 transposition.An importantanalytical
insight can be gleaned from a comparisonof the two different
presentations of this progression: Vogler was inconsistent in
his chord spelling, suggestinga recognitionof the enharmonic
equivalence of these chords in this tonally ambiguous progression. For example, in the KuhrpfdlzischeTonschule he
spells successive chords as Gk7 and go7,but in the Handbuch
he spells those same chords as Ft7 and fxo7.

34AbbeGeorg Joseph Vogler (1749-1814), Handbuchzur Harmonielehre
undfuer den Generalbassnach den Grundsaetzender MannheimerTonschule
(1802), 133ff. and Table XII; KuhrpfalzischeTonschule(1778), Table XXX.
Regarding Vogler and his recognition of the chromatic scale, see Wason,
VienneseHarmonic Theory, 15.

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Enharmonicism and the Omnibus Progression in Classical-Era Music

Example 18. The three omnibus cycles
a. b07 cycle
Chord #1
G6

2
Bb7

3
d6

4
Bb4
(E6)

b. c#o7 cycle
Chord #1
A65

2
C7

3
e64

5
G7
2
G7
5

4
C4
2

5
A7
2
(F#6) A7

3
b6
4

3
c#6

4
G42

5
E7
2

3

4

5

(C#6)

E7

g#6

E4

C7

(B6)

2
3
=Db7 f6

4
A4
(E16)

4
D6
(G6)

5
B7
2
Bb7

3

4

5

g6

Eb2

3
d6
4

4
Bb2

5
G7

2

3

4

5

(A6)

C7

e6

C4

A7

4
Ab 2

5
F7
2
F7

3
a6

4
F4
2

5
D7

5
F#7

2

3

4

=Gb7

bb6

Gb

(C^)

5
2 Eb7

2
Eb7

C7

c. f#07 cycle

Chord #1
D 65

2

3

4

F7D
IF7

a646

4
F4
2

(B6)

5
D7

2

3

4

D7

f#6

D4
(G6)

5
B7

2

3

4

5

B7

d46

B4

G#7

2
(F6 )

3

=Ab7 C

(D6)
5

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4

261

262

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example 19. Complete omnibuscycle with functionalanalysis

V7

A: Gr6/ii

fv

?

ii

Gr6/ii V7
F#: Gr6/ii

ii6

Example20. Chordprogressionfrom Mozart'sPiano Concerto
No. 18 in Bb Major, K. 456, third movement, mm. 162-171
(1784)
mm.

162
Bb
Bb: I

Omnibus
Chords:

163-64 165-66
G7
Bb4
V7/ii
/IV2
b: Gr6
4

167

168-70

171

b6
4

F#7

b

i6
4

V7

i

Di-

r

Gr6/ii

V7
Eb: Gr6/ii

P-

ev

Gr6/ii V7
C: Gr6/ii

ii

ii

Gr6/ii

V7

Example21. Chordprogressionfrom Mozart'sPiano Concerto
No. 17 in G Major,K. 453, firstmovement,mm. 186-192 (1784)
mm. 186-87
Bb
Bb: I
Omnibus
Chords:

188
Bb4
V2/IV

4

189
G7

V7/ii
a: Gr6/ii

190
b6
4

191
E7

192
a

ii6

V7

i

3()

5

5
2

5
2

by

3

Example 22 presents an analytic renotation of the Handbuch example, includingthe resultingharmonicpattern, each
overlapping segment of which is four chords long. Example
23 shows each of the transpositions as the composing-out of
a single diminishedseventh chord, without respect to function
in any particularkey.35Like the extended omnibus, where the
35Thetranspositionsare shown descending through the octave, although
composers also used them in their ascending form.

dominantseventh serves a dual role (enharmonically)as both
a V7 and a Gr6, the viio7sin the Vogler progression function
enharmonicallyas viio7/Vin keys a minor third apart. Also
like the omnibus, four overlapped statements are requiredto
traverse an octave. But unlike the omnibus, which nests Gr6i6 between two framing dominants, Vogler's harmonization
nests that two-chord progression between two viio7s/V,and
does not employ an elision when the segments are overlapped.

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 263

Example 22. Renotation of Vogler's chromatic scale harmonization

viio6/
Gr6
bb: vii7/V

Gr6

i6

viijO/
c#: viio7/

i6

Gr6

vii?/V
e: vii?7/V

i6

Gr6

i6
c#:

cS: Gr6

i6

vii7N/V
bb: vii?/V

ri6

Gr6

viio7N
vii?6/V

'

iiO7/V

g: vii?/V

i6

Gr6

viio7N
e: vii?6/V

Gr6

C: V7IV

IV

V

Example 23. Descending scale chords for the three diminished-seventh cycles
Chords:
a. cot7 cycle:

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

c#07

C7

e6

c#o

A7

c#o0

GK7

9
b6

b. b07 cycle:

b07

Bb7

d6

bo4

G7

ct6
b6

bo4

E7

g#tt6

c. fo07 cycle:

f#o7

F7

a64

f#4 274

D7

f#6

f#o43

B7

d6 4

10

11

12

13

14

co
b

E7

g6

c#7

C7

D

bo7

BK7

D f#06

A7

f
C6

f#t7

F7

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4

264

Music Theory Spectrum

Example 24. C. P. E. Bach, Rondo I in A Major, W. 58/1, mm. 85-87
83
A . 4t

s

e#O?

lo

eo7

f#6

o(

*

f

85

6, rS.r
,r

r

D?
D7
(=Gr6/f#)

r

tr

>r

_ _ _8

rr

_ >6 _

_

dd#
d0"7
a46

Two examples from C. P. E. Bach's Rondos serve to illustrate Vogler's progression. The first, from the 1783 A major Rondo, is shown in Example 24.36 In mm. 85-86 four
successive chords correspond to chords 5, 4, 3, and 2 of Vogler's f#07 cycle shown in Example 23c. (The order is reversed
because the bass ascends.) The second example, from the
1785 C minor Rondo, is shown in Example 25.37 Here seven
successive chords in mm. 99-101 are comparable to the first
seven chords in the b07 cycle of Example 23b (in reverse
order). Yet another instance appears in the famous Finale
36C.P. E. Bach, Rondo I in A Major, W. 58/1, Clavier-Sonatenund Freye
Fantasiennebst einigen Rondos furs Fortepianofur Kenner und Liebhaber,
Vierte Sammlung, 1783 (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Hartel, n.d.). The excerpt
appears in the developmental C section of this rondo.
37C.P. E. Bach, Rondo II in C Minor, W. 59/4, Clavier-Sonatenund Freye
Fantasien,Fiinfte Sammlung, 1785. This excerpt is in the final A section of
this seven-part rondo.

_~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
a6

*

^(

F7
(= Gr6/a = V7/Bb)

from Mozart's Don Giovanni (1787), where the Commendatore confronts Don Giovanni and demands a response to
his own dinner invitation. As demonstrated in Example 26,
Mozart uses seven chords of a C#o7 cycle, overlapping two
statements, although he substitutes a triad for a dominant
seventh as the final chord in the pattern (m. 500). This progression corresponds to the first two measures of Example 22,
or to chords 8-13 of Example 23a (reversed).
The Don Giovanni example is compelling due to its use
of and explicit connection between the passacaglia progression and the Vogler/omnibus progression. In the Overture to
the opera, after the initial tonic and dominant chords, mm.
5-11 contain a passacaglia progression with a chromatically
descending tetrachord, set in dotted rhythms, answered several measures later (mm. 23-30) by a chromatically harmonized ascending bassline in the same dotted rhythm, above
which Mozart writes sixteenth-note ascending and descending

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 265

Example25. C. P. E. Bach, Rondo II in C Minor, W. 59/4, mm. 96-101
96
A

I

(6

t
NN1
7f

.;W

i

-1

161

- f

S

I

r,

I

f I

/
I p:,

-t

r, p I
1

.

Fi

IF
r! I|

ff

b

b-

-

6
b6

b?o

d6

C

Example 26. Mozart, Don Giovanni(reduction),Act II Finale, scene 15, mm. 494-501 (1787)
II1
Commendatore 494

-

|

or
ri-

Vc./D.B.

spon

I
-

'

.. . Ij.
c#07
g: viio7/V

i

I

di - mi,

"

ri - spon

r

i
-

di - mi:

ver-

r

1

ra -

i

" "-Ir
'1 pir r p i
p Ir v IIr e07
bb
Gb
g4

Eb7

i4

Gr6

38Thepassacagliaprogressionis: i-vii4/V-V6-viio4/ivtvi7
[!]-iv6-Gr65
3
4
4
iS-V; the ascendingbassline progressionis: i-N6-V6/V- v3v3 -iv6-N6 -Gr6i6-V7-I.

cen ar

me - co

p I
Ir rpr
forF$7)
(substituting

viio?/V

b6: vii07/V

scales.38This music returns in the Finale, at the entrance of
the Commendatore. The passacaglia begins in the dotted

I-rr

tua

i64

VI (substituting for Gr6)

rhythmas the Commendatoreintones Don Giovanni's name.
The ascending bassline progression of the Overture returns
for four statements, similarly harmonized, twice accompanied by the sixteenth-notes scales, twice without. Mozart ups
the ante on recurring statements, harmonizing them more
chromaticallyuntil the fourth statement concludes with the

