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Mendelssohn Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66

April 12, 2019

On today's episode, Bruce Adolphe the resident lecturer of CMS talks about Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66. Excerpts performed by Michael Brown, piano; Daniel Phillips, violin; and Mihai Marica, cello.

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Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolphe, Resident Lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever growing archive of videos made available live and on demand at ChamberMusicSociety.org.

We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry. Plus, we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio during the lectures, we experiment with performance issues. Our lecture today is about Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in C Minor Opus 66, Originally recorded October 17, 2018. Whether the corruption of our culture can be prevented by forcible expulsion of foreign elements of pernicious character, I cannot say.

This is Wagner in his huge treatise in which he attacks the idea of Jews in German culture and specifically attacks Mendelssohn. It's a very famous document in which he basically says that Mendelssohn, for all his brilliance, can never be good because he's Jewish. And for example, he talks about the idea that Jews were imitating European culture, that they could never be part of it.

And it turns out that Wagner was obsessed with Mendelssohn. Not just this one article, which is a terrible article, but we know from Cosima Wagner's diaries that Mendelssohn was the topic of conversation in the house much more than she can understand why it would be. That he was obsessed with everything Mendelssohn did, and he eventually wrote this article attacking him, saying that that he was no good.

He even said at one point that when he conducted Mendelssohn, he wore gloves so as not to actually come into contact with the music. Which is, all of this is important to hearing Mendelssohn's music because Mendelssohn was a descendant of one of the great philosophers of assimilation in Germany, Moses Mendelssohn, who actually made up the name Mendelssohn.

His name was Moses ben Menachem, which is Mendelssohn. So he turned it into Mendelssohn and he himself, although he was not a musician, he was a philosopher who talked about the idea of Jews becoming part of German society fully by converting if necessary, but also by accepting the idea, which he seemed to believe, that Judaism merged into Christianity.

And they were one thing, which is the so-called Judeo-Christian concept. And it wasn't common to think that way at the time at all. And Mendelssohn's family were leaders in this approach. But before I get on to Mendelssohn, a few things about the time of Moses, ben Menachem, when he was a young man and also an older man. There was a lot of state control of what Jews could and couldn't do.

There was a thing called general privilege, and this was only available to Jews who were in some way helpful during the Seven Years War. And that war is from 1756 to 1763. And that included, if you helped in the war, you were granted citizenship because otherwise as a Jew, you couldn't have a citizenship. So some of this still resonates in odd ways today, which is one of the reasons I'm reading some of this.

There were four middle ground areas of what was acceptable and that you could have certain concessions in terms of what you were allowed to do and how to participate in society. But the bottom categories which were for private workers, came down to the idea that since Jews were considered foreign, at the lowest level of jobs, if they lost their job, they were deported.

It's amazing. So that's how it was at the time. And to lighten this up a little now, Moses Mendelssohn was interested in music, too, and he had some lessons with Kirnberger. Kirnberger, if you studied music, especially theory and composition at a conservatory, you would run into Kirnberger's books because he was the figured bass and chorale method, which is still used.

But he learned it from Bach. So, Kirnberger was a student of Bach. So this is Moses Mendelssohn, who studied with, just for fun, with someone who was a student of Bach. Now there's a lot of Bach in Mendelssohn's family because the story of Mendelssohn bringing Bach to the world, which he kind of did, in that after Bach died, even in Germany, his music was not performed.

It was studied, but not performed very much. People didn't know the music. You might know the story, which is completely true, that Mendelssohn conducted the first performance of the St Matthew Passion when he was 20 years old. Not Saint Matthew, Mendelssohn. I'm just listening. When Mendelssohn was 20, he conducted the first performance of the St Matthew Passion in 100 years.

There had been no performance. Of course he edited it and took most of the Arias out, etc. But there's a slight misconception that Mendelssohn himself somehow just knew that Bach was great. But Mendelssohn's family had been engaged with Bach's music for a long time. Mendelssohn's great Aunt Sarah Levy, anyone know Sarah Levy? Anyone know a Sarah Levy?

