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It has been argued that Mendelsohn was a master-craftsman in the art of instrumentation, choosing at least 3 contrasting passages. Discuss.

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Introduction

q5/3/03 h/w It has been argued that Mendelsohn was a master-craftsman in the art of instrumentation, choosing at least 3 contrasting passages. Discuss. 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) ...read more.

Middle

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. The 'three contrasting passages' mentioned in the title are the exposition, development and recapitulation. After the expostition, which introduces the bold main themes of the piece, Mendelsohn uses the development to explore a wider range of tonal mixture (and indeed conflict) in the work. We must remember that several of the themes and underlying harmonies are direct imitations of his experiences in the Hebridies (some say the rising quavers in the bass in bar 15 along with the full texture at that point is a reference to the rising waves at Fingal's cave) ...read more.

Conclusion

and massive brass fanfares (bars 247-252 and 255-256) make the coda dramatic and electifying before, like a man grasping the lead of a rabid dog, Mendelsohn curtails the drama to a deeply tranquil end with a combination of the first subject in the flute and the 2nd in the clarinet. The way Mendelsohn handles this tumultous music is nothing short of master-craftsmanship. There are two more issues to mention that show the skill of the Hebrides- texture and instrumentation. The instruments the Hebrides is scored for is typical of the classical period and relatively small, as detailed above. however, Mendelsohn does not use this to hinder the drama of the piece with bright, tranquil motifs (the inital theme in the cello in bar 1) contrasting heavily with the dramatic full-orchestral sound heard at bar 87 and other instances. To conclude, we have shown that there are numerous examples of the way Mendelsohn has shaped the Hebrides- including contrasting texture, the use of sonata form and the contrasts within that form- to make it memorable and weave his varying ideas together. It should be noted that Mendelsohn reviewed and heavily changed the piece several times over his musical career to get it into the shape we see it today. Ben Sellers. texture ...read more.

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