The role of the chorale in the oratorios and symphonies of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
AuthorHoltan, Eric Howard
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe Lutheran chorale fascinated Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1947) to the extent that it became a signature element in some of his major works. The purpose of this study is to examine how and why he incorporated chorales and "pseudo-chorales" in three oratorios (Paulus, Op. 36, 1836; Elijah, Op. 70, 1846; Christus, Op. 97, 1847, unfinished), and two symphonies (#2 "Lobgesang" Op. 52, 1840; #5 "Reformation," 1830, Op. 107, publ. posth.) It also considers the effects of these issues on musical performance. Four influences upon Mendelssohn's inclusion of the chorale form are investigated: the music of J. S. Bach (1685--1750); Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834, theologian); Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832, author and poet); and Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841, painter and architect). The five works are analyzed in an attempt to illustrate how these influences led Mendelssohn to introduce chorales, with or without texts, with the intention of more fully engaging his audiences in the sacred drama the works produce, a supposition that has important implications for the musical phrasing, vocal color, articulation, dynamics, tempi, and momentum within and between movements. An over-arching purpose of this study is to provide a basis for more informed performances of Mendelssohn's oratorios and symphonies--a clearer understanding of his motives for including the chorale form is a logical beginning. While the influence of Bach's music on Mendelssohn--especially St. Matthew Passion with its extensive use of the chorale--is generally accepted, there is much debate about Mendelssohn's theological proclivities and their influence on his music. Mendelssohn's letters indicate that it is Schleiermacher's Christo-centric theology--not a Jewish or humanistic approach as propounded by other--that explains Mendelssohn's faith and explicates one of the motivations/purposes in his life. The comprehension of this motivation, especially relating to his use of chorales, is prerequisite to the effective interpretation of Mendelssohn's chorale-based works. Goethe and Schinkel, as leaders of the neoclassical trend in the arts and undeniable influences on Mendelssohn, provided additional encouragement for Mendelssohn's employment of the older musical form. This formative confluence led Mendelssohn to adopt the chorale as the emblem of his musical, theological, and philosophical ideals.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Music and Dance