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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Formal procedures in three works for string chamber ensemble by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Austin, George Clifford Everard


The works of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-47) are problematic in that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to categorise them as being "Classic" or "Romantic", or to divide them into "style periods" which present clear indications of progression from one to the other. The architectural parameters of the works selected for this analysis are determined by the classical Sonata Form which was undergoing a degree of neglect during Mendelssohn's lifetime as a result of the work of both the preceding generation of composers and of his contemporaries. Mendelssohn1s attempt to prolong the existence of the form will be the prime concern of this exercise. The Octet, Opus 20, and the String Quartets, Opus 44, Number 3, and Opus 80, were composed over a twenty year period of Mendelssohn's life — from mid-teens to the year of his death. The works are widely enough spaced that any manifestations of change in method or approach would, in all probability, be readily discernable. Further, since these works all fall within the generic classification of music for string chamber ensemble, comparisons between them should be more appropriate than those between works of different genres. The presentation will be organised as follows: I. Introduction: The works selected; the form of the string quartet; II. Analysis of selected works; III. Devices used in the unfolding of the form; IV. Evaluation; Mendelssohn's respect for traditions in general and classical forms in particular, which led Berlioz to remark that: "He is far too fond of the dead", remained throughout his life. The material contained within the formal frame will reflect the spirit of the romantic era but the framework will remain classic.

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