Mendelsohn as a Master-Craftsman in the Art of InstrumentationMendelsohn wrote the Hebrides overture in the summer of 1829 inresponse to seeing and walking in the Hebrides and in paticularvisiting Fingal’s Cave on an island in the outer Hebredies. LikeMozart before him, he was regarded as a child prodigy and composedseveral works before he was seventeen. Therefore when we consider thequestion posed, we must acknowledge Mendelsohn set about writing hisconcert overture with an esteemed background.
The concert overture has many different forms but Mendelsohn usedSonata form for his Hebrides overture (a common decision to make inthis Classical period). It could be argued that Sonata form isindicative of Mendelsohn’s relative conservatism as it has a fairlystrict pattern to follow, both in terms of form, key and temperement:
It is clear that Mendelsohn did indeed use three contrasting passageswith the addition of the 52 bar long Coda (normally a more briefconcluding passage at the end of a work). Sonata form has manypositives that work well in this Overture: Mendelsohn’s original theme(fig 1) is clearly audible in the cello part in bar 1 of theexposition which gives the grounding for the whole piece (indeed, ithas been argued that this theme is the genesis of the whole piece butthat is a different essay entirely.) and us repeated in all parts ofthe work. Because the themes are so important they need to be clearlyexposed and the exposition does this effectively.
Sonata form also allows for two subjects in the exposition (bars 1-96)and he intertwines them immaculately. An example of this is the chordstructur…
… show the skill of theHebrides- texture and instrumentation. The instruments the Hebrides isscored for is typical of the classical period and relatively small, asdetailed above. however, Mendelsohn does not use this to hinder thedrama of the piece with bright, tranquil motifs (the inital theme inthe cello in bar 1) contrasting heavily with the dramaticfull-orchestral sound heard at bar 87 and other instances.
To conclude, we have shown that there are numerous examples of the wayMendelsohn has shaped the Hebrides- including contrasting texture, theuse of sonata form and the contrasts within that form- to make itmemorable and weave his varying ideas together. It should be notedthat Mendelsohn reviewed and heavily changed the piece several timesover his musical career to get it into the shape we see it today.