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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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Brass Topics, Abbreviated Recapitulations, and the Bildungsreise

Brass Topics, Abbreviated Recapitulations, and the Bildungsreise

A New Approach to the First Movement of Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony

(p.38) 2 Brass Topics, Abbreviated Recapitulations, and the Bildungsreise
Rethinking Mendelssohn

Peter Mercer-Taylor

Oxford University Press

This chapter proceeds from a memorable passage near the end of the first movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony, where the woodwinds and brass unite in a forceful rendition of the opening gesture of the movement’s first subject. This fanfare in the coda represents the climactic stage in a process that has been at work since the start of this movement, a process that can be understood as an ingenious convergence of two of Mendelssohn’s well-established habits in orchestral sonata-form composition: deploying brass-related topics to generate a sense of closure and his tendency towards the drastic telescoping of recapitulations. The chapter further proposes that an autobiographical register might be at work in the movement’s distinctive deployment of rhetorical forces, asking whether we might discern here a meditation on Mendelssohn’s own journey towards personal maturity and independence.

Keywords:   Felix Mendelssohn, ‘Italian’ Symphony, sonata form, musical topics, bicinia, Bildungsreise, musical autobiography

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