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266

Music Theory Spectrum

Vogler progression, completing a modulation from A minor
to the far-removed key of Bb minor.39
It is quite likely that this diminished-seventhprogression,
or segments of it, antedates the omnibus, and, along with the
passacaglia, lament aria, and regle de l'octave, provided the
materials out of which the omnibus finally emerged in its
classic form. The earliest example of the classic omnibus in
the theoretical literature of which I am presently aware is in
Bonifazio Asioli's L'Allievo al clavicembalo (1819), cited by
Yellin. Yellin states that Asioli's treatise contains examples
of the omnibus with and without substituted diminished seventh chords, "as well as the complete omnibus, expanding
and contracting extended sequentially."40The earliest musical example of which I am aware in which segments of the
diminished-seventhprogressionare used appears in Handel's
opera, Tamerlano(1724), a full fifty-fouryears before Vogler
wrote about it in his KuhrpfalzischeTonschule.It appears in
the lament aria, "Si, figlia, io moro," shown in Example 27.
The functional anlalysisbeneath the score is accompaniedby
the corresponding cto7 Vogler progression for comparison.
(The full Vogler progression appears in Example 23a.)
Although not literally the same, it is a close match. The
most obvious difference is Handel's use of four different
chords (C6-f-F4-D7), in place of Vogler's single Eb7 (chord
11 in Example 23a), thereby delaying slightly the steady
bassline descent. A similar instance appears in Rameau's
1735 opera Les Indes galantes, in "Les Incas du Perou," immediately following the chorus "Dan les abimes" (scene V,

39Thepassacagliaprogression (scene 15, mm. 437-43) is: i-v6-VI-iv6i6-V; the three ascending bassline progressions (mm. 461-70, 470-78,
and 479-85) preceding the Vogler statement are, in order: i-i6-N6-ii0 and
i-viio 5 -i6-ii6-V/V-V-Fr-V7-i;
iv6-N6-Gr6-i
V3-.v
4
4 -V-i;
V
W
iv
i-V6/iv-N6

(or VI56/iv)-V/V-V3/iv-iv6-viiN/V
iv

4?Yellin, "The Omnibus Idea."

-V-i.

the "Earthquake"scene).41 The progression and a possible
functional analysis are as follows:
f F4

D f#6 F#4 Eb g6 G4

C6 f

f: i V4/iv V/ii
f#: VI i6 V4/iv V/ii
g: VI i6

V2/iv
f: V4/V V6 i

There are obvious similaritiesto the Handel example as well
as to the omnibus. The firsthalf of this progressionresembles
part of the f#o7 omnibus cycle, and the second half fits into
the C#"7omnibus cycle:
f#o7 omnibus cycle:

Rameau:

F4 D7 f#6

f F4 D

C#07 omnibus cycle:

f#6 F#4 Eb g6 G4 C6 f
Gl Eb7 g6

41This is one of the two passages Rameau cited most often in his own
writings on enharmonicism, especially in Generation harmonique (Paris:
Prault Fils, 1737) and Demonstration du principe de l'harmonie (Paris:
Durand, 1750). All of Rameau's writings are available in The Complete
TheoreticalWritingsof Jean-PhilippeRameau(1683-1764), 6 vols., ed. Erwin
R. Jacobi (Rome: American Institute of Musicology, 1967-72). Both the
Ge'nerationharmonique and the Demonstrationdu principe de l'harmonie
are in vol. 3. English translations of each of these treatises appear in
Deborah Hayes, "Rameau'sTheory of HarmonicGeneration;an Annotated
Translation and Commentary of Gendrationharmonique by Jean-Philippe
Rameau" (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1968); and Roger Briscoe,
"Rameau'sDemonstrationdu principede l'harmonieand Nouvelles reflexions
de M. Rameausur sa D6monstrationdu principede l'harmonie:an Annotated
Translationof Two Treatisesby Jean-PhilippeRameau" (Ph.D. diss., Indiana
University, 1975).
The other famouspassagecited by Rameau is "Quelle soudaine horreur,"
sung by the Trio de Parques, in the second act of Hipolyte et Aricie (1733).
The enharmonicismof this passage is also sequential, but does not involve
an omnibus. For more on these two passages, and on eighteenth-century
enharmonicismin general, see my diss., "Enharmonicismin Theory and Practice in 18th-CenturyMusic" (Ph.D. diss., The Ohio State University, 1993).

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 267
Example 27. Handel, "Si, figlia, io moro," (reduction)from Tamerlano(1724)
Bajazet

J 6.-_ILPIL..
_

t

rl

\ i

\

Si,

fi-glia,

<0
;PtibO

i

F0

-

IL
1

V p-

i

tu re-sti

iII8

=

,..h

\

ad-di-o!

iomo-ro;

$
:Jto
Str.& b.c.

i

.

r

p

p

Fb

che dirnonpos-so

ahi-me,

:

q_.. .

S r --??

t

Ft

bb

Ft: I
bb: VI

e07

i

C6

vii0o7
f: vii07

F#7
Voglerprogression:

Bajazet

Ji

J)i

d

tu

pa-ce!

Str.& b.c.

-re-sti,

bb6

4 11

.

fi-glia,

e

ne-gli af-fan-ni,

f
f: i

F2
V2/iv

Vs

e07

que-sto

6'1

[Eb7

L

\

i

if &
Str.

(^^TT !>^^"E!Tr

in

I|

i

so-lo af-fan-no mi-o.

J..Jb.c.

