Form through Sound: Klangfarbe and Texture in Mendelssohn's Instrumental Compositions

Thomas Schmidt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Felix Mendelssohn’s pioneering role in exploring instrumental colours and textures has never been in doubt. As much as that of any nineteenth-century composer, his ‘sound’ is unmistakable across all genres, whether piano, chamber, or orchestral. Yet texture and timbre have always been the poor sisters in the theory and practice of musical analysis, and little work has been undertaken in this field. This chapter offers the first systematic attempt to examine how Mendelssohn achieves his ‘sound’—how he manages, on the same material basis and using the same ensemble types as his contemporaries, to create something that sounds so unmistakably his own. In a second step, the chapter demonstrates how the composer, rather than deploying devices of texture and Klangfarbe as localized programmatic devices, uses them to articulate or indeed generate instrumental form.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRethinking Mendelssohn
EditorsBenedict Taylor
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780190611804, 9780190611811
ISBN (Print)9780190611781
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2020

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