Analysis of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony

1023 Words Jun 16th, 2018 5 Pages
Introduction Felix Mendelssohn was one of the most famous composers during the 19th century. Although in his music he did show some features of romanticism, he was strongly influenced by traditional genres such as counterpoint etc. In this essay, the biography of the composer, background of the genre and analysis of the piece will be investigated

Biographical Sketch of Mendelssohn
Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg in 1809. His father Abraham Mendelssohn was a banker, while his mum Lea Mendelssohn was a highly educated artist and musician. Mendelssohn first had his piano lesson from his mum, but soon he was sent to study with the best teachers at that time such as Marie Bigot and Ludwig Burger. He also took composition lessons with Karl
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This simply corresponds to Robert Schumann’s saying: “Mendelssohn is the one who most clearly sees through the contradictions (between the classical and romantic style) of the age and for the first time reconciles them.”

Musical Form of the Work The symphony consists of four movements. The first movement, Allegro vivace, is in sonata form. In the first theme (Ex.1), many sequences were used to construct the melody. And being inspired by Italian opera, Mendelssohn here tired to delay the closure of the theme as much as possible. While the second theme, it shares the similar materials as the first theme. In the development section, although a new theme appears, it consists of some materials of the first theme. Then, all these three themes appear again in the recapitulation, creating a sense of unity.

Ex. 1 Opening theme of the first movement The second movement, Andante con moto, however has two main different interpretations that it could be analyzed as song form or sonata form. The third movement, Con moto moderato, was composed in form of minuet and trio. Finally, for the finale, which consists of the Roman saltarello and the Neapolitan tarantella dance rhythm, contains characteristics of both sonata and rondo form.

How does the piece fit into the orchestral literature of the 19th century? First and foremost, the piece reflects the development of the clarinet that its role in the orchestra became more and
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