-

<iJ---J

^r-^=--^

D7

g6

a?tso C7

iJW

B

d#?t

B7

e

V

viio7

V7

i

V7/ii

i6

g: V7

viio7/V

e: vii07/VGr6
]

While neither of these examples is an exact match to
the overlapped Vogler or omnibus progression, both probably represent incipient stages of the sequential cyclic progressions, especially in their use of third-related dominants
and Gr6-i6 relationships. It seems unlikely that these remarkable excerpts are unique for their time; a thorough search of
the early eighteenth-century literature would likely turn up
others.

g

o
C#07 C7

6
e4

As we have seen, Vogler's progression and the omnibus
are closely related. Example 28 pairs descending versions
of the three omnibus cycles with the corresponding Vogler
harmonizations. (Example 28a displays fully notated chords,
while 28b and c show chord symbols only.) The sole difference between the two progressions is that the omnibus contains a dominant 4 chord wherever the correspondingVogler
harmonizationcontains a diminished seventh chord rooted a

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n

268

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example 28. Comparison of the three omnibus cycles to the three corresponding Vogler chromatic-scale harmonizations
a.
C$#7 omnibus cycle:

^fi;n
A6

6n
H
'?

^
C7

4*
11

C4

e4

b0'

|11^
|

l

-,

-----$-uh8

A7

c$6

A4

io,

F#7

bi6

ft
iR

k

k?
1

^.

T

Gb6

Eb7

g4

Eb4

C7

Vogler's c0?7 cycle:

bn
c#07

$

a $
,R
C7

Bl

'

e4

A7

c2?