No. Okay. But anyway, Sarah Levy, Sarah Itzhak Levy studied harpsichord with Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and this is his great aunt, and she also commissioned several important works from Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. And in fact, she, as a harpsichordist commissioned from him the very famous Double Concerto for Piano or Fortepiano and Harpsichord. It was to show the difference between the two instruments and the closest thing to that we have in our time is Elliott Carter's Double Concerto for Piano and Harpsichord. Still trying to figure out the difference between the two instruments.

But so we had Sarah Levy, who was directly connected to the sons of Bach, two of them. We had the grandfather, you know, Moses Mendelssohn, the grandfather connected. Also, Mendelssohn's mother was a very fine pianist, and she practiced The Well-Tempered Clavier all the time. So he grew up hearing Bach on a daily basis, and his older sister, Fanny, who was also a composer and pianist and a child prodigy, also was playing the music of Bach.

And when she was very young, she had memorized all the preludes from the preludes and fugues and played them frequently in the home. So Mendelssohn was surrounded by this. And even more than that, Mendelssohn studied composition with a man named Selter and Selter ran the Zing Academy. I don't know why they called the Zing, but, no, I’m kidding.

The Singing Academy, the Zing Academy of Berlin, which is where they were. And that academy was founded by Fasch. And Fasch studied with Kirnberger and Kirnberger studied with Bach. So it goes Bach, Kirnberger, Fasch, Selter, Mendelssohn. So it's very close. And Selter owned many Bach manuscripts. Another person who owned a lot of Bach manuscripts was Mendelssohn's father, who just collected them because he was related to Sara Levy, who had all these manuscripts.

So they had collections of Bach going on in the family. Selter was jealous of Mendelssohn in lots of ways, his student. You know, this kind of thing happens when you happen to have as a student how unlucky one of the great geniuses in the history of music. Why do I have to have this kid? You know, he can do everything. I can't do this.

It's terrible. So he wouldn't show him the St Matthew Passion. He kept saying, “I have this amazing piece, but you don't get to see it. It can't be played. It's just to study and you're not ready.” So he never showed it to him. So Mendelssohn was obsessed with hearing about it from Selter and he got a copy from his family and who in his family?

His mother’s mother had it. This is crazy. Bella. I'm not kidding. Bella had it, and she gave it to him. Actually, Bella figures into the story in another way that Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny both converted to Christianity when they were children before the age of ten. But their parents had not converted yet. They waited because they would have upset Bella.

That's important to know that, I think. But anyway, so eventually in secret, the parents converted so that Bella wouldn't be upset and luckily she wasn't. So she gave that same Matthew passion score, not realizing that she was giving it to a Christian.

It's getting complicated. But, you know, even Selter, who practically idolized Mendelssohn and did help him, they compromised. He helped him put on this performance at the Zing Academy. He got the musicians together, he got the singers. Mendelssohn agreed, “We can't do the whole thing. Selter says it's impossible. So we cut out a lot of music.” They organized it. Even Selter had his problems with Jews in a different way.

And we know this because he wrote a letter to Goethe. And the letter, I'll just skip to the important part, says, he's writing about Mendelssohn, “The pupil, a lively boy of 12 years old. The pupil is a good and handsome boy, lively and obedient. To be sure he's the son of a Jew, but no Jew himself. The father with remarkable self-denial has let his sons,” he had two sons, “learn something and educates them properly.

It would be really (inaudible),” something rare, “if the son of a Jew turned out to be an artist.” So that's Stelter, who is his main teacher. Mendelssohn saw that letter years later, when there was a publication that unfortunately had that in there. Okay. So there's a lot of conflict in Mendelssohn's life between the Jewish background, which was extremely important, and not only the Jewish background, but a Jewish history of assimilation, like his family was the leading family in the idea that Jews can become German and nobody should know the difference.

