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Syntax and process in the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio, Op. 66.

Horton, Julian (2020) 'Syntax and process in the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio, Op. 66.', in Rethinking Mendelssohn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


This chapter develops the claim that Felix Mendelssohn’s pivotal innovation in the realm of instrumental form lies in his strikingly post-classical response to the relationship between form and syntax. The C minor Piano Trio, Op. 66, reveals a rich array of syntactic habits that depart fundamentally from high-classical precedent. Expositional main-theme groups betray ‘loosening’ techniques, which greatly enlarge their dimensions; conversely, main-theme recapitulations are subjected to rigorous truncation. In between, functional elisions and cadential deferrals, achieved by the maintenance of active bass progressions across formal divisions, promote a degree of continuity that problematizes late-eighteenth-century notions of formal demarcation. These techniques unseat Mendelssohn’s classicist image. In Op. 66, the music’s Mozartian facility masks a technical radicalism, which is one of the defining contributions to the development of Romantic form.

Item Type:Book chapter
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Publisher statement:Horton, Julian (2020). Mendelssohn's Piano Trio Op. 66 and the Analysis of Romantic Form. In Rethinking Mendelssohn. Taylor, Benedict Oxford: Oxford University Press, reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press,
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:04 October 2019
Date of first online publication:01 July 2020
Date first made open access:01 July 2022

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