e

>6

1^

i---"
I0 --^?
^ $0ko it0
c$04

c#

F#7

16Tr

t

4|

o
6~~~
~~~~~.
M

bb46

? c

6

Eb7

9g6

I
C7

c#o7

b.
Bb6

G7

b6

Gb4

E7

g46

E4

Db7

f6

Db4

Bb7

Bb7

d6

bO?

G7

b6

bo?
4

E7

g464

bo65

Db7

f64

bo7

Bb7

D5

F7

a4

F2

D7

ft 4

D

B7

d<64

B

A7

f o7

F7

a4

fto?4

D7

f

ft04

B7

d#

f#06

A67

Bb7

d6

b07

f#t07 omnibus cycle:
Vogler's f0 7 cycle:

b?7 omnibus cycle:

G6

Vogler's b07 cycle:

C.

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4
c

Ab

F7

f07

F7

Enharmonicismand the Omnibus Progression in Classical-EraMusic 269

Example 29. C. P. E. Bach, Die neue Litanei, W. 204/2, mm. 211-23
211

J8

${- f
6* 4#

-

"

7

6

*=

fr

r
5

4
3

E6

6#

6

5

4

Gr6/b b6

r

2t

7

g#O4

E7

t

4

7

2

5

major third higher; the corresponding chords thus differ by
only one note. The utilitarianaspect of Vogler's progression
is apparent as well: taking any of the diminished seventh
chords in the progressionas either viio7 or vii7/V of some key
enables a composer to modulate to the same eight major and
minor tonics as the corresponding extended omnibus. Consequently, these progressions can be mixed, substitutingthe
diminished seventh chord for the analogous dominant 4, or
the reverse, thereby further subverting a sense of key and
introducing numerous opportunities for enharmonic puns.
A simple example of this combined progression exists in
C. P. E. Bach's 1786 Die neue Litanei, shown in Example
29.42 Measures 213-15 contain a single omnibus statement
(the prolongation of an E dominant seventh chord) with a
substituted diminished seventh chord (g#o4) in place of the

dominant seventh (G2): E6-Gr6/b-b6-g?t4-E7.
Two other examples by C. P. E. Bach deserve special mention for their respective treatmentsof these progressions.The
first is a passage from the A major Fantasia, Example 30.43
42C.P. E. Bach, Die neue Litanei, W. 204/2 (Neuhausen-Stuttgart:
Hanssler-Verlag, 1980).
43C. P. E. Bach, Fantasiain A Major, W. 58/7, Clavier-Sonatenund Freye
Fantasien,Vierte Sammlung, 1783. This passage appears near the beginning
of the piece; a simlar instance appears near the end of the piece.

r J r J o
6

7

J
2

6#

r

r

4#

6#

r

q

In the unmetered Adagio-Allegretto section, shortly before
one complete cycle). More importantlythough, with respect
to the explicit recognitionof the relationshipand interchangeability of these progressions, rather than using just the diminished seventh chord from Vogler's progression, or the
4
corresponding dominant from the omnibus, Bach uses
both chords in each of two statements. This is the only such
example of which I am aware.
Bach's progression:
D6

F7 a6 [d?o7 F4] D7 f#6 [D4 b?07] Cb7

eb6 Bb

Vogler's corresponding fo"7 progression:
d#o6 F7 a6 d#o7

D7 f#64

b#o7

B7 dt64

And the corresponding f#07 omnibus progression:
F

D7 f#4 D4

B7 d6

The second Bach example, shown in Example 31, is from
a Rondo in A minor (1780) and uses a completeVogler/omnibus cycle to descend chromaticallythrough an entire octave
from A3 to A2; this is one of the two earliest such examples

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D

270

;

e

'

U

S

tv

[,

?

VLhX~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example 30. C. P. E. Bach, Fantasiain A Major, W. 58/7
Allepretto.

Adagio.

?ten.
--C?-^

" : k
'a1 ^-.
"r=r:

-

J:

r..'
D6
(insteadof D6)

U,Rl

6

F7
(= Gr6/a)

DV
D7

d#07
(= f#"7)

a4

I

PE

V;

I
f,46

I

D4

of which I am aware.44A comparison of this progression to
Example 28b clearly reveals the identity of the progression,
with its intermingled diminished seventh and dominant 42
chords. It would be hard to underestimate the effect this
44C. P. E. Bach, Rondo III in A Minor, W. 56/5, Clavier-Sonaten und

Freye Fantasien, Zweite Sammlung, 1780. This excerpt appears in the final
A section of the rondo. Complete cycles through an entire octave are far less
common than single statements of an omnibus, or several overlapped statements. The other contemporaneous example I am aware of is by Vogler,
shown in Example 38. Two later examples of complete cycles appearin Hummel's Piano Sonata in F# Minor, op. 81 (1819), firstmovement, mm. 118-23;
and Tchaikovsky'sSixth Symphonyin B Minor, op. 74 ("Pathetique," 1893),
first movement, mm. 259-62.

b#o7

-

tf---

;

I

Cb7
(= Gr6/eb)

a

I

eb6

Rondo must have had on contemporaryaudiences, who must
have been utterly astonished by the novelty and harmonic
daring of the passage.
If we now reexamine the third Mozart excerpt from above
(Examples 8 and 32), it becomes clear that this too is an
example of an extended omnibus with a substituted diminished seventh chord. A comparison of this progression with
chords 7-14 of the Vogler progressionin Example 28a reveals
that the match is exact. Mozart overlaps three omnibus progressions to get from A minor to the closely-related key of
E minor. He obviously wants to exploit the instability and
tension generated by this highly chromatic extended omnibus, with its inherent enharmonicism. Another remarkable

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 271

Example 31. C. P. E. Bach, Rondo III in A Minor, W. 56/5, mm. 142-56

149*

ten.

n

ff

9

j

..b

3

L6M.

ten.

i

f

P

pP

ten.

ff

p

o

ffPPPfff"ffirf~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
i
J
hJ

$

$J

Jj

C 7
(= Db = Gr6/f)

I

B( 7

b07

g#o7

(= Gr6/d)

Example 32. Chord progression from Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453, first movement, mm. 196-203 (1784)
mm.

196
a

A42

a: i

V4/iv
2

197
F#7
V7/ii
g#: Gr6/ii
= a: Gr6/ii

198
bb6

ii6

()

199

200

201

E7

g6
94

tt07

202
C7

(instead of Eb4)

()
V7
f: Gr6/ii

ii64

viio7

V7

e: Gr6
Omnibus
Chords:

4

5

2

3

203
B

()

5
2

3

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4

5

V

272

MusicTheory Spectrum

moment in this excerpt is what may be called double enharmonicism. The F#7, which is chord 5 of the first omnibus,
becomes upon its reinterpretation not a Gr6 of A# minor,
but of Bb minor. Without this extra, or double enharmonic
reinterpretation, the music would move not to the closely
related key of E minor at m. 204, but to the very distant key
of Dx minor.

Yet another Mozart concerto example is exemplary in setting the V7/Gr6duality of the extended omnibus in high relief. Example 33 shows mm. 125-129 of the D major Piano
Concerto (K. 537).45The framing keys are G major and A
major. The process begins with a tonicization of G major,
clearly articulated by five and one-half measures of exclusively G6-D7 chords beginning in m. 120.46 On the fourth

appearance of the D7 (m. 125), the overlapped omnibus begins, but with some alterations.Two chords are different from
those that would appear in an overlapped omnibus: a?o7 substitutes for d#6, and g#o7 substitutes for G#7. Both substitutes

have the same bass note as the chords for which they are
substituting, thereby maintaining the chromatic wedge, but
neither of these chords fits into the corresponding Vogler
progression. The g#o7 substitute obviously functions as viio7

of A, leading the music back to A major for the close of this
section. But with two chords missing, particularlythe critical
d#6 (chord 3) that makes the surroundingdominants sound
like Gr6s, the third segment of this extended omnibus does
not cohere as such. This unusual progression is more profitably compared to the model shown in Example 17, which
fuses the classic and small omnibus. Using that model, the
excerpt shown in Example 33 can be interpreted as a twostatement overlappedomnibus, whose second segment is con45PianoConcerto No. 26 in D, K. 537, third movement ("Coronation").
This excerpt appears in the closing section (and thus the dominant key area)
of the B part of this concerto-rondo form.
46Thisis without doubt an unusual key to tonicize within a section in A
major (i.e., tVII).

nected to a small omnibus.47This excerpt still contains one
substitution in the small omnibus segment-a viio7/Vinstead
of vii6-diluting somewhat the omnibus effect.
Since the keys in this section, G and A, are separated by
only two accidentals, no extraordinarymeans are required to
modulate from one to the other. Mozart'suse of the extended
omnibus here clearly demonstrates his desire to make a musical pun. He accomplishes this in two ways. First, by repeating the G6-D7 formula four times, D7 is unquestionably
treated as V7/G. When it is then followed on its fourth appearance by f#6, its enharmonic reinterpretationas a Gr6/f#
is unmistakable. Second, Mozart maximizes this effect
through the voicing of the D7. In both the piano and violin
parts, this D7 is arpeggiated upward, placing the critical Cq
in the uppermost voice of the figuration. When the chord is
reinterpretedas a Gr6/f#,the prominent placement of the C~
(respelled as Bt in the piano part), highlights the C~/B# duality. Mozart has brought the enharmonicisminherent in the
omnibus progression into full relief.
While some of the examples I have examined show omnibus progressions in developmental or transitionalpassages
-as one would expect for harmony of such ambiguity and
instability-composers also use them in what would normally
be harmonicallystable sections of music. This creates an element of surprise, allowing for excursions into remote keys
in the most unexpected places, as is the case in the Mozart
D major Concerto and the Bach C minor and A minor Rondos discussed above. In the Concerto, the omnibus is found
in the closing material of the B section of a rondo form, a
place where one would expect relative harmonicstability and
confirmationof the dominant key before the obligatory return to tonic, rather than the nebulous omnibus harmonies.
Similarly, in the two Bach Rondos the omnibus appears in
47Thisis also the case in the C. P. E. Bach Fantasia shown in Example
30.

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Enharmonicism and the Omnibus Progression in Classical-Era Music

273

Example 33. Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, K. 537 ("Coronation"), third movement, mm. 125-29 (1788)
125

A

6

t

L
S&

t

h4

Fl.

Bsn.

?

r-

T

*r

r?fr*rrr

lo

'f

lf

f

F

F!F

I t '?rr

Ob.

rCI
1,

I

rr

1

'1'

f

''#

r

-r

Pf.

I^IF

iF

VI. 1

(
>

VI. 2

i

Via.

f^$t D

D.B.

.-G46

-

J

---

-

---

--

--^

S

D

G: V7
e: Gr6/ii
Omnibus Chords: 5
2

G: V7
e: Gr6/ii

.-p

Y

P----

h? -h
f6

4

D2

'

.
B7

i14

.6

Gr6/ii

V7
Key?: Gr6/d$? Eb?

3

4

5
2

ado7
(insteadof d#64)

g$07
(insteadof G$7)

(3)

4

viio7/V
I(insteadof vii4)

V2

A

(5)

OR
..6
114

Gr6/l

V7

4

viio7/iv
A: vii07

Omnibus Chords: 5
2

h--

---p--

hD7

3

4

5

h
-

--

pD

.-