And that and Bach go together. And the, his identity as a Jew was completely absorbed in his identity as a Christian because he wrote a lot of Christian music. This piece actually, like quite a few of his late pieces and, you know, he died at age 38. So the late pieces are early by most standards. But, you know, compared to Mozart, they're very late and Schubert and it's more like Gershwin.

Everybody died before 40. But this piece has in it a little bit of a struggle with a Jewish mode in the first movement. And then at the end of the last movement, which you're going to hear a little bit of, there's a huge chorale, a Lutheran chorale. Mendelssohn put chorales in quite a few of his pieces. One of the most amazing is the Chorale.

You know that, don't you? I'm not going to ask you to play it, but you know that fugue and that ends with a big chorale at the end? Yeah? Didn't I hear you play that once? Yeah, I thought so. It was very good. Mendelssohn, by the way, was a great pianist. I thought I’d mention this to you.

Clara Schumann said he was the greatest pianist around and that, she was also privy to Liszt. In fact, I'll tell you one story about Mendelssohn’s brain and his piano playing. Alright, two. Two stories. No, just two. Okay. His memory was like Mozart's. And this is very rare. And here's a story. And these stories are recorded by people who were present, who are established musicians whose lives we know very well, such as Ferdinand Hiller, very fine composer and pianist at the time, a great pianist.

In fact, the first story is that Ferdinand Hiller gave several of the first performances in certain places of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, the E-flat Major Concerto. So he was playing them, the concerto, in Berlin. And there was a party afterwards at the home of an amateur musician who threw big parties after concertos. And at the party was Mendelssohn and Hiller, of course, and a string quartet and other musicians.

But there were no wind players. That's something important to the story. We'll make sure there are no wind players tonight. So at a party, the amateur who owned the house said to Ferdinand Hiller, “Could you please just play that Beethoven concerto one more time in my house?” And he said, “There's no orchestra.” And he said, “Well, I have two piano's and I've got a string quartet here.”

So he went to his library and he pulled out the string parts and he gave the string parts to the string players and he thought that they could play it. He said, “Well,” and of course, Hiller knew the solo part by memory. And he said, “Well, what about the wind parts?” He said, “I don't have the wind parts,” and Mendelssohn said, “That's okay.”

Mendelssohn said, “I'll go to the second piano and I can play the wind parts. I've heard it.” So he played. They played through the concerto and Mendelssohn played the wind and the flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon parts on the other piano from memory, which something he had never done. And something that's absurd. Well, another story even more amazing, I think Liszt also thought that maybe Mendelssohn was the greatest pianist around.

He wasn't, he was not going to say that because it wouldn't work. But there was another party and it was all musicians. Why don't they have those anymore? Nope, we still have those. And Liszt showed up late, which is typical. But he was wearing a Hungarian folk costume and he went to the piano and said, “I've got something new I want to play for Mendelssohn here.”

And whether it was written down or improvised, we don't know because he didn't use music and the piece doesn't seem to exist. So he might have made it up. But he said, “I'm going to start with a Hungarian tune and see where it goes.” So he played this Hungarian melody and then he played a series of four variations that got, of course, more and more complex and extremely difficult to play on the piano, outrageously hard.

And everybody was stunned at his virtuosity and genius, and he got applause from all his colleagues. And then he said, “Felix, why don't you play something?” So, Felix said, “Well, I'm not really playing these days. I'm not practicing or anything. I'm just writing.” He said, “Oh, just come on, play something.” So he said, “Alright.” So he sat down and he played the exact same thing that no one had ever heard before.

You felt it coming, but it's a true story. And, you know, there are a lot of stories that are not true like this, but this one is real. And, you know, so I'm going to ask Michael not to use his iPad. No, I'm kidding. So now we're getting into, let's get into this piece and see how it starts.

