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Austrian music theorist and composer, author of the Gradus ad Parnassum (1725), one of the most influential manuals of counterpoint.

Gradus ad Parnassum (Steps to Parnassus) was written in Latin and in dialog form between master (Aloysius) and pupil (Josephus) – a pedagogical device that goes back to the middle ages). It is the "classic" presentation of species counterpoint based on the modal system rather than on major–minor tonality. It covers cantus firmus construction, the five species of counterpoint for two, then three, then four voices, then mixed-species counterpoint, fugue in two, three, and four parts, and double counterpoint, concluding with a chapter on the modern recitative style. The book was very widely distributed in its time, was translated into German, Italian, English, and French already in the 18th century, and profoundly influenced counterpoint teaching and manuals thereafter, notably those by Albrechtsberger, Cherubini, Bellermann, and Schenker.

Fux and Schenker

Schenker owned a copy of Mizler's German translation of the Gradus ad Parnassum, and knew the work intimately. His diary shows that he was studying it particularly closely in the summer of 2006, in preparation for the writing of the first half-volume of his own Kontrapunkt. The structure of the latter work to a great extent mirrors that of the Gradus, however Schenker was not without his criticism of Fux's approach; stating that Fux's "theory of voice leading was based on a purely vocal foundation," he identifies Fux's principal fault as: "By elevating voice leading to the rank of a binding theory of composition [...] he unfortunately closed the door to instrumental music from the outset" (Eng. trans. John Rothgeb, pp. xxvii–xxviii).


  • Gradus ad Parnassum: sive manductio ad compositionem musicae regularem ... (Vienna: van Gherlen, 1725)
  • Ger. trans. Lorenz Christoph Mizler, Gradus ad Parnassum; oder, Anführung zur regelmässigen musikalischen Composition ... (Leipzig: Mizler, 1742) [of which Schenker owned a copy]
  • Facsimile edn: Monuments of Music and Music Literature in Facsimile, Ser. II, No. 24 (New York: Broude Bros, 1966)


  • Ian Bent

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