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Thesis 1

Thesis Title: Music, Text and Context in Felix Mendelssohn's Choral Works for Berlin Cathedral
Degree Type: DMus
Degree Specialism: Performance
Supervisor(s): Dr Denise Neary, Dr Philip Graydon
Thesis Status: Accepted
Date Submitted / Accepted: November 2012
Institution Submitting / Submitted To: Royal Irish Academy of Music
No. of Volumes (no. of pages): 1 (182pp.)
Approx. Word Count: 35,000
Thesis Location / Link: Royal Irish Academy of Music library
Abstract: Although the towering presence of Mendelssohnís oratorios has dominated the scholarship on his choral music, new light has recently been shed upon some of the shorter vocal works. During Mendelssohnís tenure as Generalmusikdirektor (Royal Composer of Church Music) at Berlin Cathedral from 1843 to 1844, he composed several fine liturgical pieces. However, various frustrations at Berlin Cathedral appear to have cut short Mendelssohnís career there, ultimately causing him to seek release from his duties in 1844.

This thesis examines the religious background and overall context surrounding the Berlin Cathedral period of Mendelssohnís career in order to enable a more complete understanding of the music and its legacy. The composerís stature as a Neuchrist is considered with a view to elucidating his approach to the composition of sacred music. A detailed investigation of the Berlin Cathedral music focuses upon two principal aspects: text and style. A new argument is presented for innovation in Mendelssohnís treatment of text insofar as is evidenced in the a cappella works written for Berlin Cathedral, including Drei Psalmen, Op.78 Sechs SprŁche, Op.79, and Die Deutsche Liturgie. The question of influence has always weighed heavily upon Mendelssohn scholarship; this study will address Mendelssohnís use of earlier styles with particular reference to Palestrina and the Italian polychoral music of the Sistine Chapel, as explored by James Garratt and others. Finally, new light is shed on the extent to which, with his Berlin Cathedral choral music, the Ďepigonalí Mendelssohn left a legacy for his German contemporaries and successors, Schumann and Brahms.

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Current Institution Affiliation: RIAM, TCD, UCD
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