This is the opening of the first movement. And we're actually in, they’re looking at me. Pay the- oh no. I wanted to do something first. That's why you're looking at me. Ah. That was an excellent look. Before we get to the Mendelssohn, I, back to Bach for one moment. Mendelssohn was so obsessed with Bach that there is something that's almost never performed that we're going to give you a taste of, which is he took Bach's Chaconne, the big violin Chaconne from the D Minor Partita Number Two, and he wrote a piano accompaniment to it.

Now, we're not going to do the entire thing. That's a huge piece, but I thought it'd be very interesting to, Danny might play a little bit of the Chaconne and then we'll hear it with Mendelssohn's accompaniment. (music) It’s exactly the same thing. Isn't that remarkable? And yeah, bravo. Unfortunately, I wasn't here, and neither were you. But they played the entire thing through earlier today.

But we'll have to go back in time to hear that. So that says a lot about his relationship to Bach. First of all, that he felt that he could do that and should do that. But also he did it for Bach because these solo violin pieces were not in the repertoire. Nobody played them. And Schumann also did, not the Chaconne, but did arrangements of solo violin works of Bach by putting piano accompaniments to it.

And what you hear is the harmonic sensibility of Mendelssohn in the 19th century, completely changing the focus but not the harmony. That's the amazing thing, is that the harmony in the Bach is implied. You know, it's not ever stated fully because it's on a solo violin. Occasionally you get a chord, but your ear is filling in. And the way you are engaged with a solo line like that is to the more you know about harmony or the more you've heard it, the more your mind is full with sounds.

But it's never really the same as hearing the chords. And then what he does is not only put the harmonies in there, but he gives it an accompanying, a rhythm and an accompanimental flavor that turns it into basically a German song and it changes the whole thing. And it did have a slight Jewish aspect to it too.

But I'm not going to get into that. And that also has to do with the performance, but I'm not sure which one of them. Okay, so here is the opening and think about Bach when you hear the opening. I think we should just play up until letter A which is 20, 20, bar 22. (music) Great, beautiful. And where is Bach in there?

I want to point it out because it's interesting. And once you hear it, you can't not hear it ever again. So this passage (music) already is like Bach. What were we- we were going to play the D minor. Yeah. Do you want to play some of that? Should I give it to you? The idea of arpeggiation unrolling like that is very, very typical of Bach.

There's no tune yet. And here. This is quite different but you'll see what I mean. Yeah. (music) Okay great. Thank you. So, one of the things that's interesting about the (music) is that it functions on three levels. First, the tonic (music) and then it moves up to here. (music) And then here. (music) So it's tonic. (music) And then the sub dominant, which is the F minor and then up to the (music) diminished chords.

So it's basically doing this (music) and it has the constantly moving eighth or 16ths in this case, in the in the Bach, but also has this little Bach kick. This kind of (music) that Bach does all the time. Then it also has the organ pedal point and the cello. You want to play that? Your incredibly difficult part there. (music) Very good.

So we have you know- why don't you play the open again and you play louder and let's just make it sound like an organ if we can, which is the pedals are out of control. You can't make them softer, you know? Okay. (music) Yeah, I actually I don't know what it sounds like there. I actually like that because it sounds more like an organ.

The pedal points, you put your foot there and leave it there, you know, And that's, the expression pedal point comes from that, an organ point. And we still use the expression that you have a note that stays and everything moves around it. And it's very common in all classical music and it's very common in Baroque and Renaissance music, but especially the Baroque sound of the organ where you put your foot on the pedal and maybe take it off a few bars, like 18 bars later.

And if it's near the end, your foot is on the first on the dominant and then eventually on the key, the tonic. Alright, so let's keep going. What he does now is he takes that phrase that you heard in the piano and then in the strings, and he basically speeds it up. Can you give us a little bit of how the piano is doing?

Yes. (music) Okay. And why- thank you. And while you're doing that, we have also, these configurations are very much like Bach. Here's a little Bach Suite. Here, Michael. I love doing this to Michael. (music) Yeah. So the reason I asked Michael to play that is- can you just play in the same mood, this. (music) It's the same configurations.

