To Lift or Not to Lift: Slurs and Articulation in Mendelssohn's Organ Works
Rich, Kirk Michael
MetadataShow full item record
A salient feature of Felix Mendelssohn’s organ works is the presence of many slur markings; these encompass as few as two notes and as many as several measures. Confusion surrounds the interpretation of these slurs. Some organists, particularly those trained in performance practices of earlier music, view Mendelssohn’s slurs as indications of articulation, as they would have been in the Baroque Era. Primary source evidence, however, suggests a shift in the meaning of slurs by the time Mendelssohn’s organ works were published. The study of these sources, primarily keyboard and violin methods from the last decades of the eighteenth century through the middle of the nineteenth century, paints a picture of articulation practices during Mendelssohn’s lifetime. Although previous scholarship on the topic has focused on organ methods, Mendelssohn’s relatively limited organ study suggests he may have never consciously attempted to acquire a proper organ technique. Therefore, piano methods of the day can shed light on Mendelssohn’s organ playing vis-à-vis his piano training. Analysis of select Mendelssohn organ works based on contemporaneous keyboard methods provides an idea of the general keyboard articulation appropriate to unmarked pieces, those without slurs. This, coupled with a catalogue of slur types and examples of each drawn from Mendelssohn’s organ pieces, provides a valuable resource for approaching this music in a historically informed way.