~~~~~~.,

6

7

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I

274

MusicTheory Spectrum

the final A sections. The melodic component of an omnibus
passage is usually underplayed. Rather than clearly defined
melodies, as would be used to articulatesections of harmonic
stability, such passages tend to be athematic, with lots of
passage work. The harmony is the center of attention and
generator of musical interest. Thus, even if the omnibus progression no longer carried specific lament connotations for
classical-eracomposers, it still carriedmuch of the rhetorical
and dramaticweight from its origins in the passacagliabasses
and lament arias, and would therefore be a felicitous choice
for the dramatic climax of a composition.
LINK TO NINETEENTH-CENTURY

ENHARMONICISM

The omnibus and its related progressions represent a
link between the simpler, more typical manifestations of
eighteenth-century enharmonicism (such as those shown in
Examples 4 and 5) and the more idiosyncraticexploitation of
enharmonic relationships in the nineteenth century. This is
so not only because the omnibus (with its seemingly anachronistic enharmonicism) was enthusiastically adopted by
nineteenth-century composers (Beethoven actually begins
the third Razumovsky quartet of 1805-06 with a Vogler/
omnibus progression), but because its ambiguous tonality
likely encouraged nineteenth-century composers to experiment with even more remote enharmonicpossibilities.48One
48Yellincites many nineteenth- and even twentieth-centuryexamples, including: the Finale to Weber's Der Freischiitz; the Overture to Rossini's
WilliamTell;the firstmovementof Schumann'sThirdSymphonyand the third
movement of his Second Symphony;the first movement of Brahms'sSecond
Symphony;the Finale of Tchaikovsky'sFourth Symphonyand the firstmovement of his Sixth; excerpts from Wagner's Rienzi, Lohengrin, Tristanund
Isolde, and Parsifal; Debussy's Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum;Schoenberg's
Gurreliederand Kammersymphonie;Stravinsky'sL'Histoiredu Soldat; and
Bart6k's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.