So Mendelssohn is infused. His music is just infused with Bach. We already have the pedal point, the Baroque pedal point, the architecture of a Bach line as you get in so many, even in the Brandenburg concertos. By the way, Great Aunt Sarah Levy performed a Brandenburg concerto in 1808 when basically nobody else knew about them. She organized Brandenburg scores.

She knew about these pieces. I mean, they were all involved in bringing Bach back. She also died at 93, and when she died, Mendelssohn had, Felix Mendelssohn had died, all her siblings had died, and all the famous Mendelssohns had died. She just, it was very unusual to to live that long at that time. Anyway, so getting back to that passage, let's start where- at bar 22 or let’s, yeah.

Bar 22. I guess we need the pick up though. So maybe... How about on the diminished chord at bar 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. Is that okay? And what you're going to hear, though, is while the music is sped up in the piano and the Bach configuration is in the piano, a new, a tune, a more romantic melody appears, We haven't had one yet. Just Bach so far. (music) Okay, great.

Now I'm not going to stop continually, but I this has a few things in it that I need to talk about. I don't know if you want to hear it, but I really need to talk about it. So excuse me. This has to do with the idea of deceptive cadences. And deceptive is a funny word. It might be just, you could say unexpected, but they become expected.

There's a, romantic music doesn't have harmonies that are particularly different from classical or even baroque. There's no harmony in Mendelssohn that Bach didn’t do. But the, I mentioned this last week, the harmonic rhythm is far faster. Things change more frequently. You will have ten keys in the space of two of an earlier period. So, but here the deceptive cadence is something that is a very big part of romanticism.

It's almost an obsession. So what is a deceptive cadence? I'm going to tell you. If you think of this as a straightforward, it's often called an authentic cadence. (music) Here's a deceptive cadence. (music) We tend to get a little softer, but that's not part of the cadence. Now, the difference is that instead of going five, one, five, one it goes five, six.

Now, the reason I'm mentioning that here is there’s one after another, after another after another here. So we have this, for example, (music) and instead of (music) it does this. (music) Deceptive cadence. It repeats it, and then another one. You see, what I mean? But instead of (music) instead of this, (music) and then there's going to be another one (music) one, two, three in a row.

And finally, the only reason he gets out of it is to get back to the key. (music) That's when he gets out of it. Now, I'm going to take a moment to say something about romantic harmony in general, which I think will make it possible not to stop so often. So deception is the name of the game. That's how romantic composers work.

All composers, Bach is a master of deception, in that you get an idea of something that's going to resolve a certain way, and it doesn't. But in romantic music, meaning Chopin and Mendelssohn and of course Schumann, you get many different kinds of deception almost continually. There's a constant sense of potential and suspense. Where will the harmony go? And I'll give you some examples.

Let's just take, here's a chord. (music) That's the old five seven chord. It would normally do this. (music) The standard deceptive cadences. Now, isn't it funny to have a standard deception? Okay, that's one for the Supreme Court. But anyway, but there are other things you can do. If you raise the bottom note instead of resolving it at all, you make a more tense chord.

Instead of making it less tense, it becomes a diminished seventh chord. That's really tense. But don't worry, I can lower any note now and I'll get a new key (music) or (music) let’s see. Or (music) or (music) back where I was. And that's because it's just symmetry. Those are the same intervals. So if you lower any one thing, you're going into a new key.

And if I were to actually do that and give it a little rhythm, you would have a romantic piece. Even though I'm just doing an exercise. (music) And, or, (music) or (music) so in each one of those, if you write a piece of music where that same chord comes back, but each time it has a different resolution, that's romantic music. Isn't it romantic?

I'm not going to play that. But there are other things you can do too. There are more deceptions. One of the most common deceptions in Mendelssohn, and Schumann goes back to Bach, but it's the same chord again, the dominant seventh. (music) It also can go here (music) to a totally unexpected, instead of resolving in or it’s- they don't, I'm expecting you not only to know this, but to be able to duplicate this and after class.

