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Sonata Form Analysis

Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64


First Movement

1. Allegro molto appassionato.


2. Andante.
3. Allegro non troppo-Allegro molto vivace.

Composed in 1844 Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in E minor conforms to the


conventional sonata form structure to a certain extent as it has an Exposition,
Development and Recapitulation. However many innovative ideas are presented
in this first movement that differ from the traditional conventions of the sonata
form. This is immediately apparent; “dispensing with any orchestral
introduction” the solo violin enters with a “passionately surging melody”, that
being the first subject. (Buckley et al, 2010 p. 344)

Rhythmic
motif

This first subject is triadic and based on the triad of e minor, the home key of
the piece. The repetition of the rhythm of the three notes at the beginning can
be found in the piece as a stand-alone motif and is clearly reworked
throughout the whole movement. An example of this can be found in the horn
and trumpet parts bars 43-44 and in the solo violin part bars 169-169.
Following a passage of rapidly played chromatic triplets the orchestra restate
the first theme in bar 47.

Unusually the transition has a theme of its own, first stated by the oboes and
violin one, then repeated an octave higher by the solo violin.

This theme is heavily chromatic and uses extended techniques for the violin
such as double-stopping for example bars 97-104. This passage ends with a
frantic chromatic run into a pedal note on G (the tonic of the modulated key of
g major, also the relative major of the home key), which heralds the beginning
of the tranquil and lyrical second subject. (Todd, 2003 p.481)
The pedal note provides a bass to the melody played by the woodwind, which
is then repeated an octave higher and developed by the solo violin before a
short codetta indicates the end of the exposition. (Tovey, 2014 p. 158)

The development section of this piece combines the themes from the first
subject and the transition theme but unusually the second subject is omitted.
Another innovation appears at the end of the development where the cadenza
interrupts the transition into the recapitulation (Todd, 2003 p. 481),
conventionally the cadenza would be placed at the end of the movement.
Mendelssohn also scored the cadenza, which gave the violinist no scope to
improvise, where formerly the soloist would improvise the themes previously
introduced and end on a trill to indicate the re entrance of the orchestra.

The Recapitulation begins as “The Orchestra softly brings the first subject
into full swing as the arpeggios of the violin” continued from the cadenza
“settle into a rapid spin”. (Tovey, 2014 p.158) The recapitulation differs from
the exposition in several ways for example the first subject at bar 335 is still in
the key of E minor but is now played by the orchestra in comparison to the
exposition where the soloist introduces the first theme. The second subject
also now appears in E major rather than G major and is now played by the
clarinets, flutes and additionally the oboe.

The coda forms a “three-part stretto passage” which consists of Piu presto,
sempre piu presto and presto which gives a renewed feel to the coda (Todd,
2013 p.291) the very end of the movement the bassoon holds a Bb which was
unusual previous to this concerto.

Bibliography

Books

Buckley J, Clark P, Dickson A, Hopkins K, Johnson S, Kimberly N, Staines J,


Thomas G. 2010. The Rough Guide to Classical Music (Rough Guides Ltd).

Goulding P G, 1992. Classical Music, The 50 Greatest Composers and Their


1,000 Greatest Works. (The Random House Publishing Group) (224-225).

Books sourced from Google Books

Schwarm, B. 2011. Classical Music Insights (Trafford Publishing) Available at:


https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=JB8dRAo2OoMC&pg=PA121&dq=mend
elssohn+violin+concerto+in+e+minor&hl=en&sa=X&ei=CH0FVfn_EZftaJLFgL
gO&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=mendelssohn%20violin%20conc
erto%20in%20e%20minor&f=false [Accessed 15 March 2015]
Stein, L. 1979. Anthology of Musical Forms: Structure & Style (Expanded
Edition). (Alfred Music) Available at:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=b8FdaMJaWl0C&pg=PA164&dq=mende
lssohn+violin+concerto+in+e+minor&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-
XUFVe6cNuHXyQPAm4GQDQ&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=mende
lssohn%20violin%20concerto%20in%20e%20minor&f=false
[Accessed 16 March 2015]

Todd L R, 2003. Mendelssohn (Oxford University Press) Available at:


https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=j2Pf2yQipyUC&pg=PA482&dq=mendels
sohn+violin+concerto+in+e+minor&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-
XUFVe6cNuHXyQPAm4GQDQ&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=mend
elssohn%20violin%20concerto%20in%20e%20minor&f=false
[Accessed: 15 March 2015]

Todd L R, 2013/2008. Mendelssohn Essays ( Routledge) Available at:


https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=98uRAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA302&dq=mend
elssohn+violin+concerto+in+e+minor&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-
XUFVe6cNuHXyQPAm4GQDQ&ved=0CEEQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=mend
elssohn%20violin%20concerto%20in%20e%20minor&f=false
[Accessed:18 March 2015]

Tovey D F, 2014. Concertos and Choral Works: Selections from Essays in


Musical Analysis (Courier Dover Publications) Available at:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EvmpBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA156&lpg=PA1
56&dq=mendelssohn+violin+concerto+movement+1+allegro+molto+appassio
nato+analysis&source=bl&ots=ZkCtkNUo9M&sig=KiXMF3AdGU7T3G7AuAW
T7G1YGP4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=knQFVZSiGYqtaZvlgqgO&ved=0CFMQ6AEwB
w#v=onepage&q=mendelssohn%20violin%20concerto%20movement%201%
20allegro%20molto%20appassionato%20analysis&f=false
[Accessed: 16 March 2015]

Websites

Alan, G. n.d., Scores to support WJEC AS Music – Notes. Available at:


https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/media/departmental/caa/scores.pdf

[Accessed: 15 March 2015]

GCSE Bitesize, The concerto in the Classical period (roughly 1750-1800) n.d.
Available at :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/music/western_tradition/concerto2.
shtml. [Accessed 19 March 2015]

Higher: Romantic concerto. n.d. Available at:


http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learnlisteningonline/higherandadvanced
higher/musicaltopics/concerto/romanticperiod.asp
[Accessed: 19 March 2015]
Media

Janine Jansen - Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, 2011


(Video File) YouTube. YouTube. Available at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmj7nCRYNs4
[Accessed: 15 March 2015]

Journals

Robertson, A. 1939 ‘’Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto’’, The Musical Times


Vol 80, No.1152. pp. 132-133.

Musical Examples

Images available at:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto_(Mendelssohn)#/media/File:Men
delssohn_VnConcert_op64_1mvt_1theme.png
[Accessed 15 March 2015]

Tovey D F, 2014. Concertos and Choral Works: Selections from Essays in


Musical Analysis (Courier Dover Publications) Available at:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EvmpBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA156&lpg=PA1
56&dq=mendelssohn+violin+concerto+movement+1+allegro+molto+appassio
nato+analysis&source=bl&ots=ZkCtkNUo9M&sig=KiXMF3AdGU7T3G7AuAW
T7G1YGP4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=knQFVZSiGYqtaZvlgqgO&ved=0CFMQ6AEwB
w#v=onepage&q=mendelssohn%20violin%20concerto%20movement%201%
20allegro%20molto%20appassionato%20analysis&f=false
[Accessed 16 March 2015]