Simon Sechter’s Fundamental-Bass Theory and Its Influence on the Music of Anton Bruckner

Author: Stocken, Frederick
Contrary to the many commentators who presumed there to be a tension between Sechter’s theory and Bruckner’s mature musical language, this study demonstrates their compatibility. Using the Adagio of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, the case is made for fundamental-bass theory as a revealing tool for analyzing the composer’s music.


“In his investigation of both Sechter’s fundamental-bass theory and Bruckner’s probable use of it as part of his harmonic thinking, Stocken has used forensic musicological skills backed up by his own experience and instincts as a composer to clear painstakingly through many layers of misunderstanding in the secondary sources and to reveal the main issues afresh with great clarity.” – Dr. Crawford Howie, University of Manchester

“. . . one of the most original contributions to Bruckner scholarship of recent years. . . . Stocken joins the list of those who approach Bruckner from a harmonic rather than a contrapuntal position, but his book is sufficiently complex to provide plenty of consideration of counterpoint along the way. It is a very serious music-theoretical work that will be eagerly read by other Bruckner scholars and research students.” – Prof. John Williamson, University of Liverpool

“. . . must be regarded as a major event in Bruckner’s scholarship, and is required reading for those interested in his compositional method, harmonic theory, choral music and symphonies. In addition, its reappraisal of Sechter will surely command the interest of a wide range of music theorists as well as musicologists.” – Dr. James Garratt, University of Manchester

"... Stocken's study rises thoroughly and elegantly to this challenge. ... this book remains a most valuable contribution to the literature. Stocken's study is a diligent in its encounter with Sechter's theories and their sources, constructively critical in its engagement with the secondary literature, and perspicacious in its analysis of Bruckner's music. It makes a vital contribution to both Bruckner and Sechter studies, and as such should become an important text for scholars in both fields." -- Dr. Julian Horton

Table of Contents

Foreword by Crawford Howie
1. Summaries and Overviews
Bruckner as Sechter’s pupil and successor
Simon Sechter
Introduction to Sechter’s fundamental-bass theory
Summary of the literature
2. Locating Sechter’s Fundamental-Bass Theory: Three Contexts
The history of the theory of the intermediate fundamental
Sechter and counterpoint
Sechter’s re-working of Beethoven’s Sonata in A flat, Op. 110
3. Presenting Sechter’s Fundamental-Bass Theory
Primary sources
The sequential model
Families of keys
Diatonic modulation
Chromatic chords and the ninth chord
The diminished seventh chord
The augmented sixth chord
4. Previous Applications of Sechter’s Theory to Music
Karl Mayrberger
Josef Schalk
Cyrill Hynais
Ernst Decsey
Graham H. Phipps
Elmar Seidel
John A. Phillips
5. Sechter’s Fundamental-Bass Theory and the Adagio of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony
The opening phrase
Bars 1–3
Bars 1–7
Bars 9–15 and 207–13
The second subject
The three climaxes
The first and second climaxes
The third climax
The ‘farewell to life’ and its transfiguration
The ‘farewell to life’
The transfiguration of the ‘farewell to life’

Conclusion 6. Conclusion: Bruckner and Sechter’s
Fundamental-Bass Theory
Unpublished sources
Published music
Other published sources