Okay. No, that’s alright. And then it could also go to the major version. (music) So, if you think of that, it's endless, right? (music) And all that's missing to make that a piece is a motif because you hang your identity on the motif. So I'll do something like that again. Here we take (music) the motif can just be a rhythm. (music)

Okay? So that's the idea is to surprise yourself and then, you (inaudible). Okay, so moving on with this piece. Can I have my iPad, please? Thank you. Let's move onto the next section. Where Mendelssohn, right where we stopped the main opening material that's Bach-like, comes back and we start to get all of these romantic shifts that, by the way, it's clear that if you're a pianist as a composer, it's a lot better than playing another instrument because even if you don't understand it, your hands can start to understand it.

Now, I know from a neurological standpoint your hands do not understand it, but you don't need to understand it in words and theory to feel it and hear it and remember it. So, you can feel it, hear it, remember it, and know a great deal without being able to put it into German or English. Okay, so let's start with a pick up to 42 or wherever that is. (singing) (music)

Okay. Thank you. So many of the things that I've described are now commonly happening and you can feel that when the ground shifts, when the bass moves in a way that's surprising with the harmony, that's what's, one of those things that's happening. I won't describe every one of them, but that's, with Mendelssohn, there's another layer, which is that the bass lines are still Bach-like. He never leaves the bass lines alone.

And this was true with Brahms too. And so if we were to play any baseline section here, you would really feel like- let me just hear the bass line where we just stopped at 62, three, four. (music) Or maybe go back to, start on 62. (music) Yeah. So I mean, it's basically like a chorale and but many of the times it's completely chromatic going up in half steps, going down in half steps.

The baseline never lets go of the Baroque, no matter how romantic the harmony is. And that can work because as you saw in that little demonstration, you can always move one step at a time somewhere. So if you put that in the bass, you're holding on to a baroque tradition by keeping the bass the solid foundation. It's like the bass is like the foundation of a building.

And if you think of it as a cathedral and this was, it used to be a metaphor that was used to teach music. You have the foundation and the buttresses, which are the harmony, and then eventually you have the spires and the ornamentation on the top. And that exact sense that the ground is being held by a foundation and the middle of the building is a harmonic structure which needs to be balanced and structured so that the piece holds together and that the top can have gargoyles, which are trills and ornaments that works perfectly well.

And that is, it is a perfect metaphor for that. But there's another metaphor that the way, we call this music romantic historically, because it has to do with the Roman, the novel. So but that's the etymology of the word. But what we mean by romantic in music is that it's unstable, that it changes a lot, that it's infrequent. I mean, that it's too frequent, the modulations compared to earlier music.

So if I were to do a visual demonstration, I'm sorry for the podcast people, but a visual demonstration of classical versus romantic, this is classical and this is romantic. And the romantic is always leaning in one direction or another. And eventually it ends up like this, especially if it's Mendelssohn. And that has to do with the harmony.

That's, what I was doing, Podcast people, is leaning to one side. Okay. So, let's move forward to, since you will hear this whole thing. There's a little bit of canonic writing that has already happened, but we'll hear some more at 95 by Canonic, you know, imitation, which again is inspired by Bach. Let's hear a little bit of that, perhaps. Let's go back to D, which is 89, 90, 91. (music)

Great. Okay. Thank you. Yeah. So you heard that imitation again. The technique that Mendelssohn learned as what is composition. Composition is a baseline with the harmony filling it out. It is counterpoint. It's Bach, basically. And what he also learned from Beethoven, larger structures and dramatic forms. But he never strayed from that basic idea because it actually works. And Brahms went back to it too. Its a very powerful sense of what structure is.

Now I want to get to the idea of what is Jewish about this piece, in case you were wondering. There are a couple of places, but let's start at bar 151, 51, 52. Please turn in your hymnals to page 152. To bar 152. Okay.

With a pick up, I guess. 150, 151, 152 I hope- yeah. (music) Number one. Okay, so that may seem a small thing, but the augmented second is a clearly Jewish interval and it was for a long time before he used it. What's interesting about this theme is it goes back and forth and you'll hear by time we get to the end of this movement that he becomes obsessed with the augmented second.

So the augmented second, (music) that's it. It is also a Hungarian scale, and it also exists in many other cultures. But that's not what Mendelsohn's referring to. Mendelssohn had his own background to deal with. So, he takes this tune (music) and then he makes it minor too, which helps get that interval, (music) and then he ends up without the augmented second.

By the way, we have gone through his series of extremely romantic modulations to F sharp minor (music) from C minor. (music) So, I know that it's a strange concept to talk about far away because it's all so close when we're hearing it and you get there stepwise the way I was showing on the piano. But F sharp minor is as far away from C minor as you can get.

What does that mean? Well, I'll tell you. It's a strange concept, but C minor is a tritone away. I'm going to- I think the simplest way to say this is if you divide the octave into half steps. (music) The midway point is F sharp. Now you're getting closer to the top C. That’s about the easiest way to explain it. So everything is closer to C than this is. On both sides.

It's the middle. It's the tritone. That interval (music) is also known as the devil's interval, which proclaims that at the Council of Trent by a bunch of not very musical priests who decided that that interval, because it was being discussed a lot that that interval causing reactions among the composers and musicians to go into very strange ideas of harmony and leading people into dangerous areas of thought. I’m not kidding.

So it was banned. So anyway, so Mozart not Mozart. So, Mendelssohn goes from C minor to F sharp minor, not thinking about to Council of Trent as far as we know. Okay. And then he makes his way back with some- now, a perfect example of the kind of harmony that I was talking about occurs. Can we hear bar, basically where you stopped? 171 through like 186 or so.

Okay, so what- if you're listening to the harmonies, you don't have to understand in words what's happening, but it's exactly the kind of thing I was demonstrating. That function of harmony is blurred and instead of function, which is like the purpose, its traditional purpose is not being used. It's like cooking in the bedroom. You know, the function of the room has changed.

If you happen to cook in the bedroom, I didn't mean anything by it. Okay, So excuse me. Let me just, so, basically, we have this D major chord. It becomes what sounds like a dominant seventh, which should go to G major. And guess what? It does. (music) That's already a shock. It goes to G minor and then it comes back.

So far, we're not in any kind of shock. But this time the same chord goes here. So in other words, we had this. (music) And the second time (music) and this, you expect this to go, (music) but it doesn't. It does this. That's one of the deceptions I played earlier. That, it happens to have a name, but Mendelssohn didn't know it, so why should you?

What we now call the German augmented sixth. They certainly didn't call anything the German anything there. But you take this chord, (music) it's a dominant again. But if it's resolved this way, (music) it's quite strange. But what, how did this chord get there to begin with? We already had a deception. Well, that's because Mendelssohn's ear is telling him that he can take two notes and move them apart and leave these two down here.

In other words, these two notes can stay and these two can come, can move. Or another way to put it, these two, I mean, it's the same thing. I'm just moving it around. (music) So again, if we were to analyze that, we would describe it by saying exactly what it does. Is that analysis? I'm not sure. By, sometimes in music analysis, people just tell you exactly what happened and say it's like, you know, an analysis of the scene.

Well, what happened was he came in and said the following and then there was an argument. That's not an analysis, it's a description. So you can only analyze a lot of this by saying what happened, which is like a bad translation anyway. So just hearing it and feeling it is actually what it's really all about. What some of these things had no functions and then after composers did them a lot people gave them names like the deceptive cadence got used so often that somebody came up with the title deceptive cadence.

So then it becomes analysis. Okay, now, however, there's also more of this Jewish stuff towards the end. Let's get to the very end of this piece. And what I- here, there's quite a lot going on. For example, before we get there, there is an augmentation, a very Bach-like thing. By augmentation, the tune (singing) goes (singing).

