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Title: Mendelssohn and the musical sublime
Author: Waggener, Joshua Alton
ISNI:       0000 0004 5352 5767
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2014
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How does the aesthetic category of the sublime, in its various formulations from the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, assist in explaining the significance of Felix Mendelssohn and his compositions to English and German audiences in his lifetime and beyond? Due to the conceptual proximity of a number of formulations of the sublime to primary traits of his compositional output, Mendelssohn’s life and work can be understood through the categories of sublime aesthetics. Despite challenges in his reception and complexities in modern scholarship, Mendelssohn’s biography and musical accomplishments consistently show conceptual and contextual relations to a wide variety of sublime formulations. Mendelssohn’s early life and works display a prodigious musical talent impacted by multiple sublime influences, including the ‘sublime’ music of George Frideric Handel. His most popular early overtures – Midsummer Night’s Dream, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, and The Hebrides – demonstrate connections with an even wider range of sublime objects and concepts. Although Mendelssohn’s works from the 1830s and 1840s show an increasing appreciation for historical genres and forms, this does not represent a ‘decline’ from ‘sublime’ standards of originality, but an ‘ascent’ to new heights of ‘genius’, according to early nineteenth-century standards. His late works such as the Lobgesang, the Berlin Psalm Introits, and Elijah confirm his ability to create music modelled on sublime predecessors, communicating ‘Grand Concepts’, and expressing ineffable feeling. Overall, this thesis aims to show that the sublime can serve to evaluate the music of Mendelssohn using contextually-appropriate aesthetic concepts, thus offering a new understanding of his compositional accomplishments.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available