We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Mendelssohn and the Musical Sublime

WAGGENER, JOSHUA,ALTON (2014) Mendelssohn and the Musical Sublime. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 United States (CC BY-NC-ND).



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.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy; Immanuel Kant; George Frideric Handel; Friedrich Schleiermacher; the sublime; genius; aesthetics; reception history; Octet for Strings; 1826 Te Deum; Psalm 115; Midsummer Night’s Dream; Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage; The Hebrides; Lobgesang; Berlin Psalm Introits; Elijah
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 May 2014 09:24

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter