Mendelsohn As A Master Craftsman In The Art Of Instrumentation

1147 words - 5 pages

Mendelsohn as a Master-Craftsman in the Art of Instrumentation

Mendelsohn wrote the Hebrides overture in the summer of 1829 in
response to seeing and walking in the Hebrides and in paticular
visiting Fingal's Cave on an island in the outer Hebredies. Like
Mozart before him, he was regarded as a child prodigy and composed
several works before he was seventeen. Therefore when we consider the
question posed, we must acknowledge Mendelsohn set about writing his
concert overture with an esteemed background.

The concert overture has many different forms but Mendelsohn used
Sonata form for his Hebrides overture (a common decision to make in
this Classical period). It could be argued that Sonata form is
indicative of Mendelsohn's relative conservatism as it has a fairly
strict pattern to follow, both in terms of form, key and temperement:

It is clear that Mendelsohn did indeed use three contrasting passages
with the addition of the 52 bar long Coda (normally a more brief
concluding passage at the end of a work). Sonata form has many
positives that work well in this Overture: Mendelsohn's original theme
(fig 1) is clearly audible in the cello part in bar 1 of the
exposition which gives the grounding for the whole piece (indeed, it
has been argued that this theme is the genesis of the whole piece but
that is a different essay entirely.) and us repeated in all parts of
the work. Because the themes are so important they need to be clearly
exposed and the exposition does this effectively.

Sonata form also allows for two subjects in the exposition (bars 1-96)
and he intertwines them immaculately. An example of this is the chord
structure of the two subjects: they are both constructed from notes
1,2,3 and five of the scale but this does not mean to say they are too
similar: the second subject is in D major and is a four-bar melody as
opposed to the smaller 1 bar motif of the first subject. The first
subject is a springboard for the second subject but is not relied
upon. In this way Mendelsohn demonstrates his 'master-craftsmanship'.

Key change is another prevelent feature of Sonata form that Mendelsohn
utilizes to weave his material together- The various key changes in
the work are shown in the explanation of Sonata form and the
relativity of each passing key to the tonic (B minor) is clear-
Mendelsohn uses the relative major as well as the tonic major for
major key changes, but also moves through keys including the dominant
in rapid sucession in different parts of the piece: for example, me
moves through E major, C major, G major, Bb major, F major, C minor
and G minor in only 16 bars between bar 100 and 116. The key changes
are intrinsically linked to the way Mendelsohn weaves his different
themes together whilst still retaining new and exciting ideas for
furthur in the piece.


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