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Rethinking Sonata Failure: Mendelssohn’s Overture Zum Märchen von der schönen Melusine
Music Theory Spectrum  (IF),  Pub Date : 2021-07-17, DOI: 10.1093/mts/mtaa032
Julian Horton

This article counterpoints James Hepokoski’s notion of sonata failure (Hepokoski 2002; Hepokoski and Darcy 2006) and the concept of “becoming” advocated by Janet Schmalfeldt (2011) as analytical tools in the developing field of Romantic Formenlehre. Taking Mendelssohn’s overture Zum Märchen von der schönen Melusine as a case study, it develops a taxonomy of process for Romantic form, which is applied to arbitrate failure and becoming as contrasted aspects of the overture’s construction. I theorize the work’s processes as participants in an overarching processual network interacting with syntax and voice leading to generate a characteristically dialectical idea of sonata form, which unsettles traditional perceptions of Mendelssohn as a regressive classicist.