Sonata Deformations in Mendelssohn's Concert Overtures: A Narrative Analysis
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This study examines four of Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overtures utilizing structuralist and non-structuralist analytical approaches with the aim of identifying each work’s unique musical narrative. The structuralist methodology is drawn from James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy’s Sonata Theory, which is grounded in the subdiscipline of genre theory. The non-structuralist or semiotic methodology is drawn chiefly from Robert Hatten’s work. As well, each of the overtures is influenced by programmatic sources; these influences will be considered with regard to their significance in each work, but will not function as the fundamental basis for the narrative interpretation. Ultimately, I will seek to account for Mendelssohn’s highly rich structural and semiotic language, through which he conveys meaning in his music. The analyses themselves suggest a particular proclivity on Mendelssohn’s part for S-space deformations as a means of communicating narrative meaning in the sonata form. The opening chapter explains my methodological approach and addresses current trends in the literature. The chapters that follow are devoted to four overtures, respectively: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, op. 21; Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, op. 27; The Hebrides, op. 26; and The Fair Melusine, op. 32. Chapter 6 addresses, in brief, the possibility for future application of this bipartite approach in other Mendelssohn works and briefly discusses relevant correlations found in the two posthumously published overtures: the Trumpet Overture, op. 101 and the Ruy Blas Overture, op. 95.