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Rethinking Mendelssohn$
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Benedict Taylor

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190611781

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190611781.001.0001

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Changes of Pace

Changes of Pace

Expressive Accelerations and Decelerations in Mendelssohn’s Vocal Rhythms

(p.400) 17 Changes of Pace
Rethinking Mendelssohn

Harald Krebs

Oxford University Press

Felix Mendelssohn’s lieder were subjected to severe criticism during the late nineteenth century, with his supposedly ‘sloppy declamation’ often criticized against an aesthetic ideal drawn from Hugo Wolf. Mendelssohn’s own song aesthetic was, however, quite different. This chapter investigates Mendelssohn’s text setting, examining the stress patterns of the poetry from which he constructs his vocal melodies. Covering both early and later songs, the chapter incorporates analyses of Mendelssohn’s song autographs, which reveal that declamation was the focus of a considerable amount of care by the composer. Distortions of the poetic rhythm (such as accelerations or decelerations) that occur in his mature songs can often be explained as deliberate expressive effects responding to the deeper meaning of the poem.

Keywords:   Felix Mendelssohn, lied, declamation, word setting, vocal rhythm

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