nineteenth-century example of a similarly ambiguous type
of enharmonicismwill suffice to show this link. The passage
appears in Schubert'sPiano Sonata in D, shown in Example
34. Gregory Proctor cites this passage as typical of nineteenth-centuryenharmonicusage.49Briefly, Proctor explains
that the Ft major triad can be generated in two ways, and
is therefore simultaneouslytwo different chords, as shown in
Example 35:
1. It is a V/vi, whose goal chord is delayed for a measure and
preempted by a return to the tonic D major chord; and
2. It is a chromatic neighbor chord to D. The At is an enharmonic spelling of the Bb upper neighbor, borrowed
from D minor.
Unresolvable enharmonicism exists because one cannot
claim that the A#/Bb is exclusively one pitch or the other, nor
can its chronology be unequivocally established-it is both
pitches simultaneously. There is no diatonic context that accommodates a D major-Ft major-D major progression, so
the generation and identity of the A#/Bb pitch is ambiguous.
At firstblush, it would appearthat this type of enharmonicism
is unimaginable in eighteenth-century music, and would
therefore have few counterpartsor antecedents. But a closer
look at the omnibus reveals a striking similarity due to the
questionable identity of the omnibus's second soprano note.
In Example 2, for instance, can that note be labeled unequivocallyAb and not Gf, or vice versa? Labeling the chord
as a passing chord does not identify its pitches uniquely.
Given an enharmonictransformation,the chronology is clear:
the pitch is first Ab (as part of a V7/III), then Gf (as part
of a Gr6/ii). If there is no enharmonic transformation,then

49GregoryProctor, "Technical Bases of Nineteenth-CenturyChromatic
Tonality: A Study in Chromaticism" (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University,
1978), 140-42.

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 275

Example 34. Schubert,Piano Sonata in D Major, op. 53, third movement, Trio, mm. 9-18 (1825)

Ff+Fj
w

(-4\i i

rFr

A

r r

AH
[I

Example 35. Proctor'stwo generationsof the Ff major triad
shown in Example 34
4
e-

V/vi

.-^r

1

L
L]

W

W

*

II

.
and

v-tgWII

chromatic neighbor chord

the chord is exclusively a Gr6/ii (by virtue of its resolution)
and the pitch in question is G#. But after chord 5 makes clear
that this progression was an omnibus, might one not also
choose to hear the soprano as the mirror image of the passacaglia bass (G-Ab-A -Bb-B -C in the soprano against
C-B -Bb -A -Al -G in the bass), and reinterpretagain the
Gf as an Al? At this point, does the identity of the pitch
become immaterial?Is this simply a succession of chromatic
half steps within a prolongation of V? If so, then it follows
that Ab is structurallyequivalent to Gt and that the chronology is trivial. This is in principle exactly analogous to
Schubert'sharmony in Example 34, which otherwise has few
counterpartsor antecedents in eighteenth-centurymusic. The
omnibus, and to an even greater degree the extended omnibus, clearly is an antecedent.

TWENTIETH-CENTURY

V4 I6]

vi

VERSUS EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY VIEWS

OF THE OMNIBUS PROGRESSION

This discussion of the omnibus would not be complete
without differentiating a twentieth-century view of the
omnibus from an eighteenth-century perspective. Above,
I describe the omnibus as a prolongation of a dominantseventh chord. While it may profit us at times to view it this
way, it is not clear that an eighteenth-century composer or
theorist would have done so. In fact, it is difficult to find an
eighteenth-century omnibus passage that is simply that: a
straightforwarddominant prolongation, without any overlapping statements (e.g., G6-B 7-d6-Bb4-G7). The closest
such example I have found appears in C. P. E. Bach's Die
neue Litanei (Example 29), but even this passage substitutes a diminished-seventh chord for the dominant 4 and
the framing dominants do not function as such with clarity
and stability. In all but one of the other eighteenth-century
examples I have found, the omnibus is overlapped, starting in one key and ending in another, and the surrounding
context is often tonally ambiguous. In fact, eighteenthcentury examples are as a rule more tonally ambiguous than
those of the nineteenth-century, where classic omnibuses
are relatively easy to find. So rather than being used to prolong a primary dominant, or even an augmented sixth, the

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276

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example36. Vogler, PreludeXII in E Major, mm. 15-19

:J-^' i.

r r r

.^
r+f F
p ! F

-

1

P
Y~~~~~~~~~~x1

f

F

r

B7

b#"7

f 6

Gr6/f#

???

f

o '

r
[C]

e

forD2)
(= d#07, substituting

omnibus was typically used instead as an exotically colorful,
chromatic, yet utilitarianprogression to take the music from
one key to another, close or distant, providing a wild enharmonic ride along the way. The same holds true for Vogler's related progression, his harmonizationof the chromatic
scale, and what I call the diminished seventh progression.
An analysis by Vogler of one of his own keyboard preludes, dating from 1806, is pertinent here.50 The Prelude,
50Prelude XII, Georg Joseph Vogler, Pieces de Clavecin (1798) and Zwei
und Dreisig Prdludien (1806), ed. Floyd K. Grave (Madison, Wisc.: A-R

Editions, Inc., 1986), 79-80. The analysisappearsin Vogler'sZwei und dreisig
Praludien fur die Orgel und fur das Fortepiano, nebst einer Zergliederung in

shown in Example 36, contains the following short, singlestatement omnibus with a substituted diminished seventh
chord (and one additional C major chord, which is not part
of the omnibus):
B7 C b#07 f#6 Gr6/f# B6 E
This omnibus is easily analyzed as a prolonged dominant,
especially if the b#o7 is spelled or heard as a d#7--the statements do not overlap, the framingchords are V7/e and V6/E,
asthetischer, rhetorischer und harmonischer Ricksicht, mit praktischem Bezug
auf das Handbuch der Tonlehre vom Abt Vogler (Munich, 1806), 33-34. I
would like to thank Professor Grave for making this available to me.