It goes slowly while the piano is doing it at the normal tempo. This starts at bar 350- Let's go to pick up to 353. (music) Okay, great. Great. So you heard the violin and the cello playing in slow motion but in quarter notes while they, in eighth notes. That's again very Bach thing to do, especially towards the end of the piece. Now I'm going to ask the players to do a slight edit, which we talked about earlier.

And play the end of the piece with a slight edit so let’s- if you can recall what that is. Yes? So let's start at to make the point, let's start right at 380 and play to the end. So listen carefully, because I did take something out. (music) Now we're going to put it back. And what I'm putting back is his thought, which is, “Hey, wait a minute, I'm Jewish.”

I'm not kidding. Let's do it with the right part. (music) Then he says, “But I live here, so...” (music) See, if he took that out, I mean, it wouldn't be as good, but you wouldn't miss it unless you knew about it. But it being there, it's one of those great things right before the very end that is a shock.

And it's you know, it's a technique that knowing when you know the technique, you can do it. That doesn't mean it's going to work. In other words, you can open up an ending like a tailor and stick it and just stay Jewish here. I could let out the ending for you. We're going to stick it in a little, you know, an extra cuff or whatever, and people will know that I did it.

But anyway, so he could open up the, you could, as a composer, open up the endings of things. And right before the final cadence stick in a reference to something else or something, slow it down or new harmony, a change of key. And this happens a lot, but it is not a technique that you can just do when you know it.

There needs to be an emotional truth to it and that really is a perfect example of what emotional truth is. He stops his huge, dramatic romantic Bach inspired cadence with his Jewish inflection. Now to make up for it in the final movement, he has a huge chorale inspired by Bach to say, “Don't worry, I really, really did convert.”

Let's hear a little bit of that. (music) You know, inspired by Mendelssohn’s- he did this in several pieces. Inspired by this, many composers started to put chorales at the ends of their last movements. But why would they do that? They're not Mendelssohn. They're just- now talk about Wagner accusing the Jews of imitating European culture.

And then Mendelssohn, with his conflicted sense of Bach and Lutheranism and Jewishness, comes up with this amazing dichotomy in his music, including these chorales, and these German composers all do it too. I don't know. You know, form has to be derived from content. It has to come from your life, whether you know it or not. Form has to come out of reality. You know, to come back to the tailor in form.

There's a famous story of a tailor who says he can fit anybody, but he's not very good because he doesn't have a real concept of form. So this guy comes to him and he says, “Can you make me a suit?” He says, “Sure.” And he gives him the suit after he's made it. And the guy says, “This is terrible, I can't wear this.”

He said, “Here, put your arm in.” So he puts his arm in. His arm’s like this. He said, “Just leave your arm like that. It's fine. Just put your other arm... “ I can't wear this.” He said, “Just, your arm is fine.” So he's walking down the street like this, thinking this is the worst suit. And a man comes up to him and says, “Who is your tailor?”

And he said, “I'll tell you Why do you want to know?” Said, “If he can fit you, he can fit anybody.” That's a famous Lutheran joke. Okay, Now, you know, I did find a manuscript that was, that relates to this. I found a never, never been played, never before performed manuscript relating to this piece on my computer. And I saw that on the manuscript Mendelssohn was wrestling with the whole idea of Jewish versus Christian in his life.

And he wrote this note to Selter that said, “You say shun. I say shame. You ach. I say oi.”. And then he wrote this version of the piece. (music) Yeah, okay. Thank you. Thanks. Just as a disclaimer, that's not really a sketch by Mendelssohn. Okay, now that we've done that, we're in the right mood.

Let's hear the entire movement. As it was written by Felix Mendelssohn. (music) We hope you enjoyed the podcast. Visit ChamberMusicSociety.org to watch videos of these lectures as well as masterclasses and concert performances. And while you're there, check out the calendar of upcoming Chamber Music Society events in New York and around the world. See you in two weeks.