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Thursday, February 07, 2008


In the measures 56-63 of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel's piece, "Neue Liebe, neues Leben," the harmonic language includes a falling thirds sequence in the progression of I-V6-vi-iii6-IV-I6-V43-I. This follows the typical tonic-predominant-dominant-tonic progression and is repeated in the next 4 measures as the same progression but with a ii in place of the V43, a V7 in place of the next I, and surprisingly then to a IV and V instead of the expected tonic I. With this harmonic language in mind and when taking into account the melody of each set of four measures, it is reasonable to state that the first 8 measures of this section constitute a parallel period. This also becomes apparent when one notices the presence of a half cadence at the end of the first four bars and a perfect authentic cadence at the conclusion of the next few bars after the surprising elongation of the predominant and dominant in measure 64. Hensel varies the melody of the consequent phrase in addition to the harmonic structure by adding chromatic eighth notes on the second two beats of measure 60, 61, and 62. These notes serve as chromatic passing tones that help to propel the melody forward with a sense of hope--this is quite appropriate seeing as the text is, "ach, wie gross!" (alas--how great!). As stated before, the event that occurs in measure 64 is the surprising elongation of the predominant-dominant figure, when one expects to hear a return to the tonic. This most likely occurs because the text is a repetition of "laß mich los" ("let me free") and the tension of being held captive by love can be felt in the IV-V elongation.

It would seem that the logical way to divide the phrase into segments beginning in measure 64b with "laß mich los" would be to begin there and end that phrase in measure 68. The next phrase would then go from the second half of measure 69 (with, again, "laß mich los") and conclude with the end of the vocal line in measure 73. This division is apparent in both the melody as well as the piano accompaniment. The second phrase is different, however, because the first "laß mich los" in measure 69 is a minor third higher than the other in measure 64. Then, the music takes a dramatic turn with the second half of measure 70 when Hensel builds up to a high G5 through the use of chromaticism. This is then resolved down to a B through a scale beginning on the same high G. The harmonic analysis of this section reveals a secondary dominant, a vii65 diminished/ii on beat four of measure 66. Perhaps this is because at this point, the vocalist is directly singing the world "love" and because he feels captured, there is a distinct shift in the harmonic color because of the attitude toward love.

A noticeable use of dissonance occurs on the downbeat of measure 68 and the word "los" on a C#. This also serves as a chromatic lower neighbor to the following D. Perhaps this dissonance is placed purposefully on the word "lost" to create a sense of tension and disorder. Another instance of dissonance occurs on the first beat of measure 72 on the "let" of "let me free, creating an almost pleading sense of sadness. The singer does a good job on the recording of conveying this sense of pleading, though I think I would emphasize it more if I were performing it. The singer also seems to take a bit of rubato in measure 72, which I think is quite fitting though it is not marked in the music. I would probably do this as well if I were performing this, though I don't plan on performing it anytime soon because A) I am not a man and B) I am a violist.

When asked to comment on his opinion of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Paul McCartney simply did this:


Tiffypoo said...

oh paul, so silly.

rachel b said...

i bet he was just covering for the fact that he can't read fanny's music

Tiffypoo said...

OMG! that's so what he's doing right now!

Scott said...

Because of the IV6 - V6 in measure 64, the idea of a parallel period is disrupted, or at least extended greatly. A parallel period would cadence on a V-I at the end of the eight measures (give or take a measure), but Hensel avoids the cadence until m. 68 and then gives a weak IAC that leads directly to a sequential repetition of the extension (64-68).

Good discussion. Paul was always more of a Luciano Berio fan, anyway.