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Enharmonicismand the OmnibusProgression in Classical-EraMusic 277
and a tonic E major chord follows the B6 chord. (This may
be compared to the single-statementomnibus prolonging a B
dominant seventh chord shown in Example 18c, second row.
The same progression with a substituted diminished seventh
would include dt?4 in place of D4.) Vogler, however, analyzes the progression not as a composing out of a dominant
seventh or diminished seventh chord, but as a modulation.
This omnibus excerpt is much cleaner and clearer tonally than
any of the Mozartor C. P. E. Bach examples discussed above,
yet Vogler analyzes it in two keys:
mm. 16

17

18

19

e: V VI vii?7 // f: V #iv / E: V7 I
Interestingly enough, Vogler never mentions this passage
at all in his commentary, yet he refers to other parts of the
piece that are not nearly so complex. This is particularly
surprising,coming from a theorist who often takes great pains
in other analyses to show chord roots, function, non-chord
tones, and the like. For instance, in one example he discusses
a cadential 6 as being a dominant with a prepared 13th and
11th that resolve down by step, and he shows the chord root
as V.51But clearly he does not interpret the above passage
as belonging to a single chord root.
On the other hand, Vogler's analysisof the final movement
of his Keyboard Concerto No. 2 in Bb, shown in Example
37, suggests more of a linear perspective. The passage contains a complete diminished seventh cycle, traversing an
entire octave. As with his Prelude analysis, Vogler provides
no Roman numerals, only a figured bass.52The section follows a half cadence on F, and is itself followed by a ii-I651FloydK. Grave and MargaretG. Grave, In Praiseof Harmony(Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1987), 55-61.
52Ibid.,65. This concerto excerpt is discussed in and excerpted from the
second volume of Vogler's Betrachtungender MannheimerTonschule(Mannheim, 1778-81).

viio7/V-I6 progression leading into a cadenza. Grave points
out that Vogler declines to comment in detail on this section.
According to Grave, "by omitting mention of any chord
roots, Vogler suggests that the harmony involves a purely
linear elaboration, with no harmonyof structuralimportance
occurringbetween the two dominant chord roots that frame
the chromaticscale."53Whether Vogler viewed this chromatic
extravagance explicitly as an extended dominant or diminished seventh prolongationis hard to determine, but he probably at least understood it as an interpolation, unable though
he was to account for it in his harmonic theory (thereby
accounting for his lack of comment on these measures).
From this and other evidence I conclude that eighteenthcentury composers such as C. P. E. Bach and Mozart understood such progressions to be chromatic and enharmonic sequences (moving mostly by third), segments of which could
be linked and overlapped to produce modulations that reside
at the outer reaches of diatonic tonality. While modern theorists may gain some insight by emphasizingthe prolongation
of the dominant, in so doing they may also miss the intricacy
and fluidityof the progressionin eighteenth-centurypractice.
ABSTRACT
The musicof Haydnand Mozartoccasionallycontainschromatic
exceed the usual limitsof classical
progressionsthat dramatically
tonality.This papertracesthe developmentof one particularformula,calledthe omnibus,fromearlyBaroquemodelsto its various
forms, and in so doing, leads to a deeperuneighteenth-century
derstandingof the emotionalimpact and rhetoricalweight this
progressionevoked,shedslighton the issue of eighteenth-century
enharmonicism
in one of its most potent forms, and links these
enharmonicism
of the nineprogressionsto the moreidiosyncratic
teenthcentury.

53Grave,In Praise of Harmony, 64.

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__

278

.

MusicTheory Spectrum

Example 37.
a. Vogler, Concerto No. 2 in Bb Major, second movement, mm. 73-89
72

[Alia polacca]
L

.,

c6

f0O7

B7

eb4

D7

S

Y

f

f#6

b#?7

d#o7

P

a07

Ab7

r r--VW
tr~~~~~b~~Io

F7

aS

S f:
"

Q^
7

v fI '

01

fto7

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Enharmonicism and the Omnibus Progression in Classical-Era Music

Example 37 [continued]
b. Vogler's analysis

bass line

73

74

7

6
4

76
5

F$

G

AS A

75

76

77

76 6b
5 4
BI

83

84

85

86

87

88

89

7
5#
3#

7
6
7
7
5(1) 6
3(#) 4(#) 3(X) 3(#) 4

7

7

3

6
4

7

6
4

B

B#

E

F

F$

G

F

E

F

78

79

80

C#

81

D

82

D,

preparationfor cadenza

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279

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